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Vintage Part 1 - 6 Tips for Buying Vintage Clothing

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Vintage Part 1 - 6 Tips for Buying Vintage Clothing
6 tips for buying vintage clothing

A few weeks ago I was reading Clothing Poverty by Andrew Brooks. One of the things that stood out was how people today perceive clothes that are passed on and resold. How the garments are regarded and valued is very much dependent on how they are presented and labeled to the consumer.  What do you think qualifies as secondhand clothing?

Secondhand or Vintage?

Most people would not give secondhand clothing another chance - "secondhand" gives the impression of being very old, worn out and not properly taken care of. 

"Secondhand" by definition means an item having had a previous owner.  By the same token, "vintage" would then be considered secondhand. So why is vintage's perceived value much higher than secondhand clothing in general? If an item from a thrift store was sold at a vintage shop or labelled as "vintage", would the consumer regard it more highly? I spoke to Jasmine Chee of Dark Horse Vintage to find out what vintage really means and what to look out for!  This is Part 1 of a two part series on Vintage. Look out for the 2nd part next week!

A Treasure Trove - Dark Horse Vintage

This little gem is nestled right in the heart of Arab Street (31 Arab Street to be exact) and I chanced upon it when I was visiting their upstairs neighbour, Touch the Toes. When I first met Jasmine she had on the full works of a vintage lover - rolled hair, bright red lips, and an unforgettable outfit! Here she is:


Dark Horse Vintage
Jasmine Chee, Dark Horse Vintage [Image credit: Dark Horse Vintage]

Addicted to Vintage

I'm not a vintage addict (handmade and upcycled is more me) but Jasmine is and her journey began during her student days in London where the vintage culture is big. Her initial reaction was "eeew, secondhand", but she slowly embraced the unique beauty of the prints and textures that came with vintage clothing, and today, over half of her wardrobe is vintage. Jasmine says she is now very comfortable wearing vintage, although sometimes she mixes and matches vintage with contemporary pieces.

It wasn't long after finishing her fashion and textile studies that she returned to Singapore and decided to set up Dark Horse Vintage in 2012. She initially took a cautious approach by operating as a pop-up, but this gradually grew as Singaporeans responded warmly to her offerings, and by 2015 she had set up a brick and mortar shop in the heart of Bugis.


How Would You Define Vintage?

I think we all get confused by the terms, but Jasmine gave me the low down and put it simply as:

  1. Vintage:  more than 30 years old so we are talking about before the early 80s
  2. Antique: at least 100 years old
  3. Secondhand: from 2 seasons ago or something from 2 - 3 years ago

So from these definitions, vintage is not secondhand, but secondhand would eventually become vintage!


What Do We Look Out for in Vintage?

Sometimes, you will find the word "vintage" pop up in marketing campaigns or even in retail outlets purporting to be selling vintage garments. Jasmine advises us to avoid these as most of the time they are mass produced to look like vintage, but wait, what do we look out for when we would like to purchase an authentic vintage garment? Here are Jasmine's top tips:

#1 Styling - vintage styles are conservative, which means no plunging necklines, no sleeveless tops and no rising hemlines. We are talking about prim and proper with high necklines, collars and sleeves.


Modest necklines

#2 Silhouette - modesty rules when it comes to the silhouette and we definitely won't see very tight ones in a vintage garment.

#3 The Little Details -  remember to always look on the inside of the garment - look at the finishing and you might find that the item is handmade and sometimes made without a sewing machine; look for good tailoring. Vintage items usually have metal zippers, large seam allowances to enable adjustments in the future (ie. wider girth!) and good finishings like French seams. 


Hand sewn


#4 The Print - the type of print will indicate which period the piece is from. Very fine details in the print usually means that the fabric was printed with machine rather than painted by hand. 


Colourful prints


#5 Read the Labels - if it's handmade it won't have a label but if it does, read it carefully. Things to spot are where it was made in (ie not in a developing country), and use of natural materials (synthetics were not as common then and more expensive) and no blends,  

#6 Rich History - vintage doesn't look all the same as there are many defining periods, and history brings a different look to each one.

20s/30s was influenced by jazz and art deco. By the 40s we were at war and because of rationing, styles were limited to simple and less voluminous looks (ie no pleats).  The 50s gave way to more feminine looks, and by the time we reached the 60s fun and youthfulness was back in with the mod look. The 70s was all about maxis and the hippy look. 

Why Buy Vintage?

"You're buying into history", Jasmine Chee

Not only are you buying into the history, but you are becoming part of the garments story and enriching its narrative. Each vintage piece is one of a kind and exclusive to you - no more embarrassing moments in the office Christmas dinner! You are also buying something that is of good quality and has detailed finishing that you won't be able to find in today's retail outlets.




