Note: We reached out to TRVF multiple times, but they did not respond. Everything in this article is from Jenn’s perspective and not from that of the company.
There’s something about vintage that really calls to me.
Maybe it’s the funky patterns from the 80s and 90s or maybe it’s because clothes were made to last and fast fashion hadn’t really become a standard yet. That being said, thrifting and shopping in general really takes a blow to my self-esteem as a plus-sized person. So when I heard that the Totally Rad Vintage Fest was coming through Cleveland I knew I at least had to check it out. So that’s what Elliot and I did and I came away feeling mildly disappointed in our experience.
We knew that the event would be large, based on the fact that TRVF was held at the I-X Center, which if you don’t know your Cleveland history, the I-X Center was built in 1942 as a General Motors-operated factory and was used to build bombers during World War II as the Cleveland Bomber Plant. For a time, it built the wing assembly for the B-29 Superfortress, then the experimental XP-75. It later served for many years as a tank factory. (source: Case Western Reserve) So if that doesn’t give you the scale of what we’re working with, the place is massive and a sensory NIGHTMARE.
With 50 vendors who had massive inventory, you almost felt like you were constantly getting in somebody’s way. Now TRVF does say that coming in around the start of the event is their busiest time, but like many people who thrift or shop vintage know there’s this sense of urgency when going to these events so you don’t miss out on something one of a kind. If you don’t go in early to see the whole inventory, it might as well be picked clean by the time you get there.
As someone who’s considered plus size, this phenomenon is amplified because of the recent trend of plus-sized fashion being bought up to be reworked for a smaller-sized audience. Or the fact that vintage fashion doesn’t cater to plus-sized people in general. I mean hell, there was only ONE shop that I saw that specifically catered to plus-sized people and had sizes up to 2X (shoutout to Green Threads) whereas the rest of the shops were very chaotic and only had up to size XL. It was very disheartening to only be able to buy from 2 or 3 vendors and I’m not even 100% sure they’re going to fit right and then I’ve just wasted my money. Which in this economy is a big deal.
The pricing situation between each booth gave me whiplash. One sweater would be $200 in one booth and something of similar style and quality would be $25, which is a whole other topic I think needs to be addressed in the reselling community.
While I think vintage expos like Totally Rad Vintage Fest are cool ideas, they are just simply not designed for people who are not size small. I was able to walk away with a few pieces I think I’ll really enjoy, it’s hard not to feel excluded in this space. I don’t think I’ll be going back to anything like this, at least for a while. I think if you’re someone in the fashion space, with the money and the means, and are the target size for these events you’ll have a great time finding something or at least spending a day with your friends.