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At What Point Does it Become Costume?

Discussion in 'General Attire & Accoutrements' started by Canadian, Apr 28, 2018.

  1. Canadian

    Canadian One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    150
    Location:
    Alberta, Canada
    Hi guys,

    I love reading posts of everybody wearing tasteful vintage or repro attire. As somebody who probably has over a dozen suits in his closet, maybe 1/2 of them being vintage styled, but somebody who wears things like modern shirts and ties on a regular basis (my favorite ties are my school tie and some Masonic stuff) as well as extremely classic items, I find myself wondering, at what time does vintage become costume?

    I just bought a kilt. It cost about 100USD and is clearly cheap material. I might get to wear it fifteen times in my lifetime, maybe fifty at the most. Just for very specific occasions. But I can't just wear my kilt everywhere, no matter how sharp I feel. Likewise, vintage clothing is like that. Looks great, might be inexpensive compared to say, a high end designer suit, but it's not a stand alone item. You don't get to wear full vintage every day unless you're rich or have no other item you spend money on. For some girls, especially locally in the swing dance scene, they might have one really nice dress, but they wear a rotation of maybe five dresses, as there are approximately five dances in a month. But they wouldn't wear some of those dresses to school, they simply don't make people say, "Darn, she (he) looks good", they will look at you as if you suddenly started wearing an unusual costume. Especially if their dresses are longer and designed for dancing, not hanging around in the quad and smoking hand rolled cigarettes.

    I had a book from the late 40s which was simple. If the boys are wearing jeans and a windbreaker, don't force your son to wear a suit. Vice versa. I think this is something people forget. I remember looking at grad pictures from a school I went to, and there were close to fifty people in suits and one guy in a golf shirt. He looked absolutely nuts. There were professional photographers and he felt he had to be cool by wearing a golf shirt. Vintage is the same way, if you have fifty people in golf attire, and one in a properly done, well put together rig, you look like you're not caring what people think. And while you don't have a need to be similar to each other, there is a degree to where you are actually putting on something you aren't part of, or are reliving days of past glory.

    I remember my university days where I was, especially after freshman year, wearing a suit most days. I had somebody tell me I "took myself too seriously" and I had lots of people ask if I was a JW. I was wearing clothing that was actually wearing me. Essentially, people look at you funny because you've got a few items which while they might be good and give you high self-efficacy when it comes to making decisions, they start to discount your intelligence and definitely make people think you are weird.

    I was forbidden by my parents to wear seersucker until I could afford to ruin it. I have linen suits and seersucker suits in my closet which are off limits except for very few occasions. I used to get great comments from ladies, young and old, but I still have my parents say to me, "C. That looks stupid/too wild/nerdy". My Dad doesn't understand why a guy needs white tie, black tie, diplomatic dress, morning dress, creative black tie and a frock coat. In my mind, I look exceptional, but my parents still think I look out of place and that a frock coat is less of a formal garment and more of a costume. It arrived in the mail, and the first thing that my Mom said was, "You can't wear that to your brothers wedding, y'know". My Dad's first statement was "You can't wear that to Lodge, the older guys will think you're wearing a costume or offending them with parody".

    Now, look at the typiclal garments to survive through the years to end up in people's closets. They are, grey or blue suits. Mondo was talking about the Bold Look on another thread. Guys talk about zoots or chalkstripes. They don't consider that these things are not practical.

    I love vintage. I love looking at a necktie which belonged to my Dad or grandfather. I absolutely love the history and the stories behind each item. And some time you strike out. My parents absolutely hate me wearing military repro. No battledress jackets, I can barely sneak in an olive coloured bush coat, or a wooly pully but it is realistic that some people think you're playing, with expensive play clothing, and they do it because you are not the norm.

    I say to you, if you are not the norm, chin up. I live my life knowing that I dress as I please. I think people would say, "Oh, that guy with the fifteen studs scattered across his face is a tough guy", while a person who wears a full vintage suit looks feminine.

    Where does vintage clothing separate from being something you wear that looks popularly good, to something where it's something you wear to be silly or put on airs. At what point does it progress from "good" to "mockery or insult"?
     
    -30- likes this.
  2. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    4,986
    Location:
    Australia
    This will be largely subjective. And to some extent culturally located too. Depends on your age, where you live, what you do and who you work or socialise with. In some contexts it may be better to respectfully blend in (with a few period touches) and not risk coming across as a grandstanding narcissist.

    First point - there is good and bad taste in period attire and not everything goes.

    I really enjoy seeing period clothing and admire the design and quality of it all, but I wouldn't wear a full outfit despite owning a few nice things. I prefer a low maintenance lifestyle and wear almost the same outfit most days. Some period clothing is worn for visual impact as much as anything, so practical considerations are not really relevant.

