It has been noted by many that we seem to be caught up in a cultural love affair with bygone eras. Immersive period shows like “Boardwalk Empire,” “Mildred Pierce,” and “Downton Abbey” have flourished as a counterbalance to the ephemerality and tawdriness of of the ubiquitous reality show. We seem to crave escape to other worlds, the security of an already-resolved past, and the romance of nostalgic craft.
This is great if you love looking at vintage lingerie–because it’s everywhere. I have always collected early 20th century lingerie, mostly slips and robes, with the occasional tap pant in the mix. I don’t really wear any, but occasionally pull pieces out just to look at them, in the same way and for some of the same reasons people watch period TV shows. Just touching the delicate peach silk and intricate embroidery fills me with awe for the craftsmanship of past masters and allows a brief moment of nostalgia and escape.
“Vintage” lingerie is a term that people often use to refer–both in Google and in the fashion world– to midcentury looks: bullet bras, high waisted briefs, garters. Everyone loves a 50’s pinup, but I find the luxury and elegance of earlier lingerie from the 1910’s-1940’s more exquisite and compelling.
So you can imagine my overwhelming joy when fellow TLA writer and vintage lover, Kristina, and I visited the Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show in October. I went bananas! This is a semi-annual retail show, filled with vendors of vintage clothing from the 18th-20th centuries. (Note: I was surprised to notice that many vintage vendors live vintage lives, i.e. they do not have websites, so if you’re interested in buying, you can visit them at vintage shows or visit the sites I’m recommending at the end. These photos below are for inspiration.)
Lisa Victoria Vintage stood apart from the others. Its owner, Lisa, clearly selects her assortment with care and knowledge, and every stunning piece was of high quality and in good condition. She not only sells to the public, but also supplies costumes for movies and TV, including “Boardwalk Empire.” Her items are not available to buy online, but can be purchased at vintage shows, and admired on her site.
Other gorgeous inspiration pieces from Hollywood and Vine Vintage, Ritual Vintage, and Right to the Moon Alice:
If you’re looking to buy vintage lingerie, and you’re not near a vintage show, check out your local thrift stores, swap meets, estate sales, and textile shows. I’ve found undervalued pieces just lying around the most unexpected corners.
You can also check out etsy, ebay, and these sites for an ever-changing assortment of early 20th century lingerie:
Here’s a great blog post about “Boardwalk Empire” and 20’s lingerie: http://16sparrows.typepad.com/16sparrows/2012/05/1920s-lingerie-in-boardwalk-empire.html
Please share any vintage resources you love! Do any readers out there actually wear their vintage pieces?