Vintage: An act of rebellion

Naomi Thompson is a vintage enthusiast of rank. Here in a wedding dress from the 50s that she bought on eBay for 15 pounds.

Naomi Thompson is a vintage enthusiast of rank. Here in a wedding dress from the 50s that she bought on eBay for 15 pounds.

For this British fashion blogger and writer vintage isn’t just a style choice – it’s her staking out her independence.

Naomi Thompson is drinking afternoon tea in her small English garden in a beautiful wedding dress from the 50s with a lot of tulle and sparkling details. Her lips are painted blood red and her hair is cut into a neat pageboy cut. The pair of blue Converse on her feet draw your attention. The dress is an eBay bargain for which she paid a ridiculous £15 (€17). But it’s only one of 400 old dresses that are hidden in Thompson’s vintage cave.

“My interest (in) vintage started as an act of rebellion. When I grew up, I went to a private school in Paris and the women were wearing black Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Louis Vuitton clothes,” she says. “I hated the social pressure that came with that apparel and there was no individuality of style. So I started to buy my clothes second hand and soon I was walking around in colourful dresses and golden sandals.”

Thompson, 32 years old and originally from Portsmouth, England, is a woman with a devoted interest in vintage. She describes herself as a second hand shopping addict who is always in the search for the next dress, piece of jewellery or furniture. “I get such a thrill out of finding something that hasn’t been loved for a long time and give it my attention,” she says.

This fascination with vintage and old things has become more than a hobby for Thompson. It has turned her into a writer and a personal stylist with focus on vintage. “Through my blog I was asked to write my first book ‘Style Me Vintage: Clothes’. It is supposed to be a helping hand for people who are interested in diving into the world of vintage but don’t know where to start,” she says. “It is not a book of rules – because there are no rules when it comes to dressing.”

Naomi Thomson has a whole room just for her vintage treasures.

Naomi Thomson has a whole room devoted to her vintage treasures.

Not always easy

It was in her 20s that Thompson decided to start a career in vintage. Based in London she started up her online store Vintage Secret, the first one in England. Besides that, she wrote her blog, her book, organized vintage related events and worked as a stylist and personal shopper.

But her way to success has not only been easy. “My dad told me that I wasn’t allowed to study fashion so I studied law instead. He thought that was more appropriate,” she says. “We had many arguments during my childhood. Family is important for me as long as they don’t get in the way of what I am doing. It has taken them 10 years to accept that I am actually good at what I do.”

As a vintage stylist Thompson must rise to the challenge of dressing all kinds of people for all kinds of occasions. “I’ve had a lady, who wanted a complete outfit from the 40s. I’ve had transsexuals wanting more female-looking clothes without looking like their mothers and I’ve had a person who could not afford to buy a new outfit for a funeral so we went to a second hand shop together,” she says. It is the variety and the feeling of making people happy that makes her love her job. She rarely talks to her customers beforehand about what they like. “If you are a good stylist you have to be able to see what will fit and what will not. It is my job to find that for them. And every single time they seem a little sceptical at the beginning and then, when they try it on they usually love it,” she says.

A negative trend

During her years of running in and out of every vintage store in London she has seen a clear trend on the market – the prices are going up. “The whole idea with buying things that someone else has had before is that it is supposed to be cheaper. I got tired of that fact that vintage became so expensive,” she says. “Now I buy more second hand. I completely understand that a marvellous intact dress from the 50s can sell for £100. But I don’t agree with shops taking dresses from the 70s or 80s and selling them for £50, that is wrong.”

In the last few years vintage has become more and more popular. Vintage is trendy, which is the reason prices are going up. But Thompson sees another reason why vintage is hip. “The economy has definitely changed the way we dress. We dress more economically and frugally and there is no longer a stigma about wearing second hand clothes,” she says. “People have recognised the intrinsic value of clothing and what buying second hand can do for the environment. The ecological benefits are undeniable.”

Two years ago Naomi Thompson decided to move back from London  to her hometown Portsmouth. To her this is the most inspiring city in the world.

Two years ago Naomi Thompson decided to move from London to her hometown Portsmouth, to her it’s the most inspiring city in the world.

When Thompson isn’t shopping or writing she strolls around in her hometown of Portsmouth. Walking is one of the things she really enjoys and it gives her time to think. She moved back here from London two years ago because she felt the urge to live close to the sea again. This windswept harbour city is also a source of inspiration. “I find the whole city inspiring and especially all the older ladies here,” she says. “For example I often see a lady who always wears a leopard printed coat and a leopard printed hat, that is fantastic.”

Even though Thompson dreams about writing a third book, her plans for the future are more focused on things outside of work. “I would love to travel some more and get a dog,” she says. She has come to a point in her life where she realizes that there is no need to work, produce and be the best at all times. The most important thing is happiness. “I used to be scared of death but then I realised that I am probably scared of dying because I still have things I want to do. So now my biggest fear is to not being able to do everything that I want,” she says.

Vintage and second hand will always mean a little bit more to Thompson than it does to most people. It is a lifestyle rather than an interest. “For me, wearing what I want is a freedom of expression. It is something that no one can take away from me,” she says. “That is also the thing I like best about vintage, it can make you look individual and unique without slavishly following the trends.”

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