Friday, 26 February 2010

Bad New

The adorable Milla wrote about the future of vintage in a very thought-provoking post this Tuesday. Since thrift shops are drowning in cheap lycra and horrid acrylics already, it makes one ask what we can expect to happen within the next, say, 30-40 years. When the treasures of our thrifting generation are passed on to our children and grandchildren, they are pretty much antiques. Milla asks what is the legacy that our generation leaves behind from the perspective of style choices. Fake-leather shoes, cheap jersey, and some supposedly high-quality designer pieces in the mix? Whatever the answer is, the sheer amount of stuff is going to be overwhelming.

This got me thinking about the contents of my wardrobe. There is a lot of second hand stuff in there, but also quite a few items that I have bought when they were brand new. I have never had trouble admitting that I have done my share of binge-shopping at H&M, and I keep hoping that I can hold onto my promise to never do it again, for both environmental and stylistic reasons. Considering that I do have "new" stuff in my closet, I took a long and hard look at the clothes I have, and tried to think which ones would qualify as vintage treasures of the future. I was pretty shocked. I kept finding great items, only to realize that I had bought them second hand. I tried to come up with an outfit using only clothes that I had bought new in order to prove to myself that I had made some good choices. (I couldn't. The pea-green cardigan is second hand.)

My criteria for future treasures were as follows: 1) the material would have to survive wear and tear, 2) the style would have to be somewhat timeless, and 3) they would have to be well made (no threads hanging loose, no serged seams; in general, good craftmanship or tailoring). The few non-second hand items that would qualify included a black Sportmax pencil skirt, a couple of pairs of Acne and Diesel trousers, an age-old jeans jacket, and a few outdoor coats. That's it. I did, luckily, find several pairs of shoes and two handbags that would qualify, but unfortunately I also found many that did not. It also hit me that a lot of these future treasures were items that I had got access to because of my previous job and staff discounts at a good-quality clothing retailer.

Living in the US has awoken me to some harsh realities regarding consumerism. What I have seen in Finland (13-year-olds getting their weekly fix at H&M and Zara) is nothing compared to driving past Wal-Mart on a Saturday and realizing that shopping is a past-time here for entire families. Shopping is about buying. You want it, you buy it. If you don't have the money, you put it on credit. Houses here are huge because otherwise you can't fill them with stuff. (Just an example: our "small" town-house would be considered a residence for a family of four in Finland). I have seen adverts for a tv-programme called Hoarders that tackles people's houses so full of stuff they can't even move in them. It features people who are literally sick with consumption, but the consumption in question is quite different from the one a hundred years ago (tuberculosis).

I have a bad feeling that Europe is going down the same path fast. There was no H&M or no Zara in Helsinki when I was growing up in the 80s, and my mother would take us shopping for school clothes twice a year, and even then, the stuff I wore was mostly hand-downs from my sister. The sad reality is that these days there are a lot of blogs out there that feature "buys of the week" or publicly admit to spending thousands and thousands of euros on cheaply manufactured mass-market clothes every year. These blogs are kept by women in their late teens or early 20s. They consume like there is no tomorrow. Like I said, I have done my share of senseless shopping in the past, and I am still no role model when it comes to consuming. But I do worry about the future, and what I see makes me sick.

What are you leaving behind for the future generations? Do the clothes in your wardrobe qualify as future treasures for thrifters in 30 years?

Ghostbusters t-shirt: Target
Cardigan: second hand / Salvation Army
Taffeta skirt: Max&Co.
Tights: Noa Noa
Shoes: John Galliano


Sal said...

Huh, I never thought of it in those terms. I think my legacy of thrift will mainly be items that I thrifted myself and the clothing that my mom has made for me. I don't buy designer, for the most part, so my basics probably won't endure.

I feel a little silly gushing after that very thought-provoking post, by holy crap, lady, this is an AMAZING outfit. That skirt is making my heart pound.

Eline said...

