The Meaning of Vintage

Ok. So. Before we start we should all agree that technically VINTAGE means this.

by Ash Berlin

But I’m not here to talk about wine. I LIKE wine. But it’s just not the same as a pretty frock.

To me, vintage, as applied to clothing, is simply a term used to clarify the age of a garment. Just as antique should imply that something is over 100 years old, to me vintage means something is over 20 years old. It is no indicator of quality, desirability or price, that is something to be decided by the individual collector or retailer. Vintage isn’t an arbiter of taste and good quality. It’s just a word.

We’ve surely all all noticed a change in the perception of vintage over the last 10 years. What used to be, “ugh, second hand”, slowly became desirable. An indicator of individual taste, creativity and individuality. Starting with art students in granny knits and ending in Hollywood movie stars in vintage couture.

“Oh this old thing? It’s vintage”

With this increase in desirability came an increase in price. But that’s ok. When something is more desirable it costs more. Supply and demand and all that. It’s the capitalist way.

But recently I’ve noticed another change, and it comes in 2 parts.

Part One

The Vintage Snobs.

Modern Vintage Girl had a little rant about this recently.

If you hear any of these then you’re dealing with a vintage snob:

  • Only designer vintage is worth looking at (as long as you don’t pay over the odds for it what’s wrong with High Street or handmade vintage?)
  • If it’s from the 80s it can’t be vintage (generally the person saying this will be over 30 and thus remember the 80s)
  • Oh I only ever wear vintage. Modern clothes just can’t compare to the quality (some of them can. You just can’t afford them)

Generally the vintage snob will be slightly older. When they started wearing vintage they were wearing the clothes discarded by their Mothers and Grandmothers. The thought that today’s younger generation are wearing clothes discarded by THEM. Well, that doesn’t bear thinking about. I have seen people define anything pre 1960s as vintage, and pre 1920s as Antique. Presumably in 2050 we will be defining all clothes made in the last 100 years as contemporary, and that’s just going to get confusing. Quite apart from being a terrible business move for vintage sellers who will find it significantly harder to find stock.

Vintage doesn’t define the quality of clothes.

In 1930 people were just as capable of producing shoddily made dresses from poor fabrics as we are today, they were just made by hand in their own homes rather than on sewing machines in India.

The Vintage Snob has come to believe their own hype, that the wearing of vintage clothing bestows an automatic veneer of creativity and difference. Yes, you are unlikely to bump into someone in the same frock if you buy vintage, however, the increasing availability of high quality vintage at (sometimes very) high quality prices means that a person with a good disposable income can buy themselves a little piece of that look without having to put in a great deal of effort. The dealer did it all for you. You didn’t dig that 50s day dress out of a pile of dirty sheets, lovingly restore it to it’s former glory and tailor it to fit you like a glove. You bought it off a mannequin, for £200, just like on the High Street.

Part Two

The Vintage Nob

Just because it rhymes with snob. See.

The following are indicators of the Vintage Nob

  • I got this gawgeous vintage skirt at New Look. (No, you didn’t)
  • Peaches Geldoff wore a vintage dress from Dolce & Gabbana’s Autumn Winter 2005 collection (no, that’s just 5 years old. Not vintage.)
  • I love vintage clothes! (what, all of them? Every piece of clothing made between 1910 and 1990 you love?)

Ok, so the last ones a bit mean. You can say that without being a Vintage Nob, but this group are the ones that have been sold the “it’s vintage” line by High Street stores desperate to cash in on the increasingly fashionable “vintage look”

Vintage as an adjective like this means nothing to me. Something could be a 50s style dress, or an 80s style dress, but just calling it vintage style is nonsensical. In a High Street store it can mean anything from a whimsical floral print to a faded and worn band T Shirt.

Here are a few items that can be found by searching the word “vintage” in some popular High Street stores websites.

Equally as nonsensical is the belief that anything not from a current collection instantly becomes vintage. If you want to end up in the same position as Reese Witherspoon in “vintage” Chanel at the 2006 Golden Globes then by all means hang on to that idea, but you’re only fooling yourself. Or maybe being fooled by labels that think they’ve found a cunning way of getting rid of last seasons left over stock. It’s not an end of season sale, it’s vintage, it’s MORE expensive.

Buying clothes should be fun, fashion should be fun. But the people who are buying “vintage” from H&M are missing the half the fun of getting the look you want from unlikely items found in unlikely places. And while we’re at it

EBAY SELLERS ALERT: IF IT’S NOT VINTAGE, PUT IT IN THE WOMEN’S CLOTHING SECTION, NOT THE VINTAGE SECTION.

ALSO “50′S STYLE” 80′S FROCKS BELONG IN THE 80′S SECTION, NOT THE 50′S SECTION.

Thanks.

I wear vintage clothes because before I bought this dress I had never in my life owned a fitted dress that didn’t pull on my hips and go baggy round my waist.

I wear vintage because I can find better quality second hand and vintage clothes than I would ever be able to afford new.

I wear vintage because I like the visual aesthetic of the 30s, 40s and 50s, but I don’t care whether the dress I am wearing is a vintage repro made last week, a “40s style” dress made in the 80s or a vintage original.

I care about quality and fit. I love the feeling that someone else loved this dress before, and I get to wonder how it got to the place I found it. But then sometimes, just sometimes, I only care that it looks nice.

What does vintage mean to you?

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