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Jennifer Baumgartner
Jennifer Baumgartner Psy.D.

The Psychology of Vintage

An interview with Bianca Turetsky, author of 'The Time-Traveling Fashionista.'

In a world of high-volume, low-quality clothing items, the search for something better may lead us to vintage dress. Vintage clothing, as defined by Wikipedia, is a new or second-hand garment originating from a previous era. Clothing that exceeds 100 years graduates from vintage to antique. The interest in vintage pieces has grown considerably since there has been increased exposure and accessibility to the items. Witnessing a celebrity wearing a vintage piece on the red carpet, watching a show about the culling of second-hand items, or following a blog on flea market hauls may spark a desire in the consumer to find her own perfect piece. With the advent of online sites and local neighborhood stores, this desire to buy is easily satiated with a purchase, and the quest for vintage is reinforced.

So why buy vintage? The psychology of the vintage purchase is multilayered. Often the impetus is fueled by the excitement of the hunt. It is easy to find current pieces in your local mall or online site, but shopping for vintage is an unparalleled treasure hunt. And the beauty of the process is that you will never know what you will find or learn. The second reason for our vintage preference is participating in the history of the garment. Our modern items are tabula rasas upon which we write, our vintage pieces are already written on. The mark of age and time has been made and we want to add to it. Third, to quote my grandma, "They don't make stuff the way they used to." The quality, including materials, embellishments, and craftsmanship, in older pieces makes them purchase worthy. Fourth, in a world of mass production, seeing yourself "coming and going" is an inevitability. Wearing vintage ensures originality and one-of-a-kindness that you cannot find on the factory line! Finally, the love for nostalgia and sentiment may prompt us to buy the representation of it, as the vintage piece becomes the embodiment of a bygone era.

Bianca Turetsky, author of The Time Traveling Fashionista series, beautifully captures the history of and appreciation for vintage in a fantastical tale for children and adults alike. From the deck of the Titanic to the steps of Versailles, her main character Lousie Lambert is transported to the life and time of the original owner of her vintage finds. Time travel has never been this exciting ... or glamorous. Turetsky does not limit her vintage adventures to the pages of her books. The inspiration for her story began during her visit to Fashionista Vintage and Variety in New Haven, Connecticut, where she tried on Ms. Baxter's white wool coat with whom she immediately felt connected. It was from this experience that Turetsky discovered she could become the person who owned the garment before her, and based her work on this insight.

Turetsky has had a history of thrift and flea market shopping with like-minded friends. She stated that these trips allowed her to learn more about the "culture of a place through the finds there." When asked how she incorporates vintage into her own wardrobe, Turetsky says she likes mixing it up, "combining the modern and the old for an entirely new look." Her favorite piece is a linen, hand-sewn, early 20th-century dress from a vintage shop in Spain. The dress was made during the same time period as her first book is set, making the piece even more meaningful. Turetsky cites Lady Duff Gordon, as her favorite vintage designer, who also makes an appearance in The Time Traveling Fashionista. She currently favors fit-and-flare dresses of the '50s that have become popularized through shows such as Mad Men. When shopping for modern pieces, Turetsky is drawn to Rodarte, led by the Mulleavy sisters, because they "tell a story" as they are inspired by older cinema.

The author suggests that we are attracted to vintage pieces because they offer an escape, "like watching old movies." Turetsky feels that wearing these garments as a "way to experience a different life through clothing." The process of shopping for vintage creates an exciting "search of something, a special and creative pursuit." Although there are exceptional modern pieces, Turetsky states that, "finding a great vintage piece is more satisfying than dropping money on an expensive bag because we must work for the older piece." Amidst our rapid masstige manufacturing and disposable wardrobes, she feels that clothes made in the past have a more precise fit, were made with greater attention, and were made with better quality enduring the passage of time. When we wear these items, Turetsky believes we carry the history of the person leading us to question, "Who wore it last?" and "What was her life like?" These questions are the primary driving force of her books, taking the reader on an exciting journey through this personal history. Turetsky advises that we should "just try something different and see where it takes us" ... to the local flea market or nearest bookstore perhaps?

About the Author
Jennifer Baumgartner

Jennifer Baumgartner, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist who examines the underlying reasons for clients' style choices and creates a wardrobe to facilitate positive internal change.

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