Vintage clothes – wearing old and looking good!
That cute green flapper dress was speaking to me. It was silk, beaded, with flaps around the bottom that I could imagine easily parting with my every step. And twirling when I turned, the whole dress moving loosely around my body. (I’ve got to stop watching so many classic movies!)
The dress was from the 1920s, and in a size that looked to be right for me. (Click on photo above to see full image.) Only one thing: I don’t do vintage clothing – even though this dress was sharp. There’s something about wearing a garment that’s been so close to somebody else’s body. I don’t mind wearing accessories: I picked up a beautiful pair of clip-on butterscotch-colored stone earrings a couple months ago for $7.
Vintage clothes were sold recently during a special auction at one of my favorite auction houses. About 25 to 30 people – mostly women but a few men – had come to either buy for their shops or for themselves. Several auction-goers were apparently dealers because they bought big-time. Two of them – a regular buyer who owns an antique shop and a man I had not seen there before – kept their hands up for most of the bidding and seemed to get many of the pieces they wanted.
The flapper dress was hanging on a wall among other clothes, and some of them were really neat and fancy, if not a little wearer-worn. There were also purses, blouses, bloomers and petticoats, and robes. According to the auction descriptions, they were from the 1900s up to the 1960s, making them both antiques (up to the 1920s) and vintage (1920s to 1960s or 1980s, depending on what website you check).
The clothes were in various states of pre-worn condition: Some were wearable right off the rack but could use a good cleaning. I found at least one with stained underarms. Another had some tears.
Vintage clothing has long been popular, but the demand jumped during the 1990s, especially after such celebrities as Julia Roberts, Kate Moss and others wore them. There are tons of websites that not only sell the clothing, but offer tips on how to buy, what to look for in the condition of the garments, clothing periods and value, along with other information.
Well-know designers from the past, obviously, are the ones whose clothes are the most attractive for personal wear and collecting. I would assume that clothes that have not been worn would pull in the best prices.
I don’t intentionally buy vintage clothes but I do buy sewing items, and recently a box lot containing a satin peach-colored sleeveless blouse and matching top with lace overlay and rhinestone accents. It looked to be made by hand, very well done, the style from the 1950s.
My friend Sandy saw it when she and her husband dropped by this weekend and fell in love with it, although she and I could never squeeze into it. Too small a size for us. She thought it would look good paired with jeans. I hadn’t thought much about it, but she was right. She’s the fashion diva, not me.
I sat in on the vintage clothing auction because I wanted to check out the bidding, which was quite spirited. The clothes, though, did not go for very high prices. My green flapper dress sold for $50.
Here’s a sampling of the others:
Edwardian gown of sheer rose silk, lace and embroidered bodice 1900s $210
Deco ivory silk, embroidered wedding gown $20
Ivory satin velvet dress, ruched shoulders 1930s $50
Edwardian gown, white dotted swiss 1900s-1910s $210
Lawn bloomers with white lace 1900s $110
Beige silk flapper dress, beaded, pink flora 1920s $60
Orchid organza youth’s dress, lace collar $40
Black silk crepe dress, rhinestones 1930s $160
Black silk chiffon dress, floral beading, rhinestones 1920s $35
(it had some tears and holes)
Blue velvet coat 1960s Royal Mist $3
Black Chantilly lace and silk chiffon dress 1920s $55
Silk beaded and lace dress $1
(it had underarm stains)
Black silk kimono robe, ivory, embroidered 1920s-1930s $75
Larry Martino Original Philadelphia green/gold gown 1960s $3
(I found this one a bit gauche)
Rust velvet flapper hat by Jay’s Boston & Wellesley $17.50
Brown crepe chiffon evening purse, filigree closure 1940s $8
1960s Flora Mia Paper Dress in original packaging $6
I perked up when the paper dress came up for auction. I had seen an episode of the Antiques Roadshow when someone brought one in. I was tempted to bid but I couldn’t remember the outcome of the appraisal. I Googled it when I got home and learned that the first paper dress was made by the Scott Paper Co. in 1966 as an advertising ploy. Women loved it and the trend took off, and other companies started making them (even the tony Fifth Avenue stores started selling them.) Most sold for less than $20.
In 1967, Campbell Soup Co. sold a soup-can paper dress inspired by Andy Warhol’s famous painting (which also showed up on Antiques Roadshow). One could get it for two soup-can labels and a buck. Last year, a Warhol dress sold at Christie’s for $5,000. It has also sold for up to $14,000 at other auctions.