I posted recently a post called Vintage Vintage, about the misuse of the word to designate items that aren’t really older, just inspired by older things or made to an older design. And I’ve probably mentioned before how absurd and difficult it can be to try to make a business of selling things that must be sought out and found individually, and offered for sale in whatever condition their age and experience has given them. How much more simple – and businesslike – it is to be able to order things by the dozen, bright and shiny new, and sell them one after another, never having to change the picture or advertising copy.
How much simpler, yes, but where does the joy come in? And that is the word that makes the difference. For some of us (you know who you are!) it’s all about finding that special vintage item, one with character, color, warmth, the love hand-crafted into it! It’s why we keep going to antique shows, flea markets, estate auctions and yard sales – hoping for that brief moment of elation, our heart skipping a beat on finding something wonderfully special. For instance, this Turkey red tablecloth from the Victorian era sets a festive tone for the holidays that can’t be matched by mass-produced, synthetic goods.
Because we are privileged to live in a time of abundance, in an area whose history provides such a wealth of things made and saved, preserved and treasured for generations, we have been able to enjoy this feeling of discovery more frequently than many people, and that enjoyment has accounted for a rather large accumulation of vintage treasure. This is the wealth from which our business was conceived and born, but the joy of the find is still the spark that motivates all that we offer. Hopefully the joy is passed on with many of the special items we’ve been blessed to offer.
One especially tantalizing type of find is that of the unused item, preserved in its original package, still adorned with paper labels or price tags, put away for a rainy day that never came. Again we have been lucky to find many of these, and love having them to offer on our website, like these two tablecloth sets:
Or these aprons:
But even lacking like-new condition and original labels, it’s still a thrill to find something old that has somehow avoided the ravages of time, that has become the exception and survived unscathed, or only showing slight traces of the history that used up most of its contemporaries. This is the case with so many of the quilts we find in our area, the ones that were only for nice, and were carefully stored away for generations while the workaday bedding bore the brunt of the wear and tear. So that an item lovingly crafted 150 years ago can still look like this:
So it is that we enjoy our business because we enjoy the beauty of the items, the connection with the past, and the linking of the past with people of today besides ourselves who appreciate the many qualities we nostalgically revere of days gone by.
I suppose it’s naive of me to have assumed that pristine condition in a vintage items is a desirable quality, though I’d be willing to bet that to most collectors, it is. And so in my naivete, I was surprised to recently receive this email:
Hello & Merry Christmas~
I want to start with telling you how much I did enjoy your aprons choices. I would like to interject though that you should take a little more care in your photography of the items you are advertising to sell……
It is quite obvious to me, and probably others that collect aprons that your items are reproductions and not actually VINTAGE APRONS. Look at the photographs- the aprons are pristine, unwashed, unused and have never been worn before! It can be easily deduced by any aficionado that these aprons are copies that had just been sewn probably from either migrant workers or from a foreign country for pennies on the dollar. I suggest that you wash them then partially iron them to give that a slightly worn look before photographing them.
This is just a suggestion…. I did alert a family member that was thinking of ordering from you that these aprons were not authentic vintage aprons. I’m probably not the first person to do so…..
And another immediately following:
I just took a look at your FAQ page- it is SUCH a lie that these are authentic VINTAGE products- you might want to think about changing your wording… it is totally false!!!
So we have come full circle. Apparently wear and tear is a desired commodity; pristine condition an impossibility! If I were to take these missives to heart, I’d have to change my whole philosophy. It’s not that I don’t find joy in things that have been used, on the contrary I have a special place in my heart for items that have been mended and patched, sometimes patched on top of patches, feeling the value that their owners obviously placed on them over the generations.
The Christmas greeting I received above bothers me more because I’ve been so careful to be honest, to represent what I sell as accurately as possible, and despite all of that been taken to task for gross dishonesty – for lying – based on scant and faulty evidence. Heaven knows I don’t think my pictures are all that good, and all too often the aprons are wrinkly or show a spot or something. But why, if I were selling repros, would I only have ONE of EACH?? I’m crazy enough to be in the vintage business, not crazy enough to try to pretend that new is vintage. Oh yes, and though my business is based on recycling at its best – re-use rather than new manufacture, I’ve been accused of abusing slave labor!
We spoke with this lady on the telephone, and wished her a Merry Christmas also. I think I overcame her skepticism and convinced her that we’re just a couple of people trying to make a living and preserve the best of earlier times, not to hoodwink anyone into buying shoddy merchandise produced in labor camps.
The vintage business. It is crazy, labor intensive, more a hobby than a business really. I’ve been told before that one or another of my items was new, not vintage, and had to point out that the maker whose label adorned the product had not been in business for decades. I’ve also been taken to task for having too great a markup, since the item I was selling for $30 had the tag still on showing that I had paid only $1.29. That tag was also from a store that was out of business before I was in.
I won’t be changing my business model. It’s all right there and plainly visible to an unbiased view. I have often wondered about people who find deception in everything they read or hear. I have no problem with common sense, value it highly in fact, and am the last one to accept everything at face value. But if you look, really look, you can see the difference, can’t you?
Wishing all my readers the most joyous of Christmases, or happiest of whatever holidays you may celebrate!