We have seen many fashion trends come and go, but vintage seems to come back again and again. Join us in discussion with style blogger Mel Kobayashi who has some great vintage clothes to show us. Enjoy the show!

 

 
 

Margaret Manning:

My guest today is Mel Kobayashi. Mel is a style blogger with a wonderful eclectic view of fashion and style, and her blog is called A Bag and A Beret. I’m really happy to have you here today. Welcome to the show, Mel.

Mel Kobayashi:

I’m so happy to be here. Thank you, Margaret, for having me.

Margaret:

I wanted to mention your blog because it is a great place with some fantastic ideas. I like that you don’t focus on fashion and trends so much, you’re more about style. I think that is a really distinctive characteristic.

Mel:

I am all about style because I shop at all these vintage and thrift stores. The things I often find in there are old, like me.

Margaret:

This is one of the boons about age, isn’t it? It’s really liberating, almost like you’re starting over again. So, style can become a tool to express your inner self.

Mel:

Absolutely.

Margaret:

I love the fact that you shop vintage. It’s a big trend for a lot of women in our community, and we talk about it quite a bit. Tell us what that means to you and why you search out vintage clothing. Why does it appeal to you?

Mel:

The immediate appeal is uniqueness. In thrift shops you’re bound to find one-of-a-kind items. To me, the experience is like a treasure hunt and it’s exciting.

It can be a solitary event, but it could also be a very social event, as I like going there with my friends. We often have fun picking out hideous items that we end up purchasing.

Another really important side to thrift shopping is the eco footprint. Fast fashion can create enormous strain on the world’s resources and landfills. The amount of clothing individual people throw away every year is just mind boggling and unsustainable. That’s important to me as well.

But I do go there for the sheer joy of it. Also, because it’s cheap. You can get really great designer stuff – if you like it – for a very cheap price.

Margaret:

Vintage clothing reminds me of old buildings and architecture. When I went to Lucerne the other day, which is a town in Switzerland near where I live, I looked at the buildings which have such an ornate design. I pondered, “Why did they do that? They didn’t have to make that building look so ornate.”

I think it’s the same with vintage clothing. There are interesting buttons and collars and lace that you would never find in today’s fashion. The tailor didn’t have to add that element, but they did, thus making vintage clothes unique and beautiful.

Mel:

That’s an interesting analogy you made. I also think it has to do with the fact that women used to make all the clothing in their household. They would hand-tailor and hand-sew everything for themselves and their family.

Perhaps they were picky about the materials and ornaments they used because they wanted to look good when they went to church and to mingle with the other ladies in town. They also chose materials that would last long because clothing was a lot more expensive until free trade hit the world.

Margaret:

Are there clothes that you bought at a thrift store, that you fell in love with and still treasure?

Mel:

I have a lot of gowns that I like to wear, many of which you can see on my blog. I also really like my tartan jacket.

Margaret:

My son lives in Scotland so I’m all for tartan.

Mel:

This particular jacket was full length, but it was too traditional for me, so I chopped it up and sew it anew. The result is pretty cool.

Margaret:

Are you a seamstress? Do you have training or did you just have a go at it?

Mel:

My mom taught me at her knee, Margaret. I am so grateful for that. I have also developed my skill over the years. But I don’t like rulers, so I go wild with my sewing machine.

Margaret:

It’s great that you were brave enough to decide to experiment. Many people probably saw the jacket in the thrift store but thought it was too long for them and they’d never wear it. You have a very different attitude.

Mel:

The jacket was very beautifully made, that’s why I hesitated about buying it because I knew I’d change it. But it sat in the store for quite some time, and no one was buying it. I knew it would end up in a landfill, so I did them a favor and I bought it.

But to tell you the truth, it was difficult to cut into. I saved all the scrap pieces, but I’m very happy with how it came out.

Margaret:

That’s another thing I love about your style. The pieces you wear, whether you bought them or created them, no matter how vintage or old-fashioned, you wear them in the real world, in 21st century Vancouver.

Mel:

I do, and I love them. I have a maroon vintage velvet coat that my fairy thrift sister Sue gave me. I just can’t thank her enough, because it’s become one of my staples.

