I don’t wish to turn my blog into a b#$ch list, but I really feel I should make vintage clothing shoppers aware of the state of my trade… well, not MY trade, but the vintage trade in general.
I suppose whenever there is money to be made, there will be dishonest people making a grab. We all know to be watchful for fake Chanel handbags, but I don’t think many shoppers know about label switching. I have a hundred stories about finding dresses in consignment shops that are obviously not what they are being sold as. I have also seen beautiful couture mangled by label thieves who will tear out a label and/or buttons with no regard for the stunning item it was attached to. In both cases, it is a unforgivable crime against couture.
Now, I am finding this practice is rampant on Ebay where it is even more worrisome because even a savvy buyer can be fooled by a photograph. One prominant seller had an adorable model, seemingly wonderful dresses, and a very high positive feedback score. Early last year that seller was suspended from Ebay for buying 1950s style dresses (on ebay) made in the 1980s, snipping out the 80s labels and either they sewed in a 1950s label, or sold it as “couture” with no label at all. Apparently, someone documented a few such occasions, then blew the whistle. They were removed for a time, then they came back and are still selling today (hopefully more honestly now).
A few months later I found a seller who was taking the labels off vintage ties and sewing them into tacky, trendy dresses (shown above and below). It was obvious to me they were tie labels, but people were spending hundreds on these fake, tacky dresses ($350 for that tired dashiki with a Gucci tie label). I tried to alert Ebay but they could care less. This continued for weeks, I counted at least 35 people who were ripped off by this person, but they were all leaving positive feedback. It was crazy! Are we so label crazed that we believe cheap polyester is couture??? One day, when the dress to the right sold for over $200, I snapped and wrote a post to the ebay message board. By noon there was a buzz, by the next day the chat board Betties organized a mass email campaign to Ebay and got the seller suspended. One small triumph… but the poor lady who bought this horrible, cheezy lace dress that was sold as a 1960s Christian Dior still has not received her $200 back from the Ebay buyer protection.
So, what does a shopper do? We all can’t be experts, but with all the resources availableon the web, I suggest you do your homework before you spend more than $25 on Ebay. The Vintage Fashion Guild is a great resource if you want to research a label http://www.vintagefashionguild.org. The Ebay chat boards are also a great help.. everyone is an expert there 🙂 If you are serious about starting a collection, read, touch, go to museums and high end vintage shops. Get a feel for couture, it definitely feels different than ready to wear. Shopping online can be rewarding. Just make sure the seller knows his or her trade very well. A real “expert” can smell a fake a mile away. Good luck and happy, safe hunting.