Thursday, November 10, 2011

Vintage or Me-Made or Repro?

LinkVintage or me-made or repro? It's a question that's been bouncing around in my head lately. Deciding between these three categories (or at least two) is an issue that plagues all vintage loving gals (and guys)! In an effort to organize my thoughts, I thought I'd share them with you and see what you think. First up, vintage.


An obvious first choice for any vintage lover is actual vintage. The pieces are historically accurate, the fabrics are period and many of them are just darling. If you are good at thrifting and digging through estate sales, you can find things for cheap. If you are not, sites like etsy and ebay are full of treasures someone else has already done the dirty work to find. And, if you are lucky, there may even be a vintage store or two in your area. (There seem to be gobs of them on the west coast.)

But vintage pieces may come damaged or be in delicate condition. They also come in one size so even if you fall in love with a piece, you may have to pass it up. Things can be altered a bit, especially since vintage garments tend to have longer hems than modern garments, but again, they are often in delicate condition so you don't want to have to take them apart and put them together a lot. Plus, professional alterations add to the cost. And, speaking of cost, really fabulous pieces can grow into the hundreds of dollars in cost. They also tend to be rather tiny!

When I opt to add a vintage piece to my collection I consider a couple of things before purchase.

1) It absolutely must fit or be able to be altered to fit. I have made that mistake in the past and it's so sad to have something arrive in the mail and realize that it doesn't fit! Make sure you get measurements of the garment before purchase and don't forget your measurements need to be smaller than the garment! Modern garments tend to have more stretch in them than vintage ones so take that into account.

2) It needs to be in good condition. Look closely at the garment and inspect it for holes, tears and damaged seams. I never buy things I can't fix myself. Missing a button? That's pretty easy to replace with new ones. Giant 4" tear some place prominent? I'll probably pass, even if it's priced appropriately.

3) It has to look cute! This may seem silly, but don't buy something just because it's vintage. It needs to appeal to you aesthetically and look good on you. This is why brick and mortar shops are nice since you can try things on. If it looks bad on you, you won't wear it and if you do, you'll look silly, not fabulous.

I love this vintage dress from Bad Girl Vintage.

Somethings I like to buy vintage: things with unique prints, things that would be difficult to recreate myself (for technical or fabric difficulties), hats, scarves, bags and things that are just really special.


I sew, as you all know, so this category opens up a new world of vintage style for me. Vintage patterns can be found while thrifting and abound on etsy. Plus, there are a growing number of small pattern companies offering multisized reprints of vintage patterns and there are even some offered by the Big 4 pattern companies (though I've heard tales of mixed success with these). Circle skirts are a great beginner project. You can do some really fun stuff with them for much cheaper (and in larger sizes!!) than you'd pay for authentic vintage circle skirts with unique designs. You can make something that isn't nearly as delicate as a vintage piece.

You do have to be able to sew. Some things are just to difficult for me to make. Vintage patterns do have some of the same difficulties as vintage clothing does. Namely, small sizes, can be pricey and may be in delicate condition. They are also one size rather than multisize. Directions can be brief and some patterns are unprinted. It can also be difficult to find appropriate fabrics (especially prints).

Perhaps my favorite Wearing History Pattern!

Some things I like to make are: things that I have difficulty finding premade that fit me well (pants, button front blouses and anything "wiggle" shaped), circle skirts. I find myself mainly limited by finding a good pattern in my size (I hate grading!) and by my skills. I'm not up for winter jackets, jeans and knits.


Many non-sewing vintage enthusiasts flock to reproduction pieces. They offer many of the advantages of me-made garments including durability and are generally available in several sizes and some companies will even make them to your measure. You can find pieces that range from rockabilly and pinup to the more conservative and classic styles.

My biggest problem with reproduction is the sizing. While repro sizing tends to run curvier than modern sizing, it's still often not curvy enough for me. And it can be pricey! There are several really nice repro companies out of the UK but with the difference in currencies and shipping to the US, I don't end up purchasing from them as much as I'd like. Repro items also have a tendency to look more modern than actual vintage. Some companies do better than others on this front.

I have a lovely reproduction of this dress (available here) and so does Mrs. Amber Apple.

Things I like to buy repro: pieces I can't make myself or a particular design I just have to have. As a sewer, I kind of feel guilty about buying repro, but considering how much I wear my one repro dress and how much I already love my Freddies of Pinewood jeans, I'd say the purchases I've made are smart ones.

So which of these categories make up the most of your wardrobe? Is there one you prefer over the others? Is there a particular type of clothing you tend to buy from each category?


  1. Good thoughts on this topic! I'd say I pick along the lines of what you said. While I wear more vintage clothing than not, a few of my repro pieces get the absolute most wear of anything, such as my Freddies of Pinewoods jeans or Remix shoes. So those were really worth it investments.

