Why Are Older Pieces of Vintage Clothing So Hard To Find?


A Woman From The 1930s Doing Everthing She Can To Keep Her Clothes Looking New - via LIFE Photo Archive

Consider these statistics from the United States during the Great Depression of the 1930s:

  • A middle-class worker’s wardrobe contained fewer than 15 pieces of clothing, consisting of 3 suits, 8 shirts, and 1 extra pair of pants.
  • A unionized worker would own a uniform, 1 suit, 6 shirts, 1 pair of overalls and an extra pair of pants.
  • A 1933 study concluded that this “clothing must have been worn until it was fairly shabby.”

When you’re looking for that mint piece of vintage clothing from decades past, now you’ll know why it’s so hard to find.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, October 23, 2010.


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Filed under Statistics, Vintage Photos

5 responses to “Why Are Older Pieces of Vintage Clothing So Hard To Find?

  1. Ina

    Nice with some statistics. And those were middle-class people and unionized workers, so most people had even less than that I suppose (not to mention that for example Finland was a developing country, very rural, uptil the 1950s)… This is something I often think about when I see people writing about people in old pictures things like “oh, she was so lucky to have that dress” – yep, she was, because it was her only dress…

  2. Mimosa

    Not to forget the wartime and how everything was used and used again! And still until 70s old clothing was cut to rags to make carpets..I have heard that way too many times “Oh, I remember that type of dresses: we had many of them at the attic but we CUT THEM to rags and made carpets”: AAARGH.

  3. Excellent post, and absolutely the truth. Even in the 1960s women would often have only a few nice dresses. When I was about 6, we visited an aunt and uncle in another state, and one day I commented that Aunt Carrie wore the same dress every day. She replied good-naturedly that it was the only one she had. I seriously didn’t believe her, but was surprised that several weeks after we returned home she called all excited to tell me she got a new dress! It was a big event in my life – my very first long distance call. This would have been around 1961.

  4. Gina

    Ina: I’d like to point out that Finland was not alone as being a developing country until the 1950s. Most of the now-developed world, including America where I come from, was as well. So you are so right to say that she was indeed lucky to have that dress because it was the only one she had! (see Lizzie’s comment recounting a similar tale from the 1960s)

    Mimosa: Making carpets from old clothes is most definitely a Nordic thing. In the American South where I come from, people would have made patchwork quilts from old clothes. But it does beg the question, do y’all cherish the old rag carpets as much as we cherish the quilts we’ve inherited?

    Lizzie: I guess people like us have a stronger grasp on reality when it comes to the availability of older pieces of vintage clothing, since we have had close relatives who were adults, with limited wardrobes, from the early 1900s to the decades after World War II.

  5. Ina

    At least in my family, that has both a strong tradition of making rag carpets and a tradition of putting value to old and inherited stuff, we cherish them quite well nowadays. The only problem is of course that, when being displayed, the rag carpets are in quite hard use as you step on them all the time… And yes, I guess there are some nice clothes lying on our floors 🙂

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