Confessions of a former vintage addict {pt. 2.5}

I don't quite know where to begin. Let's start with this. A few years ago, in an enchantment of vintage fashion and culture, I would have said much of the same thing many of you said in my last post. Vintage for many (myself included) began as a fun thing, and turned into escapism. For me it wasn't about anything personal, but more a rebellion against society. I didn't realize it at the time, but there were things going on around me that were wrong, and rather than look at the world openly and deal with the good and the bad, I delved deeper into the specifically era based life I'd created. 

I don't feel a part of vintage culture anymore. I still have friends who love it just as much as I used to, but I don't consider myself to be involved in the intricacies and overall groupings. Therefor I feel I can view it objectively and critically without remorse. I want to clarify that I didn't stop wearing vintage daily because of off-handed comments, but I now realize it's something that subconsciously made it less appealing. 

Misogyny is everywhere. All of us have been subject to it from infancy. It's not something that suddenly appears when you reach a certain age, it's something that you may one day realize was there all along.
I am not the ideal person to be writing about this, there are far more eloquent people out there who could get the point across, but I'm not seeing that on vintage platforms. And if I don't say something just because I don't think it's as good as someone else could make it, then I'm part of the problem too. 

Sure, the phrase "I wish women still dressed like that" is not always sexist. But do you really think a comment that puts down other people is an acceptable one?  

It wasn't always the creepiest looking guy who unloaded his harmful opinions, and it most certainly wasn't always a man. But it often times was, which caused an instant reaction of avoidance at all costs. If you've never experienced that then good for you. I make judgments, and if you say you don't you're either deluded, or you're flat out lying. I make judgments. Sometimes they're proven wrong, sometimes the scariest-looking person ends up being being the one who just simply says "cool hat" and the sanest-looking person ends up saying something incredibly offensive. 

But you're mad at me for judging? Seriously? I'm not doing it for fun, it's not superficial. Two years ago I may have cared what I was looking at, but now I just don't. Judging is something we do to continue or better our lives. I will avoid the side of the street with the guy who looks like he might pull a knife on me, and you are actually angry at me for judging? 

Well guess what? I'm pissed off you aren't mad at people who prove my judgement right. I'm angry you can't actually see that saying things like, "I don't like other girls" or, "well if only women dressed more modestly we wouldn't have this problem" is toxic. 

It is toxic to you, it is toxic to the people around you. It took me a while to realize all of this, and the horrible thing is, I'm still learning. Because sexism is so latent and ingrained in our culture, I'm still learning things about it that astound me. 

This is not about a single phrase. This is about realizing that the way you dress is not an invitation to critique you or dismiss other people's fashion choices. If you take away that I am a mean feminist who can't take a compliment, then I invite you to roll with it and go away. If you are open to even the slightest notion that what is around you, that what you have been taught is acceptable and normal is actually very hurtful to both women and men, then please, explore that. Talk to me, join the conversation, sit back and listen, just don't ignore something you live with every day. I can't address every complaint made against my last post, not because I can't, but because I don't know how to do so in a way that might get through to you. As I said, I'm not the best person to be writing about this, but I hope it sparks a thought, a conversation, or a change.

Because if you are angry with me for bringing this up, you should ask yourself exactly why.


{special thanks to Whitney for helping me gather my jumbled thoughts}


Cat said...

Sing it loud and clear, darling sister. Loud. and. clear.

Kelley Anne said...

When I read your last post, I found myself agreeing with you. I've never dressed in a full-on vintage look, but I buy vintage clothes and take lots of nods from older styles of dressing. The comments do get frustrating. And the comments from men and women about how they wished other women dressed the way I did always smacked of misogyny to me too. They felt like backhanded remarks indicating that I was somehow more modest than other contemporary women or reactionary in my social beliefs just because I happen to like old clothes. When I read your post, I didn't bother to keep scrolling and didn't realize there were negative comments. Good for you for speaking your mind. This is your platform, after all.

Charmaine said...

I noticed some GLARING typos, so I deleted my comment and reposted it again:

It makes me laugh that anyone would call you a mean feminist who can't take a compliment for simply asking not to be objectified by complete strangers. Regardless of whether the commentator is a creep or someone genuinely admiring your style, wishing more women dressed classically. You are TOTALLY right. The issues you've mentioned, like how people like that dude at the bus stop make you feel, are huge indicators of sexism/male entitlement and gender politics still very much alive in our society. I think some of the other commentators on the other post hit the nail on the head in a few ways: 1) stating that more women/men/people should do _____ pits people unnecessarily against each other. Style is a form of expression and no two styles are better or worse than each other. 2) That because someone wears a mid-century dress they are therefore evoking traditional roles of femininity. Like you are a concept rather than a person just wearing a dress. Wishing women dressed more conservatively totally slut shames women who don't. I am a girly girl through and through. I love feminine 50s dresses, make-up, heels and curls. But I am also a bad-ass feminist and multiple times I've had men expect me to be a certain way based on how I look, only to have them dashed pretty much as soon as they speak to me! That used to really bother me, and lead me to abandon vintage style for quite some time. Not having strangers invite themselves into your conversation was refreshing, and really made me see how style can construct identity. But I've reconciled that my style can be a form of subversion to these ideals. And 3) most uncomfortably for myself, on the flip side from my last point, is the sexualization of retro style. I felt like I was made to feel cheap rather than attractive or alluring. I personally have found doing my hair and make up more modern while wearing an over the top vintage dress has balanced out unwanted attention.

