The Power of Online Community – Vintage Styling for Modern Girls
The Power of Online Community – Vintage Styling for Modern Girls
When blogger, artist, and disability advocate Bonnie Oliver wanted to start dressing in vintage and vintage styled clothing, she also wanted to find like-minded people. Oliver had always loved vintage but didn’t have the courage to express herself with fashion and stick out. Luckily, she came across the Vintage Styling for Modern Girls group. She was immediately impressed by how inviting and inclusive the group was.
“The group has members from all walks of life, genders, ethnicities, abilities, religions, cultures – it is a wonderful melting pot. I love that different members have different aesthetics, enjoy different eras, and everyone shares their love of vintage in different ways.”
The group has one limitation for accepting new members: They must identify as female. Heterosexual males are not accepted as members for the safety of the members, admin Meghan Smith explains.
The only rule of posting on the group is that it must be vintage-related. Whether members want to discuss clothes, make-up, hair, or interior decoration – all vintage-related posts and questions are welcome.
“All levels of vintage enthusiasts are allowed to post questions, interesting knowledge, and tutorials regardless of vintage topic. Discussions involving religion, politics, race, and gender are not allowed. This allows the group to function harmoniously”, explains Smith.
Smith and her “left-arm”, moderator Kristina Phillips typically put in between 10 to 15 hours of unpaid work every week approving members and posts and moderating heated discussions.
One thing that sets the Vintage Styling for Modern Girls group apart from many other similar Fb groups is that repro and vintage-styled clothes are not frowned upon.
“Not everyone has access to an entirely true vintage wardrobe. Affordability, sizing, durability, and physical ability level can greatly affect how much true vintage a person can or wants to wear”, Oliver points out.
The group has helped Oliver to be more confident and adventurous with her style – she has even styled a few outfits with slacks which she formerly downward hated.
The biggest take-away from the group for her is something even more meaningful, and very personal.
“I have learned to appreciate my body more. As someone who struggles with body image, discovering vintage fashion has helped me tremendously. Instead of trying to make my body fit into modern clothing (which we all know has no sizing consistency, and can be less than flattering) wearing vintage clothing has helped me pick and chose what I want to wear, versus whatever is popular at the given moment. Instead of wearing clothing that doesn’t bring me joy, and makes me hate the way my body looks, I’ve chosen to only wear clothing that I am comfortable in.”
The group can also broaden members’ understanding of vintage, Oliver has discovered.
“Sometimes when I say “I’m into vintage fashion”, it conjures up a particular idea (usually of 1950s pinup style clothing). But, vintage fashion is much more – there are so many eras to explore and enjoy, and that process can help you discover your style. The group has content from people who love the 1970s, all the way back to the 1700s and beyond. Even the eras that I didn’t think I’d like to wear, I still enjoy learning about, and just appreciating the beauty of how things were made and worn in the past.”
Last year, during the pandemic and lockdowns, the group has been more important than ever before, especially for disabled people like Oliver who don’t have the opportunity to leave home and meet up with fellow vintage-minded people.
“While I do dress for myself, the only people that see me on a regular basis are my spouse and my healthcare team. That’s why groups and communities like this are so important – they are a digital meeting space for those who couldn’t otherwise meet. I love sharing my outfits with the group, even on days when things are particularly hard. It gives me a reason to get myself put together, something to look forward to, and a welcome distraction from difficult medical experiences.”
Nabiha Merhi is a Middle Eastern vintage and pinup model who is known by the name Lady Laveau in the vintage and pinup community. She is also the founder of The Veiled Vintage blog that encourages covered Muslim women to incorporate vintage into their style.
“My aim is to educate, inspire, and empower Muslim women to use vintage fashion as a tool to claim back ownership over their bodies, their minds and their souls.”
Ten years ago, Merhi became a teacher at an Muslim school in order to become a leader for young Muslim girls.
“Modern Muslim women have been invisible to modern society for so long. Modern society often views us as powerless and subservient, voiceless. In addition, the Muslim community likes its girls and women to favor the needs of the broader community first, with the needs of the woman becoming secondary. This reinforces a culture that views women as bereft of any dreams and goals. (I want to emphasize that the Islamic religion gave rights to women at a time when women in the West had none.)”
In order to increase the visibility and representation of Muslim women in the vintage community, Merhi joined Facebook vintage groups such as the Vintage Styling for Modern Girls.
“When I saw the term ‘modern’ in the name of the group I felt an affinity. So many people are caught up in outdated values from the past that restrict and marginalize minority groups. I knew the group’s values would be progressive and positive and I wasn’t wrong.
The group has been an invaluable platform for me and many other women and minority groups. I love witnessing women and people of color representing themselves and receiving unprecedented support from other members of the group. You feel that you are part of a family.”
Previously, Merhi was not comfortable sharing her own cultural vintage clothing like hijabs with others because she feared that others wouldn’t consider them ‘vintage’. The group has helped her to connect with her own heritage in a new way.
“When I experienced how accepting the group is, I created a series of posts about vintage items I inherited from my grandmother and great grandmother, and the support was enormous. I think those posts had the most likes and comments that I have ever had on any page.”
The most valuable thing Merhi has gained from the group is networking with others from all over the world. She has formed friendships with people from France, The United States, and The United Kingdom.
“At times, I have not received support from members of my own community, who see me as challenging the status quo. I have now been internationally published in pinup magazines and to my knowledge, I am the first Muslim Hijabi woman to be published in a pinup magazine. I am excited at what the future holds and encourage all vintage-loving individuals to join.”
Going forward, group admin Meghan Smith would like to grow the group into more of a vintage platform and informational space with links, tutorials, special guests, and brand reviews.
”Maybe team up with retro-inspired brands to do photoshoots of real girls wearing their clothing. I would love to grow our presence on other platforms as well to open the doors to those who are not on Facebook, maybe even start our own site.”
Follow & join Vintage Styling for Modern Girls on Facebook