Saturday, August 27, 2011


First of all, I want to say how much I appreciate all of your wonderful comments on my last post. I apologize for taking so long to respond to those of you who asked me questions; it seems that life (or as I call him, Henry) sometimes conspires to keep me away from the computer for a while! I want you to know, though, that I always read every one of your comments; I appreciate them so much! It's nice to get compliments from strangers on the street as well, but even when they are very positive, you can see them thinking, "Neat-but how strange!" This leads me into my subject today. A funny thing recently happened to me at the doctor's office. One of the receptionists approached me and commented on how she liked my look. This happens frequently, and it always makes me feel warm and fuzzy! People often ask me questions as well, which I am always happy to answer. However, this time, the questioning culminated in "Can I see your tattoos?!" I wasn't in a hospital gown; I was fully clothed in a sleeveless dress, so I'm not sure where she thought my tattoos were, or if she expected me to hike up my dress to show them to her.

I want to point out that I have no problem with tattoos, in the vintage community or otherwise; I think that they can be a beautiful way for people to express themselves and their individuality and creativity. It's just not something that I am interested in having for myself. I've read some posts from bloggers in which they have been made to feel "less vintage" because they did have tattoos, which I think is sad; the vintage community is extremely varied, and that's what makes it great! Correct me if I am wrong, but I don't think that complete authenticity is every vintage lover's goal, and I don't think that it needs to be. As we know, people certainly did have tattoos in the '30s and before (just for fun, there are some pictures below), but the average housewife, which is the image with which I most closely associate myself, most likely did not; if she did have one, she certainly wouldn't have been talking about (or showing!) it in public! :)

I get all sorts of questions, but this was a new situation for me; because of the way that I was dressed, the receptionist seemed genuinely surprised to hear that I did not have any tattoos. She also told me that she had attended a "1920s style party" where everyone had "Bettie Page waves", so her knowledge of vintage was obviously pretty limited. I try hard not to be a vintage snob, because I learn something new every day, but my annoyance wasn't about her lack of knowledge; it was about her lack of courtesy, or maybe tact. I told myself that she must know a person who wears vintage and has tattoos, and so that is the image of vintage with which she is familiar. Even considering this, I think that her asking to see them was impolite. It's like the question that I sometimes get: "Why are you dressed like that?" Even if it is asked in a friendly manner, which is usually is, I just think that there are much more polite ways to ask.

I realize that when you dress or act outside of the norm, you must be prepared for some stares, questions, outright gawking, etc., all of which I am quite accustomed to and normally view with slight amusement. However, I think that certain questions, such as ones pertaining to undergarments, possible hidden tattoos, etc, are simply not polite questions for a stranger to be asking anyone. Now, if I had a visible tattoo, I would probably have been happy to show it to her. In the same vein, I get slightly annoyed when someone asks me if my hair is a wig, which happens on a semi-regular basis, and when someone takes my picture without asking me. I think that most of the people who have approached me in this manner would never have said the same things to the "average" person on the street.

As much as we try to avoid it, we all infer things about people based on the way they are dressed. I know that I am guilty of it. I'm not sure what I expect people to infer about me...actually, I can think of a few adjectives that I would love to have attributed to me: creative, ladylike, old-fashioned, elegant, etc. :) I'm just not sure that there is anything about my look that screams "Ask me about my tattoos!!"

I hope that no one is offended by this post; its purpose is definitely not to criticize tattoos or anything else; I'd certainly be the last person to attempt to make anyone conform to any certain standard of dress! I'd like to hear your opinions; do you think that dressing outside of the norm invites people to behave towards you in a way that they would not behave towards others? What sorts of questions do you get, and do you think that people sometimes feel that they can cross certain lines with you because of the way you are dressed?

Sorry for the long post; I just had to vent a little, and I wanted to hear some other opinions. I have another outfit post coming up in a few days!


