What’s the Deal with Vintage??

It’s no question that “vintage” is big word in fashion today, from vintage clothes to vintage stores to vintage-inspired runway looks. But what exactly does “vintage” mean? Even though the word is everywhere, it’s kinda hard to nail down a specific definition.

I was wondering about this the other day after I walked by a “vintage” clothing store and took a peek in the window. How old WERE these clothes anyway? What’s the diff between vintage and consignment or secondhand?

Like any good detective, I went to the one place I knew I’d find answers: Wikipedia. Apparently, clothing that was made before 1920 is actually “antique”, not vintage. If you go to a vintage store, you’re probably not gonna find anything that old. The specific definition of “vintage clothing” is (usually) from around 1920 to 1970.  Clothing that was created more recently but is a replication of older styles is officially referred to as “retro”.

Now, I don’t know about you guys, but I think of “vintage” as any clothing that was previously owned by somebody else, no matter how long ago that was. When I go to a vintage or consignment shop, I end up buying items that are from a few seasons ago, not a few decades ago. In the popular parlance, vintage can pretty much mean the same as “secondhand”.

No matter what definition you choose, vintage is pretty darn popular. Why do so many people like “vintage” clothing, no matter how old it actually is? For one thing, it’s been  popular with celebrities. It’s “green” in that it furthers the idea of “reduce, reuse, recycle”.  It also has a “story”: where it came from, who owned it before, etc.

Do you guys enjoy buying vintage? If so, why? Let us know in the comments.

Kristen P.

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One response to “What’s the Deal with Vintage??”

  1. Lauren says :

    Kristen! I love this topic. How relevant. Personally, I abhor, this “popular perlance” as you call it. I own actual vintage clothing, from the 1930s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s and take offense to companies like Free People with their “vintage shops” that is really just garbage from ten, maybe 20 years ago. I do not consider that to be vintage. You are right in that clothing prior to the 1920s and turn of the century is actually antique and you probably can’t wear it! I have an antique beaded purse from around that time and I only take it out very rarely. I think that retailers and the industry are capitalizing on the popularity and trendiness of “vintage” by offering secondhand items that aren’t truly vintage. Check out Etsy for more evidence of this. Many sellers try to market things as older than it is, but you can catch this many times due to fabric content, since polyester and most synthetics weren’t really produced until the 1950’s, and not used in mass until the 60’s and 70’s. The bottom line is that the majority of these items in the marketplace are not vintage and it takes an informed person to know the difference. My advice to people is to read up on textiles and fashion history before investing in expensive vintage pieces! Many Manhattan consignment and vintage shops will definitely take advantage of you otherwise.

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