Friday, 12 August 2011

Less frou frou vintage please!!

 
Vintage is now a word that most accurately seems to mean distressed faux farmhouse furniture in white or pale blue. It means mimsy floral chintz, especially in waxed form, or miss matched china tea cups and saucers as long as they have designs including more blooms or polkadots. It is overblown cupcakes in any form, little bits and bobs of buttons and cheap mass produced knick knacks sewn on to everything. It is needlepoint cushions featuring union jacks and pugs, it is old jugs filled with expensive pink roses and green hydrangeas, it is reproduction biscuit tins and little wire things to hold eggs. It is sugary, it is cluttered, it is utterly girly and in great amounts it makes me want to throw up (over a cane chair reupholstered in Cath Kidston fabric with gingham ribbons tied on the the corners).

I can't imagine tucking into my kebab take away here...
Don’t get me wrong, I like porcelain teacups, polka dots and rickety old junk shop furniture, I like most of the stuff above in moderation: I just cannot bear the twee overwhelmingly fussed with sheer  tweeness of the whole idea.  It isn’t that I dislike excess, in the Victorian menagerie, baroque lunacy or Gothic Count gone made style I love it. Not a purist and I dislike minimalism yet there is something about all this vintage frillery frippery that grates, possibly it is boredom.  And make no mistake, to the media and mass culture as a whole that is what we are talking about when we use the word 'vintage'. 

Bloody little wooden signs everywhere, I know where I live thanks....
At Vintage at Southbank last weekend I picked up a free copy of BBC Homes and Antiques Vintage issue and it was full of this notting hilly yummy mummy stuff. I learned‘Vintage’ is ideally accessorised by two sweet little children,  Milly and Oscar, tricked out in dove egg blue corduroy and peter pan collars. Oh and a dog, probably a Shitzhu type thing with an old fashioned working class name like Bert or Sid. I can see the magazine does have its fantasy appeal and the ladies on their stall were very nice., nothing against the magazine per se, it is catering for an audience. They were wise enough to have the lovely and very knowledgeable Naomi of Vintage Secret advising and had an article on wonderful Stein jewellery.

Their introduction to what vintage was however a big fib, actually car enthusiasts and antiques buyers are right, if you call something less than 50 years old vintage you are big fat pants on fire liar.  Just because today's PR's and clueless fashion magazines and a load of 20 somethings have suddenly decided that they think 70's or 80's is vintage doesn't make it so, imagine if I tried that with anything else. I'd end up in court for misrepresentation.

Vintage 'style', if you say so, retro certainly but it ain't vintage under 50 years unless it is wine. Unless that is 'vintage' has become something else, in which case what term do we use? 40's clothes are not antiques a nd I'm unilaterally (well no one else listens to me!) reclaiming the word vintage for what it actually means genuinely old. Not something that anyone over the age of twelve has already worn before.
Here the union jack and flowers have been cleverly combined....
I suppose I am frustrated that an interest in past eras has congealed into this. I shouldn’t be surprised as I am getting serious de ja vu. It is the mid-seventies all over again. Then the country obsessed over Victoriana, Laura Ashley made a killing, the Timotei and flake girls ruled adland and the whole country went nuts for Diary of an Edwardian Lady. Everyone either had a lace petticoat sticking out from under their skirt, a folk art inspired dirndl or a Little House on the Prairie style triangle fabric tied around their head.s It was a look inflicted on me as a child. The 80’s were always better than the 70’s, they at least paraphrased the forties and pirates.  It is not that I dislike flowery things or girlishness I am, as I said, just bored of it.

Cupcakes are not the only cake.
I suppose what is irritating me is the sheer sticky vanillaish conservatism lying behind it all. Is it down to the recession? It is certainly recessive. It gives the feminist in me the heebeegeebees. I’m finding the overwhelming nostalgia irksome, I just like the look of things from the past and one reason is that the clothes often reflect, for me at least, fast changing, challenging worlds but it is not an aspirational thing. I like being in a fast moving, liberal, all sexual orientations all lifestyles modern kind of world. There is a sharp cold wind of conservatism out there and conservatism tends to be selfish and oppressive. The past got a lot of things right but I wouldn't want to live there!