  1. Asking about your tattoos is a very random one! I have had people ask for photos when dressed up and I also got 'why are you dressed like that?' (to which I answer why not, and more insultingly 'what are you dressed as?' Personally it makes me less likely to dress outside the norm unless I am with friends, if I am going out on my own I do think more carefully about what I wear but this is a habit I am trying to break. I wouldn't walk around wearing the next to nothing outfits that the people that ask these questions often seem to, but I wouldn't go up to someone and point it out to them. (Sorry for the rant, I totally agree with your post)

  2. Once, when I saw my aunt, she asked me, "Oh! Are you playing nurse today?" I almost laughed, but saw she was serious and then I felt sorry for her. I didn't know what to say without being rude...but, it still makes me laugh to think about it now : )

    I've had other's say they liked my dress, did I make it, etc. I made little cards with my blog's name on them to give to people who are nice like that.

  3. Ha. Never gotten that one before! Most people are quite surprised to hear I do have one, because you can't ever see it with the clothes I usually wear. I find it extremely rude for her to assume such a thing, and to ask in such a manner. I've been lucky with the comments I've gotten, aside from the special lady in the Starbucks line that I wrote about here ( Aside from her saying I didn't look like a "normal girl", I've had all positive comments though definitely some stares.

  4. How bizarre! Obviously she doesn't know much about vintage, but wearing vintage has taught me how much people don't know about the past (including me!)! Actually, I got into vintage after take a "which decade are you" quiz. I got 1940s and had no idea what people actually wore in the 40s. So, I googled and fell in love and the rest is history.

  5. I had a teacher I was working with tell me I really could dress down for school (I'm student teaching) in khakis and polos. I told her dresses were really more my thing (since I wear a lot of vintage) and that I was comfortable like this. She kept bringing it up and finally just said the way I dressed was distracting. Not because it was immodest but because it was "different" from how others dressed. I told her I didn't own khakis nor did I intend on dressing in a more normal way because it's "normal". I hated that I was reduced to "distracting" because I choose to dress differently.

  6. Wow! I have tatts, dress retro/vintage on and off and have never gotten that one, at least not when they are hidden! Yes, I often do think that being dressed outside the box invites, or makes people think they have the right, to make comments, take photos and ask questions. But I am ok with it.

  7. What a strange comment! I can only imagine she was thinking of the rockabilly gals and their love for tattoos, but it's still such a generalization. I have found that my vintage garb makes people treat me like a spectacle or even a freak-- strangers on the street have asked (and sometimes not even!) to touch my hair, mink collars, and dresses... it seems so rude to me, but I know they're just honestly curious. The worst is when people ask me if my hair is real.... of course it is, but how embarrassed I'd be if it were actually a wig. All in all, though, it's nice that way we dress is making folks stop and think a little :)

  8. How rude is this woman! I don't think this is a question anyone should ask particularly a stranger. I have tattoos and if the subject comes up in conversation I'm willing to answer questions and to show them but I would never ask or expect to be asked by a person I didn't know. At least you can be happy in the fact that she liked the way you look.

  9. I agree with lots of the comments above, I would say it's rude to ask about tatoos and underpinnings unless it comes up in conversation with someone you know, most people wouldn't realise I have tattoos, (2 little ones)as they are mine and not for public consumption. I'm suprised how little some people know about previous eras, I haven't had any nasty comments but I've had a few "looks". I do agree it's good that others are interested, and dressing the way we do makes them think a little about what is "normal". Excellent post, really enjoyed and look forward to reading others thoughts!!! X

  10. I really love that you brought this to light. Sometimes I feel that I don't fit in with the "vintage crowd" because I don't have tattoos. In New York, so many gals do the Rockabilly look with tats and vintage or vintage reproduction clothes. That's a great look, its just not one that I have chosen for myself. As for the woman who made the comment, its just not very nice to ask to see someone's tattoos. That's PRIVATE!

  11. I'm a french girl who is wearing vintage 40's, 50's clothes everyday (my husband too) and I recognized me so much in your comments...
    Most of the time people appreciate my look and compliment me but it's sometimes too much.
    Like you I don't have tatoos and I already have had the same question about my tatoos.
    Most of the time I'm wearing hats and some questions like "Is it your real hair?" made me relly surprised.
    I don't like to take pictures with people but I don't want to seem snob so I smile and do it, but what I hate the most is people people taking pictures behind my back... Last week I was eating some pasta in a restaurant in Bruxelles with my husband, while eating a woman asked me to take my picture... I can be strange but people can be more strange!
    What I'm the most surprised is how people cannot find the right era of my clothes, this morning at a flea market: "You're wearing clothes from the XIXth century!". One day a boy called me Laura Ingalls....
    I'm a blonde girl and about once a week some pleople think that I'm a foreigner "Are you russian???", do they still wear 50's clothes in Russia????
    I don't wear vintage to be different just because I think 40's-50's look is really much better than today's style, but must I be like a circus animal? I don't think so...

