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Zee Fashionista: "Everyone is after vintage now"


"Everyone is after vintage now"

"Hey, I love your jacket. Where'd you get it?"

"Oh, thanks. It's vintage."

How many times have you heard that response?

If you go to any flea market today, you're bound to find a stall selling 'vintage' clothes. Talk of vintage clothing is ubiquitous in the blogosphere. Every Tom, Dick, Harriet and her posse is quick to claim that their clothes are all vintage, which begs the question - are vintage clothes just a load of second hand junk that the media have put a spin on and which we now think is fashionable, or are vintage clothes genuine, rare, 1920 to 1980 designer pieces only? Is the label 'vintage' just a license for shops to raise prices?

But, first, what exactly does it mean to describe something as vintage?

The term 'vintage' was originally associated with the year wine was bottled. In reality, wine gets better is ages; therefore when it gets ‘vintage’ it's quality is magnified. The word got into general usage when old cars were marketed to novelty collectors, who indicate interest to pay how much it would take to own such collectibles. Years passed by and dealers of old or second-hand clothing used the word to relate to their own merchandise. Initially, the term vintage clothing was used to refer to old clothes. Currently, numerous buyers and sellers use the word vintage to describe previously owned or second-hand clothing aged 25 years and more.

Jane Aldridge, of Sea of Shoes, in vintage Lillie Rubin. The tweed jacket of the mannequin is vintage Chanel, while leather jacket with the lion medallions on the other mannequin is vintage Moschino.

Here's is an interesting take on the "are vintage clothes passé/are passé clothes vintage?" debate by Catherine of Hepworths Vintage Fashion.

What we are seeing I think is the cresting of the "Vintage" wave driven by mainstream fashion marketing for about five-ish years. Vintage clothing originated as the preserve of the chronically groovy - Hendrix in his military jacket, Courteney Love in her satin nighties, Kate Moss in a 1920's beaded thing. Trawling the old school vintage shops was a luxury reserved for arty farties/the fashion confident/people who had the time.
It is no coincidence that the Vintage trend has risen alongside the growing cult of the Stylist, which in itself comes from the shift towards exposing the workings of pop culture. Pop stars used to dress themselves. Then it got slick & they had help. Then the help became stars themselves - Exhibit A: Gok. Then there's the "Street Style/What I Wore Today" blogs: The Sartorialist, Susie Bubble etc, who have made fashion inspiration accessible. And the professionalising (word?) of the charity retail sector, which has made second hand shopping desirable to people who would not have entertained the musty rummage fests of my teens, has also had its influence.
I could go on. Old/vintage garments/accessories have always been used in fashion. They just got commoditised.
Enter the High Street Retailers.
Under the guiding hand of brilliant marketeers - Top Shop et al. I'm looking at you - the idea "Vintage" became a high street trend; a mix of the "bunting & cupcakes" aesthetic (yawn) and a look fetishising Festival wear. The zenith of the madness for me came when West Quay shopping centre here in Southampton held a Vintage Weekend promotion I wrote about it here. John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, H&M, East; not a second hand garment to be seen.
The nature of the fashion business - every business - is change or die. So "Vintage" as an idea was bound to get boring. It is a necessary moment if consumers are going to be tempted into rejecting one trend in order to adopt the next. To spend.
But here in my world - where vintage is simply a definition of age & not any particular style, we will continue to use our nouse & flair to identify beauty in old garments and offer them back to a new generation to wear in new ways. And we will be fine. We may need to find a new word for it though - any ideas?

 How do feel about the use of the term 'vintage clothing'? Can we call 90s clothes 'vintage' or should we indeed have a new word for 'vintage'?

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At April 25, 2012 at 2:13 PM , Blogger Nancie Mwai said...

Awesome piece...I shop mostly at second hand markets here in my country because they are affordable and unique but I never call a piece vintage since I'm not sure how long its been around. I dont like it when people call second hand clothing vintage...doesnt make sense!

At April 25, 2012 at 3:41 PM , Blogger Thando said...

Society gives meaning to words all the time. They decided to use the wine term for "vintage" on clothes and they have now decided to describe all clothes that looked like they were worn pre-2000 as vintage. It is annoying but I think we can let it go or rather not stress too much about it, cause we understand what they are trying to say.

What would be terrible though is for a seller to lie about the age of a clothing item just because it resembles fashion from a gone-by era. That's blatant lying and should be punishable. They should use "vintage-inspired" instead.

I like the word "thrifted" for my 2nd hand clothes that I buy from Hospice, which sometimes are just last season Woolworths that someone decided to give away for charity.


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