I really think the people who reacted to this negatively really missed the point you were making. There is far more complexity here than you just being creeped out by someone on the street. Great post!

Dakota said...

Solanah, these posts are brilliant. Not many people are thinking critically about the vintage phenomenon, especially as it's such a markedly positive corner of the internet where criticism isn't really expected. It's been great to read your reflections; I've found myself nodding along in agreement to much of what you say.

zionastar said...

i just want to say that i think you're super awesome. i'm more of a blog-stalker of yours, but i just wanted to pop in and say hey! you rock!

Anonymous said...

Some of those comments. . . ugh, no words. This is why I am reluctant to join any vintage themed events in my area. Because I have a big mouth when it comes to these things-- when people want to gloss over sexism and racism in the past (and now) I will be the first to harsh their squee lol. I don't think I'd be welcome after a while.

This is definitely a conversation that needs to continue in vintage-enthusiast spaces because it is often the elephant in the room. Great post :)

girliefrank said...

*slow clap of appreciation*

Well said.

That's all I feel I need to say.

Ruby June said...

I have to say that I have been experiencing similar problems for a long time. First it started with dressing up vintage on campus and getting leered at by strangers to the point where I was uncomfortable (so I stopped and dressed to fit in). I have ways been super into detail, so I can get really into period accuracy. But, after comments like "are those real vintage stockings attached to garters?" from creepy old married men, I started to get uncomfortable. Then, I received a comment from a man while I was with my husband that was so offensive, I realized I didn't want to be a part of this culture.

After years of attention that makes you uncomfortable you just want to blend in sometimes. I've actually received criticism about this from other women in the vintage community...that I am not always dressing up vintage. I think this is ridiculous, as what started out as fun become a crazy obsession. So yea...in total agreement with you. I've decided to care less and less what other people think and just do what makes me happy. But, we live around some pretty crappy people who try to ruin things for us. There is a difference between a compliment and just plain lewd behavior...

the craftytraveller said...

I am so glad that you posted this follow up as I found your responses and the comments on the original post to be very interesting and thought-provoking. The thing that stays with me most is that there seems to be this notion (by some – pro and against) that to be feminist we have to be against something/someone. For example, that to be feminist means to hate men (i.e. misandry) or being feminine and is a women only club. More baffling is that there are women out there that are “not-feminist” - surely this is a misnomer.
I get so conflicted about feminism because there are so many blurred lines all over the place, and because of the feelings that it incites in others. I love it when a man (or a woman) opens or holds a door open for me because it shows that they are literally putting me before them – that makes me feel special. I do it to others too and take warmth from this little act of thoughtfulness. I get so frustrated and confused when people comment that they feel sorry for men because they can’t do wrong for doing right, because that’s not what I’m gearing towards at all. Not wanting to sound too Pollyanna, but I just want injustice to be extinct – in whatever form it takes, be it racial, gender or wealth. I definitely do not wish that I was born a man! I love delighting in the feminine (I rarely wear trousers because that’s not my style) and sewing is my passion but I’m taller than and I earn more than my husband and neither matter a jot to either of us (these are the first two things that came to mind in my haste that might be recognisable to both sides of the coin reading this).
One final thing from me, which struck me as I read your original post and comments was how badly the compliment you were given reads if replaced with another word, e.g. “I wish Asians* still dressed like that”. *[insert any other lazy grouping here]. Doesn’t that sound awful! Also shows that context cannot be underestimated. Personally, I don’t feel that putting any group of society into that kind of comment is OK. That was my initial gut feeling towards this. However, another commenter wrote – what if the person is just not capable of saying what they mean in the correct way (paraphrased). I totally get that. That is where judgement comes in doesn’t it? The comment received with good intentions from someone that doesn’t realise the negative side-effects of their less than well-constructed compliment is not the same as the same thing said by someone that knows better. The trick is in knowing the difference. And that is why I get myself wound up in knots of wishing I had reacted differently when a snide comment is made rather than maintaining my dignity and not calling them up on it. Then again, maybe that’s because I’m British. Lol.
I hope this hasn’t offended anyone that may be reading it – I’m just keen to continue the debate and hear other people’s perspectives as they will be educational.
So thank you for your posts and for the thoughts they provoked in me and others. Clearly a lot, given that I’ve just spent 20 minutes writing this rather than brushing my teeth. Priorities! :-)

Cherise said...

I feel your pain.

