Vintage fashion: What’s old is new (again) and the more the better

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Vintage fashion: What's old is new (again) and the more the better

Salt Lake City

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Fashion’s newest trends are not new.

According to the Deseret News, more Utahns are purchasing pre-owned clothing from older eras to be financially responsible, environmentally sustainable, and stand out in a world of big-box fashion.

“It’s cheaper, its higher quality, and it’s a lot more unique. No one is going to be wearing this dress at the concert you’re going to,”Jacqueline Whitmore, owner Copperhive Vintage, shows off a floor-length floral print dress in a twirling motion from the 1960s. “This dress is 60 years old, and it still looks amazing. People are starting to get it.”

Ms. Whitmore, whose Copperhive caters to a midcentury aesthetic with bold floral prints and fit-and-flare dresses, is among a growing cohort of vintage retailers who’ve helped make the Beehive State a destination for thrift.

In recent years, secondhand has been a top priority for more shoppers. They turned to vintage retailers when new-home buying was less appealing due to supply chain problems and economic uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic. Retailers now believe that the new customers will be here to stay.

“I’ve seen a lot more first-time customers. When they didn’t find what they wanted from Nordstrom, or what they ordered was taking too long to arrive, they come in here for wedding attire or special celebration attire, and even younger shoppers looking for outfits for prom,”Ms. Whitmore was a plus-size woman who sought out fashion that fit her body.

Notwithstanding pandemic windfalls, vintage has been on the rise for close to a decade, driven largely by a new generation of environmentally-minded shoppers who say buying secondhand – referred to as “upcycling” – is a critical tool in the fight against climate change, and most immediate way to put a dubious fast fashion industry in check.

“I feel better in my soul wearing something that’s not so disruptive to the environment. Buying used is a drop in the bucket, but it’s one thing I have control over,”Taylor Litwin, a director of stewardship for the Cottonwood Canyons Foundation, said that she tries to buy only secondhand. “It’s evident how much pollution we’re creating, so if I can in any way reduce it I’m going to try.”

According to research from outlets such as Bloomberg Business and Columbia Climate School, the current fashion market is thriving. “is responsible for 10% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and 20% of global wastewater, and uses more energy than the aviation and shipping sectors combined.”

Even established fashion brands are beginning to join the upcycle movement, including Levis Secondhand, the jeans giant’s new program that buys back worn wear to repurpose and resale.

Edgar Gerardo, a Mexican immigrant who immigrated to Los Angeles as a child with his family, and now owns the thrift store Rewind, said that he was forced to develop an eye for vintage trends by necessity. He explained that selling and sourcing used items was one way to make money as a Mexican immigrant in L.A.

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“No one would hire you if you were an immigrant in L.A. back in the ’90s. This was the only thing our family could do, buy and sell at the flea markets. Little by little we learned what’s popular, what sells,”He said.

He moved to Utah with his family after the 2008 economic crash. There he planned to make a living. “doing regular jobs.”Then he discovered a treasure trove untapped of thrift.

“I didn’t know this place was full of vintage. And nobody was picking it, so I went back to what I know: picking vintage clothes and anything I could make money off,” Mr. Gerardo said.

Mr. Gerardo claims that the current environment for upcycling clothing originated in British and Japanese subcultures. This was around 2015. Vintage gained celebrity endorsements, and the trend spread across the country. For example, he said because of influencers he’s seen a 1980s rock band Metallica T-shirt sell for as much as $500.

“You’d imagine things like that wouldn’t be worth much, but then some celebrity or influencer wears it and the cost skyrockets,”He said.

Mr. Gerardo is suspicious when people claim that they shop for environmental reasons. He believes that this phenomenon is first and foremost about consumer trends.

In recent years, there have been a lot of vintage-inspired social media accounts. Yet those in Utah’s secondhand scene say this new crop of influencers are part of an ecosystem that operates by different principles, which emphasizes community while simultaneously celebrating individual expression.

Hannah Ruth Zander, a rising, Utah-based influencer, promotes the vintage market through her popular Instagram account. She curates unique outfits inspired by different eras.

“I describe it as 1960s-mod-meets-modern-day, with a hint of 18th-century fashion. It’s super old, then a little bit newer, and then the super new. I like the collaboration of these different eras,”She spoke.

Ms. Zander believes that influencers play an important role in encouraging individuals to express themselves again after the stress pandemic.

“During the pandemic, people really just wore athleisure. As it’s about over, I think most people don’t even want to look at another pair of sweatpants,” says Ms. Zander. “Now that people can finally go out with their friends and wear cute outfits, vintage is a good way to get their personalities out there.”

Ms. Zander says vintage has become especially relevant alongside the fashion world’s wider embrace of maximalism, an exuberant aesthetic characterized by clashing patterns and loud colors, and a pendulum swing from the subdued ways of dressing during lockdowns.

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“With maximalism, the more layers the better, the more color the better, the more pieces you’re mixing together and the crazier the better. Which vintage is great for because you can mix and match so many different pieces from different eras and it can still be fashionable and cohesive,”Ms. Zander spoke. “It’s allowing people to be expressive again, and I think that’s really cool.”

This story was published by The Deseret News, and distributed by Associated Press.

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