The “Vintage” Backlash (Or Why I Won’t be Hanging Up My Petticoats)

Something funny is going on in the happy land of “vintage”.

For a long while we were happy with our victory rolls, and maxi skirts, happy to spend an evening mixing and mingling. Ladies with tea dresses chatted with ladies in mini skirts and chaps with moustaches chatting to tattooed rockabilly babes.

And, for the large part, that’s still the case, but I sense dissension in the ranks.

Recently Emma Peelpants and Tuppence Ha’Penny both posted excellent blogs discussing whether there was more to vintage than victory rolls and a mid-century aesthetic. Which, of course, there is. In the online world there have been rumblings of discontent about the pre-eminence of polka dots, pin ups and bunting in any publication or event that calls itself “vintage”. Where, we want to know, are our cocktails, our smartly tailored suits and our ground breaking early feminists in this world of tea, petticoats and housewives?

Tea, petticoats and housewives were all part and parcel of the vintage world, but now it seems that sometimes the cynicism of the marketing machine has taken over and all those other types of “vintage” are being squeezed out.

On talking to many “vintage” chicks it seems that many of the women who turn to a vintage inspired style, whatever their take on it may be, often do it out of a desire for something a bit different. In their younger days they often sported dreadlocks or stripy tights. Many of them also have a particular love of social history, they know why copying Veronica Lake’s hairstyle could be so dangerous in the 40s and they know that in the 50s you’d far more likely see a victoria sponge on the tea table than a cup cake.

But now Vintage is mainstream, but only a specific kind of mid-century, Cath Kidston floral drenched, victory rolled, baking and cups of tea in mismatched china sort of vintage. Less than a year ago I could write about whether people felt they were brave enough for Vintage. Now Trevor Sorbie is popping into Handbag.com to produce these horrendous Victory Rolls on some poor unsuspecting staff member.

I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but this is my humble take on what I see.

All the increased press interest in the world of vintage has been a welcome thing to most people who’ve been running businesses inspired by vintage or writing vintage blogs because increased press means publicity, sales, readers and, ultimately, money.

Then, in the continual hunt for new markets and new subjects, the “big boys” got in on the vintage act and they started expecting these people and businesses to work for “exposure” (that means “for free”), they asked people to lie and pretend they lived a lifestyle they didn’t really live and they generally jumped all over the word “vintage” and all the people that loved it, whatever you take “it” to be.

So people start to feel dissatisfied. Those people who turned to a 40s and 50s style of vintage out of a certain independence of spirit and bloody minded desire to look a bit different feel like their look is being taken over and dictated by fashion magazines. Those who favour a 60s or 70s aesthetic start to feel a bit left out of a scene that they were happily involved in before.

The darker side of vintage. Courtesy of Emma Peel Pants

So, has the backlash begun?

My personal feelings about it all are mixed. It’s frustrating to see fashion magazines who blatantly don’t have a clue about anything that happened more than a year ago talking about “40s style bobs” on the catwalk. I like a bit of bunting, but I wish it didn’t all have to be “vintage” bunting and I feel a mild frisson of irritation when I see yet another “vintage” tea room that last week was just a tea room.

On the other hand I remember the renewed sense of body confidence that discovering vintage clothing gave me. I remember that curling my hair wasn’t something I could just magically do, despite years of trying with tongs, I had to learn, and that for the first time in my life I had hair that didn’t drive me insane with my inability to do anything with it. I remember the excitement I felt on finding a group of people that liked things like the Andrews Sisters and dresses with waists, just like I did, and I remember how pleased I was that everyone was so welcoming in this little world that seems to have become called “vintage”.

I hope, in my possibly rose tinted way, that the current obsession with victory rolls and petticoats might lead some people into dalliances with a style that will make THEM feel that way. That they’ll discover more about history and vintage styles and they’ll find their own look, just like I did. I hate the thought that they might feel intimidated or put off. It’s one of the reasons I love being part of the Historical Sauces. We try and combine learning to create a look with a sprinkling of fashion history and we try and make it accessible.

motifake.com

 

Individuality is great, but if you’re allowing what other people like or don’t like to dictate your style, then you were never individual in the first place. If you like those victory rolls don’t give them up just because everyone is wearing them. If you want to look like a 24/7 pin up that’s your choice, if you lean more towards a depression era housewife look then GREAT! Team your 40s suit with a beehive, or finger waves with a mini skirt, whatever floats your boat. Maybe you like to pull out the pin curls for special events, but live in jeans day to day, who cares? Just don’t try and pretend you’re something you’re not.

So, are we vintage till we die? Maybe not. But we can do “vintage” our own way and not let it’s current fashion status affect us.

It’s your life, your look, and you should never let anyone tell you how you should look, think, or feel.


Just a quick note, I do feel funny about using the word “vintage” in this context, but it’s a convenient short hand and a word I knowis used commonly to self define a style, culture, whatever. Take it how you will! I’ve written more about what the hell “Vintage” seems to mean here