The Ins and Outs of Vintage Clothing
As with any type of self-proclaimed nerd – be it geography, food, sports, or fashion - I want to help others learn. That sometimes means unlearning so things. One thing that makes my eye twitch a bit is when someone erroneously declares something “curated vintage” that was from 11 or so years ago. Nope.
I have been told that my opinions are very strong and likely held too tightly (until they’re not). Regardless, I sometimes try to loosen up a bit. No one wants to be an out of touch cave person. Point taken. I’m working on it.
That said, there are definitions and dictionaries and facts for a reason: they set truth apart from fallacy. As noted above, I’ll often hear someone say that a piece of clothing is vintage when it’s from a few seasons ago. Again, nope.
While in the grand scheme of the current state of the world it’s not important to accurate identify things such as this, technically speaking it’s not. We can do better, yes? Let’s take a minute and revisit what these types of words mean in the world of fashion.
What makes something “retro”?
Plainly speaking it means retrospective or looking back. Any style that technically in the past is retro. I’m hoping this is leggings masquerading as pants very soon. When in doubt of the actual production year of a garment, retro is a great catch all for “older than now.”
What makes something “vintage”?
I’ve read various points of view. It seems to be commonly understood that vintage means two things in fashion: popular garments originating from a previous era (in the range of at least 20-30 years old) or a type of retail store (second hand stocking items of certain eras). Examples of popular vintage garments – though keep in mind some things may be shifted to even older categories as time moves on - are: poodle skirts of the 50s; flowing floral mumus of the 60s and 70s; strong, shoulder pad equipped bold blazers of the 80s; and we’re now creeping into the 90s. Flannel anyone?
What makes something “antique?”
Simply put, more time. The antique experts posit an item that is at least 50, if not 100 years or older. Your 60-year-old father’s suit he wore to his wedding: likely vintage. His father’s – your grandpa’s – suit may be considered antique. I will caution that antique does not always mean expensive. Just like those suits, antiques may or may not hold cold-hard-heck-of-a-lot-of-cash value (I say that longingly while looking at a not-actual-925-silver but silver-ish detailed platter with ornate handles I got second hand. While it’s likely not that valuable in dollars, it sure is precious to me.)
What makes something “vintage/antique” style
This is when something new is made in modern time, from new materials, in the past style of another. Time period specific costumes for movies and TV, for instance, would be a great example. So too would retro stores that create new fashion in past styles. War inspired midi length slim skirts, 50s hourglass silhouettes that you find one modern rockabilly looks, and super short skirts inspired by the modern 60s are all examples.
Thus, if you desire to be sartorially accurate with your labeling and not have me, “Well, actually…” you, you and everyone else needs to prove that it is a piece from a particular past year, in a recognizable style of modern value, to call it vintage or antique.
But let’s get to the deeper part of it. You and how you feel is the deeper part of it.
Is it a big deal if you love – or Thank You, Next - something old?
Is it a big deal if it’s inspired as opposed to original?
Is it a big deal that you can open up your closets with a mix of the two?
Heck no. Some can love it again, others can’t even. It should personally depend on what you value, what brings you joy, and what you can afford.