I was quite delighted to stumble upon this lovely vintage dress at the Salvation Army last week. As I stood in line, I recieved a comment that I found rather humourous. I went something like this: “Cute dress! Looks like it came from ModCloth.”
I found this statement fairly ironic for many reasons. If you read the occasional fashion blog like I do, you’re no stranger to ModCloth. They sponsor a bajillion bloggers, and every other day I come across an outfit post c/o of the retailer. They have successfully turned that “Zooey Dooschenel going to a picnic on a unicycle” look into a national brand. For those of you less familiar with the retailer, I’ll provide some background: ModCloth was founded in 2002 by a woman named Susan Gregg Koger. She, like myself, had a strong penchant for thrifting, and launched ModCloth as online vintage retailer, where she resold her best thrifted and vintage finds. A few years into the venture (around 2006), ModCloth changed its MO and started primarily selling vintage inspired clothing. While they still sell a small amount of real vintage, the majority of their inventory is now made up of brand new garments, sometimes manufactured in China, and sometimes manufactured in the USA. Point is, vintage inspired is very different from actual vintage. That’s what is so funny about that comment: The dress I’m wearing existed long before ModCloth ever did, so ModCloth is the one playing copycat in this scenario. That girl was saying my old dress looks like it came from a retailer that makes their money off of making new dresses that look like old dresses. Whoa. That’s a head-spinner.
To be clear, I’ve got nothing against ModCloth. They’ve tapped into a very popular aesthetic – letting girls everywhere look “thrifty” and “retro”. They sell some incredibly cute stuff, and I’m honest enough to admit that if they sent a box of free stuff to my door, I’d probably wear it. But from where I stand, if you want that look, it’s a heckuvalot cheaper, and much more authentic to actually go to a thrift store. All the retro shifts, indie a-lines, and mod frocks that pepper ModCloth’s home page have been sitting in your local neighbourhood thrift store for decades.
My own personal aesthetic is very close to a typical ModCloth girl, but I’ve never ordered anything from ModCloth, and don’t have any plans to. If you can get it at ModCloth, you can get it at the thrift store. To back up my statement, I compiled a few old blog outfits and compared them to some pieces from ModCloth.
First up: Nothing quite says “I’m adorable, but ironic about it” like a graphic animal print. Foxes, owls, bugs, birds, whatever – ModCloth has a whole zoo available if you’re looking for that (and I’m always looking for that). Their “I’ve Bird About You” dress is very cute, but so is this navy butterfly dress from Valu Village. Theirs is $79.99, and mine was $12. Hmmm.
ModCloth rocks a lot of stripes. I would say the same of myself. But lets remember that ladies everywhere have been rocking stripes since Downton Abbey days, so many’a striped frock has already found its way to to the thrift store. While I find this $84.99 dress a charming collection of hues and lines, I’m still much more charmed by the look-a-like I found at the Salvation Army, purchased for $1.
It’s really as simple as this: Old-looking stuff is in. So instead of buying new clothing designed to look old, why not buy some actual old stuff? That right there sums up the above look. While I could’ve gotten something similar by pairing this and this from ModCloth, I ended up with the same results by pairing this vintage top with my sailor shorts from Talize. Total look under $20.
I’m sure you’ll all catching my drift by now: If you’re aiming for some fun, quirky, or retro pieces clothing to spice up your closet, nothing beats the satisfaction that comes from finding an authentic gem at the thrift store. My green 60s shift dress one of my favourite thrifts ever, and while I like ModCloth’s version, I wouldn’t feel as proud wearing theirs as I do mine.
I do realize that not everyone has the patience for thrifting, and if it’s not your bag, ModCloth is still an OK place to spend your money. Sure, big chains are tapped into the retro knock-off trend too, but at least ModCloth makes an effort to manufacture some of their designs in the USA, and employ independent designers. They charge a little more than the big chains, but that’s because they exercise slightly more savoury manufacturing practices compared to sweatshop giants like Forever 21 (although we’ll see if they hang on to that as they continue to expand).
But I’m not here to tell you where to shop, as you can all shop wherever you please! I’m just here to bring ModCloth back to its roots. I do hope I didn’t anger too many ModCloth enthusiasts: I think Susan Gregg Koger is a remarkable business woman, and she’s crafted a business model that works. In fact, I hope she would still appreciate a post like this, as she of all people understands the power of thrift. So, Susan, if you ever find yourself in Hamilton, call me up! We’ll go thrifting.