I dress in vintage or vintage style and love the vintage aesthetics and at the same time consider myself a bit of a feminist - but in my mind those two don't cancel each other. It doesn't matter how women dress, there will always be sexist and hurtful comments both from men and women. They'll just be a little different if you dress in a mini skirt. Most likely you'll get a sexist comment from a middle aged man or an older woman who lived in the times of patriarchy and thinks it normal. Just because I like vintage doesn't mean I want to make babies and be a housewife while my husband provides for me... You just have to tackle them one by one and hope you can change at least one persons point of view.

I never really cared much what other people thought of me, and maybe that's why it is possible for me to dress to stand out, and I refuse to be offended by comments made by small minded people. They can't change the way I dress or how I live my life. Some people are just outright jealous and want to make you feel crappy, because that's how they feel about themselves, but I'm not going to give them that satisfaction.

(I admit I judge people, from the way they dress to how they speak etc. but I don't go tell it to their face. Anyone who says anything else is a hypocrite. It's a built-in feature of ours, to mirror everything to what we've previously learned. It's the way you handle your judgement and are able to adjust your view what counts.)

Gabrielle said...

I completely understand what you're saying. Even though I don't wear vintage clothing I've heard plenty of these misogynistic yearning comments. It must make wearing vintage feel very awkward. And BTW nothing wrong with being a feminist - the only reason for not being one that I can think of is that you don't understand the word ;).

Michelle Catherine said...

Hey Solanah! Love your last few posts. I obviously agree with everything and I feel you.

I guess I stopped interacting with the vintage world so much in part for these reasons. Dressing pretty isn't always enough of a reason to hang out with a set of people. I've felt frustrated by the lack of nuance in people's politics which manifests itself in some very specific and gross ways. Like the sort of things you're describing.

The slut-shaming, superiority complexes, and conservatism aren't necessarily worse than any other subsection of society. But I notice it more here. And it motivates me to seek out people with better politics, or at least the critical faculties to develop them. I'm super-thankful for the beautiful rad feminist vintage girls I know. The vintage community is awesome in a lot of ways, but not unfailingly so. I'll just dabble for now.

It's great to put stuff out there on a vintage platform. We've had a few rounds of the general vintage/feminism discussion on vintage blogs, but touching on the superiority complex/slut-shaming thing is very necessary.

Love a mean feminist, you go girl :)


Snowma said...

Solanah, Thank you for this post. Ditto for pretty much everything you've laid out in this two part-er. The "i love it when a woman dresses like a woman" compliment is absolutely brimming with ick. Note too that the person giving the compliment is almost certainly referring to styles women in the western world were wearing. Holding up the clothing traditions from a single era and a single place as "ideal" is close minded. The history of human costume is beautiful and thoughts on the nature of modesty have NEVER been static. You go back far enough in your family tree and someones going to be half naked in a toga or a kilt.
I also wanted to acknowledge what you said about the reasons behind our vintage fixations. I love to sew and wear styles of the 1930s. I try to routinely "check in" with myself to see if this is still something I enjoy doing. We need to continually ask ourselves 'Is this making me happy?'.

Witchcrafted Life said...

You have, as we all do, every last right to say and feel however you want - especially in a platform as personal as your own blog. It pains me to think that anyone, regardless of if they felt the same way as you do about these very valid and important points, would get angry at you or consider walking away from your blog because of it. If we don't love people we've long held dear most of all when we disagree with them (on certain matters), the question has to be raised, how much did we ever really care about them in the first place?

♥ Jessica

A said...

I find it funny that you, Solanah, state some of the comments in the last post were "complaints made against your last post". They were most likely differing opinions, and it is a bit childish to categorize them as complaints, especially because I don't remember reading any nasty comments.

There were very good points from both points of view! If you wanna talk about an issue, please don't classify the opinions different from your own as inferior to yours.

For myself, for instance, I mainly associate that kind of comment with statements like these: "Oh, I wish there were more art nouveau buildings" or "I wish people read more poetry" or "I wish there more movies like this". Maybe these statements accentuate the fact that the person only wishes to be able to discuss poetry with more people, for example. Maybe it isn't meant in an oppressive way.

I'm not saying that there weren't a lot of instances of people saying that AND wishing the values were also from the "good ol' 50s". Only that it hasn't (yet) happened to me. And I do not in the least want to downplay your experiences, just to point out that this can be seen in many different ways that aren't complaining or ignoring the issue!

How would you all interpret it if a person who dresses goth stated to another person dressing goth that they wished all people did that? Does that put other people down in the same way as the vintage "compliment"?

A said...

A correction to my last comment! I meant that if a person who DOESN'T dress goth says to someone that dresses goth that they wish all people dressed that way, of course!

Unknown said...

Don't undermine the fact that you are absolutely qualified to talk about this subject. And you did it very well. Thank you.

Sabrina said...

Clapclapclapclap! Nicely said.
I personally haven't heard any remarks like that, but I don't doubt many others do. It's unfortunate that we've all been raised in a climate of sexism and misogyny, men and women, to the point where some men think they're entitled to say things like that and some women think it's perfectly fine. It's great of you to bring up the issue where you have listeners and a platform to do so.

