This is the first part of a four-part series on vintage style. In part two, Trisha will discuss her vintage style and share some of the best places to find vintage items online. Part three will provide tips for buying vintage bicycles and the pros and cons of ownership. Finally, part four will profile a founder of a vintage shop who gets around the city on her vintage trike.
Why are we devoting a series to vintage style on a bicycle blog? Vintage style and bicycling have a lot in common! They are both sustainable, budget conscious, individual and fun. It’s no wonder so many bicyclists—including Trisha and me—gravitate toward vintage and thrifted fashion.
(We’re using vintage to refer to items that date from at least the 1980’s or earlier, while thrifted refers to anything purchased pre-owned.)
Sustainable. While the most environmentally-friendly consumer stance is not to buy anything, thrifting used products is the next best thing. By thrifting, you keep products out of landfills and avoid contributing to new manufacturing. Another benefit is that a lot of vintage clothing was made in the U.S. or other countries where the standard for workers is high. Even if the item was made in China, you are not contributing to the original market demand.
Budget Conscious. Transportation cyclists save a lot of money on gas, parking, gym memberships, and transit cards. Buying from thrift and vintage stores is equally perfect for the budget conscious. Certainly, there are many expensive and exquisite vintage items for purchase, but for the most part fabulous dresses, shoes, shirts, chairs, dishes, hats, earrings—anything—can be purchased for $1-$30. The prices are low not because the products are cheaply made with overseas labor, but simply because they are pre-owned.
Individual. Cyclists are not interested in following the herd without question. Going back to the subject of the bike commuter stereotype, we are perceived as “fringe” and a lot of us are, at least a little. This individualism applies to our style, as well. Vintage and thrifted clothing is more about personal style than about what the biggest clothing manufacturers are currently shilling. That’s not to say vintage fashion cannot be of-the-moment: often the best place to score the latest era-inspired look is from the original source.
Fun. Somewhere along the way, cyclists decided that sitting in a metal box in a line of unmoving traffic or cramming on a subway like cattle was not fun. Riding in the fresh air with the wind in your face and adrenaline pumping through your veins—now that’s fun! Digging through racks and piles of clothing in search of unique treasures is many times more fun than wandering the garish aisles of a big-box store to grab one of 100 identical shirts or clicking through Amazon like a zombie. Where’s the challenge and ultimate reward in that?
Convinced of the benefits of vintage shopping? Yard sales and stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army are great sources for clothes and accessories if you’re in the mood for a full-out expedition. I prefer thrift stores where the selections are already edited, so there is still a hunt, but the experience is more cozy.
Chicago has a lot of thrift stores and I am not an authority on them (yet!), but here are my favorites:
- Haystack at 2934 N. Broadway
- Shangri-La Vintage at 1952 W. Roscoe
- Clothes Optional at 2918 N. Clark
- Pistol Bazaar at 1717 W. Chicago
- For thrifted newer clothes from popular retailers (especially fancy jeans), check out Buffalo Exchange and Crossroads Trading Company.
- For drooling over gorgeous high-priced items online, see Silver Moon.
- For a lot of thrift stores in the same area, head over to Milwaukee and North Avenues in Wicker Park.
All of the dresses pictured are vintage and purchased for under $20 from local thrift stores.
There is a big vintage style blog world out there and, as with bike blogs, they are an excellent resource for inspiration and information. Here is a list of my favorites. I’ve noticed that quite a few of them are also cyclists!
Painfully Hip – These two women display “fashion-forward finds for the weak of wallet.” Their outfits are on the funky, creative side and they’re known for their thrift store road trips. Bicyclist? Yes!
Strawberry Koi Vintage – Vintage style, straight up. She looks like she could have stepped out of an old movie. She also has a bunch of super helpful video tutorials for vintage hairstyles. Bicyclist? Not that I’ve seen.
academichic – These three PhD-seeking women use lots of thrifted pieces to create thoroughly modern professional outfits. They tag all items in their wardrobes, so you can see that the shirt is “Gap, thrifted,” for example, giving you great ideas of how inconspicuously thrifted finds can blend with an outfit. Bicyclist? Yes!
Clothed Much – She says she uses the blog to be more creative with the few clothes she has. It works, because her outfits always look varied and stylish! She mixes a lot of modern thrifted items with clothes from affordable retailers such as Forever 21 and Wet Seal. Bicyclist? Yes!
A Cat of Impossible Color – Another straight up vintage style lady, with the most prim yet fun outfits. I love reading about her experiences writing and publishing her novel. Bicyclist? Not that I’ve seen.
Now we want to hear from all of you. Do you wear thrifted and vintage clothes? If so, what are your reasons and do you associate it with your love for bicycling? How and where do you like to shop?