The Collectible Clothing Market Blog #5


The market for collectible or "vintage" clothing is born of a quixotic sort of pursuit that attracts a variety of followers. After all, just who really wants to buy somebody else's old shirts, dresses or jeans? The answer is, apparently, a lot of people from all walks of life and the prices of the garments sought after by these aficionados can be stratospheric. As in a black velvet evening jacket from Schiaparelli produced in 1939 that sold at a Christie's auction in 2013 for over $75,000!

There are sub-groups in vintage clothing followers. Levis jeans had a collector-following for pairs of the pants that had a capital "E" in the word "Levis" on the back patch above the right rear pocket. Simply called "Big E Levis" a pair could fetch hundreds of dollars or even more. Though they are not really clothing, old tennis shoes have a very active market in collectors. Those old, original Air Jordan's can find buyers in the multiple hundreds or even thousands of dollars. A recent perusal of eBay listings showed one pair of "Airs" (a rare sample) priced at around $5000 and, if you are lucky enough to find yourself in possession of an actual pair worn by Michael Jordan in a game, you have the "holy grail" of sneaker collectors and its worth can only be found at auction.

But, back to clothing and the collectors of same. When we use the word "vintage" we are generally referring to an item that is at least 25 years old. In today's market, that would be pre-1990. People tend to collect by category or era, There are people that specialize in particular designers, Coco Chanel, Yves St. Laurent and Oleg Cassini come to mind, though many others have their set of followers and others that specialize in time-periods. Each decade from the 20's through the 60's has its share of fans. Vintage western wear is liked by many and the tie-dyed and colorful dress of the 60's hippies has many adherents.

One particular category that is, and has been, strong for years and that is vintage Hawaiian wear, old muu-muus, swimwear and, particularly aloha shirts have found a fertile collector following. Shirts that were produced from the thirties onward are coveted by collectors, particularly, says David Bailey of Bailey's antiques and aloha shirts, those of The Kamehameha Garment Company, which can, and have, brought sell prices of up to $5000 at his Honolulu store. This store is known to collectors the world over and is a must-visit for many Japanese tourists when they take their Hawaii vacations. Celebrities, such as Nicholas Cage have been known to drop thousands at Bailey's in a single visit. Surfers also favor the vintage versions of this Hawaiian fashion staple, as they lend an authentic Island flavor to their apparel choice not generally available in the modern, mass-produced versions of same.

There are even collector websites that will value that which you own and might be willing to part with at a particular price. Vintage Vixen is one such site and there are others. A woman I know turned her affinity for vintage womenswear into first, a hobby, then a website then a rocket to stardom, as Vogue magazine dropped a mention of her in their very prestigious in the business Fashion Mag. Within Six months, she had quit her day job and set up a warehouse in her Burbank location. She would soon move to bigger quarters and begin to manufacture copies as her ability to sell the goods far outstripped her ability to obtain them. She would retain the original location, turning it into her Unique Vintage retail store, a store that features, among other things 10 dressing rooms that store staff say are needed to handle the traffic, though she says, most of her business originates from her website at She won't say, but I conservatively estimate her sales at $10 Million annually. There is gold in them threads, partner!

Google vintage clothing and have at it. Who knows, maybe a fortune lurks in the back reaches of your closet??




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