I dread the idea of vintage culture going the way of others that end up objectifying their female participants, but then again, vintage culture is really about us. We dress the way we do because we like it, not because we're sponsoring something or needing to live up tot he ideal. If the ladies started the vintage trend, the ladies can do what they want and dress how they want, and hopefully inform some well-meaning-but-still-creepy guys just why saying that to our faces isn't cool, bro.

So, basically: we're gonna take back what's ours!! *dramatic music*

Anonymous said...

I think you might be reading specific intentions into a very general statement. There are many ways to interpret "I wish people still dressed like that", and I'd hesitate to rush to the least charitable reading.

Something as broad as "I wish people still dressed like that" doesn't have to pit anyone against anyone else. It's very different from "I wish all those stupid sluts dressed more like you" - in that case, it's putting down a specific group of people. But in my experience, "I wish people still dressed like that" has meant "I like this style and I wish I saw it more often". There's no attempt to force anyone out of their personal style or pass judgment on a specific group. Hell, *I* sometimes wish I saw other vintage lovers on the street more often! I don't find most modern styles nearly as attractive. I recognize that I have no control over what others wear (and I wouldn't want any), but I don't think I should have to pretend I have no preference.

If you feel comfortable doing so, I'd suggest engaging the next person who says such a thing. What exactly does s/he mean by it? If you then uncover sexist undertones, by all means summon your outrage. But I don't support talking over anyone, and by putting words in someone's mouth, we do just that.

Unknown said...

AMEN, sister! I read some of those comments on the last post and it just makes me shake my head. Just because the sexism you've personally experienced makes you feel like it's working in your favor, that doesn't mean you need to use your anecdotal evidence to tell other people they're wrong. It all goes back to our culture of victim-blaming. If you reacted politely to a man who started talking to you like that and it ended up in an altercation, people would end up blaming you for leading him on. You can't win. That's why we need feminism and why it's important for you to keep speaking your mind. <3

Annebeth said...

I've been a follower of yours for years (used to be into vintage, totally fell out of it afterwards) and I thought this post and the one it referred to were incredibly insightful, feminist and 100% true. Exactly how it felt to me too.

A Vintage Nerd said...

Just do you. No need to explain yourself or defend or anything to anyone. Do what you want with your life and blog. You dont own anyone an explanation. People are into vintage for various reasons. For some it becomes a phase in their life and for others it becomes a permanent part of their life. It is what it is. Again, do you. xox

Dethrose Vintage said...

Alright lady, I love these posts so much! I too love vintage and I wear vintage daily, however, I have toned down my vintage look quite a bit. Why? Because after being referred to as Marilyn (which yeah I have blonde hair and a mole, otherwise no similarities!) I wanted less negative attention. And a lot of the judgmental experiences I had were from other (male) vintage sellers and collectors. I wasn't "vintage" enough and being judged based only on my vintage attire. I still wear and sell vintage and always will, but my reasons are the sustainability of vintage, quality and eco friendly wardrobes. Buying classic styles that translate to today without buying the misogynistic undertones that often come along with a vintage wardrobe. Great post.

Louise said...

I didn't see comments that were "mad" at you, but maybe I missed something. I think it is good to make judgements too, as long as it doesn't cloud common sense.
I think that you too, need to ask yourself why you are angry. I don't know what it is you have have been "taught", but I've been taught nothing sexist or misogynist or anything related to keeping a woman down. Quite the opposite. In fact nowadays, I think the women who are being criticized MORE are ones who chose to live simpler lives, or stay at home with their children, or who don't want careers, etc., because they aren't advancing feminist ideology enough. I also think that in this country, women are standing side by side with men in perpetuating all things that are "toxic". Yes, sexism IS ingrained in our culture, but what are women doing? They watch the same trash on t.v., they gobble up every magazine that has degrading photos of women on the cover, they insist on dressing in a way that exposes their bodies so that there is nothing left to the imagination, but expect men not to dare look at them or think bad thoughts about them, because that is their RIGHT to dress that way. Anyway, I have a different opinion obviously.

Anonymous said...

Note: I have had almost no sleep and I am not terribly eloquent but here we go..

I think the first problem that people seem to be missing is it is very rarely "I wish more people did xxx" it is almost always "I wish more women did xxxx".

I am also not here to prettify your world. Women aren't inherently good or bad because they wear pretty dresses or wear track pants all the time or wear mini skirts and crop tops. It is absolutely nothing to do with you. It rarely has anything to do with their self esteem or their lack of self respect.

It baffles me that other women claim to not be feminists. Do you want equal protection from the law? Do you want to be paid the same as your male counter part? Do you like having the ability to own property and have a bank account? Do you enjoy being able to have your own opinions - for example in a place like this? Enjoy voting?