I often feel guilty about my own consumerism but playing dress-up, combining fabrics & prints, thinking of silhouettes and the like has been a life-long hobby and even obsession. It's one of the things in life that makes me really, really happy. Plus, it's one of the things I can easily do everyday which is a little harder with the other things in life that make me happy. Sadly, shopping plays a fairly great part in this role, I don't like the act but oh wow how I love the end-result. Question still remains for me every day though: can I really justify my massive wardrobe and shopping habits just because it's a hobby?

Most of my wardrobe is second hand though. Like you used to, I don't call it vintage. I started flea-marketing when I was 16/17 and it wasn't seen as a very hip thing to do then. Sadly things are changing and now the sellers realise what they've got to sell, contrary to a couple of years ago when they were happy to get rid of their old wardrobe (and sell it for a Euro)!

Also cute cat! :D

Eyeliah said...

I've really cut down on my crappy quality clothing comsumption in the last 5 years. You've got me thinking and in fact I think my wardrobe is a bit of a gold mine.... but maybe that's just my opinion. ;-) I would say it's 90% natural fibers at this point, clothing in good condition, though not expensive to purchase. I have worried about the state of thrift stores for the future as well, it may not be something we can do so successfully in 10 or even 20 years.

SnapandPrint said...

I remember wearing hand-me-downs from my boy cousins and from my mum's friend's daughter as I was growing up. Now-a-days, people just take their kids to Walmart to buy cheap clothing for them that falls apart in 2 months so they have to buy more. I shake my head at that since clothing that lasts gets handed down even if it can be embarrassing as a kid to wear hand-me-downs.

I have talked and talked to my friends about this and tried to get them to spend their money on well-made clothing that lasts but, the call of Wallyworld (Walmart) and other stores of that inking is strong and they would prefer to spend lots of money on cheap clothing than really look for shoes, handbags, jeans, ect that are well-made and last. It is so frustrating for me to hear them whine about shoes falling apart after a few wearings when they could have bought slightly more expensive pairs that would last them a lifetime.

I admit to buying things from H&M and Urban Outfitters because my bank account isn't large at this point in my life. I usuallylean toward cheap clothing/accessories when I know it is trendy and will not look good to me in a year or two.

Still, I buy slightly more expensive shoes, handbags, and coats because they are items I want to last. I am starting to do that with some of my jewelry too because it would be nice to have some jewelry to hand down to young female relatives in the future.

mistie said...

I love your blog! Thank you.
This topic is really timely for me. In the summer of 2008 I traveled away from home for about 10 days. Not a major thing in itself, but I packed only a few items as a personal challenge to really see how many clothes I need. That small step opened my eyes in so many ways - that are too long to share here ;)- but I am glad to know that others out there are thinking along the same lines and working to change some things, if only for themselves.

Clare said...

I've been trying to cut down on a lot of my more excessive consumer habits lately. I think it's better all around.

On a more superficial note: I LOVE LOVE LOVE this outfit!

Charlotte said...

First off, that's a great outfit.
My wardrobe at this point is about 85% thrifted. I have packed closets but when I can get an Eileen Fisher skirt for $2, it's hard to resist. Like you, if I were to pick out clothes to hand down to the next generation, they'd be thrifted items. I can afford high-quality thrift shop clothes, not retail ones.
A few decades back, it became cheaper to replace household items than to repair them. We live in a disposable culture, that's true. It's hard to convince a 15-year-old that she should buy ONE great sweater that she can wear "for years to come." She doesn't want to wear it for years to come. She wants to wear it for a few months, then get a new one. This mode of buying carries over into adulthood. When you have a TV channel devoted entirely to shopping, and people actually sit and watch it for hours, hoping to find something they might buy, it's a sad commentary on our culture. They should be reading instead.

mirattes said...

It is really sad and bad news for next generations...
Your red shoes are fabulous ;)

jesse.anne.o said...

I think you really hit the nail on the head with shopping being a pastime. I have also seen my friends use thrifting as a pastime, which is less horrible for the environment but still fosters a stuff-centric lifestyle.