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Margaret:

It certainly has the feel of a man’s smoking jacket.

Mel:

Yeah, a little bit. I like to play a bit with pieces that have such high drama. With this one, I’d also wear a scarf to cover my hair and a pair of sunglasses.

Margaret:

It gives you a Mata Hari look. You definitely have a knack of making your clothes take you places. You just transform yourself.

Mel:

Clothes are the cheapest tickets in town. It’s really fun to play dress up.

Margaret:

You used a wonderful quote by Virginia Woolf on your blog. She said, “There’s much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us, and not we, them; we may make them take the mould of arm or breast, but they mould our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking.”

Mel:

I used that quote because I love her approach to style and clothing.

Margaret:

What you just did, with the velvet coat, the scarf and the sunglasses, was just that. The clothes made you into Grace Kelly in Monaco.

Mel:

Of course, I’m not going to use her lines when I wear that ensemble, but I’m probably going to play that conversation in my head. So, for all intends and purposes, I’m going to channel Grace Kelly, and that will affect the way I carry myself 100 percent.

Margaret:

That’s amazing. Do you ever mix and match modern pieces with vintage stuff?

Mel:

Absolutely. I might wear the velvet coat with leggings and a ripped up t-shirt. I also have a blue, slightly scandalously-short skirt that I might add to the outfit. I might pair it up with my green shaggy boots too.

I like how the maroon and acid green complement each other. It’s has a ‘bam’ effect and makes me feel alive.

Margaret:

Staying alive is really powerful to me and to people in our community. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing that comes to mind is “I am alive, I’m still here on the planet.” I embrace anything that can reinforce that feeling.

Mel:

I have a wonderful long coat that lifts my mood when I wear it. It has bright, colorful flowers, and I wear it when I go out. All the outfits you see on my blog I wear in real life.

But many bloggers aren’t like that. One thing that surprises me when I browse blogs is that people don’t actually wear the weird clothes they put on for their blog photos. They just dress up for the photo and that’s it.

If I dress up for a video shoot downtown, I’ll make sure to wear very Halloween stuff. I might put up a hot pink wig and my blue glasses. What’s interesting is that by the time I come home from such a video shoot I’m thinking, “I can wear this for real.”

People respond so positively if you really are centered and grounded and happy with what you are wearing, and I pretty much am. If I’m doing a video I’m super excited because I can’t wait to see what happens. That gives me the confidence to wear outrageous clothes when I go out in everyday life.

Margaret:

Moreover, vintage is timeless. It’s usually designed with thought. I was looking at Medieval costumes the other day because I’m really interested in Medieval History, and I realized you could wear those clothes today. You could even buy a costume from an opera house.

Mel:

They’re so beautiful. Right now I’m into ruffs, the Elizabethan collars they wore back in the 16th and 17th century. I’ve seen them online, but if I saw one in a shop I’ll buy it.

Margaret:

A ruff or a scarf would definitely cover enough of our neck and possibly décolletage that we won’t have to worry about our aging skin.

Mel:

The next item of clothing I want to tell you about, that I wear often, are baggies from the 70s. They are made of wool with a tartan pattern. They’re pretty fun.

Margaret:

They sound fun.

Mel:

The last item on my list are wide legged pants. They look like a skirt, but they’re definitely pants. You have to be very careful when you walk though, because they drape over your legs a lot.

Margaret:

You bring your clothes to life and your spirit is so vibrant. It’s amazing. I’ve noticed women, and some men, all over the world can have so much passion for clothes that it makes them smile. You certainly have that sparkle in your eyes.

Mel:

Because I love it so much. I put so much thought and attention in choosing the things that I wear. Sometimes I’ll buy things on a whim and they usually go, but sometimes I’ll upcycle them into something interesting like the tartan jacket. This is my major outlet for fun right now.

Margaret:

You are a wealth of inspiration, Mel, and I can’t thank you enough for showing us so many of your fabulous clothes and bringing it all to life.

Do you like vintage clothes? Have you ever refashioned a piece of clothing to fit your tastes better? What is your favorite piece of clothing and do you get to wear it often? Please join the conversation!

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