Feminism is not about man hating (though some feminists are so angry with how the patriarchy has affected them that they are angry at men) or being better than men. It is about having equal rights and equal opportunities. If you think we are already there in western society I would encourage you to do your research. Read articles about rape and really pay attention to the wording. Look at the statistics in regards to pay for women in high ranking jobs. Have a look at how many women are representing you in government. And look at your own words as you use blanket statements when talking about women.

I also find it ironic how many other women are commenting using other women tearing down other women while doing the exact same thing. Women should be supporting each other. And that means not thinking you are better than another woman because you were knee length dresses and she wears short shorts or because you are wearing makeup and she doesn't. You can put all the effort you want into dressing and living the way you want...that does not mean anyone else needs to.

Aimee Jeffries said...

Great post and very thought provoking. I had never really considered or thought about the other side of the vintage loving coin! I don't currently dress vintage..yet..but plan on sewing my own vintage inspired wardrobe as I get better acquainted with my sewing machine. And I know I wouldn't fully enjoy wearing true vintage fashion as I would be so afraid of wearing it and ruining it. I have always been one of those people knodding and thinking that I wished more women dressed the way of an era I never lived in. Just in the sense that women seemed to put more care and effort into their appearances, men as well. There were rules, and guidelines that everyone seemed to know and follow. Men wore hats, and kept their hair a certain length. That doesn't mean I don't like men with long hair, I'm married to one :) But women sure didn't go to the grocery store in their pajamas. I never thought the statement "I wish more women dressed this way" could be sexist. I figure if someone is sexist, they would say rude things to/about women no matter what they were wearing, so this post was definitely an eye opener.

Tanit-Isis said...

Gertie (Blog for Better Sewing) had some great posts back in the day about being conscious of the difference between dressing vintage while feminist.

Anyway, great post, and congratulations for tackling this head-on!

Lara said...

I'm really sorry that you got a rash of nasty, reactionary comments. I agree with many of the supportive comments made here today, so I won't restate them; just simply note that I nodded along with most of them.

One thing I'd add to the discussion: I think a key word we're missing here is "privilege." Like it or not, dressing feminine when your gender is perceived of as feminine grants you social privilege (the same goes for so-called "masculine" men). Generally, we give privilege to people who dress within "traditional" gender identities; we tend to shame those who doesn't adhere to clear identities.

And there's not much perceived as more traditional than vintage clothing on women. That doesn't make vintage inherently bad, that doesn't mean we should stop wearing it, that doesn't mean we need to feel guilt over wearing it. In an ideal world, everyone could dress exactly how they like without having that tied to a gender AND their identity.

But because / until vintage carries less of the strong identification between "traditional" femininity, vintage-wearing women need to be cognizant of the privilege we receive. What I mean by that is, certain types of people may want to "reward" us with recognition for doing what we SUPPOSED to (i.e.: being femme), and sometimes this comes out in these awkward, really unfortunate comments like "I wish women still dressed like that."

If this sounds like I'm excusing anyone for making that comment or blame vintage-wearers, I'm not. I'm trying to do the exact opposite. I'm suggesting that femme-dressing feminists (of which I'm one) have a responsibility to be EXTRA vocal in countering or calling out behavior that polices ALL women's bodies. As you've suggested above, we can't be silent or just "take the compliment" when it's a compliment inherently built on privileging one manor of identity expression over another.

Unknown said...

I don't think you're bitter for making a really valid comment! It's refreshing to hear. I had a conversation with my art tutor about this. As a feminist I said I felt some guilt about loving clothes from an era that was so far from feminist. She just said, WHAT it's not the clothes fault!

Anonymous said...

I found your last post and this one incredibly thought-provoking. I think you touched on a pink elephant topic: one that definitely exists but nobody seems to want to talk about. I read a lot of vintage blogs, and I think that this is the first time I've read a post about sexism and vintage clothing in the modern world, so congratulations on addressing this topic and bringing it up for discussion.

I adore vintage clothing, and I wear vintage some of the time. I generally wear unique clothing even when I'm not decked out in vintage. I get a lot of compliments, and often I will have people say things like, "It's great to see someone taking so much pride in their appearance" or "It's so wonderful to see the styles from the 50's/60's/70's etc making a reappearance". These comments make me smile, because to me they suggest that the person making the comment is inspired or excited by my outfit. Perhaps they also share an interest in vintage clothing or have a fondness for certain styles that were popular during their youth.

However, there are also a certain type of comment that I tend to get ONLY when I'm dressed in vintage styles from the 40's-early 60's. Like you have mentioned, I've had people make the comment that "I wish women still dressed that way". I've also had people tell me that I look like a "proper lady" when I'm decked out in my circle skirt and crinoline. While I appreciate their compliment, I have to cringe as well. What exactly does a "proper lady" look like? Is there even such a thing any more? Is a person who identifies as female who is dressed in leggings and a crop top any less of a 'lady' than one who dresses in vintage?

This is a huge issue, and there is so much to say. So many of the other commenters have said things I'd like to say much more succinctly than I could. Thanks once again for bringing this topic up for discussion. You're awesome.

