So what is the definition of vintage?

The word ‘vintage’ seems to mean different things to different people and certainly causes plenty of confusion.

So here’s a dictionary definition –

of high quality and lasting value, or showing the best and most typical characteristics of a particular type of thing, especially from the past

Helpful? Maybe. Interesting? Definitely.

I for one had never considered the quality aspect of vintage. To me, vintage just meant ‘old’. Anything from a time before now. But think of the fast fashion we’re buying these days. How long will any of these pieces last? They’re created with a built-in obsolescence. Nothing is made to last. If we slavishly follow fashion trends, why would we want anything to last longer than one season anyway?

But there was a time when clothing was made to last. Timeless classics. Quality fabrics. That’s why they’re still here. That’s why we can still pick them up in vintage shops and wear them all these years later.

I love the idea that the clothes I’m wearing have a history. I know some people are put off by that, but I take pleasure in that sense of a back story. A story that I’ll never know anything about but it’s there interwoven into the threads. I love that musty smell as you walk into a vintage shop. It’s there in charity shops too. For me, vintage shops are essentially charity shops that someone else has sorted through and picked the best out for me so that I don’t have to. Charity shops take a lot of hard work and perseverance to find that one treasure. In a vintage shop, the treasures are easier to locate.

I don’t believe that vintage has to be any one particular era. Some women pick one era and try to recreate that one look. My sense of vintage is far more eclectic than that. I think I can safely say that will never include 70s fashion, but there’s something about the 20s flapper scene that appeals to me and 80s frills and the ankle grazers of the Mods in the 50s and the swishy skirts of 50s dresses and the 40s long fur coats…

So what is the definition of vintage?

Some would say old-fashioned. I say retro.

Some would say secondhand. I say pre-loved.

Some would say out of date. I say timeless.

Some would say eccentric. I say quirky.

Some would say imperfect. I say it has a story.

And then there’s repro retro, new clothes with a retro feel, like my burgundy velvet ankle grazers from Top Shop – see, I do buy brand new clothes occasionally!

I find it hard to define what it is that attracts me to vintage clothing. It takes my breath away. I love that there is just one of each piece in the shop (like in this cool vintage shop in Manchester I visited a few weeks ago), not rows and rows of the same design in different sizes and different colours. I love that sense of dressing up as I try on a flapper dress that I have absolutely no use for. I just need to try it on. I love the whole sensory experience – the colour, the fit, the feel, the smell (yes, I do smell every item I pick up).

I don’t do it to look different. I tried conforming for a long while. I just wasn’t very good at it. I don’t dress to impress. I wear what I love, it’s as simple as that. What I can’t resist buying.

I had a wonderful day in the charity shops of Whitley Bay last week. But my favourite shop of all was Miss Persnickety, a clothing and accessories shop that describes itself on Facebook as ‘choosy, selective, slightly snobby’. It’s like a living museum of fashion where you can touch and smell and try on your favourite designs. I can’t wait to go back again. I bought an Anna Sui black cardigan with the most fabulous cream lace frills at the neck and sleeves – and I’m totally in love with it.

So if vintage is your thing, then have the confidence to go with the flow. Take the time and follow your intuition. There’s no right or wrong way to do vintage.

Wear what you love. It’s that simple.

Helen R loves words, running, dance, her dogs and yoga. For her, age really is just a number. She believes in living life to the full and adopting an attitude of gratitude.

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1 Comment

  1. Linda Clark March 15, 2017 / 4:47 pm

    I love buying timeless coordinates that are made from quality fabric. I used to buy Elvi clothes for work. The material always feels fabulous. It washes and dries with no ironing. Designer gear is not usually in my size. When the recession came, many Elvi outlets shut down. Losing a stone has allowed me to wear more ranges and styles of clothes. I am not a charity shop user, as I am wary of clothes not fitting. I never buy clothes without trying on first. Being retired means I have less need for smart clothes for work. Your needs change when retired, as you wear clothes you love but may not be right for work in a formal setting. I wiil always love good clothes xx

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