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Passion for Vintage Fashion Is About More Than Just Clothes

Holly Hubbs has always loved vintage items. Growing up, she often attended antique sales and old-car shows with her father, “a collector and an overall appreciator of all old things” whom she credits with inspiring her passion for vintage.

For the Department Chair and Professor of Music, wearing old clothing represents her interest in history. “When wearing vintage, I sometimes think of the women who long ago wore it before me, or in some cases, who made it. And since I believe that old clothes are for wearing, I do so,” she says. “I find that sometimes it strikes people as weird or even off-putting. Thus, being my ‘authentic self’ is to be undaunted by that, and to wear my hobby with pride regardless of being labeled.”

Some of her most prized vintage possessions include a c. 1900 white cotton tea gown (pictured), a 1920s silk day dress, and a 1950s couture evening dress that she once wore to the Royal Opera House in Brussels. She also collects accessories such as purses and shoes. “My favorite of those is a pair of boots from the 1890s which are larger-than-standard for the time, and I can actually still wear,” says Hubbs. “Those things were made to last!”

The lack of longevity in modern clothing puzzles Hubbs. “Today’s concept of ‘disposable’ clothing is crazy for me. Vintage items are often made with such incredible craftsmanship that 50 or 150 years later, they are still ready to be worn.”

Although made to last, vintage clothing requires special care, in terms of laundering (items must be brushed/aired or dry-cleaned) and repairing (“one must have a modicum of sewing skills to maintain and use an old-clothing collection,” she says). “I was once in the middle of a concert performance and someone on stage with me told me that my 100-year-old lace jacket was tearing at the shoulder! I had to do some emergency stitching on it when I got home.

COVID-19 has definitely affected Hubbs’ ability to find new vintage gems. She typically attends two or three auction events each annually, but they were all canceled this year.

“My favorite, Charles A. Whitaker Auction Co., sells couture and centuries-old items that are deacquisitioned from museum collections. I once saw an 18th-century court mantua gown for sale there. Most items at that sale are way out of my price range, but it is a fun opportunity to see 17th- through early 20th-century gowns and accessories,” says Hubbs.

“A much more reasonable sale is the Andi Charkow auction, which takes place in the Horsham area. Everyone should go next time,” she says. “Oh no, wait, you shouldn’t go so I don’t have any more competition in bidding!”