  12. I'm sorry but I just can't belive how rude she was! Asking to see tatoos that arn't vissible is like asking if they can have look at your underware!

    Sometimes wearing vintage can make me feel naked... I have tatoos on my left arm and on my knuckles and very often I get the same question like you did with the difference that my can be moore or less vissible but I still feel odd when they ask to see moore...

    This can really make me feel to hide in a pair of jeans and a hoodded sweater (and some times I do and after a while my batterys are reloded)

    But still, she did like your way to dress! She just did't know how to behave corectly (and mabey she had an obsession about tatoos and asked every person she meet tho show them to her?)

    Love/Nadja Eleonora

  13. Wow, that is a strange thing to ask! I agree that it was rather rude of her. At least she liked your look (which is fabulous by the way).

    People do make the oddest assumptions about those who wear vintage! I think the strangest comment I have ever received was from a random guy that knew my friend. We were all chatting, and the conversation got around to the way I was dressed. He said "So you really like vintage?" and I told him I did. He responded by asking "so does that mean you are racist?" I was rather stunned and just said no. Wish I could have come up with a better comeback at the time but it really caught me off guard!

  14. Huh- that's strange she would assume something, but I think you're right that most people have a very limited understanding of vintage style. A lot of people's perspective of vintage seems to be gleamed from the media, including movies and magazines- and since they tend to sort of lump "vintage" (including retro looks) into one category, maybe that's why folks make odd comments sometimes.
    I agree with you that tattoos and the like are personal choice. Not for me, but I don't mind if others have them.
    I have also randomly had my picture taken by people who didn't ask when I was dressed up and it's somewhat unnerving. Perhaps it's the modern age with all the social networking and whatnot- and privacy (and courtesy, in some cases) doesn't seem to quite be what it used to be. I've never been one to tout that "things were better back then", but in a way some things were...
    I usually get "Are you an actress?" or "Are you in a play?" but luckily I haven't gotten many rude comments. I tend to think folks are generally curious, but sometimes the way it comes across isn't the best...

  15. Thanks for sharing! I have been contemplating the very things you're describing. I think your style is wonderful. I've been lurking here for awhile, admiring your clothing. It's time for me to speak up.

  16. Maybe they were assuming you were part of the rockabilly subculture? It's known for incorporating vintage and rock stylings and a lot of the women in the scene are inked.

  17. You have fabulous style and I'm so glad you share it with us!
    I nominated you for the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award. You inspire me!

  18. Great post! There are tons of snobbery and elitism amongst those who dress vintage as well, and I'm not even going into the ones who don't know about fashion history.

    I usually dress in 1940s-styled clothes and hair and the whole bit, and I have a 3/4 japanese-style tattoo as well. I don't think it detracts from the clothes or the look. My tattoo is also traditional in terms of Edo period Japan, and I don't have any modern or one-point tattoos.

    On the days when I have forgotten to set my hair I usually go for a more refined goth look, and the tattoo helps with that as well.

    I got stopped and asked for a photograph by Inked Magazine and Getty Images while waiting for my friends for Fashion Week over the weekend, and I think it's definitely more about style and how you carry yourself than whether or not you have a tattoo.

  19. brilliant post and thank you for highlighting it!

    I totally agree with you that to dress vintage does not require tattoos, but that tattoos do not detract from the 'look' either. I myself have a few tattoos, but all in places that I can cover easily, so they are only ever on show when I decide I want to show them off!

    I get stopped a lot and asked questions too when I leave the house in a full 40s look, but the thing I find strangest of all is when a random person comes up to me and starts fiddling with my hair and feeling my clothes up...ok it usually comes with a nice compliment, but when did I give permission for complete strangers to feel me up?!? (and that is meant in the least sexual way possible, heh!)

    Great blog and I love seeing all the outfits you make yourself, a true inspiration and I am itching to get out the sewing machine :) thank you