Aaron said...

I wish more women dressed in that way. I also wish more men dressed the way men dressed in the fifties. I wish teenage boys wore slacks with button-downs tucked in, not huge jeans slung around their knees. I prefer fashion to reflect and complement the human form rather than distort or degrade it.

Also, I would prefer a return to 1950s morality. I am a 31-year-old, college-educated woman living in Portland, OR.

I enjoy your blog, both two years ago and also now as your style evolves. I hope you can remain open to the opinions and beliefs of all. It is very interesting that your commenters say such things as "commending a woman for dressing like a woman is ick" ... Such comments demean appreciation for dressing as an art to enhance and respect the innate shape of the human body. This is not offensive.

Georgia Rose said...

If I weren't at work I would post a longer comment, but I do just need to say I 100% agree with you about the vintage community and its obsession with 'modesty' and hearkening back to those golden days when men were men and women were damn grateful for it. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if I wish I'd lived in the '50s, I'd have like $20. Which is too many. The idea that not only were previous decades a golden age in which women had the social freedom to dress in a 'modest' 'old-fashioned way' but that ANY SANE PERSON would choose to live in those decades is insane.

Kim said...

I haven't had many problems while wearing vintage or vintage-looking clothing. (However, I do not wear strict period looks.) Most of the comments I've received are positive and non-creepy comments from other women.

I do know how you feel, though, because I've experienced a lot of harassment while traveling. As a pale redhead, I tend to stand out no matter how plain and modest my travel wardrobe is. The fact that there are cultures where street harassment is acceptable makes me incredibly angry and sad for the women who live there.

Unknown said...

Here here! A very refreshing read - I though the bit about women who say "they don't like women" was very interesting. I have in the past noticed that some women think that you can't be feminine and feminist. It is of course perfectly fine to reject traditional female roles and choose not to wear make up etc etc. But criticizing someone else how chooses to include those elements is just another form of sexism.
YOu shouldn't feel you have to apologize about the way you write either - I thought it was very eloquent and it's clearly got people talking...
What I'm trying to say I guess is - You go girl!

Dani said...

Though angry-sounding, this post does make some really important points. I remember beginning to use vintage to rebel against my uptight upbringing, and then against (of all things) immodesty.
But the bottom line truly is that we should all feel free and comfortable to dress according to our individual wants and needs, and not according to how other people view or judge appearances.

Well spoken!


Nancy said...

I forget who it was who said, no matter how stylish something is, if it is outdated it will look bad; and no matter how bad something looks, if it is "in" it will look right. That may explain why even the most enthusiastic person can't wear vintage forever.

Amanda Stock said...

Thank you so much for this post and the last one. I am not a fan of the fact that discussions of vintage and its potential association with sexist, racist, and homophobic viewpoints are so rare. As people who appreciate the fashions of past decades, it is incredibly important to be cognizant of the problems those eras present, and the repression and hate that existed back then. A rose-tinted glasses view of vintage eras helps nobody, except perhaps white, cisgendered, straight men. Most of us who adopt a vintage style or even aspects of the lifestyle don't actually want to go back and live in those decades.

As a queer, outspoken feminist, I often find myself bringing up topics of social justice and privilege in the vintage and dance communities, which can make others uncomfortable. I am personally glad to be doing that, and enjoy educating people and getting them to question their beliefs and prejudices. I find that wearing vintage, for me, represents a subversion of the traditional morals associated with such styles of dress. Like a wolf in sheep's clothing, I think it's awesome to fight the patriarchy while wearing something that could be considered a uniform of it. Taking those styles back, and freeing feminine clothes (including vintage clothes) from their restrictive or repressive roots is important, in my opinion.

I'm a femme, and proud of it. I don't think that giving up clothing or looks associated with femininity helps fight sexism (though obviously things like pants for women were huge markers of social progress in the past). There are so many androgynous and masculine-of-center dressing folks in the queer and feminist communities -- and that's totally cool if that's how they feel comfortable dressing as individuals -- but I think that seen en masse as a sort of visual identifier of belonging in those communities, it reinforces masculine privilege and continues to perpetuate internalized misogyny. Femme invisibility in the LGBTQ community is a big issue, and being read as queer can be difficult if you choose to dress in traditionally feminine styles, including vintage. I personally love seeing badass vintage femmes of all genders and sexualities rocking gorgeous clothes, whether they do it in perfect, period-correct vintage style, or whether they mix it with modern elements to craft a visual motif all their own.

Lainie said...

I won't continue to repeat what so many others have said, just wanted to drop a comment of support for you and your right to air your feeling on YOUR blog. We all make judgments, that is how we maneuver through the world.

Frances said...

