Vintage Woman in a Modern World: Vintage & Image-Building

Flashback Summer: Vintage Woman in a Modern World: Vintage & Image-Building

Today I read a great post by Missi of the blog Curve Creation entitled "Retro Girl in a Modern World: Pinup & Social Anxiety."  While I don't have social anxiety myself, her post sparked some good thought for me on the reasons why I wear vintage and the downsides and benefits it presents.  Although I could wax eloquent on lots of different reasons I wear it, I thought specifically on how it helps me portray myself to others around me.  My style is a mix of expressing who I am now and a tool for growing myself into who I aspire to be.  Vintage has four characteristics that help me in this:                 {pin this}

1.  Vintage portrays confidence.
Missi's first point about her style functioning as armor rang especially true to me.  The more I thought about it, the more I could definitely agree that this is one way vintage functions in my life, too.  When I suit up for my day in vintage, I know I won't blend in as I go about my day.  By the very fact that I'm choosing to look different, my outfit will naturally project confidence.  Even if I'm not feeling it, giving off the vibe of confidence through my style often helps me fake it 'til I make it.  And, quite honestly, people are less likely to mess with a confident person, so it is a bit like armor.


Flashback Summer: Vintage Woman in a Modern World: Vintage & Image-Building
My sister, Aria, and I on her recent birthday day trip 
2.  Vintage illustrates uniqueness.
I've found that a lot of people remember our encounters because of my vintage style.  While I would hope it was my charming wit and sparkling personality that made an impression, it can't be denied that visuals often stick in our minds more than other features when making a new acquaintance.  ("I know that face... but I can't remember the name...")  It has helped me in networking and relationships because people remember meeting me!

3.  Vintage is approachable.

My intercultural-vintage style blend gives me immediate, visible common ground with a lot of people.  Some like talking about family memories as my style reminds them of their grandma or mother.  The eco-conscious appreciate the fact that I shop secondhand and resist the fast fashion industry.  Artistic people appreciate the uniqueness.  People from other cultures are sometimes interested to see why I'm wearing a particular piece, and we get to converse about places we love.  History buffs recognize the tie to the past and appreciate seeing it in our modern day.  Granted, vintage style may present some obstacles for others when they see me, but by and large I've found the interactions to be positive.  For someone that isn't naturally gifted in small talk and has been told I come off as intimidating, these automatic conversation starters are magical!
Flashback Summer: Vintage Woman in a Modern World: Vintage & Image-Building
My mother, sister, and I
4.  Vintage shows I'm complex.
People assume that because I wear vintage that I have a very girly personality.  Wait..... what?!  Alright, so this one is less of a perk and more of a downside that I've noticed about wearing vintage.  Many people associate vintage style with a "pretty princess" type of personality.  While that definitely describes some people, it doesn't describe me at all.  After seeing me for the first time, many people have been shocked to find out things about me that are not princessy, like joining the military, lifting weights, and enjoying outdoor activities.  However, I use this for my benefit. I have a nice shock and awe effect when I am or do something they don't expect.  Surprise!

It has also been a consistent reminder to avoid watering down the identities of others and to assume complexity about them. Assuming complexity about others is one of the identifiable personal competencies that are key to building cultural competence, and it means I don't put people in a box nearly as often as I might without this reminder from my own life.



Flashback Summer: Vintage Woman in a Modern World: Vintage & Image-Building
In front of the Kansas City Museum of Modern Art
What all of this comes down to is... I like wearing vintage and it helps me project the confident, memorable, and relatable persona I want to have.  My fashion is a tool I use to accomplish things, and while it may have some downsides, they are clearly outweighed by all the positives!
{pin this}  

How does vintage help you express the person you are (or aspire to be!) to the world?  Have you found it useful in building particular parts of your life?

10 comments

  1. Vintage/retro look is often a conversation starter, as you said. It also helps people to identify themselves and others with a certain tribe. But I am not a the 60s/70s babe in values either, though I may be in dress sometimes... My mom's experiences from working life in 1970s from womens perspective don't sound that good, even if it all looks groovy in old pictures... :)

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    1. SO true! I think I would have snapped like a twig from anger and frustration if I lived back then, cute as the clothes were!

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  2. I feel you on the unexpected view that a "girly-girl" is strong. I don't wear vintage (I like it, but don't have the money and time to invest in it right now) but I love dresses. So every so often I get people who are surprised when I start to lift something really heavy. One guy at a liquor store in middle of nowhere PA visually had his eyes bugged out when I picked up an 24 pack of beer. haha they aren't that heavy, but I guess I was dressed nicely and I had my husband with me so I guess he was expecting him to pick it up.

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    1. Ha, that is hilarious! DON'T PUT ME IN A BOX!

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  3. Great post! I've experienced a few of these dynamics as well, especially the part where people remember me because of the way I dress. I haven't had the "girly-girl" assumption made, at least not that I know of, but I also tend to choose vintage and retro styles that are paired down, sometimes even very masculine (trousers, shirt, sweater vest, flat cap), so maybe that's why.

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    1. That's true, you do have a more menswear-inspired vintage look (which I love and am totally starting to lean toward myself). I think it's a good thing to be memorable, such a perk!

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  4. Wow! I never would have known that you joined the military but that's a great detail about you to know. Personally, I went to a military high school (boarding school) and we did all the drills and training, wore the complete uniforms etc... it was a gruelling experience but taught me to be disciplined. I enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing - www.jamilakyari.com

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    1. That's so amazing! It's so interesting to know a bit more about you and find more common ground. :)

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  5. Great post! I like all the points you made, and can relate to them as well.
    Not the same, but related to number 4- I used to work in a tile store, and I always surprised the customers (usually contractors) because I was wearing 40's workwear style dresses and skirts, and carrying around bags of mortar and boxes of tile! :)

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    1. Ha, that is awesome! Bags of mortar and tile! :D Heck, ladies did everything in the 1940s in 40s clothes; I don't know why people are so surprised!

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