I haven't read the article you posted yet but given the whole planned obsolescence of H&M, etc. I'm guessing it's my big fear of the future of thrifting -- nothing of quality will be left because the older stuff that was well-made will be falling apart and we'll have replaced it with horribly made cheap stuff. How will there ever be thrifting or vintage in the future?

Charponnaise said...

Superb and thought-provoking post. Re: analysing your wardrobe for future treasures, I do the same and came to the same conclusions as you - little of the "new" stuff is worthy!

Yet I've always tried to avoid throwaway fashion. I grew up wearing my mother and cousin's hand-me-downs so always had an appetite for unusual things and have been charity shopping for 12 or 13 years, since my teens.

Of my wardrobe, designer pieces (new or 2nd-hand) usually go the distance (though not always - a lace Anna Sui dress fell to bits), second-hand stuff, if it's survived this far, will continue to do so, and few of the high street retailers can match that (sad considering how well they match designer in the style stakes - a jacket you fall in love with simply won't stay intact for a year). Topshop are good in this respect (particularly their boutique range)but it's particularly difficult to find good high street tops that will still enchant 20 years down the line.

It is sad that we meet boredom with consumption. I do it, and I kick myself for it. I am struggling with finances for the first time in a while and so the shopping urge is being replaced by other things, like reading and tidying my existing wardrobe...!

Jane W. said...

Great post! I too am flabbergasted by the "recreational shopping" that pervades American culture. At the risk of sounding like a crabby old lady, one of the reasons I shop thrift stores because it makes quality affordable.

I have some vintage accessories that I'll hand down to my daughter (includng a purse that I've carried for 20+ years), but very few clothes.

Rad_in_Broolyn said...

Thought provoking and timely post. Maybe the new "slow fashions," especially DIY clothing will be the stuff that lasts, for those of us who don't do designer clothing. I recently bought a home made winter coat and while there is some wear and tear to the material, I bet this is one of the things that will last a while. I am not an experienced seamstress, but I have been learning to mend and fix more clothes rather than replace (learning to darn socks would be a lifesaver). I'll be adding suede patches to an old shirt and I've recently fixed a silk blouse, and I think these are timeless quality pieces as well.
I think that there are significant, if minority, undercurrents in the U.S. consumer culture that are starting to value quality over quantity. Thanks again for this great post (the resulting conversation has been insightful as well).

gina said...

I love this outfit! My brother and I were huge fans of Ghostbusters in the 80's! I also love all the colors you have in the outfit, and how well they all blend together.

Anonymous said...

Love the article. I'm older and still hold onto some pieces that were very important to me even though my thigh wouldn't fit in any of them now. I think the really great thrift shop clothing (couture, top designer)that we were used to, may have ended with your generation. I still have my purple ralph lauren suede skirt (1981), two sided yojhi yamamoto dress (you can wear backwards or forwards c. 82), calvin klein (c 1982), willie smith, anne klein and my very first red silk top katherine hamnett. I also have a couple of pieces by Ungaro (late 80's) and a channel jacket. All to be left to my hip family members upon passing. But I know what you mean, there are no great finds (designer, well made, well structured) any longer to be found search through a thrift store. Maybe, maybe a consignment shop but even the clothes left there are not the same quality as the 80's and 90's. I inherited my moms velvet pucci dress from Bergdorf Goodman. Ahhh the memories.

An English Girl in Paris (part une) said...

Brilliant, thought-provoking article! Thank you.

Angela said...

You know, thank you for this post. At a certain point, rampant consumerism is consumerism, no matter where one gets their fix from (thrift or otherwise). Especially when so many clothing retailers "greenwash" their lines and make themselves sound more environmentally responsible or philanthropic than they actually are.

It's a problem, because of all the "pretty" on the internet--- I find that blogs make me want things, and after having a baby and finding that my pre-pregnancy clothes are not going to fit for months, I'm not quite sure what to do. Currently I am trying to do a mix of old clothes, thrifted clothes, and am sewing some clothes, but finding the time to thrift and sew is challenging with a new baby!