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At What Point Does it Become Costume?

Benny Holiday

My Mail is Forwarded Here
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3,769
Location
Sydney Australia
For some reason the site is not allowing me to message you in conversation GHT. Anyway, if you like I could always get the hat on your behalf and 'gift' it to you and mark it as a second-hand item to avoid the import duties rip-off.
 

TheFabulous30s

New in Town
Messages
8
It's been a while, but I'll add my thoughts since the topic interests me:

I have found that men's formal clothing, especially over the last 100 years, has not changed significantly enough to look particularly unusual if worn today. If worn on the right occasion (like wearing a 1920s tux to a white tie event or a suit from the 1940s to a job interview, both of which I have done), I have found that few, if any, are offended/bothered or find it too unudual in a bad sense. In fact, quite humorously, many people I have encountered tend to find the older clothing to be "very sharp", some even preferring it to modern styles! Definitely, it is a good idea to try to dress on a level of formality that is appropriate with the occasion/what others are wearing. That said, if you are a person (as in my case) who is known to usually dress it up a notch regardless of the event, then, amongst those who know you well, it may not be a bad idea to dress more formal than those around you. And it doesn't necessarily matter the age of the clothing, so long as it looks "current enough" -- again, something i haven't found to be an issue with men's clothing, as it hasn't changed significantly enough since the 1920s.

Granted, I haven't been wearing antique clothing for NEARLY as long as pretty much everyone else in this forum engaged in the hobby, but I'm still pretty young (I've been collecting since my freshman year of highschool -- that's barely 4 years now!!). Another thing I have found is that, so long as the clothing serves a practical purpose, you can easily justify wearing an antique piece of clothing for reasons other than age or "costuming" if you want to call it that. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with wearing antique clothing because it's antique -- that's one of the main reasons I wear it, too! But it is certainly is great when antique clothing can serve practical purposes, too.

I'll bring up an example from my own life. About a year ago, I bought a men's wool swimsuit from the mid-1930s -- the small, tight-fitting shorts that have more in common with today's mainstream women's swimsuits than men's. Almost everyone I know (except for my grandparents) thought it looked silly and costumey. But I am not trying to look like I am wearing a costume -- it is merely the style I prefer for swimming trunks. Furthermore, I have a reason for wearing it other than "I like the way it looks on me" (which is true -- I think the wool swim trunks style from the Golden Age of Men's Fashion looks fabulous), and that is that "I can swim well in it". This swimsuit not only is the style I prefer, but I can also swim in it, as I have on multiple occasions.

Generally, I would say that out in public, it's okay to wear antique clothing as long as it does not violate any sort of laws (public indecency, etc.). Sure, it might look strange to some, but why should you be concerned about what the folks shopping for cheese in the same grocery store aisle as you think about your suit from the 1930s? Obviously, an exception to this would be a scenario wherein there are official dress code rules in place that prohibit such dressing up (I know I am generalizing antique clothing as "formal" here, but that is often what has survived the best for us to collect today), such as an office that is "business casual" or a job site full of manual labor where "grubby clothes" are recommended.

Finally, I should note that even if you are still concerned about how an antique outfit may be perceived, I have found that today's society is far more accepting of differences than at any other point in human history. The outfits I wear do not attract much feedback of the "costume" variety, but I am truly amazed at just how many outfits I see amongst people my age that could qualify as fitting for that kind of feedback. Perhaps it's just my generation, but I would again argue that the world is certainly much more soft and accommodating than it used to be.

I hope you found something of value in my dialogue here. I could go on, for sure, about this for hours, as I am very passionate about this topic and my hobby.
 

GHT

I'll Lock Up
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9,559
Location
New Forest
Apologies for not welcoming you to the Lounge previously, so to put that right, welcome. Your post was both interesting and fascinating. When you wrote: "I'm not saying there's anything wrong with wearing antique clothing because it's antique -- that's one of the main reasons I wear it, too! But it is certainly is great when antique clothing can serve practical purposes, too." What do you define as antique, the style of the garment or the actual garment?
Sports Blazers 002.JPG Sports Blazers 003.JPG
These are a couple of made to measure blazers that my tailor made. One is double breasted the other single. How would you define them?
 
