The 12 Ugly Sides of Vintage

The 12 Ugly Sides of Vintage

So guess what?  Collecting and wearing vintage isn’t all celluloid unicorns and bakelite rainbows.  It can also be nasty, dirty, and a real pain in the ass.   But I’ll never stop loving vintage, even despite these 12 Ugly Sides of it:

1. SIN
You will break one of the Ten Commandments.  You may not kill, but you will most likely worship some false idols.  Who hasn’t bowed in front of a rack of glorious bakelite (and maybe taken the lord’s name in vain)?


Some folks instagram photos of arms decked with carved and polished bangles, you tell me #thedailybake isn’t our version of the stations of the cross?  And covet thy neighbor?  HELLO!  How could you not want a 40s Mexican jacket because of Atomic Redhead?


Or pretty much anything that Nicole of Fashion Forestry posts…



You probably never thought in your wildest dreams that you would need a vintage birds in flight sweater in your life, but now it haunts you.

I’m not trying to downplay true addiction.  I know jonesing for a vintage score isn’t the same as shooting heroin.  But when you find yourself antsy because haven’t been surrounded by antiques in a while, haven’t pawed through racks of old clothes in 5 days.. it kind of feels like you might have a problem.  A fun one!

Oh no!  First world problem.  But hey, it is kind of a problem when you can’t find that 1940s knit skirt that you NEED to go with your new 40s novelty print blouse.  Where the hell is that skirt?!?!  And you can include clutter and dust mites in this category, oh, and an irrational fear of moths.




Get used to the sound of precious fabric tearing!  There’s pretty much no way around it.


I’m afraid to say that there are dresses that have been sitting in that pile for close to 2 years now.

Oh yes, it will happen to you, just wait.  Twice now I’ve sadly shrunk gorgeous 1940s dresses that used to fit me like a glove.  You’ll learn to not wash as much as you can and use those sexy underarm guards!

Every once and awhile you will pay way more than what you really wanted to spend for that Edwardian blouse, perfect 1940s top hat tilt, or Hawaiian Shaheen because ebay auctions SUCK YOU IN!

Occasionally you will see people misuse or mistreat vintage.  This will make you physically ill.

Livia Firth

Like Livia Firth who took  a bunch of excellent condition 1930s gowns to make this monstrosity.

Say goodbye to your hard-earned cash.  Yes you can do vintage on a budget, but when you catch that vintage bug and find yourself absolutely needing a genuine 1950s matching playsuit in your life, be prepared to fork over some serious bread.  And be careful – once you make your first steep vintage purchase it’s a true slippery slope.

(one of my most expensive, most impractical vintage purchases!)

I find myself sometimes rationalizing a large purchase, “I can buy this 1940s hat for $100 because I found one the other day at a thrift store for $4 so it kind of evens out!”  Sometimes I think of what I could be spending my money on if I weren’t collecting vintage: Travel, retirement, going out with friends, good food.  (Note to self: transfer some money into my IRA!)  And yes, sometimes prices are SO obnoxious.  $150 for a cotton 50s dress?  A house dress some lady made with scraps… who today I bet would be like,  “WHAAAAA…?  You want to spend a $150 on that piece of garbage?”

(for sale here)

One thing you’ll notice about pre-1960s vintage is that there is no spandex in it!  In modern clothes you can gain weight, and keep gaining weight, and you’ll be none the wiser.  With vintage you’ll know immediately when that 50s shirtwaist dress isn’t fitting around your waist.  And there might be nothing sadder than not being able to fit in your most favorite dress of all time.  Upside to this downside: you’ll realize you’re getting fat and hopefully take some life-changing measures.  Me?  Work in progress.  Probably why I’ve been more interested in collecting hats and jewelry, they will always fit!

Ahhh, that good ol’ thrift store stench.  You know what it is?  Mold.  So says, The Doctors!  And there’s been many a time where some vintage I ordered online comes shipped to my house with cigarette smoke attached, free of charge!  And there are times where garments, no matter how often I try to wash them, have a built-in olfactory archive of all the armpits that have ever been near that fabric.


Yeah, I love me some bakelite, but that’s formaldehyde smell and that’s rubbing on your skin, hence seeping into your bloodstream…. they stopped making it for a reason!  Do I still want it?  Hell yeah!

Yikes!  This is a for real concern for anyone who buys second-hand clothing or furniture.  Inspect furniture, and clean thoroughly.  As soon as you come home with any vintage clothing from thrift stores, or even vintage online sellers, wash if you can in hot water and dry with high heat.  If that’s not possible, get out your iron and steam those garments.  Bed bugs will die from high heat, and steamers are what professionals use to get rid of them.

See this post.

What am I missing?  What downside of vintage irks you the most?



  1. Christina

    I’m sure that when I die the autopsy will find a thick layer of vintage fibers and antique dust coating my lungs. Maybe someone can make a blanket out of it or something.