Maybe I read too much into it but cozying up the 30’s and 40’s and 50’s and presenting them as a soft focus version of the past seems retrograde in the wrong way. I'm all for escapism but is there much difference between wrapping women up ‘vintage’ style and sticking us in short lycra mini skirts and painting us wag orange. It’s also yet again ageist, this style of vintage only suits the very young or the fecund, if you were middle aged you would be described as mutton dressed as lamb double quick.

I do like pastel colours, I do like flowers, blimey I even like little gloves and macaroons but with added sharp conversation, some gin, some sharp deco glass and a soupcon of sassiness. I admire Greta Garbo, Lauren Bacall, Chanel, Ida Lupino, Amelia Earheart and Lee Miller. I never remember seeing a picture of them in a pinny. 
I cannot think of a flowery dotty flowery cupcakey style icon as a comparison. If someone truly loves dressing like this I am not criticising them, I am worried by the motivations of the media in promoting just one entirely domestic, ultra-feminine housebound version of a passion with the past.  I think this is one of the reasons many assume that an interest in historic style equals right-wing conservatism, a rejection of modernism, reactionary beliefs and the evasion of real life through nostalgia.

What do you think? Do you agree or am I just a crankly old cow! xxx

28 comments:

Miss Rosie Beau said...

I agree! And also gah cupcakes! Would much prefer a good eve's pudding and that's decidedly more vintage.

Gemma said...

HEAR HEAR... Well said that Woman. "Ooo macaroons on a chintz tea plate, it's sooo vintage!" No it's an overpriced French merangue served on a hideous transfer print saucer from BHS that you've just paid £20 for.
Grrr
x

Gemma said...

... saying that, I do like macaroons, but out of a paper bag

LollyWillowes said...

I buy this magazine but have become increasingly fed up with it. Far too much of this guff and the smug showing off of homes and far too little of the antiques/collectors etc.
I too like these things in moderation...I do love a full blown rose....but my china is interspersed with my collection of witches, poison bottles and such like peculiarities. And my petticoats, while always of the aforementioned kind, are frequently accompanied by a lot of jewel coloured velvet. Hence my preference for winter, frost and snow.
I completely agree about the whole retro/vintage mistake thing, it drives me to frothing crossness!
I also hate the fact that something I have spent my whole life indulging in, in some form or another, has become fashionable, aaaargh!
There...rant over!

Mim said...

I actually find that sort of thing makes me feel excluded. It's incredibly middle class, and I'm a sweary guttersnipe. That sort of 'vintage' is not for me. It's probably not for an awful lot of chaps, either, thanks to the overwhelming twee girlishness.

There's nothing wrong with pretty, but vintage is so much more inclusive than this pink-and-white, middle-class pinny porn where everything is perfect, because you've bought all the pretty things that make your life perfect. There's no room for Clarice Cliff, Eames furniture, atomic prints or gaudy 20s art deco fabrics in that bleached-out world. No room for excitement. No room for panache.

Lena said...

I agree, I can't stand any of this chintz business either. Just out of interest though - where do you get your definition of what defines vintage from?
Lena
x

Arabella said...

I am a cranky old cow. I concur.

Btw - thank you for your review of Revival. I now have something to wear.

RedlegsinSoho said...

It's a general and really really well know accepted maxim: 100 years plus antique, 50 years plus vintage. Anything newer would be collectable. Retro is something apeing a thing from a previous period but not copying it like a reproduction. So if I sold you a 30 year old typewriter claiming it was vintage I would be misleading you. The goal posts have moved on vintage clothing very very recently and I think the only reason for it has been to hoodwink younger customers into paying more! otherwise I wouldn't mind.

RedlegsinSoho said...

So early sixties clothing is definitely now becoming vintage in every sense. xxx

Katrin said...