Clothes with Stories

My favourite moment of the interview was when Jasmine showed the stores vintage qipao / cheongsam and kebaya pieces and the stories behind them. Each piece was tailored and made from beautiful textiles. I learnt how each one was from a different time -  high collars for modesty in the 50s to the lower collars and less tight fitting bodices for the roaring 60s. What got me intrigued though was how did these pieces remain immaculate!


vintage qipao cheong sam


Want to know how to take care of your vintage clothes? Stay tuned for next week's post where Jasmine shares her tips in Part 2 of this post. 


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Have you taken part in our latest giveaway? Check it out at bit.ly/GypsiedGiveaway

Gypsied pillow cover


Disclaimer  - this post is not sponsored and all views are my own.

Gypsied Christmas Giveaway!

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Gypsied Christmas Giveaway!
Gypsied pillow cover giveaway

[GIVEAWAY BELOW!]

I love handmade and I definitely love traditional textiles.  Asia is home to many designers who incorporate the richness and beauty of these materials into their products, and it's not hard to see how attractive these items are. Aqilah Zailan of Gypsied is one of them. Based in Singapore since 2013, Gypsied champions Asian textiles and their stories in everyday modern products. 

Gypsied | Conscious Creations logo




Aqliah says, 

"Gypsied is a label that is concerned with the provenance of traditional Asian textiles, and the people who make them. Being ethnically Malay, I have always had a deep connection with textile. I grew up surrounded by them, whether at home or as apparel. My first introduction to a handmade textile was Batik from Indonesia, and that was probably at a very young age!"

Gypsied

Working with a Community of Artisans

Here I am with my Gypsied clutch, one of the four offerings (clutches, turbands, apparel,home) available online. I love the print and I have been using it to keep my sketchbooks and drawing tools safe on my trip overseas (more about that later!) No two pieces are the same - mine is made using hand blockprinted batik from Gypsied's textile partners in Bali.

Agy with Gypsied clutch
Gypsied clutch. I'm also wearing an upcycled pair of shorts and organic cotton top.

Aqilah works with a community of textile artisans in Indonesia and has developed a strong working relationship with them.

"There are real people making these textiles, and it not only supports them financially, it supports a village economy and it further supports tradition within a culture. In many parts of Asia, textile is a stronghold of an entire culture.....

.....I work with textile cooperatives which have artisans under their wing. These cooperatives also look into the general well-being of these artisans and the villages where they come from, providing clean water and yearly health screenings. Of course all these on top of good wages for the textiles they create! It usually takes some time before I establish that a cooperative is worth working with. I hope to one day take one step further and work directly with the artisans." 

Gypsied cushion cover

Appreciating the Process

When I first met Aqilah, she shared that she hand sewed most of her products, but I also discovered that she picked up sewing when she was just 23 "as an alternative skill to the academic rigour of Singapura, and it stuck". 

Aqilah adds, "I began to appreciate the process of creating and found it a way to express myself. Then it led me further to think about textiles, how they are made and who they are made for. I basically put two and two together: a new appreciation for the creating process and traditional textile." 

While machines have made it much easier to print on fabrics (progress!), traditional textile making is at risk of being wiped out due to the slower process and its inability to meet the pace at which we consume. Unfortunately, the artisans are at the losing end of the stick, and as there is less demand for their products, the impact is tremendous - financially, economically, and culturally.

You might have noticed that the tagline for Gypsied is Conscious Creations. Aqilah says, 

"We create consciously, in the sense that we take responsibility in knowing where our textiles came from, and that we create consciously in that we believe what we create will be used by you for a long time to come. In this day and age, where information are at our fingertips, there is an added responsibility to at least understand where our products come from." 

Inspiration - the quietness of nature

Nature inspires this designer greatly. It doesn't even have to be anything elaborate like a hike. Just looking up into the sky, at the sun's rays hitting the trees helps her feel rejuvenated. Her parents and husband also inspire her - "my parents and my husband. My parents are amazing people with so much resilience and strength, while my husband is a gentle soul with boundless tenacity. They inspire me everyday to be the best I can be".

Win a Pillow Cover!

I am happy to announce that I am collaborating with Gypsied in this lovely pillow cover giveaway. We will be giving the lucky winner one Taman pillow cover.  The cover has beautiful, large floral motifs — all hand drawn and coloured using plant-based dyes by a group of artisan batik makers from the hills of Central Java, Indonesia. 

Please remember to read the rules before taking part.  

Rules:
a) This competition is available on both Rafflecopter and Instagram and WORLDWIDE.
b) If you have won and you don't respond to my email within 2 days, the prize will be given to someone else who has also given the correct answer.
c) We shall not be responsible for prizes that are lost in the post.
d) Gypsied reserves the right to change the design and colour of the prize.


