Monday, 21 June 2010

So exactly what is vintage?

Shop front of Rokit, neither of those frocks are vintage..

Recently in Time Out there have been several articles about ‘shopping for vintage’, I notice that the shops mentioned are invariably in East London and run by the very young. In addition to these there are the established big name ‘vintage’ or ‘retro’ stores such as Rellik or Rokit. I have been to these and a selection of other similar boutiques only to emerge in high dudgeon. The bearded one must by now be sick of me muttering ‘vintage, my arse’ in exasperation.

This is because generally speaking these shops are full of tacky late 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and even 90’s clothing. with just the occasional (over-priced) real piece. Is this vintage? My personal cut off date is the 1950’s, any later and if of good quality or designer origins it is 'collectable'. If poor quality: jumble. There is no suggestion here that clothes from the 70’s or 80’s shouldn’t be sold and worn proudly. From the point of individuality alone there is a greater chance that you won’t be wearing the same Primark blouse as everyone else. Ecologically it makes sense to recycle and re-use. What is out of order is steaming a C&A dress, labelling it as ‘vintage’ and then being able to sell it on for £30.00 and upwards. Well if someone is idiotic enough to buy it, business wise it is fine and dandy. But ‘vintage’? purrleaase! I’m becoming very annoyed by hearing “oh, there is a new vintage clothes shop at so and so corner” only to find it is full manky jumble and staffed by vacant eyed sticks with slack jaws. Vintage inspired, retro or second-hand fine but not vintage. You don’t call a 1980’s Ford Escort a vintage car, you don’t call a poster of Bros a vintage print so why do womens clothes get given the appendage so easily? Perhaps it is because we are mugs, more likely to fall for emperors new clothes inspired sales schtick in the same way we will buy ‘diet water’ or expensive wrinkle creams made of bug placentas.

To be honest most real vintage is hard to wear, it is expensive, too expensive and I lay responsibility for this at the steps of the gullible too. I wear mostly at reproduction clothing and am far from slavish to any era. Those who follow retro-dressing to extremes but combine this enthusiasm with looking down on your High Street facsimiles (and we have all met them) I find amusing. But vintage is vintage, it is old, it is from the era it represented. Surely the history you can hold in your hands and wear upon your body is the point of vintage or antique clothing. That flapper frock with the mysterious green stains, the Bakelite buttons on your 1930’s jacket, the tea dress that survived the blitz and the outrageousness of that massive bundle of fabric and net otherwise know in the fifties as a circle skirt. There is a romance to these objects that is almost entirely conferred by the patina of time passing. That is what draws me to vintage originals.

By all means combine you skinny jeans with a shiny ironic late 80’s blouse from Etam, but please don’t describe it as vintage. It needs another 30 years or so to mature ….

Buying vintage in London:

I find that Lynette who has a small shop of Camden Passage in otherwise rubbish Islington is very good for vintage hats and rayon dresses. Black Out in Endell Street is great for Lucite bags. The Flyover end of Ladbroke Grove has some good stalls at the weekend selling gent’s suits. Old Hat in Fulham is one of a small selection of near neighbouring shops with high-end retro and vintage clothing. The Hammersmith and Fulham vintage fairs are good, especially for textiles and I have found the odd good thing in the Frock Me fair held in Chelsea. Crystal Palace has Londons best flea/junk market at Haynes Lane. Best Charity shop buys in Walworth Road, Muswell Hill and West Hampstead. South London car boot sales are better than those in the North for collectables. Otherwise I tend to save my shopping for trips out of London, the Isle of Man was great for 50’s handbags. Vintage to Vogue in Bath is my favourite non-London vintage shop.


Unknown said...

I completely agree. And, have you seen the shocking state of knackered old Dolcis type shoes that these 'new' East End vintage stores sell for plenty ££s....uggh! I think we rail against things being terms vintage as when we started wearing 'vintage' in the 1980s, it actually was bona fide '40's, '50s and '60's vintage. The young kids who open stores these days, slap on exhorbitant prices to stuff that's frankly just rubbish. This is also true of Portobello these days, unfortunately. It seems colelcting real vintage turning into a pricey affair. On the upside, however...*rubs hands with glee at the combined value of real vintage wardrobe with names such as Ossie Clark, Jean Varon etc*

RedlegsinSoho said...

I am soooo jealous. I have one vintage designer dress, just one!

Sue George said...

Excellent post. I have a few pieces of real vintage, most bought many years ago when they were much much cheaper.
I have an amazing white 30s beaded evening dress and jacket with mystery stains - and it has always made it romantic for me. Likewise a pair of gold evening shoes of the same era - whoever wore them must have had a wonderful time dancing. The first I bought years ago in Antiquarius for about £30, the second on ebay for the same - which I think is a good place for proper vintage. Anything "real vintage" I now wear once a year at the most - many of my mother's beautiful clothes from the 40s and 50s that I wore in the 70s and 80s are pretty much threadbare now, unfortunately.
I don't think it's just age that makes me feel vintage ends in the early 60s, like you I have to laugh when I see the total shite on sale as vintage. Jumble indeed, stuff that I wouldn't have looked at twice at the time. Apart from anything else, the fabric and finish was so terrible. I mean Crimplene!!
But, like Katie Chutzpah, I would really love some original Ossie Clark. Gorgeous styles and fabrics.

RedlegsinSoho said...

You always look lovely in your vintage stuff, I especially love your fluffy white hat!
Katie Chutzpah actually has that real vintage wardrobe, perhaps we should resort to cat burglary!
Minn x

Ms H said...

Thank you for this Minna. It is a terrible struggle and annoying that vintage is just so expensive these days and artificially overpriced 'because it is old'. Bargains are not easy to find. The East End is the perfect example of this.

I invariably revert to ebay as the shops are just laughable. Lincoln has a few nice vintage shops now, but are generally overpriced for the earlier vintage pieces that I spot. Funny really considering the antiques mall up the hill is so amazingly reasonable. I try to make whatever I can, because I so often cannot fill the gaps I need to in the shops and on a student budget. I guess I need to land that top job when I finish my education - but I think I shall always be shopping on a budget. x

Tallulah May Vintage Socialite. said...

I agree, agree, agree most of what it being sold as vintage is no more vintage than what is for sale in most charity shop, and is over priced rubbish.
I am more vintage than most of the cloths in these so called vintage shops.
As you say attempted to find bona fide 40's or 50's orginal clothing is like find a needle in a haystack.
I am so glad that I start wearing / buying 40's /50' cloths before it all became trendy and unvintage.

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