I'm not sure whether the comment was on this post or the other one, but it's been bothering me, and I think I've figured out why. There was a commenter who mentioned that being female and dressing in what is perceived as a highly feminine style granted you (and other vintage wearers) an extra layer of privilege. I disagree. I would agree that dressing "well" (which can be done many ways) does grant one social privilege over dressing "sloppily" (which, again, is perceived differently by different groups)... but the privilege that us vintage-wearers have is that we can pass. When we get sick of the harassment and comments, we can leave our hair natural, put on jeans and a sweater, and pass as absolutely normal everyday folks. Sick of harassment for looking different than the crowd? Dress modernish. That's not something that all groups can do. Skin tone can't be changed if you want to pass as a white person for a while. Visible disabilities can't be removed. People transitioning gender often can't pass. People who have chosen to express themselves with tattoos, extra piercings, or unnatural hair colors can't pass. So I think that it's important to remember that the ability to alter one's appearance so that we can be overlooked is in itself unusual.
But at the same time, we can't completely blend in, because in our patriarchal culture being female in public is about all it takes to become the target of unsolicited comments. And really, that's the root problem.

Miss Emmi said...

I really love these posts because they eloquently articulate some of the issues I have with the 'vintage community'. Keep up the good work <3

Alexandra Marie said...

I definitely agree on being careful- I mean, it is after all only common sense to steer clear of creeps- haha! As far as your thoughts on putting down others- unless someone flat out were to say, " you dress amazing, everyone else dresses horribly," I don't think categorizing any time I guy says they like the way you dress as saying other girls dress in an ugly way. And in all logical sense, while true gentlemen need to try and not be disgusting and see women in the way of an object because they dress in a more revealing manner, it is undeniable that when you dress modestly, you come across this much less often. Dressing immodestly really is just an open invite for problems. Even though I do think we have a difference of opinion- kudos for speaking your thoughts- it takes guts!

Julia said...

I don't always wear complete vintage, but I also get this comment quite a lot. It mostly comes from men, but quite a lot of older women will tell me this too. Because most of them mean it as a genuine compliment, but it makes me feel uncomfortable, I'm never quite sure how to respond. I don't want to offend them in return by rejecting their compliment, but I also don't like how it puts down other women, so I usually just awkwardly thank them and regret what I didn't say later. What I'm getting to is this... What do you think the appropriate response is?

Many thanks.

Unknown said...

I think I've missed the post this one relates to...

Actually, your blog was always inspiring through my own vintage wearing career. But lately I didn't follow all the typical vintage blogs anymore. I got a little sick of it as well, since all the outfits were just great but somehow always the same. It's nice if someone likes to dress like the people 50 years ago. But it's somehow not going somewhere. For myself I discovered that it's much more interesting to combine my old stuff with modern stuff and create something new and fresh.

Also I can understand you are sick of the "Oh, I wish all women would dress like this again"-comments.
TO be honest, I thought like this some years ago as well. And on my deepest vintage loving lowpoints I kind of wished to live in the 50s again and be a housewife just like in one of these old tv ads for pudding. This was the first time I got a little scared. I am 23, I got a university degree and then I have thoughts like this?

Also the reactions from people, especially men were kind of bothering me. Regarding my outfits back then, I've often heard stuff like: "Oh, I wish more girls would were dresses and lipstick" - which was flattering first but in the next instance the comments became like: "...and that they wold cook and bake cakes and knew where their place is".

At the last design studio I've worked at, when I was still wearing vintage outfits only, and where there've only been men working, I really felt like in an episode of Mad Men. I got treated weird somehow, as if I was a pretty but completely dumb woman with nothing in her brain but baking brownies and emphasising her slim waist for finding a guy taking care of her.

I didn't really feel comfortable anymore and I didn't like how I was thinking ten times a day I wish I would have a time machine.

Also I didn't wanted to be recognized as "this girl that looks like from the 50s or 60s" and to be stared at if I was dressed up for carneval on the street anymore.
It's great for other people, if they like it like this and can live with the consequences. But I don't want people to see me like this anymore.

I am not sure if I understood every sentence of your text correctly, since my English ist not perfect at all.
But if something starts to make you feel uncomfortable and doesn't make you as happy as it did before, then why keep it up, just to please people you may not even know in real life.

I think it's great that you're also writing some of your thoughts down here, and not only always show pretty dresses. Of course, most of your followers may come here for checking nice pictures only. But I think you are a woman with more qualities than matching colors and shapes and looking good at photos.
You have all possibilities here to reach so much people. Don't waste your precious thoughts by remaining silent.

I am looking forward to follow your travelling!

Lovely greetings from Austria,

Anonymous said...

You're grappling and focusing your gaze on yourself as well- that is commendable. I'm older and not very attractive but I think my vintage style is as good as Dita's. Problem I have is the money it takes to afford luxury in vintage. I've heard similar comments from folks but I've never been put off by them necessarily. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt whether or not they deserve it. The worst comment I've had hurled at me is that my appearance reminding an older African American fellow of the days prior to Civil Rights, and why would I try recreating such hegemony? I had never even considered how my cute 40s dress, hair, and shoes reminding someone of Jim Crow. Let's just say I got educated really fast about this...

Lauriana said...

