Let’s Talk Fashion

And by fashion we mean the only category of fashion on which The Roving Home considers itself an authority: dressing for the flea market.

I know. You’re thinking: why bother? Who wants to consider their clothes at 6 (or 5, or whatever crazy in-the-o’clock-you-are) in the morning just before heading out to a dusty field to peruse the detritus of a bunch of other people? It might seem as though, of all places, the flea market is the one destination where you can arrive approximately five minutes after waking up and donning a pair of sweat pants or too-small shorts. But just because something seems true doesn’t make it so. In fact, for the flea market aficionado, clothing is a carefully considered part of the equation.

A caveat: if you treat going to the flea market as a mission of sorts, with the goal the acquisition of a whole bunch of stuff, then you dress accordingly. Cargo jacket with lots of pockets for tape measure and notebook and pencil, giant bag or shopping cart on wheels, big floppy hat, et cetera. This look qualifies more as utilitarian than fashionable and as such deserves a respect that transcends the vogue approach to flea-marketing. Mary Randolph Carter, the godmother of American Junking, is the embodiment of this look and out of respect for her place in the pantheon of flea market greats (and the fact that this look is just a given for any junker worth their big floppy hat) Utilitarian Vintage Flea Market style is left out of the discussion altogether.

Mary Randolph Carter: still junking after all these years. photo: http://www.lauralevine.com

But back to flea market fashion. Last year I went to a vintage market in Boston several times and, while the fashion was people-watching-worthy, much of it was just a variation of hipster, along with open-toe gladiator sandals (this was in June), exposed legs, and lots of tattoos. Lots and lots of tattoos. I think everyone in Boston under the age of 35 is tattooed. This is not always an attractive look (especially when combined with the gothic sub-variant of hipster attire) as you head into the thickets of middle age. I’ll just leave it at that.

I went to my local flea market yesterday, Todd Farm, which is well away from Boston, and made the happy observation that, even in what is known as a suburb, flea marketers are holding their own against their urban brethren. While we have hipsters a-plenty of our own (and we love them), we also have Vogue readers, self-aware mothers, and at least one Chloe Sevigny-inspired un-ironic clotheshorse (see photo of girl with the red leather fanny pack). Most of these people managed to get up early and pull themselves together in a way that pays tribute to their own sense of style and to the very point of a flea market: discovering the great find. The one that makes your friends — or perfect strangers — sit up and take notice, to say, not without a little envy, “Where did you get those sunglasses? That scarf? That smokin’ red leather fanny pack?” And you can look at them and say, “Why, at the flea market of course.”

Note the polaroid camera around Girl A.'s neck. She was given the camera that day for free because she looks like someone who can appreciate it. It pays to dress for the flea market. And don't miss the flea market acquisition of a Fisher-Price horse. A Hipster Classic.

Girl on the right is working the oversize (men's?) jacket with her preppy sunglasses.

Yee-haw. LA by way of Todd Farm.

A mother who gets color. As an homage to her daughter's styling, the mother has on teal tights. Awesome. Also, it was really cold that day, so the mom bought gloves at the flea market. White ones, to match the sweater. No doubt you're as impressed as I am.

What can I say? This one defies any attempt to marginalize suburban fashion. The fanny pack was acquired at Todd Farm earlier. See what you find when you know what you're doing? Inspiring.

The photo does not do him justice. I asked if his suit was vintage. He just laughed like, what a stupid question, and told me his suits are all custom-made. The pant was flared and cuffed and worn in the heel, which just made the whole thing even better. I half-expected he would quote Proust at me as I edged away after botching the single-take photo.

My favorite: so effortless you know she always looks great. Comfortable for shopping (ready with her oversize gingham bag) and moccasins. Distressed skinny jeans, plaid shirt, double the denim. Why can't I grow up to be her?

My flea market style? 20-year-old doc martens that look terrible. And not in a meaningful way.

My fashion find: vintage aluminum-frame '70s sunglasses. Part of a cache of salesman's samples so they are pristine. Now if only oversize sunglasses were still fashion-forward I'd be all set.

15 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Fashion

  1. My Todd Farm style is usually a few layers in case it’s freezing, comfy jeans and shoes, a large tote with my tape measure, note book, and a few poop bags if I’m bringing the dog.

    Maybe I will see you there this season!

    • So you’re the serious, utilitarian flea-marketer! Hats off to you – you’re the real deal. No doubt I’ll see you there this summer. Let me know what you find!

  2. I heart this post. Will send on to my daughter Annie. I always knew Todd Farm was an icon of home decor, and vintage music finds. Now I will see it with new eyes as an icon of fashion as well. Such a great respite from the likes of Bin Laden today – a great read.

    • Felt a little guilty about posting this today in light of the fact that there is a much bigger fish to fry in terms of subject matter. But then I thought: when is that not the case when your blog is all about vintage stuff?

      Thanks for reading, hearting the post, and passing it on to Annie. Hope you guys can go on a jaunt to Todd Farm together the next time she’s home.

  3. OMG, I have to head back to Todd Farm – you help me see it in an entirely different light. I want to visit it with YOU sometime. I’ll bring fried dough. :)

    • That sounds like a good idea to me. Of course it won’t be Pigeon Cove Circle fried dough but I’m sure we’ll enjoy it anyway…Let me know if you come up to the North Shore!

  4. Hey, good news, saw on TV morning show the other day that oversize sunglasses are very much back in style. Wear them with pride, you’re ‘stylin’!!

  5. I’d forgotten all about Mary Randolph Carter, but I’d say I’m still trying to create a life that is based around happy families eating from farm tables under apple trees, as hers always seemed to be doing.

    • When I visited the new Ralph Lauren Shop on Madison Ave.in N.Y.C. last month they had a new book by Mary Randolph Carter on display… I had to smile because it was so reminiscent of the books of hers that I had displayed on my coffe table in the 80’s. Btw…that store is amazing!

      • It makes you realize that Mary Randolph Carter has been doing her thing for a while (thus, my decision to grant her the title of the godmother of American Junking). And I wanted to get to the new Madison Ave store after reading about it in Architectural Digest but was too afraid. Now I’ll be sure to stop in and say hi to Ralph & Ricky.

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