    There's other issue. There can be a form of snobby, virtue signalling in wearing period clothing outfits - "Look at how much better dressed and more interesting I am to the vulgar, ignorant slobs in mainstream land." I have certainly heard thoughts similar to these frequently expressed by 'period' people I know who use clothing to try to set themselves apart from others.

    Overall if you wear it because you like it and aren't looking down on the rest of the world's sartorial choices, who cares what you wear? Few will probably notice you. But if you are wearing your clothes in order to feel better than others, people will probably pick up on it and may find you a bit annoying.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2018
    navetsea, PeterB and Edward like this.
  3. handymike

    handymike I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    4,427
    Location:
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    I too prefer a casual vibe. I have a couple of vintage pieces that I would consider "signature" items, I also like vintage touches when added to a contemporary wardrobe (watches, pins, cufflinks, outerwear, hats, maybe even shoes). I don't think I would ever go "whole-hog" with vintage attire because I would feel like it was a costume or screaming "look at me."
     
    Bushman likes this.
  4. Zoukatron

    Zoukatron One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    108
    Location:
    London, UK
    It's a difficult topic. I certainly can't blame your father for asking why a guy would need all those different outfits. Vintage clothes specifically don't necessarily hold any particular hold for me, but I do like to dress smarter, so formal clothes certainly do. That being said, I am fully of the opinion that wearing formal wear outside of situations that actually call for it, with very rare exceptions, is wearing costume. This specifically applies in particular to frock coats as they are no longer part of any contemporary formal wear, they are historical. I think black tie you can arguably get away with on very special occasions when it is not called for and black lounge/stroller a but more because most people don't even recognise it for what it is (e.g. I like to wear black tie on New Year's Eve and black lounge New Year's Day).

    I also agree that whilst dressing up can be seen as someone trying to elevate themselves above other people (a rhetoric that you can often see in certain media decrying things like black tie as the uniform of the exclusive elite), it is also true that dressing up is not exclusive to anyone (with the exception of the absolute poorest). I think as long as people who like to dress up just because they like to dress up, because they are passionate about it, then other people who are at least open-minded will regard them favourably.

    But yeah, dressing up us not necessarily the same as dressing vintage, and dressing vintage can easily become dressing in costume. A big thing to be said for dressing in something that is clearly costume is that you can't really do it to elevate yourself above others.
     
    scottyrocks and Hal like this.
  5. GHT

    GHT I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    4,286
    Location:
    New Forest
    Costume? I've never considered my clothes as costume. My brother's daughter is getting married in September and I have a problem, the only "conservative" outfit that I have is a dark suit that I keep for funerals. I'm not sure if my niece will approve if I wear an everyday outfit, for that read 30's/40's, or if I should go out and buy something that I know I will only wear once. Costume? Then everything in my wardrobe from blazers to suits, trousers to shoes, are costume.
     
    -30-, Edward and scottyrocks like this.
  6. scottyrocks

    scottyrocks I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,333
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    I think one of the keys to wearing anything different than 'the norm' is being psychologically comfortable in it.

    This weekend, for instance, I am wearing a military-style button down shirt, buttoned all the way up, with a waistcoat over it, and a pocketwatch, chain and fob. I guarantee you that there will no one wear I am going that will be wearing a waistcoast and watch and chain, never mind wingtip short boots and an obligatory fedora.

    But I am completely comfortable in this ensemble, and I feel it doesn't look costumey, at least partly for that reason. Also, I dress this way frequently, which also leads to the air of comfort, both physically and psychologically.
     
    -30-, TPD166, PeterB and 4 others like this.
  7. Nobert

    Nobert Practically Family

    When it's something you "put on" rather than something you "wear." There's a soupy, gray area there, but that would be my basic barometer.
     
    -30- likes this.
  8. Patrick Hall

    Patrick Hall Practically Family

    Messages:
    522
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    This question haunts me, as I have a coat and tie personal uniform, and most of my suits are vintage. I agree that feeling like yourself in your clothes is much of the battle. But I think there are two other elements that can help steer you out of costume territory, though in our casual age, it's unlikely you'll ever avoid being constantly called out for "dapperness" in both positive and negative ways.

    1. Blend vintage and modern. Most of my suits are from the 30's-40's, and most of my ties are modern. I find putting modern ties with vintage suits helps shade things away from a "costumey" appearance. Also, I have begun investing in bespoke suits, which look vintage even though they are modern.

    2. Opt for "timeless" vintage pieces, rather than flashy or collectible ones. If you are looking to build a wardrobe rather than a collection, veer away from the spectators, the fancy belted backs, the bold pinstripes, the zoot suit proportions, etc. Most of my 30's/40's suits have the iconic vintage silhouette I love, but are otherwise pretty quiet, unless you really know what you are looking for.

