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Monday, February 8, 2010

This might come as a shock to some of you no one, but I like to break the rules.


That’s because a lot of rules are not hard-and-fast rules at all, but misinterpreted suggestions or theories. One of those is the need for eight glasses of water a day. Not true. Feel free to go back to drinking when you are thirsty.  (By the way, if you’re one of those people who claims water makes you “full,” I think you’re full of something, but it ain’t water.)

Young Woman With a Water Pitcher by Vermeer

I wasn’t always such rebel. I used to believe the closet-cleaning rules. You know the ones:  “If you haven’t worn it in a year, you must donate it to charity!” “Clean out your closet every six months!”

Those are reasonable suggestions for a lot of people, including those who have:

  • run out of closet space;
  • changed sizes drastically;
  • moved from the city to a farm or vice versa;
  • bought quantity over quality;
  • suffered from bad taste;
  • grown to hate something;
  • displayed an alarming hoarding habit;
  • been unable to wash someone else’s blood out of a favorite t-shirt and need to get rid of it before CSI comes back with a warrant.

Not on that list? People who bought beautifully made and still-flattering (key qualifier!) clothes that have the misfortune of being “last season” — that no-woman’s land between “new” and “vintage.” I never think “last season.” I think “future vintage.” My home-grown vintage collection includes these crazy boots.  Thankfully, it also includes the ruffled Byron Lars baseball vest that I got at a sample sale in the early 1990s.

My baseball vest by Byron Lars

Byron was one of those talented New York designers of the’90s whose namesake businesses didn’t survive the decade. As I cleaned out my closet over time (goodbye, Ann Taylor suits! I loved you but it’s over between us), I couldn’t part with the vest. I didn’t wear it for a year. In fact, I didn’t wear it for 12 years! I felt guilty for breaking the closet-cleaning rules but I was sure the vest would be very important to me some day. And, sure enough, a few months ago, I realized I needed to wear this vest a lot.

Jewelry designer Tina Tang and I (and the vest) visited Zang Toi’s studio this January.

Every time I wear it, I rejoice that I kept this signature designer piece from one of my favorite fashion eras. That fact consoles me while I stalk eBay for the silver Todd Oldham t-shirt I foolishly gave away in a rule-abiding moment.

If you weren’t lucky enough to get your own Lars piece back in the day, take a look at this Byron Lars baseball vest in leather on Etsy.

Click to buy on Etsy.

I think it’s a steal at $225. Zipper-trimmed leather ruffles from a designer’s most famous collection? Come on! The only reason I haven’t gotten it is because I’m holding out for the long-sleeved baseball jacket. I might change my mind so act fast if you like it.

While I was writing this post, I wondered what Byron was doing now. I realized I could do better than Google, and I did. Coming soon: my interview with Byron Lars.

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60 Responses to “Grow Your Own Vintage by Breaking the Rules”

  1. Almost every time I follow that rule I regret it!

  2. I. Grace says:

    a big OUCH on the “quantity over quality”. this really inspired me so much that I posted my longest post thus far as a response. hope you don’t mind me linking this one. =)

  3. I can’t empathize more with the urge to break this rule. I’ve recently been bemoaning a ton of clothes I gave away to Goodwill two or three years ago when I was in transition mode and couldn’t figure out a place to put them or a way to wear them. Now, I have plenty of space and could think of a ton of ways to wear them, but they are LONG gone. I gave them away because I figured I didn’t need anything I hadn’t worn in awhile, but now I want to kick myself.

  4. I’m a big believer in not getting rid of things just because the fashion is out. There have been a number of times that I’ve dug things out and started wearing them again. There’s also a number of things I wish I had never gotten rid of!

  5. Someone says:

    I’m with you on this. Not counting everyday basics and things that simply wear out or are otherwise true candidates for dismissal, I think of myself as building a collection more than stocking a closet.

    It’s not all super high quality, but one of the advantages of keeping things a while is that you end up with a unique look – which not everyone values, but some of us do.

    I too have bought future vintage that really IS vintage by now – one example is a dark green leather Banana Republic bomber jacket that I bought NEW from the store in 1988. It is vintage now, isn’t it!

    Rock on.

  6. This is fabulous… I have yet to venture out into vintage shopping, I find it to be too intimidating!

    With Love…

  7. Kemi says:

    I’m so glad, I ran across your post. I never thought to buy things now with the intent to treasure it now and later.

  8. Peldyn says:

    I wrote an article on closet cleaning awhile ago and I said that I myself had items that I kept that I hadn’t work in years, but I would get around to it! I wear my clothes in “cycles”. It is more important to see how your clothes fit as whole in your wardrobe rather than how long it has been since you have worn it.

  9. Love your advice – and if you ever stretch that jacket out a few sizes and have to get rid of it – send it my way!

  10. Nina says:

    I really liked your article. Thanks for the perspective. I would also like to come clean and admit that I am a keeper of clothes, unless I outgrow them. I’ve been a “piece” collector since I was a young woman. These are unique and were found typically in vintage AND antique stores. I’ve also found great items at estate and yard sales that I’ve incorporated into my wardrobe in creative ways. I think of it as an art form to create a different look from some great pieces. Byron Lars? Sizzling hot when it comes to collectible pieces! I tried to swallow whole at least six great pieces from his Fall 2009 collection! Timeless! Thanks for letting me share.