Archive for June, 2009

Some Rhetorical Questions, & A Label To Watch For

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

One of the things I love most about the Vintage Fashion Guild is how discussions there often give me a bracing philosophical workout, thanks to the incredibly diverse expertise and talent (and passionate commitment to vintage fashion) of its members. Some questions I’m still mulling over after being a fly on the wall during debates there are:

When a scissored 70s maxi flaunts the upper thighs of a pigeon-toed eBay model, is that an example of reconstructed vintage? A contemporary riff on “Make do and Mend”?

When the pigeon-toed model hikes a skirt up to her shoulders and renames it a strapless dress, is she deconstructing vintage? Channeling Little Edie?

When fashion designers send their employees to comb vintage shows, shops, and websites for garments and accessories to incorporate (sometimes tweaked, sometimes not) in their current lines, where precisely does one draw the line between retro-inspiration and unredeemed plagiarism?

When the 85 employees of New Jersey’s Trans Americas Trading Company sort 70,000 pounds of used clothing daily (including 50% of what has been donated to Goodwill) into 300 different grades (including “Premium/Crème”, when items are near-perfect or retain their store tags) and then sell it to the Third World, is that landfill-bypassing “green” commerce or the inevitable result of cheap mass production run amok?

When a blotto supermodel goes clubbing in a vintage satin wedding gown and, after its train gets wrecked by a sloshed, Sasquatch-footed grunge rocker’s widow, rips yards of fabric off and knots the ragged hem thigh high, is she more contemptible, or less, than an online vendor of chopped 70s maxis? How does the age and value of the dress she’s trashed factor in? How about the fact that she hawks a line of “vintage-inspired” clothes herself (with her design approach tending toward the unredeemed end of the spectrum)?

Fortunately, the nauseous headache I get pondering such questions can always be remedied with a little shopping therapy at the selling venues of the VFG membership.

…which brings me to the second topic this post will be addressing:

ecouture label

A new label, eCouture by Jenkins & Evans, that resolves the ethical quandaries raised above, as well as the ones you may regularly face re getting dressed in the morning–from how to indulge your taste for stylish one-of-a-kind fashions without going into debt, to how to stock your closets without ultimately helping stock the nation’s landfills, to whether vintage clothing ought to be enjoyed through actual use or carefully preserved for posterity. Upcycled from natural fiber modern clothing, and styled with an effort to preserve (as the site puts it) “the best and most labor intensive construction features of the existing garment whenever possible”, eCouture’s creations honor the spirit of vintage fashion without stripmining irreplaceable examples of it for their raw material.

Here’s where I get to brag about the eCouture lovely now hanging in my closet, which I received last week, and which was that rarest of online sales phenomena—the purchase that arrives on your doorstep miraculously looking (and feeling!) even better than it did in the pictures on your laptop.

Not only did the cool, silky fabric; sophisticated overdress styling; and ultra-comfy-yet-flattering smocked bodice reduce me instantly to admiring but incoherent oohs and ahs, the quality of the finishing was so expert, and the coordinating border and underskirt prints so artistically paired, that I immediately sent off a rapturous email to Hollis Jenkin-Evans, the creatrix of this brilliant garment, and was rewarded for my gushiness with some fascinating info about its origins. Turns out the ingredients had been a 90s plus size rayon skirt (the black underskirt), a smocked top (the bodice), and a floor length wrap skirt (the skirt of the dress). Somehow Hollis had snipped and sewn and gotten all the proportions to work just so, and then finished it off with a black ribbon from another project, and a mother-of-pearl buckle gotten courtesy of a “giveaway” (I like the sound of that!) at her local opera.

And she didn’t stop there—she used the excess bodice and skirt fabric to make a blouse, currently available at her store.

NOTE: For more great recycled/reconstructed fashion made ethically by VFG sellers, check out sugarlids and listitcafe.

Also, my MIL has reported back on the mystery (see previous post) of what she was costumed as at that party on her first cruise: She was a jewelry box!