    Here are some photos from my wardrobe to illustrate what I mean.

    Here is an (admittedly belted back) 30's suit cut from a checked worsted fabric that pushes the envelope as far as I'll go. I have paired it up with a modern shirt, a modern pocket square, and a modern tie from Drake's, a fine English maker.
    [​IMG]

    Here is a khaki-colored wool summer suit from 1939, again paired up with a modern oxford shirt and a modern pocket square and a pretty timeless madras tie both from Brooks Brothers.
    [​IMG]

    Again, a 40's teal green worsted suit, but paired with all modern accessories.
    [​IMG]

    The twist - everything in this look is modern. A bespoke suit with some subtle vintage-inspired details, a modern shirt, and a tie from E.G. Cappelli, an excellent Neapolitan maker.
    [​IMG]

    Finally, a 30's gabardine suit, but again with no loud details, paired with a plain old modern point-collar oxford from Proper Cloth, a modern pocket square and another Brooks madras tie.
    [​IMG]
     
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  9. Retro Spectator

    Retro Spectator Practically Family

    Messages:
    827
    Location:
    Connecticut
    Honestly, I guess it all boils down to confidence and how comfortable you are in your clothes. I'm used to wearing whatever, so I feel comfortable wearing pretty much anything. If you don't feel comfortable wearing something, then you'll probably assume a rather unconfident pose which will make you look like your wearing a costume. If you feel comfortable wearing something, you won't even think about your clothes and you'll just act normal. I dunno lol
     
    -30-, hatsRme, PeterB and 4 others like this.
  10. MondoFW

    MondoFW A-List Customer

    Messages:
    321
    [​IMG]THIS IS A COSTUME


    [​IMG]THIS IS NOT (courtesy of Street X Sprezza fashion blog)

    To be honest, I can't speak for women, but many men's mainstream styles in the last 80-or-so years have aged exceptionally well (give or take a few dark times for mainstream fashion...). The second picture (whom I'm pretty sure is a member here, if not, used to be) sports vintage clothing and vintage accessories, but does it masterfully. He's incorporating the elements of golden era tailoring and class, but putting a contemporary spin on it. I dress similarly in this style (suit jacket/sports coat, odd trousers, tie) often, and many can't tell that I'm in vintage, and a LOT of what I wear is true vintage! The first pic I inserted is a goofy costume that too many people believe is what was truly sported by our ancestors. Hogwash.

    Patrick Hall's looks posted in this thread were also amazing examples of what I'm getting at here. I'm willing to bet he also feels confident in his clothing, allowing him to wear the pieces and not vice versa. You sorta have to have a bit of panache for vintage in order for it to seem cool and NOT costume-y. I often encounter pictures of people modeling for reproduction companies, and a lot of them will just look plain silly, thus making the pieces look too intentional.
     
    -30-, PeterB, LuvMyMan and 2 others like this.
  11. Benny Holiday

    Benny Holiday Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,730
    Location:
    Sydney Australia
    If you love the look, have a connection with it, and feel natural in it, then it doesn't look 'costumey'. Coming out of the rockabilly scene, kids there were/are well aware they stand out. Part of it is a rebellion against the ethos of mass produced clothing, but by far the major issue for them in my experience is the passion for the music & the associated style of hair, clothing even cars & home furnishings. They love it & it's just natural for them to express that in their dress & personal style.

    No doubt there are still plenty of average Joes who see the style as costumey, though these days most people wouldn't know what the style is they represent. One of my best friends is renowned for wearing either a sky blue or mid-brown pinstriped zoot suit. In 20 years I've heard only admiration for his style. He wears the suits and not the other way around, and he is constantly asked by men where tbey can get a suit like his. The effort of going to a tailor and spending more than $149 at Lowes (cheap menswear store) puts them off though!
     
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  12. GHT

    GHT I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    4,286
    Location:
    New Forest
    Given that which passes for everyday wear these days, I would rather look feminine:
    today's everyday wear.jpg
    I'm at a loss with this remark. How does a smart appearance that's deemed to be good go to mockery or insult?
    Insult? Insulting whom?
     
    -30-, deadlyhandsome, Edward and 3 others like this.
  13. MondoFW

    MondoFW A-List Customer

    Messages:
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    In some social settings, dressing above the crowd may be perceived as an insult, sorta implying that you're better than everyone else. If the wearer is truly being condescending in this manner, people will pick up on it.
     
  14. GHT

    GHT I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    4,286
    Location:
    New Forest
    That then implies that I should dress as everyone else dresses, so as to appease the thought police. Yeah right!
     
