The storytelling abilities of vintage clothing by TikTok's Gabrielle Jones
An interview with TikTok's Gabrielle Jones about the rich history that vintage clothing can tell us.
The everyday slights, indignities, put downs and insults that people of colour, women, LGBT populations or those who are marginalized experiences in their day-to-day interactions with people.
In November 2020, she started talking about pieces in her collection that led to her mission of styling a vintage piece every single day for a year, a series that has garnered over 15.7 million likes on TikTok. Some of her most popular Instagram Reels have gotten over 2.2 million views.
In each of these videos, she dives deep into the history of her collection while educating the public. Vintage shopping has risen in popularity amongst Gen Z-ers as upcycled, reclaimed fashions open up a new sense of individuality and self-expression while saving the planet, as explained by Bel Jacobs for the BBC.
The process of styling a piece is shown in every one of her TikToks in her series titled ‘Styling a Vintage Piece Every Single Day for a Year” which is inspired by the trends of the decades and how it would have been styled during that era or from her mutuals online and more modern trends.
However, she finds more success when she leans into the era she is inspired by and wears the outfit like how it was worn historically. For this, she uses images of her family members who wore that item of clothing as a guide.
This is a unique approach as rather than just styling a piece, she shares tidbits of her family members who owned those pieces before her. The rich history that comes with the clothing item makes you feel like a part of the family. Her great great great-Aunt Stella has become a recurring character in Jones' TikToks that frequent watchers look forward to learning more about. The more insight we get into the life of Aunt Stella, the more we become enamoured by the rich history that clothing can share; for example, Jones shared that Aunt Stella was married twice and never had kids!
The styling process is not easy as “some days it can take an hour or more, whereas some days it takes just 5 minutes!” She tends to focus on the silhouettes that she wants to create though she can struggle with the look she wants:
“The 1920s and 1930s tend to be much harder for me [to style], while the silhouettes of the 1960s and 70s are much easier for me! Sometimes I know based on the color what I want to pair it with and sometimes I have to do more experimenting!”
Jones is a theatre major and freelance actress who has always enjoyed fashion because of the resemblances of costume changes with putting together different outfits; she states that “there was something about the way clothes go together that always spoke to me”.
“When I put together these outfits, I think of what type of character would’ve worn the piece and how I think they would dress! For day 170 I wore these big huge 1980s glasses and completely felt like a different person... I call her ‘Ms. Jessica’ and she is my alter ego."
Personal style is a phrase that is constantly mentioned in the fashion space on social media. The conversations surrounding it puts down engaging with trendy clothing items but rather purchasing pre-loved items and thrifting. To her, this journey has been more about utilizing what she has on hand, and hence, is able to curate a more individual sense of style that is driven by the items passed down to her. She elaborates that she has become more drawn to the silhouettes of the 60s (coincidentally her favorite era of fashion) and the 70s than before. She is “more likely to just dress completely vintage because I feel awesome in it! I would say my personal style is vintage, colorful, girly, and playful!”
When asked what the most difficult piece has been to style, she says it was the outfit from day 143 which is a 1970s negligee she thrifted. In the caption of the post, she mentions the thought process she had which started from trying to make this piece more “wearable” to realizing that that is not possible as this time period was all about “youth culture, fun, frilly, psychedelic, colourful, flowy, boxy, and decorative pieces!”
On the other hand, her favourite piece to work with is from day 7 which was a children’s sweater from the 70s which “was the first fully vintage outfit I wore out in public (to a movie) and I got so many compliments, plus I just felt powerful!” The sweater was something she had thrifted herself and it made her feel like herself.
Jones states that she wants Edwardian Combinations to come back in trend, which are like a lace breathable romper with ribbons. They are defined as a combination of the chemise or corset cover and drawers in one that is worn to reduce the bulk at the waist.
In a time when bloomers and corsets are starting to make their way back into mainstream fashion trends, is a great possibility to happen. The resurgence of aesthetics from the 90s and early 2000s coincides with the rise in popularity of thrifting and second-hand shops which is an accessible and inexpensive way to bring personality into a basic trend. Jenna Gottlieb, Instagram’s shopping editorial merchandiser, elaborates that the retailers’ ability of utilizing Instagram Reels and Stories to showcase vintage pieces enables the process to feel accessible, fun and inspiring.
Nowadays, Gen Z are influenced to shop by the process, behind-the-scenes, and the day-in-the-lives content rather than the product itself, which can be related to the fact that Forbes has announced Gen Z as the Sustainability Generation back in 2021.
The advice Jones provides for people starting their own vintage collection, especially as someone who works at a clothing store, is “to really nail down your style and test every piece against what you like! Keep a list of things you love and describe your style in a few words, so if you find something you can ask yourself “will I wear this? Does this fit with how I want to dress?”.
In terms of finding vintage, you’ve got to keep at it! Sometimes you’ll totally miss at the thrift store/garage sales/estate sales, and sometimes you’ll hit the jackpot. It’s a gamble, but that’s the fun of it!” In the future, she hopes to explore the possibility of opening her own vintage shop and selling vintage pieces to share the love she has for finding new pieces and sharing the history of clothing. “I think it would be cool to source new stuff!”