What I Didn’t Buy: Betsey Johnson Sweater, 1980s

There are several reasons I did not buy this Betsey Johnson sweater.  First of all, my collection stops around 1975, and this sweater dates from sometime in the 1980s.  It has the distinctive “punk” label which was used for about eight years, starting in 1978 when Betsey formed her own business.

More importantly, I did not buy this sweater because I do not like it.  Even if I collected the 80s I would not have bought it.  And that brings up the question of “taste” and where it fits into a collection.

When  I first started collecting I would buy anything I found that I thought was “important.”  I can tell you that for me, collecting that way led to a lot of mistakes.  It was not until I began to narrow the focus of my collection that I was able to chose a garment based on its merits, rather than the label.   And to me, part of the charm of an old garment is that it pleases me, aesthetically.

That is not to say that every item in my collection is beautiful, but given a choice between two similar objects, I know that my personal taste will play a part in which one I choose to add to my collection.  I recently met a seller who had dozens of late 1950s and early 60s casual women’s shirts.  I have been looking for some to pair with my novelty print skirts.  Because the shirts were all deadstock, the condition of all was equal.  I went almost entirely by which ones I liked when picking the ones I wanted to buy.

And this leads me to another thought – the mistaken idea that just because an item is old, it somehow has added worth.  I see a lot of old clothes, and so many of them are just ugly, to my eye anyway.  Others are poorly made, and yet others are in horrible condition.  These things might not matter if the item in question is an 1818 pelisse belonging to Jane Austin, but in a 1978 polyester dress from K-mart, they do definitely matter,

Sometimes I’m just amazed at how much clothing from the past has survived.  I grew up in a home where if an item wasn’t useful, it was sold for charity, so I’m often astounded to read about people who find houses with rooms full of multi-generational clothing.  I’m glad they do because it allows me to be very picky.


Filed under I Didn't Buy...

12 responses to “What I Didn’t Buy: Betsey Johnson Sweater, 1980s

  1. carla

    Amazing! I love these! Funny how that goes!


  2. I am with you Lizzie-I do not understand it from her…- however-…I can understand why a lot of other people would!?….must come from my fabric design days-and merchandising as well…overseeing/guiding the purchase of and creative merchandising of product I had to learn to be impartial yet …it was difficult at times to work with something I did not care for….


  3. Although I’m not a collector, it is very interesting to hear how you go about building a collection. One day I hope to get a look at it myself!


  4. I enjoy reading about how you have evolved as a collector and your thoughts on personal taste in that evolution.


  5. sally sputnik's

    I would have bought it in a heartbeat but then I love tacky prints, I am totally with you on buying on preference rather than label.


  6. Ruth

    Gotta say “ditto” on this–and that sweater was ugly in the 80’s! I read another website that posts occasional offerings from ebay and other sites with her comments on them, and there were some spectacularly ugly Victorian dresses last month. I mean, “loud” plaids, if you can imagine such a thing. I knew someone, a school financial officer in the early 70’s, who actually wore a gray plaid that was that kind of loud, unbelieveable. Like you say, collecting should be about what you truly love, or what pleases your eye.


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