Reading your last post, I was agreeing about the inherent misogynism of the creepy compliment…
I don't think there can be much argument about that, even though there plenty of possible non-creepy comments which can sound pretty similar.

However, I don't think it's right to present the misogyny issue as a gender war kind of thing. The nastiest comments on my vintage inspired look have always come from women. No creepy compliments there, just outright hostility. Yes, the best explanation for such behavior is probably that they were essentially spoon-fed misogynist thought from an early age and don't realize it but that doesn't make it OK and it really goes against any optimistic feminist theory about the 'sisterhood of women'.

If some women feel obliged to play (fashion) police among there own sex, can we really blame men for the occasional awkward compliment to a one of us who is not playing by the general 'rules'?

Anonymous said...

Hadn't read the comments on your last post, so was really surprised you'd had negative comments. I've never had any creepy comments for the way I dress, but have a suspicion some people are drawing the wrong conclusions about me. You express yourself well and it's interesting to discuss these issues. Love your blog.

Unknown said...

I usually silently read, but I was compelled to join in today, because I'm still angry with one unknown sexist guy with whom I had to deal with an hour ago.


I must admit that I used to be in love with vintage style (well, I still like it), but I was afraid to embrace it thoroughly. I was afraid to stand out because I wanted to be unnoticeable when I'm out on the street.
However, this protective decision didn't protect me from the world, full of jerks. I was even sexually assaulted at one bus station and it took me months to regain confidence to walk around alone. Or wear a short skirt.
It makes me angry that sexist people exist. I wish I just wouldn't care, but it hurts me. And it makes me sad that sexists don't care about other people's feelings.

Casey Maura said...

I'm not even going to get into the sexism issue, because others have said it far more eloquently! But I will say I'm so glad you brought this up. I tried for the last few years to push aside those feelings thinking I was being silly and overly conscious. But I've also had men verbally assault me when I've been decked out in vintage. The scariest was the time I was followed into a store in broad daylight and verbally assaulted. I would have called the cops it got so bad, except he realized I wasn't a shrinking violet and ran away before I could. That shook me up a lot. Being pregnant or nursing the past 21+ months separated me a bit from it because I toned down my vintage style! and have veered towards a more classic casual look. I love not standing out so much any more. I've had people tell me that I shouldn't let stuff like that dictate my life, but unfortunately this is the world we live in. It makes me angry--and like you I've become sort of bitter that people like that can influence me so much as to loose interest in something I love. But now that I'm a mother I'm far more aware of personal safety and not looking like an easy target. It's sad.

toridawn said...

I can't believe that I just now am reading this. I had noticed via our IG connection that you were wearing less vintage dresses these days, but I am SO glad you decided to share WHY. I have felt the same at times too, and never went all-out everyday vintage. I found myself wearing less and less vintage dresses as the years have gone on. (Moving to New York CIty from Santa Cruz, CA definitely sped that change in my dressing along. New Yorkers definitely speak their minds!) Anyway, I know you wrote this over a month ago, but it hit home with me enough to want to make and comment and applaud your candid words. <3

Anonymous said...

This whole conversation has been really interesting, and has made me think. It seems to have made a lot of other people think too, which is itself a victory. Thanks for grappling with this topic Solanah- big support!

Dale Ealey said...

I like vintage. I wish it was more popular. I do like to see people wearing it, and wish I saw it more often.
i was raised by my late mother to always be kinder to women and to give them compliments. But, I NEVER, EVER compliment a women who I do not know WELL anymore. (Sorry mom) This I had to learn. I think I know a lot about unwelcome remarks as my oldest daughter is muslim and dresses as such. As far as men are concerned, if I see a guy wearing something I like, that's a different story.

Brittnie@cinderandsmoketales said...

Perfectly said! I love vintage fashion, but I also like modern trends. Personally, I am ALL for "gender-bending" and destroying gender roles. You look awesome in jeans and 'modern clothing' for sure.

Unknown said...

"Misogyny is everywhere". Yes, unfortunately...
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

kate said...

Solanah, I'm going out of my way to comment here because I have something I think is important to tell you. There are many people who want to defend some creep, whom they haven't met, and tell you that his jerk comments are not AT ALL misogynist and you should just man up, so to speak. "Don't be so sensitive." Please. You know as well as I do what those gross innuendos mean. You do know, and it's important to call them out on it, and it's important to alert others to the problem. Preach it, girl.
That being said, I hope you don't let "The Man" get you down, take your vintage style away from you. Cause newsflash, creeps and jerks will still be there whether it's stockings and skirts or jeans and sneakers. Some of the nastiest things have happened to me when I was wearing sweats and dirty hair. You think it's the way YOU dress? It isn't, it's the way THEY think. You know how women wear burqas to keep men from thinking dirty? Men STILL harass women, and blame it on the EYES being too seductive. >:[
Don't blame vintage. Just do what makes you happy and comfortable. You're not going to find a culture with less misogyny just by leaving feminine or old things behind. Not to be a downer.