It´s not called vintage here, it´s called "shabby chic". Doesn´t make it better, but less confusing. The most ridiculous aspect of it to me isn´t that women of a certain, grown up age, build themselves a little sticky, cotton-candy-like doll house, but they run around and spend quite a lot of money on furniture that is new but looks like it was stored in my grandmas arbour for years because of the flaking paint.
I am indeed a fan of white furniture, but only because it´s a nice contrast to BRIGHT colours on walls and kitschy things. Mim made a good point when she called the whole trend a "bleached-out world".

Meghan said...

Hear hear. I felt ridiculous in florals when I was eight; I can only imagine what I'd feel like in them now. I am much less cupcake, much more gimlet when it comes to my vintage attractions...

Oh, and this sentence: "The 80’s were always better than the 70’s, they at least paraphrased the forties and pirates" made me snort with laughter and I'm considering embroidering it on a sampler.

LandGirl1980 said...

I don't like the brush tarnishing that goes on.

I style myself with a leaning towards the 40's - therefore I simply MUST love cupcakes with more sprinkles than you can shake a rose at - and burlesque.

I am not at all into the burlsque scene. I have nowt against it, but just because I occasionally don a victory roll (something I do less of now considering the mass marketing) does not mean I am into tit-tassles. I guess it's just the "general" view.

I am happy with where I am in my style. I could defend it to the enth degree and rage about it - but I just don't have the energy.

That'll be me, coming down from a sugar high on account of too many sprinkles.

Kally said...

This stuff makes my skin crawl slightly... while I may be a fan of cupcakes (which up until five years ago were most definitely always called fairy cakes and were half the size, the encroaching Americanisation of the UK continues) I really do hate all this faux-vintage shabby-chic tat.

My boyfriend's mother is a huge fan of it, but whereas she has a commendable collection of antique Victorian glass and porcelain in her nicely restored Victorian kitchen, accessorising it with modern Cath Kidston chintz tea rose vomit print bunting just makes it look cheap and contrived.

I think the main reason for my hatred of it is a class issue. The kind of people who buy into this image (and the only ones who can afford to buy into it) are Nigella-aping yummy mummies with their polka dot upcycled changing bags full of rash-inducing sustainable hemp nappies, spending their husbands' money on Boden tea dresses and trips to the organic independent brunch cafe with dear little Olivia and Alfie.

These are the kind of people who support small, traditional businesses or preserve lonely odd teacups because it's fashionable not because they care, and will just as soon abandon them when the next fad hits. They have rows of unused Jamie Oliver cookbooks on their worktops, and romanticise the working class because they've never been part of it.

Whereas some of this may stem from a slight jealousy that I don't have their disposable income, most of it is just a feeling of rage at their slapdash misappropriation of the things we all love about vintage, sanitised and expensively repackaged for a suburban elite who hold no real love for history and whose lifestlyle is all aspiration and no substance.

LollyWillowes said...

Me again..sorree!...Kally, I think you have absolutely smacked the nail most definitely on the head.
I don't like the contrivance either, none of it has grown from love or any of the quirky things that make those of us who care do it. My friend who adores old kitchen stuff because of the story behind it, the things made and the love involved, or even the sheer hard graft of those who used them. I feel like that about my old linen. I collect it because it's beautiful and as a sewer myself I can't bear the thought of all those hours of work being wasted.
The sort of people who buy a look in one lump will then discard it when bored and jump on some other bandwagon, after the prices have gone screaming through the roof for the rest of us of course. Even if I did have oodles of money I would still feel the same.
And I refuse on principle, to call buns/fairy cakes/queen cakes etc, cupcakes, growl!
I am a cranky old moo and I don't care.

LandGirl1980 said...

"Whereas some of this may stem from a slight jealousy that I don't have their disposable income, most of it is just a feeling of rage at their slapdash misappropriation of the things we all love about vintage, sanitised and expensively repackaged for a suburban elite who hold no real love for history and whose lifestlyle is all aspiration and no substance. "

Kally - this is what I wanted to say. Nail on the head!

Straight Talking Mama! said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly! I see many others do too. I can't express it as well as some of the others, but I see this side of 'vintage' as nothing to do with me at all, maybe that's why I don't even like the word vintage as it seems to relate to this crap!

