Recently a close friend asked me to sell a pair of never-worn bell-bottom pants that she bought almost 40 years ago to wear to a pool party that she never attended. I perked up to this request, as bell bottoms were the thing to wear in the 70s, and I myself lived in bell bottoms back then. I replied to her request, “Let’s have a look; vintage clothing does sell.”
What I was shown was a pair of white cotton bell-bottom pants with the Winston cigarette branding and its then-advertising slogan “How Good It Is” literally covering them top to bottom in bright red, navy, and gold colors.
She said that with smoking being out of favor these days, people like to collect things like this. I must be honest: these were the most un-cool bell-bottom pants I’d ever seen. This print wasn’t popular in the ‘70s and I didn’t think they’d be popular today, but I had to agree with her thinking. People do collect such things. But…these pants were so loud and unhip that I felt I had to say, “If it wasn’t cool then, it is probably still not cool now so please don’t get your hopes up that I can do much with these.” I brought them home with little hope of finding out much about them, hung the pants over the back of a chair in my office, and forgot about them.
A few days later I decided I had to research these for her–I like to be true to my word. To my surprise, I found several pairs sold, or selling, online in like-new condition between $99 and $200. I also found some in worn condition with huge stains and/or holes selling around $30. That was when I found a new reverence for this vintage piece of apparel. As I stood there looking at the bell bottoms, I realized I had learned another important point to selling collectibles in my shop: I almost dismissed a prime piece of vintage clothing because to me these pants weren’t anything to write home about. I almost allowed my personal taste to dictate what should sell in my shop.
I’m not sure if these pants are scarce today because folks like me just don’t want them, or if it’s because they’re just now finding their way out of the bottom drawer or backs of closets. In either event, the “Winston Fancy Pants Bell Bottoms,” as they are called, are in my shop now and I should make a nice profit for my friend. And as for myself, if I’m asked again to sell an item I personally don’t like for someone, I’m going to give it my full faith and attention that its age commands in this business until I can prove otherwise.