    I am not yet to the point where I sew a large portion of my wardrobe (I still spend far more time knitting than sewing), so I am kind of scattered in what I sew. I turn to repro for plain, basic items that I know I'll wear a lot (jeans, a pinafore skirt, certain shoes), and things I want to sew but just can't ever seem to get to (trousers). Things that work nicely with things I knit, sewed or things that are vintage.

    I adore vintage and of course prefer it, however it's not always practical and can sometimes be annoying to deal with, plus you can't always find what you're looking for. So I love that there a few companies (and individual seamstresses) who have repro options available, and that I can knit and (sometimes) sew things myself. :)

  2. Great post!
    I think these days I make vintage things rather than buy actual vintage. I used to buy a lot more vintage, but these days I only really opt for buying real vintage pieces I know I either couldn't or wouldn't want to make myself. Or if it's super cheap, which is getting harder and harder to find. But I've certainly become a lot more picky over the years! I sew most of my vintage stuff now, and I like that I can wear it. Somehow if I made it, it doesn't make me feel as bad if I somehow get a giant stain on it, fall into something, or get it dirty. Just throw it in the washing machine! Lol. But I'm a klutz, so that's probably why. I feel horrible when I ruin something I bought, but if I just made it it's not such a big deal!
    I have a few repro items, but not many. Like you, I'll totally love something I'll see but then talk myself out of it, telling myself I'll make it someday. But usually that someday never comes around ;) I DO get a lot of wear out of my Freddies, and I do like having new vintage-inspired shoes, and I do pick up modern clothing in thrift stores that has a vintage look. Some of the things I've found could fool even the experts ;) Fun post, and thanks for the shout out about the pattern!!

  3. What I love the most is vintage, about 90% of what I wear is vintage from the 40's-50's... I don't know how to sew but I really want to learn how because I'm collecting vintage fabrics and pattern for many years!
    I love repro shoes from remix for example but repro are often so expensive... Most of the time repro clothes doesn't fit me, my waist size is 10'' less than my hips size, usually vintage fit but repro are too small for my hips...
    Real vintage are often cheaper than repro even on etsy or ebay!!!

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  4. I prefer vintage, followed a close second by making things myself. My style tends to be a hodge-podge. Some days I'm 100% vintage from head to toe, and other days I have a mix of vintage and modern pieces. For this reason, I've never been much for repro. I think it tends to be a bit costly (especially when I can typically make it myself) and I've found the fabrics are never quite what I want. Of course, I have heard rave reviews about Freddie of Pinewood jeans and have yet to try them, so maybe they would be the exception ;)

  5. I'll wear vintage up to a point--like, 1970's--but the archives employee in me really feels that vintage items should be preserved. The idea of altering vintage clothing makes me slightly ill. I know, most of it is just ordinary clothing, but at the same time, I'd give my eye teeth to see more examples of ordinary--not high-end or couture--clothing from the 1920's and earlier. But it was all worn out and used up.

    I sew, so I do a lot of me-made stuff.

  6. Even though I am a tiny size and can fit the things I love from the 20s and 30s, I would have to say me-made repro as I can relax with the sure knowledge that I'm not going to inadvertently damage it. I do have a few lovely vintage pieces that I wear, but only really for special occasions. Also with me-made I can make what ever I want as I make my own patterns and don't have to rely on what is available either garment or pattern wise. =)

  7. I love my vintage dresses but I do tend to only wear them for special occasions. I would hate to ruin a vintage dress, so I opt for me-made "vintage" most of the time. My sewing has greatly improved over the last year and I love wearing something I have put a lot of work into. Most of my sewing is done from vintage patterns (either originals or reprints) or from patterns I've drafted based on a vintage piece. Reproduction pieces look great but are unfortunately too pricey for my tiny budget (another reason for sewing my own clothes).

  8. I have mostly vintage with some me-made things. I never do repro. I love the styles but I can't justify $125 or more on a single dress *ouch!* I'm on a very tight budget so I'd rather spend the extra time digging through thrift stores or sewing. A lot of my clothes are also modern thrifted pieces that look vintage like basic skirts, cardigans, knits and shoes.

  9. Wow, you totally beat me to the punch with this post! I've got a post with almost exactly the same wording as the first half of this scheduled for tomorrow since I wrote it last Monday, as part of my "Vintage for beginners" series!

    Anyway, I buy original vintage, modern-with-a-vintage-look, and occasionally make my own, but I'm yet to own any 'official' vintage repro. I can't quite explain why I avoid vintage repro - it's partly the cost, and partly because some of the thrill of wearing vintage is being unique (yes, high street clothing isn't unique, but wearing it "this" way is).

    Great post!

    xx Charlotte
    Tuppence Ha'penny Vintage

  10. I favour 60s and 70s so the real stuff tends to still be affordable and in good condition. However to 'rely upon', I tend to buy either repro or style modern clothes in a vintage way simply because you can't (for example) guarantee stumbling across a pair of vintage trousers, right size, in pale blue at the right price just when you need them...but with a repro brand I can, delivered to my door.