And don't even get me started on cupcakes, what's wrong with a nice bit of old fashioned fruit cake eh?

Fanny Pinkleton said...

And....breathe!

I loved this rant. It inspired me so much I almost want to come out of blog hibernation to write a post about how much I hate the Kath Kidson brand....and style. But there is always the worry one might offend someone..somewhere.

Well done you, any way, for saying it like it well and truly is and not being afraid to sock it to those who have simply lost their heads and think frou frou vintage is hactual vintage.

Bless them though, it IS all the rage and at least it's brought tea and cakes back into vogue.

RedlegsinSoho said...

Thank you for all your comments! and yes I think we can be grateful for a renewal of interest in cakes, especially old fashioned ones. This whole thing will come and go and then it'll be just us again, with hopefully some new friends. xxx

Anonymous said...

I hate the way that 'vintage' has become commercialised and the latest 'trend' to buy into.

I've been doing the 'vintage' thing since the late 80s when it was known then as 'secondhand'. My friends and I wore 40s and 50s dresses because we liked them and they were cheap easy to find. later brought period furniture, books, crockery etc. for the same reason to furnish my home, which then fired up my interest in social history. Its this ethic that's stayed with me through my teens and into my 40s. And now for the first time in my life, it appears that I'm 'trendy', which sits uncomfortably with me. However, I know that I'll still be living this same lifestyle ten years from now, when there's a new style must have for the people who need to follow trends blindlessly to buy into.

E.O. said...

I agree with the problematic perceptions, or the attempt to create the perception. I'd suggest that it comes from a massive insecurity felt in the modern world by all - the past offers much stronger characters to compare our modern living against.

Similar thing has happened to a certain sort of man; the whole 'Chap' thing has had an interesting effect on the wearing of cords or tweed. Suddenly anyone dressed so is not just a slightly autumnal fellow wanting to keep warm; no, he must be some sort of deranged by-jingo "up the Khyber" brigadier with a flask of pink gin and a pith helmet in his bag, and Opinions on 'The Raj'. He must also have a nasal faux-Wooster accent/written language to go with it.

I wonder if the BBC could market that to the middle-classes to go with their feminine line ?

Water it down a little, and you basically get a 1950s Home-Office type - neatly pressed suit, huge unspoken prejudice against anyone living south of Dover, and a range of stripy ties.

Retro Model Sari said...

The funny thing about the shabby chic is that originally it was about beeing individual and owning individual pieces making yourself a comfortable and cosy home. However it has become mainstream now.

Iam in a community where people show their homes and while I liked shabby chic at first it gets boring to look at room after room in the same style. While I like some aspects of it others are beyound my understanding such as the use of unused broken doors or windows as decoration (what is the point?) or the mentioned use of word plates such as "Home" etc.

And some magazines photos look messy. Now I like messy, but it looks like actually you have no space to live there. Where do you put YOUR things among the broken doors, old windows, bunches of dried flowers and random but pointless things standing there with no use?

I like to visit some shabby chic blogs, but slowly I get tired cause of lack of variation. I have respect for some of them d.i.ying though!

RedlegsinSoho said...

E.O. sadly the same dullards who feel that any woman in a hat is a right wing baking obsessive set on the fifties makes similar assumptions about the Chap lot already. There is already a marketed version, have you not noted the hipsters in bow ties and waxed moustaches or the student trend for fake taches?
It'll die away and then hopefully you can wear your autumnal cords and the anarcho chaps can get on with wearing what the hell they like. I am always amazed by the number of people who just don't get it. Mind you I have no problem with silly accents, I have to live with the huge number of people affecting mockney, give me a what ho over a whappen bruv any day. x

Miss Turnstiles said...

I completely agree with this! I have no real desire to flounce around in a floral apron. There seems to be a desire to 'play the housewife.' Nostalgia can be dangerous, the great thing about vintage is that we are now in a position to appreciate the goods but not have the lifestyle.

Old said...

How I've only just found this I've no idea but - Completely agree!! Yawn! Love your blog btw x

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