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  15. belfastboy

    belfastboy Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,119
    Location:
    vancouver, canada
    I think in many ways whatever we wear is a "costume" as we wear clothing that reflects and supports the image we wish to portray to the world. The question to me is not costume or not costume but what costume are you choosing to wear.
     
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  16. LuvMyMan

    LuvMyMan Vendor

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    Location:
    Michigan
    Would a completly naked man be wearing his "Adam" costume?

    As to some of the statements made, I have to input that where you live and where you go seems to make up most of what you will or will not wear. I can't imagine anyone wearing a "tux with tails" and evening slippers with a top hat, out mushing around on a farm or in the boonies. But I can imagine a well dressed individual be it vintage or a mix of vintage with modern clothing, being able to fit in with any social setting and not being "offensive" to anyone.

    For this entire thread of thought to be posted here allows a real truth about all us "loungers"...we think about fashion and how we do relate to others as I really find us in a group or in general, more "educated" on dress and fashion then the majority of people. Few lounge members would be dressed with pants half off "the fanny" dragging or wearing shorts five sizes too large with bright green socks and plaid tank tops...but there are those you can see running all around that do dress as what some may call, a slob! LOL I think (at least from what can observe from within what I would wear or Daniel would wear) we have dressed well and dress for what we would be doing. Jeans for yardwork or to make a run to the grocery store, but more "dressy" if going out to do something visiting others or to the Casino, Movies, Club, or Church.

    Many (not all but a great majority) of lounge members own more than one suit, a bulk sized amount of ties, shoes, boots, leather jackets and of course, hats...caps...western hats, fedora hats or some other "head attire" and will wear a outfit that is appropritely endorsed by what we find attractive for ourselves much more than what we would think the "audience" would be feeling about it. The same also holds true for us "gals" on the lounge. I myself have several fedora hats, a few caps and other head gear to wear, dresses that are very high end vintage, sweaters and coats and jackets and furs. Then there is the foot wear. Even though Daniel has perhaps far too many pairs of shoes and boots, he rotates them and has a good selection to "fit"with what suit or other attire he may wear as the same as what I have in my own collection of shoes or boots.

    Our thoughts on fashion has always been to enjoy what you wear, dress "smart" and not be so worried if you are the only person wearing an outfit that looks like you "have it going on"...because if you have it, wear it. That is the real concept of having a variety of clothing to begin with.
     
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  17. LuvMyMan

    LuvMyMan Vendor

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    Location:
    Michigan
    It is easy to see you are well dressed and super comfortable in wearing a suit. And why not?!? One positive point, I would not be afraid of just meeting someone dressed as you are and feel myself having to fear for my safety...a gentlemen is at times really defined by what they wear. From all I can see about your fashion is being well dressed and it really does not boil down to vintage or non vintage as it is just well dressed. Seeing the vintage part is another matter and actually most people in general are not educated enough to even realize you may be wearing vintage! Truth!
     
    PeterB, -30-, Patrick Hall and 2 others like this.
  18. LuvMyMan

    LuvMyMan Vendor

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    Michigan
    The picture you show of the shorts and all, well, now we know some do dress like that...but not in our camp! LOL!
     
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  19. jacketjunkie

    jacketjunkie Practically Family

    Messages:
    998
    Location:
    Germany
    The clothing we wear has an impact on how our environment perceives us. That means the clothing we pick and wear is a matter of self-staging in a way, how we want people to perceive us, what imagine we want them to have of us. In this far I would agree with @belfastboy : It is all costume in a way, regardless of what you wear. (And to answer @LuvMyMan 's question, even if we choose to wear nothing, yes.)

    Most rational way to determine whether vintage clothing is costume though, is to look at the definition of costume (taken from Online Cambridge Dictionary):

    B2 [ C or U ] the set of clothes typical of a particular country or period of history, or suitable for a particular activity

    There you go: Clothing typical of a particular period of history. In my books this clearly makes all vintage clothing costume. However that doesn't make it a bad thing, not at all.

    The actual question is not, is it costume or not, but does it work or does it look off and I think that is what we actually all talk about when we say "costumey". Imho, it depends on the confidence of the wearer and personal taste; Generally speaking, I feel not all vintage clothing is good taste and not all modern clothing is bad taste. Wearing vintage doesn't
    necessarily mean you have a good taste in clothing. In my personal experience, the best way to wear vintage is to carefully mix it with modern clothing and not to overdo it and not to dismiss all criticism with some sort of "what do you even know, you wear modern garbage clothing"-arrogance, but to reflect on your environments reaction and feedback and aknowledge that wearing vintage doesn't grant the ultimate sense of good taste in fashion and that not every outfit works, vintage or not.
     
    -30- likes this.
  20. LuvMyMan

    LuvMyMan Vendor

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    4,303
    Location:
    Michigan
    There ya go! Well said,thank you!
     
    -30- likes this.

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