There is literally nothing new under the sun about vintage, and the very term has been with us since the 15th century when the vintners of old plied their trade with the product of the annual wine harvest. The stamp of vintage on any fashion item these days denotes it as having value due to the quality inherent of its era of manufacture, rather than simply being any old second-hand item!
Vintage has become a cover-all descriptor for anything old, classic or antediluvian. Think vintage cars, planes, bicycles, jokes … the list goes on and on, but vintage clothing as a ‘thing’ is relatively new to the scene, and gaining increasing popularity with current folk like you and our team, who recognise there is gold in the old. New is not the answer.
What Makes a Piece of Clothing Vintage?
Dictionaries often define ‘vintage’, when applied to clothing, as being a colloquialism used to refer to all former styles of clothing which represent the era in which they were manufactured and first worn.
Nowadays, vintage is a term used in fashion to describe pre-worn clothing made between 20 and 100 years ago. However, for a piece of apparel to qualify as vintage, it must display design elements representative of the trends at its time of production.
Is Retro The Same as Vintage?
Don’t be confused by ‘retro’ entering the mix, as this term is chiefly used to describe clothing, footwear and accessories inspired by, ie copies of, older designs, but produced within the last 20 years.
Retro fashion usually comes out lighter on the wallet than its authentic vintage counterparts made from materials of the time, and it is also designed to be more functional.
Contemporary retro garments do not have to be exact replicas of designs from past eras, and chances are, they will also contain elements of their production time as well.
So, let’s take a stroll to look in on the collections of clothing items gone-by, which have provided us all with today’s amazing spread of vintage apparel.
What does 20s Vintage Fashion Look Like?
Items from these decades really are quite hard to come by, and by dint of their age, they won’t be cheap either, if you do find them! But these 40 years at the start of the 20th century, cover the last ‘vintage clothing’ timespan, as anything made before then, now classifies as an ‘antique’.
So, which items are we looking for? Well, you could hunt down 1920s flapper-style, drop-waisted vintage dresses with their accompanying strings of beads, T-strap or Mary Jane pumps for some initial inspo. And don’t forget your cloche hat!
What does 30s Vintage Fashion Look Like?
Moving on to the 1930s, you might want to find yourself a bias cut gown for evening sparkle or a snugly fitting dress with puffer sleeves. Or perhaps a blouse? Blouses were super popular at this time, with polka dots, stripes, floral prints, patterns, checks, long and short sleeved, button-down or wrap around varieties all widely worn. There’s a 30s style blouse for everyone. And don’t forget your beret!
What does 40s Vintage Fashion Look Like?
With the 40s came the joy of women wearing shorts, trousers and workwear style functional apparel, including denim. At home and at work, the A-line skirt ruled! Post-war rationing rendered designs rather plain and practical – no time for the fripperies of the 20s jazz era, but a favourite clothing staple for the working woman was the shoulder pad look – remember that from the 80s?
What does 50s Vintage Fashion Look Like?
The 50s brought colour and vibrancy back into fashion, with layered petticoat skirts and styles to showcase the female silhouette – no gender neutral designs in sight! The iconic looks of the decade included shirtwaist dresses, full skirts and twin sets of a cardigan worn over a short-sleeved sweater. All tight fitting. And don’t forget the latest sunglasses and designer handbag!
What does 60s Vintage Fashion Look Like?
Patterns, bright colours and wake up to the party was the clarion call of the swinging sixties – flares, tie-dye tops, bandanas and college sweats were all the rage.
The 60s had two fashion styles, each with its own distinctive look. Initially there were the celebrity style icons of Jackie Kennedy, Raquel Welch, Diana Ross and Audrey Hepburn to be followed with their elegant pillbox hats, trouser or skirt-jacket suits and effortless cool. Then came the counterculture movement to mix things up. In came flowing tops, bell-bottom jeans and an array of loose bohemian flowery garments.
What does 70s Vintage Fashion Look Like?
This change continued into the 1970s as it was adapted by the latest generation who came to define the most popular vintage fashion styles of the decade. These looks included elements of boho-chic as well as flared jeans, high boots, platform shoes, block heels and of course the safety pins and anarchic gear delivered by punk.
What does 80s Vintage Fashion Look Like?
Things calmed down in the 80s with the arrival of the laid-back casual hip-hop oversized trend, as well as shell suits, power dressing for the office and other iconic 80s vintage pieces of fashion appearing left right and centre. These included sweaters and blazers with shoulder pads, the bling of gold chains, designer golf shirts and stiletto heels.
What does 90s Vintage Fashion Look Like?
These are the vintage years we love to source and share with you on our website, and of course this timespan neatly encompasses that small, but all-important, Y2K window. We just cannot get enough of it! Key players in the 90s crowd include a rich variety of baggy sweatshirts, workwear and puffer jackets, football shirts and so much more. Filter for 90s on our website to see for yourself.
What does 00s Vintage Fashion Look Like?
And the final decade, we consider as vintage, brings us right up to the 21st century with its 2000s aesthetic. Still early days for technology, chances are, the shopper who bought your purchase originally, was carried along with the new discovery of casual and leisure wear as a style – this era featured tracksuit tops, hoodies, spellouts, tees, cargo trousers and shorts … and don’t forget your branded cap or bucket hat!
Just about everything on our website is from the 90s/00s eras (the best in our opinion!).
Vintage clothing is a resource which has been with us ever since it was newly manufactured and it has been staring us coaxingly all in the face ever since. But only now is vintage beginning to have its potential recognised in a world of ever-diminishing resources within the climate emergency, which surely should be sufficient to focus all our minds on those valuable vintage bangers from previous decades, which are already in circulation. Vintage does mean ‘not new’, but vintage clothing still has a huge amount of life in it, so take a look, guided by the era filters on our website, to see what is waiting for you and your wardrobe from decades gone by. But not forgotten.
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