Messages
10,605
Location
vancouver, canada
Apologies for not welcoming you to the Lounge previously, so to put that right, welcome. Your post was both interesting and fascinating. When you wrote: "I'm not saying there's anything wrong with wearing antique clothing because it's antique -- that's one of the main reasons I wear it, too! But it is certainly is great when antique clothing can serve practical purposes, too." What do you define as antique, the style of the garment or the actual garment?
View attachment 622075 View attachment 622076
These are a couple of made to measure blazers that my tailor made. One is double breasted the other single. How would you define them?
I am in the habit of buying bespoke vintage from UK sellers. I have a weakness for tweed!!! It disturbs me as they often list it as 'vintage'....before 2000's. If items from the 1990's are vintage then what the hell does that make me at my age????
 

TheFabulous30s

New in Town
Messages
8
Apologies for not welcoming you to the Lounge previously, so to put that right, welcome. Your post was both interesting and fascinating. When you wrote: "I'm not saying there's anything wrong with wearing antique clothing because it's antique -- that's one of the main reasons I wear it, too! But it is certainly is great when antique clothing can serve practical purposes, too." What do you define as antique, the style of the garment or the actual garment?
View attachment 622075 View attachment 622076
These are a couple of made to measure blazers that my tailor made. One is double breasted the other single. How would you define them?
Hello, GHT! I would say that the garment itself being old would make it an antique, but styles, too, can be considered antique, if they are a) particularly old and b) usually restricted to a specific era in time. As for those that you posted here, I'd consider them antique in style (based mainly on the features, not the colored pattern) even if they weren't manufactured 90 years ago. From my amateur knowledge of antique men's clothing, the bottom jacket looks more "antique" in style than the top. I say that because of its lapel style as well as that of the pockets. The top double breasted suit looks more "modern" in style based on what I have seen, b


I find it interesting, though, because sometimes the patterns that I may consider "modern" were actually used during the '20s, '30s, or '40s, but they weren't mass produced quite like those I'd usually associate with an "antique" style. As an example, the 2x2 double breasted jacket is one that I would consider a more modern style, but I have seen (and in fact own) jackets that date from the '30s and '40s that use that button style.

So yes, I buy antique clothing for both the styles and the fact that it is antique (although when "antique in age" is the only reason, I am usually much more discerning).

Thank you for your curiosity,
Ben
 

Edward

Bartender
Messages
24,908
Location
London, UK
I am in the habit of buying bespoke vintage from UK sellers. I have a weakness for tweed!!! It disturbs me as they often list it as 'vintage'....before 2000's. If items from the 1990's are vintage then what the hell does that make me at my age????


Funny how language changes, isn't it? Over here, in the mainstream since the 90s vintage has, in clothing terms, meant nothing more than "second hand". The early-mid 90s was when I remember "vintage" stores starting to appear in Belfast, and really all they were from the user end were shops like charity shops, but where the money went into the private business instead of a charity, and they charged a bit more on average. I don't think it's changed much. Kids I teach - undergraduates, 19ish-22ish - are into the 90s these days. Newly printed and artificially aged Nirvana t-shirts are all the rage. Kurt Cobain is the them what Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix were to my peers in the 90s.... difference being Kurt was dead a decade before some of them were even born.
 

LeeR

New in Town
Messages
25
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.
Z5E3gV7m.jpg


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.
8mgGZham.jpg


Again, a 40's teal green worsted suit, but paired with all modern accessories.
4GdgtKBm.jpg


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.
9NdURTVm.jpg


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.
GID7yLHm.jpg
These suits I consider excellent. If I would have an opportunity to wear them I would in an instant. However, where I live, it is HOT. Comfort is the theme here. That is not sloppy comfort but appropriate for the climate and there is a very broad range of style.
 

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