  2. Janey

    This is a FABULOUS post! Utterly brilliant! And I couldn’t agree with all of them more! Especially the packed closet and mending pile ones. I’m having a pretty large battle with them right now!

    And thank you for the shout out! 🙂


  3. Helen

    LOVE how you featured two of my fave vintage bloggers and hubba hubba love that feather capelet!

  4. Joanna

    What a great post and so many topics discuss worthy in their own right as a single post:) I’m quite sad when I see “upcycle” of vintage items that are very much wearable. It is sad that some of these movie stars can’t just restore a vintage beauty rather than cutting it up. It is interesting the different “smells” that can come with vintage and I won’t lie and say a couple things I’ve gotten I had to pass on but for the most part a good bath helps a lot. I did have this umbrella I once won that there really was no salvaging it. I opened it up and it smelled so much like mold that there was no way it could be saved. I heard one story awhile back about silverfish eggs in clothing. Those are some nasty creepy buggers too:) It is creepy all the things that can happen but thankfully, most of the time vintage is joyful:) And, what a funny comment about justifying an expensive vintage purchase with your hat because I do this all the time! I also do it with vintage fashion magazines. I say to myself all the money I am saving by not buying the current fashion magazines offsets the cost I spend on vintage magazines ….oh and the all famous “but this is art” so it is justified:)

  5. Desirae

    This post made me nod my head all the way through. You really hit it. Great post.

  6. Renée

    I enjoyed this post so much! It’s all so very recognizable. The last part of point 8 was especially amusing!

  7. Sara

    HA YES! All of the yeses! A few more:
    1. Wearing a dress for the first time & discovering it still holds the WORST BO EVER. And no amount of washing gets it out. I have a crazy novelty dress that just hangs in my closet for this reason, it’s like the Seinfeld episode with the smelly BO car.
    2. Having an outfit explode, knowing you can’t go home and change for hours, and just being stuck with a seam hole getting bigger and bigger. This also applies to shoes. I once had to walk home barefoot bc my cotton (obviously war era non-ration/terrible quality) heels disintegrated on a dancefloor.
    3. Related to #2 – killing something beyond repair. Like… oh look it made it 80 years…. and then it met me! UGHHH THE GUILT.
    4. Ok, so I’m a hoarder. It’s not just a “whoops I have too much stuff!” It’s not being able to throw things away. Something will meet its true death, and it will still hang out in a drawer somewhere, torn to shreds. Or I’ll find effed up 40s dresses at the Goodwill bins… with 20″ waists…. and keep them. What will I do with them? Can’t sell it, can’t wear it, it just lives with me now, because vintage. So irrational.
    5. Hats + wind = a hilarious duo.

    I still feel like I’m missing some, arg. This was a great read! Funny and enraging (MOTHS!) all at once. Bravo miss lady!

  8. Joanne

    I don’t think the fear of moths is irrational when you own vintage!

  9. Emileigh

    This is all SO TRUE!!! SO GREAT! I totally identify. With all of them, every single one.
    I would add that a downside of vintage is people assuming I’m a formal or stuffy person because I’m “dressed up” all the time. I dislike that. One can still do crazy-fun things in a dress.

  10. Shauna

    This is so funny and so accurate! I agree with all of them, especially the ‘irrational fear of moths’ and ‘packed closets.’ Even when I do a clear out of my wardrobe and there are maybe 3 bin bags worth of clothes to sell/ donate – you would think my wardrobe would then have space but it doesn’t, it just looks the same as before *sigh*

  11. daphne

    Am amazingly well written post yet again!! I am definitely addicted it seems I can’t go a week without wandering a goodwill store even if I don’t buy anything it calms my nerves. I also enjoyed the rationalizing of and expensive purchase because you found a cheap one the other day. I do that all the time. I have also miss washed and altered one too many vintage pieces I am trying my best to treat them better, I swear! Keep you the lovely posts.

  12. Jessica Cangiano

    Flat out brilliant, witty, insightful, spot on accurate points, dear Mary. I smiled and nodded like a mad woman through the entire thing (especially when you said how you’ll feel physically ill if you see – or even hear about – someone mistreating vintage; I have had that happen on multiple occasions over the years).

    ♥ Jessica

  13. Hannah

    Yes the fear of moths…but what about the fear of moth ball smell?! I bought a 1940s dress and after wearing it I decided to soak it to freshen it up. Magically, it started smelling like moth balls! It’s as if the addition of water made a chemical reaction which resulted in funeral parlor odor. GROSS!

  14. Paige

    Oh gosh, I can relate! It drives me crazy when I’m shopping with someone and they buy a gorgeous, perfect vintage dress with the intentions of “re-purposing!”


  15. wardrobe experience

    hahaha, girl you name it all!
    i discovered another ‘vintage-lover-habit’ on me during the last two years: i started to buy vintage clothes that even doesn’t fit me, just to save them from dump people (that might make halloween costumes out of them … or just like you said, … livia firth monstrosity).
    i should really think about opening a museum soon.

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