What is Vintage Clothing?

If you are bored with your wardrobe, then maybe you need to enhance its value a little with some vintage clothing. From a glamorous cocktail dress to an old pair of Nike’s, mixing up vintage pieces with newer ones is a great recipe for getting a fresh new look. Styles may come and go, but you can make a powerful fashion statement by going off the mainstream and shopping for vintage clothing. But what exactly is “vintage”?

Before going out for a vintage clothing shopping spree, you should know that what is “vintage” differs from person to person. At the same time, since stores stocking vintage clothing have become tremendously popular over the last few years, many customers have inquired about the differences between vintage and plain old clothes. One of the agreed upon definitions is that clothing dating from before 1920 is considered antique, and not vintage, which means that its main purpose is to be collected or displayed in a museum, and not worn.

Most dealers consider “vintage” the clothes and accessories produced between 1920 and the late 1970, although there are some who will extend this period to the mid-1980s. Sometimes the term “retro wear” is also used instead of vintage wear, yet many vintage clothing stores consider that only clothing dating from the ‘60s and ‘70s is truly retro. Clothing produced after the mid-‘80s is generally considered charitable donation, while garments from the last 15 years or so are normally thought of as contemporary clothing.

Basically, vintage clothing means clothing from a different era, which represents a particular decade and serves as a cultural expression of that time period. While some classify as vintage any clothing and accessories from the Victorian era until the 1980’s, vintage purists claim that all clothing made after the 1960s should be featured in the retro wear category rather than in the vintage one.

Although age is an important factor in deciding whether an item is vintage or not, you cannot classify a piece of clothing or an accessory as vintage just because they are old. In order to be considered vintage, a piece of clothing or a pair of shoes needs to have certain aesthetic qualities which will make it stand out from the other items from the same period. In short, vintage clothing is more than retro wear. It is clothing that includes unusual examples of a decade’s fashion and also clothing from a particular era which possesses a certain style and design that appeal to collectors and buyers.

An exception to the age rule, though, applies in the case of high-end designer dresses. A one-of-a-kind designer gown by Versace or Halston can be considered vintage after only two or three years since it was created. In the fashion world, this means that the gown in question is an exceptional example of clothing from that period, and retains its commercial appeal in spite of its age. Having such a gown declared vintage is considered an honor by high-end fashion designers.

Although vintage clothing is largely praised for being affordable, in many cases it is more expensive to own than contemporary fashion items. For instance, a pair of hip-hugging Levi’s jeans from the ‘70s in excellent condition may cost three times as much as a brand new pair. This is why one should not make the mistake of confusing vintage clothing stores with thrift stores. When a vintage store selects an item to be included on its stock, it is generally in almost pristine condition or very well restored. However, you need to be careful and ensure that the vintage clothing you are buying is original, and not cheap reproductions which are sometimes sold in general clothing department stores. This is all the more important when it comes to buying highly-collectable vintage clothing, such as bowling shirts from the ‘50s.

Furthermore, since authentic vintage clothing has a certain value in the collectibles market, buying a pair of bell-bottom jeans from the ‘70s or a vintage blouse from the ‘40s is often considered not only a fashion statement, but also an investment. In the end, it is up to the collector to pick the items of their interest and decide which vintage acquisitions are worth making and which aren’t.

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