April 24, 2011*

            For my first week of ‘taking my project into my own hands’ I looked through several pages of our local entertainment and arts newspaper (suggested to me by Mr. Poling) and found a vintage fashion faire to go to. With my latest research about the history of American fashion, I wanted to test my new found knowledge by identifying the decade to which the pieces of clothing I saw were.
            On Saturday morning I walked into a small room filled with racks and racks of clothing and a hustle and bustle of people all different shapes and sizes. I thought how nice it was to just have a couple vintage clothing sellers in an intimate atmosphere…and then someone handed me the “show map”. Turns out I was just in the entry room and there were six other ballroom sized rooms dedicated to the show. Oh My Gosh, I’m never going to leave this place!

            The first thing I noticed was the type of people that came to the faire. Of course there were tons of young 20 something hipsters already wearing their favorite 50s polka dot dress or 60s long hippie skirt and looking for ‘cute gems’ to add to their personal closet. But then I noticed a large amount of older woman not so much into the vintage fashion style but more looking for reminiscent pieces from the past. These women were looking for windows into the past; many of them had their own vintage shop full of pieces that reminded them of their childhood. As I listened to “Wow, I used to have a dress just like this in college!” I realized just how much clothing is a part of our lives and often a marker of events in our lives. Today I may think nothing of the significance of the clothing I wear everyday, but in decades to come they will become markers of certain times in my life, even showing the emotions I was feeling at the time.
            As I strolled casually around the rooms, I began the assignment I had given myself. Looking through racks of clothing and becoming excited when I could identify the decade to which the piece belong. However, reading about clothing in books and actually being able to see it in person provides a whole new amazement. Being able to touch the material, feel the weight of the dress, or the compare the shape of a shoe allowed me to have a greater sense of the past. The sellers also provided for the mood of the faire. Many of them had gone all-out in their attire for the day and made you feel as if you were in that decade. Like these woman who give a very 1960s vibe:

            As I reflect on the day, I come back to one conclusion: our society doesn’t give enough credit to clothing. Often one piece of clothing can reveal the answers to a multitude of questions regarding our history. From the silhouette a dress or suit can create, to the materials for which the buttons are made from, we can understand what was going on around the world at that time. They can reveal if a war was occurring (to conserve wool and cotton, dresses became shorter and vests and cuffs disappeared), the roles woman were expected to play in society (short flapper dresses meant woman were allowed to dance), and even new discoveries (such as the King Tut craze after his tomb was found). So the next time you get dressed, ask yourself what that outfit reveals about the world your living in, you’ll come up with some pretty interesting ideas.

Some photos from the faire:
 50s dress and skirt suit

 original page of McCall's fashion magazine

victorian era booth

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