From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Generally speaking, clothing which was produced before the 1920s is referred to as antique clothing and clothing from the 1920s to 1960s is considered vintage. Retro, short for retrospective, or "vintage style" usually refers to clothing that imitates the style of a previous era. Reproduction, or repro, clothing is a newly-made but faithful copy of an older garment. Clothing produced more recently is usually called modern or contemporary fashion. Opinions vary on these definitions.
Most vintage clothing has been previously worn, but a small percentage of pieces have not. These are often old warehouse stock, and more valuable than those that have been worn, especially if they have their original tags. Referred to as deadstock or new old stock (NOS), they nevertheless sometimes have flaws.
Although there has always been some demand for old and/or second hand clothing, the awareness, demand and acceptance of this has increased dramatically since the early 1990s.
This increase in interest is due in part to increased visibility, as vintage clothing was increasingly worn by top models and celebrities, e.g. Julia Roberts, Renée Zellweger, Chloë Sevigny, Tatiana Sorokko, Kate Moss, and Dita von Teese.
There has also been an increasing interest in environmental sustainability in terms of reusing, recycling and repairing rather than throwing things away.
At times, the cycle of fashion design turns to history for inspiration, and garments closely resembling original vintage (retro or antique) clothing are manufactured. An example of this is the simple slip dresses that emerged in the early 1990s and were based on undergarments of the 1930s. These styles are generally referred to as "vintage style", "vintage inspired" or "vintage reproductions" depending on the faithfulness to the historical design, and serve as a convenient alternative to those who admire an old style but prefer a modern interpretation - another advantage is that, unlike the original garments, they are usually available in a range of sizes and perhaps, colours and/or fabrics.
Popular places to buy vintage clothing include charity-run second hand clothing shops, garage sales, car boot sales, flea markets, antique markets, estate sales, auctions, vintage clothing shops and vintage fashion, textile or collectables fairs. One of the first regular fairs that was set up specifically to cater for the current demand for vintage clothing is Frock Me!. This event takes place regularly throughout the year in Chelsea, London as well as in Brighton. Vintage clothing can sometimes be obtained from older friends and relatives, because some people store their old clothing for long periods of time.
The advent of the internet has been a boon to the vintage clothing fancier, as it has been for all collectors. It has increased the availability of specific and hard-to-get items and opened up prospective markets for sellers around the world. Popular places to acquire garments include online auctions (e.g. eBay), multi-vendor sites (e.g. Etsy), online vintage clothing shops and specialist forums. A vintage-lover may also turn to a custom dressmaker, who will use sewing patterns and/or fabrics from a bygone era to recreate a historically accurate look.
Vintage garments designed by the following designers are particularly sought after - especially when they are representative of the designer or the era: Coco Chanel, Paul Poiret, Mariano Fortuny, Elsa Schiaparelli, Jeanne Paquin, Madeleine Vionnet, Jeanne Lanvin, Christian Dior, Hubert de Givenchy, Claire McCardell, Cristobal Balenciaga, Emilio Pucci, Yves Saint-Laurent, Ossie Clark, Biba, Mary Quant, Pierre Cardin, Halston, Giorgio Armani, Zandra Rhodes, Vivienne Westwood, Thierry Mugler, Gianni Versace, and Jean Paul Gaultier.
An important contributing factor the value of an item of vintage clothing can also be its provenance. Vintage clothing collectors, like other collectors of history, value and record the background of an item: who wore it and to what occasion.
Due to increased demand, pre-1950s garments in good condition are becoming more difficult to find, and more expensive to procure. Clothing from more recent decades is easier to locate, identify, restore, conserve and (with the exception of popular designers) more affordable - subject to market forces and the cycle of fashion.
- Bamford, Trudie (2003). Viva Vintage: Find it, Wear it, Love it. Carroll & Brown. ISBN 1-903258-73-1
- Tolkien, Tracy (2000). Vintage: the Art of Dressing up. Pavilion. ISBN 1-86205-305-7