This week, I want to “put you on something” (as the cool kids say nowadays) and clarify something I wrote in a previous column. It was brought to my attention this past summer when I stumbled through a couple videos made by the semi-known TikTok vintage guru @missriddlemethis.
In most of her videos, she shows off many of her favorite vintage pieces and political views, with a few “Beetlejuice” videos thrown in for good measure. However, one video encompassed my viewpoints toward the 1950s vintage community that I haven’t been able to put into words myself: Just because many may choose to dress in 1950s garments does not mean they subscribe to the values of that time period.
Considering it was a time of segregation, with very limited women’s and practically no LGBTQ+ rights, many question why some choose to take part in this subculture of fashion. In fact, #VintageFashionNotVintageValues is a huge movement going on in the vintage community right now to answer this question and to push progressive values within vintage spaces.
Dandy Wellington, a New York-based jazz bandleader and a mainstay in the vintage fashion community, has been using the hashtag to ignite conversations about pushing back against racist and problematic “vintage values.”
Many use these garments to take back the style to make things their own. Similar to the pussy bow, first created in the 1930s as a modest blouse, it is now used as a political symbol of feminism and confidence. Wearing 1950s fashion nowadays is a testimonial to the delicate craftsmanship of 1950s products and to the aesthetic of the 1950s silhouette, not an invitation to be controlled by a husband or stuck home tending to the children.
I gave a lookbook of my current favorite 1950/60s outfits that I have acquired over the past few years in an article I wrote this past spring. Just because I may be wearing a so-called “skanky” outfit, does not mean I deserve any less respect or deserve to be cat called. Similarly, if I wear a full circle skirt that runs past my knees and a petticoat underneath, that does not mean that I love to “dress modestly” and love the “good old days” when women were submissive and controllable.
Dressing vintage is inherently political, in the way that many are rejecting fast fashion and abiding by what capitalism says is “in style.” However, this doesn’t mean that you have to abide by the old political views of those who wore what you’re wearing today.