I am a pseudo lover of vintage. I appreciate the sturdy, durable construction, the dainty and sometimes novelty patterns and the overall feeling of being both classy and trendy. Lucky for me that the Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show happens 3 times a year on a weekend in February, April, and October.
The first thing that struck me was the showcase of corsets by Jean Paul Gaultier (on view for free) in the atrium before entering the venue focusing on his crafting of women’s undergarments. Looking at the collection of 10 corsets, I admired the meticulous craftsmanship put into each piece. Each of them showed his progression from merely making a reproduction of the traditional corset and shapers to taking a twist on it, some of them becoming futuristic, avant garde suits, jackets, and dresses that cinch with complicated closures, stitching patterns, and lacing. This was just to entice you. For 15-20 bucks you can gain entry to the entire show. Whether you’re window shopping and admiring the handiwork of decades gone or hunting for serious vintage bargains, it’s definitely worth going for the blast to the past.
Upon entering, I thought the space was pretty small, but I took a turn and walked into what seemed like the Oz of vintage. You can gaze down long stretches of vendors pinched together and meander through rows and rows of fashions from the past. Vendors come from around the United States to show off their goods in this show, and they all have something unique to offer. Whatever era you’re interested in, be it Victorian era bodices, Jazz Age fascinators, 1950’s day dresses, Mod accessories, or 80’s kitsch, you could find it here. The crowd is full of all sorts of people, some of them dressed in their vintage “Sunday best” for the occasion, but surprisingly most of them seem like regular people just shopping to find one or two special pieces. There were kids, couples, and diverse people of all ages shopping from a sea of mom and pop vintage pop ups.
People tend to say that even though they like vintage they don’t shop for it because it is expensive. Not gonna lie, this show will beyond a doubt prove that stereotype true! But as a pro tip, if you go late on the last day with a mind to bargain, a strong will, and some cash you can get some really really great deals. Designer stuff can easily run several hundred dollars, but for off brand items can run much cheaper depending on the era and the construction and materials. For example, I purchased a 60’s tapestry envelope bag that was $100 dollars on the tag, but after being 30% off by the end of the day, I talked the vendor down to $50 in cash. But I had to say sayonara to that 60’s Moschino handbag that was $700 dollars. Overall, it’s totally possible to strike a deal.
The atmosphere is for the most part inviting and lively. Denyse’s Closet in particular was a vendor that caught my eye because of her open, humorous demeanour and because her items seemed to equally span every decade. Later, I saw that she even had a feature in the programme, interviewing her about her business and what she sees trending in vintage in the future (flouncy victorian lace shirts and dresses FYI). She seemed to have a sincere connection to every single item in her shop, reinforcing the idea for me that her collection was hand picked, crafted, and curated by her. She was excited by the event and truly, she told me, her most important concern was that these items went to a good, loving home (aw!). This was her life and labour of love. She had clothes of varying sizes and every era (it was here that I snagged an 80’s orange velvet beret and a pair of 80’s star bedazzled earrings). And though I scoured her racks for about a half hour alone, she said this wasn’t even nearly half of her collection!
Overall the Manhattan Vintage Show is a great outlet to find not only beautiful, weird, unique fashion pieces from the past but to also reminisce and appreciate how far style has come and how far back we reach for inspiration. I’m definitely returning in the Spring with a more developed plan and bigger budget for some funky Mod finds. Until then, I’ll continue working with what I have, mixing my some trendy items with some classic twists! See you in April!