Vintage clothing finds appeal in Marquette

Audrey Koster

Amid a current of fashion faux pas in which consumerism urges buy-buy-buying new, quality-stunted clothes at competitively low prices, a light doth shine at the end of the redundancy-stricken tunnel.

If you talk to a person age 50 and above, they wouldn’t tell you that at our age they went to Forever 21 in hopes of slinging dozens of copyright infringed, mass produced garments over their shoulders. That may or may not be due to the store’s inexistence, but it’s safe to say shopping is a different affair in the 21st century because of mass-produced, unoriginal clothing that lines so many shelves of stores such as Forever 21.

When looking at the average Northern student, it wouldn’t be hard to sense a new trend on the horizon. Sartorial experimentation dwells deep in the adventurous 20 something’s blood. So, it’s natural to want garments that look unique and meet an individual’s self-expressive needs.

That’s why you can find fashioneers receding back in the decades to the world of vintage originals instead of taking a current objective to a past trend. With the right timing, people are finding the collaboration of new and old a fresh and affordable alternative.

Keen to the scene is Hilary Bloch, clothes horse and owner of Vere de Vere Vintage.  Bloch’s long-standing collection began with estate sales in the Detroit area, and while she has moved to the more remote location of Marquette, she prefers a face-to-face approach with her clientele rather than her past endeavors with Etsy.

“[I like] getting them to feel the fabric, see the construction of the garments and understand the value,” Bloch said.

And the intricacy of her 1920s- through 1970s-era stacked racks are not lacking. One can see the sight for themselves by appointment only — the textile historical menagerie of all shapes and sizes from a white-eyelet floor-length dress to a pleated-crimson-velour-Christmas-dream dress.

“There was no Made in China mass production (in the past),” Bloch said. “There was no Kohl’s.”

Bloch also said the green movement and our “very conscious community” inspires people to reuse garments.

But one must be weary when buying and styling a vintage-clad getup. Many 21st century renditions of past trends have updated fabrics and current lines, which tend to make originals look too literal and sometimes costumey.

In order to avoid a Halloween scene, Bloch recommends a well-integrated wardrobe. With a vintage dress, top it off with a modern cardigan and trendy shoes. She said she normally greets buyers and clients in her home studio and at trunk shows in head-to-toe vintage garb as a means of networking and just to feel glamorous.

Similarly, NMU student Jaimi Cawley,  junior earth science major, said she finds older shapes and sizes are actually more flattering on her.

“I started looking for second-hand clothes at St. Vinnie’s to save money,” Cawley said. “I really like the satisfaction of finding that one thing in a whole sea of clothes.”

The neutral palate of faded-looking garments serves her taste well. She said her favorite item was scored at a second hand store and is a long denim collared vest from the ’80s, which her friends tease her for wearing, but the vest stays true to her style.

“I think that’s what dressing yourself is all about. I don’t dress for you or for some other guy, I wear what’s most comfortable for me,” Cawley said.

A more immediate place to pick up vintage garb in downtown Marquette is on Third Street, a small antique and vintage clothing store called Curious Cargo. Owner Lana Lemire specializes in antique clothes, dating back to the 1850s, but much more can be found.

The walls of the building are lined with rustic looking shelves and glass cases, stocked with interesting knickknacks, military uniforms and the eye-catching street display always has one or two unique items hanging up.

One Samuel Adams letterman style jacket was purchased for $38 from a past display by Ian Hahn, a sophomore environmental studies major, on his first trip to the store last fall. The varsity jacket was specifically made for factory workers and distributors, and Hahn said he has a unique calling to vintage style outerwear.

“It’s a way to keep the best times alive as well as to get a unique and special piece of history that only a select group of people were able to wear,” Hahn said.

So fear not fashionistas: Marquette has a lot of style from which to choose.