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Cabinets of Curiosities

Where it might seem like a newfound fad with the advent of depop and mass thrift fairs, vintage clothing has a long genesis in fashion. A sartorial fascination with the past has run cyclically throughout the past century; the fifties saw a fluorescence in the popularity of 1920s racoonskin coats in America, the sixties saw the masses descend on the past in hoards to gank victorian and edwardian lacey and velveteen dresses. The seventies harkened back to the 1930s with their fascination with florals and chiffons, and despite a brief blip in the 1980s where futurism took hold (shoulder pads are the future), the 90s and ever succeeding decade has borrowed heavily from those preceding it.

This week, Cherwell Fashion takes to a unique venue to explore vintage fashion in practice. Where better to investigate the curation of the old than a place specially dedicated to it? The Natural History Museum (and adjoining Pitt Rivers Museum) provide a perfect locale for such a venture.

The pursuit of thrifting and the wearing of vintage clothing was seen in the 1960s as a refutation of mass market consumerism, a refection of en-masse capatalism, a way of keeping one’s self away from succumbing to becoming a cog in the proverbial machine. There are still echoes of these thoughts in the ways in which we in our modern culture employ vintage clothes in our stylistic pursuits. Buying vintage and secondhand is certainly a means by which we can curb our energy expenditure – it can be positioned as a sort of unconscious boycott of sweatshop production and all the labour exploitation that that entails.

However, in a climate where vintage clothing can be procured and bought so readily and so easily, one has to wonder if these aforementioned values still ring true. Vintage Clothing comes with the caveat that despite their ready accessibility, they are something of a prestige piece. They can be expensive, and the curation of a style that comes off as more bohemian and capital E ‘edgy’ than hand me down and ‘whoa, that dude is sure wearing some shoulder pads’ is a matter of having a lot of time and cash on your hands. Moreover, it can be argued that there is something somewhat slightly in poor taste from a privilege standpoint, to pillage charity shops and thrift stores, notable for their lower prices as a choice, especially when having ‘hand me downs’ and second hand clothes are sometimes the point of ridicule for people from lower income backgrounds. From this perspective, vintage clothing as a style and privilege seem to be heavily interlinked, and that is something that must be examined carefully.

Nonetheless, vintage clothing allows us to remove the restriction from our personal styles. With vintage clothing we are not bounded by the time limits of our own generation, and allows us leverage to experiment and create looks that are, to quote an obsever to our shoot, ‘funky and flavourful.’ Ironically enough, the incorporation of vintage clothes removes the wearer from time and takes them to a place of individuality.


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