Winner will be picked randomly from correct answers! This giveaway starts at 12am, 5 December until 12 am, 15 December (Singapore time)

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Disclaimer:
This giveaway is sponsored by Gypsied.
Gypsied clutch was not sponsored.

Sharing the Message of Reconnecting with Your Clothes

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Sharing the Message of Reconnecting with Your Clothes
These past few months have been crazy. Not much sewing or upcycling, mostly more sharing!

Sharing is good.
Sharing means getting more people to understand what you are doing.
Sharing means opening up your heart.

I was recently interviewed by Channel News Asia (thank you, Lianne!) and the response to the interview was very positive. Rewind 3 years back and the response to an interview then was extremely lukewarm - people didn't understand why I would want to pick up a needle and thread to upcycle my wardrobe.  I am amazed by how the whole environmental movement in Singapore has transformed.  People are starting to realise that it all starts with them!

Agy upcycles clothes

We now have so many ground-up initiatives, and just last week we had the Singapore Eco Film Festival. Being on the panel discussion on Minimalism, it was amazing to see so many people were eager to know how to incorporate environmental actions into their lives. 

Singapore Eco Film Festival
(L to R : Olivia Choong, Kevin Teng, Ng Hui Ying, Agy)

The movement is even spreading into our schools. My good friend, Lara of Secondsguru, organised a sharing session on sustainable fashion with the UWCSEA Dover Parent Teacher Committee. I do hope people see the need for reducing their consumption, caring for their clothes and finally making do with less.  It would be interesting what the environmental scene is like in another 3 years. Watch this space!

Angel Gowns Singapore - Upcycled Wedding Dresses

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Angel Gowns Singapore - Upcycled Wedding Dresses
Angel Gowns Singapore

Would you be brave enough to cut up your wedding dress and transform it into a little more wearable? Wedding dresses are becoming more extravagant (including the actual event!) and unfortunately, put away never to be worn again, unless if you are going to dye it and wear it at another formal do (very unlikely in my case).

My wedding dress was lovingly made by my mother. When we first went hunting for the dress, I couldn't believe how much it cost just to rent one, and so we settled on making one for less than $100 (about US$80)  - we went for a simple princess cut but even then with all the satin fabric and tulle that went into it, I don't think I would wear it again. She even kept her own wedding dress - a 70's style cream dress complete with puffy sleeves and high waist line. I think she secretly wanted me to wear it on my big day but I told her that I will think of something to transform it.... sorry, mum.
The best wedding dress transformation I have seen is from Pam of Threading My Way .  She upcycled her daughter's wedding dress into this lovely number complete with matching clutch. 



Angel Gowns Singapore - Donate Your Wedding Dresses
If you really don't know what to do with the wedding dress hanging in your wardrobe, why not donate it to a good cause instead?
Angel Gowns Singapore accepts pre-owned wedding gowns and upcycles them into beautiful angel gowns for babies who sadly do not make it home from the hospital. Andrea Toh of the group explains,

"Although we live in an affluent society, it remains inevitable that lives are lost due to complications and unforeseen circumstances. Regardless of the period in gestation, a baby's life is celebrated by a Mother and Father upon conception. When this life is lost, the family is overwhelmed by grief and devastation. It is often heart breaking for the family to go shopping for clothing just to say goodbye to their loved ones. Often, retail clothing might not even fit the tiny bodies of premature babies. Angel Gowns Singapore is here to provide support for these families, to let them know that there is someone out there who care that a little life was lost. Although these lives have not set foot on earth, they have already left foot prints in our hearts."


Run by volunteers
The group is a community of 25 sewists (and growing!) who are helping to transform the wedding gowns to angel gowns.  The initial call for volunteers was in August this year, when Andrea saw a post of a similar initiative in the USA, Angel Gowns USA, and decided to start it Singapore.  After a couple of calls, gathering volunteers and friends, and eventually getting in touch with KK Hospital to collaborate on the project, the group managed to get the wheel turning and lovingly produce angel gowns.

Angel Gowns Singapore



The sewists come from all walks of life and backgrounds and range from a wedding gown designer to a grandmother of 3.  They are still looking for volunteers and would like to grow the group . They meet up on the 3rd Wed of each month, and during these meet ups, they guide the volunteers on how to sew the gowns so they can bring it home to complete.

Andrea adds, "We have had the 1st meet up last week on 14 Sep and a total of 14 volunteers came. They have all brought back a gown each and the angel gowns are so pretty - looking at them makes you happy and sad at the same time. We are glad the wedding gowns have been repurposed but at the same time we hope the Angel Gowns are not used up so quickly. For advance sewists, the deconstructed gowns with pattern pieces  can be sent to them to sew at home."

You Can Help!
A lot of time and effort goes into the coordination of the work involved, and the ladies also ensure that the gowns are designed, sewn and cleaned with care before they are sent to the hospital. If you are looking to contribute to your time or would like to donate the following to the cause, do drop the ladies an email.

