Wednesday, March 10

What is Vintage, anyway?

So, in Thrifting and thrifty sites, Vintage is a big word. There are on-line empires built around Vintage clothing finds. Our local Goodwill had a "vintage" rack for a while, where they raised prices on "vintage" stuff. There seemed to be some confusion among the workers as to what vintage was, and after a while the hodge-podge rack of 80's dresses, housecoats, and choir robes(...?) disappeared.

Finding Vintage is not just fun and Thrifty, it's a real way to use less for any occasion. Why buy a new dress off the rack when you could wear a really unique Vintage frock? Even Celebrities do it! Reese Witherspoon wore Vintage Dior to the Oscars when she won in 2006.

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But how do you identify a real, Vintage piece? Let's start by defining Vintage.

I prefer this definition:

If it's older than me, it's vintage. (That means anything earlier than 1980.)

If it's younger, or just a couple of years older than me, it's Retro. As in Retro-1979 jumpsuit. Retro things tend to be definable also as "groovy".

(And, if it's more than 100 years old, it's an antique. Antique clothes are usually too old, too delicate, and too small to wear. But they are awesome to have!)

A good way to start knowing what's Vintage is to learn a little about fashion history. There are lots of web resources, but frankly, a good library book is faster, easier, and more portable. You can take an overview of 20th century fashion along on your next Goodwill run if you want to. Knowing what styles and lines originate in what decade is very helpful.

The feel and smell of the fabric is often the easiest way to spot a treasure. Older fabric just plain smells older. Most places don't (and shouldn't) wash nicer items, so that "been in the closet for 40 years" smell will be there. And often older fabrics feel very crisp or very stiff; or they will be a fabric that is unfamiliar to you. Some very old vintage pieces (think 40's or more) will be of extremely delicate fabric- try them on with care!

Another thing that easily identifies vintage is the closures. Metal zippers on skirts and dresses are always vintage. Worn, fabric covered buttons are usually indicators of an older piece.

Tags and labels, if they're there, tell you a lot, too. Some even have a date or a "collection" name on them that you can use to date it. But don't overlook handmade vintage. In days past, a lot more people made their own clothes, and in most cases, they made really nice clothes. Whether homemade or store bought, looking inside the garment to see how something is made will tell you a lot.

So go bright green the next time you're out Thrifting and check for some Fabulous Vintage Finds!
If you have a great Vintage find, tell us about it!

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