Wedding Gown Donations
To create the Angel Gowns, the group of volunteers seek donations of Wedding Gowns and other items such as:

1. Wedding Gowns, Bridesmaid Gowns, Baptism Dresses
2. White tea ceremony or dinner dresses
3. Lace
4. White Bias Tapes
5. Pearl Buttons
6. White Ribbons (width 0.5")

Andrea adds that they can be dropped off at any of the following locations, but do drop them an email first!

North - 5 min from Sembawang MRT
East (1) - Bedok MRT
East (2) - Tampines Ave 8
North East: Anchorvale Link
West: Choa Chu Kang MRT

So if you do have a wedding dress that's sitting in your wardrobe, why not drop it off at Angel Gowns! There will be families who will appreciate the donation and cherish the Angel Gown for making the moment extra special for them.

Green Is the New Black - I'm Having a Workshop!

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I'm superduper excited about 22 October as the amazing people at The Wedge Asia have organised their second Green Is the New Black event.  Green Is the New Black (or GITNB, for short) is all about sharing what are the conscious choices you can make in your life, be it with respect to health, giving back to society, your mind or the environment. What I love about the event is that it brings together everyone in the community, and this year I will be there with a workshop on weaving using the loom kit that was designed at Sustainable Living Lab.

It will be a one hour workshop at 4pm, and you get to take the loom kit home to continue with your weaving! And it's only $28!

Sign up here: http://bit.ly/WeaveItAgy

Green Is the New Black will be held at Hotel Jen Tanglin Singapore on 22 October, 11am - 9pm.


What Will You Do With Your 80%?

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What Will You Do With Your 80%?
clothes

Remember in school when your best friend decided on a whim that he or she did not want to be best buddies with you just because? And after that decision, you never spoke to each other again.
Or perhaps, remember when your best friend just became your friend and then both of you drifted apart? Relationships are complex - upon meeting for the first time, there is a moment of excitement and novelty. You spend ages on the phone catching up on the latest gossip, or bond over mutual interests.  But after awhile, that initial buzz is lost and you have one of two choices

1. Move onto someone who will give you a new level of exhilaration; or
2. Nurture the friendship, give the friendship (not the person) attention, and every time you deposit something the bond between two people grows stronger.

Which path would you take?

Our Relationship with Clothes is Like Friendships Gone Bad
Most of us treat clothes like friendships gone wrong.  Occasionally we have one-night stands - that's the buy (and perhaps wear once) and throw. Sometimes, we wear them less than 30 times and then it gets discarded. But the worst is the impulse buy which gets relegated, tag still on (!) to the bottom of our wardrobe, and sometimes comes back to haunt us.


clothes in wardrobe


We Only Wear 20% of Our Wardrobe. 
In fact, according to this article in the Wall Street Journal, most of us have a closet full of regrets. And even if they are not full of regrets, I think we fell out with the garments that were once our favourites and, unfortunately, never saw them again (lurking in the corner of our wardrobe?). We only wear 20% of our wardrobe. That may be the unofficial figure, but I think this statistic can be more or less validated in any developed country.

Let's Reconnect with Them
Any kind of bond you have with a garment can be reignited. I do that through upcycling and repair. All it takes is to clean out your closet and separate them into various piles:

1. Items that you always wear (that's your 20%!)
2. Items you don't wear because they are just worn out.
3. Items you think you can rekindle the relationship with! Do they just need some repairing?
4. Items that look lovely but you honestly can't mix and match with anything in your 20%.



What about items with sentimental value? Well, if you do wear it then keep it, but sometimes you just have to let it go and pass it on to someone who will love it just as much as you do, and form their own story with it as time goes by. If it's just sitting in your wardrobe, then it's not fashion, it's just wasted!

What's Your 80%?
So, have you figured out what the 80% of your wardrobe is? If you've never worn it in the past year....I think we can safely say it falls within that portion of the pie!
You might be tempted to throw the 80% out, but there are many options to take.

1. Let someone form a connection with them - pass it on, give it to a thrift store / vintage store, share it at a swap.
2. Rekindle that bond - upcycle it into something more wearable, or something else (jeans to bag, anyone?)
3. Last of all, the final option would be to pop it into the recycling bin!

So do you think our relationship with clothes is like our friendships? 
What's your 80%?

Share here!


  • If you're keen on rekindling the relationship with your old clothes, sign up to my newsletter and I will update you on my next workshop. I promise there won't be any spam!
  • We're also having a clothes swap on 18th September and it's your chance to pass on your 80% Details in the image below.
  • Thrift stores in Singapore? My favourites are NEW2U (96 Waterloo Street), which is open Monday to Friday, 10.30am to 2.30pm, and every last Sunday, and the MINDS which runs 5 thrift stores (see link for locations)

clothes swap Singapore

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