Vintage clothing

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Vintage clothing shops, Dublin, Ireland

Vintage clothing is a generic term for garments originating from a previous era. The phrase is also used in connection with a retail outlet, e.g. in vintage clothing store. Today vintage dressing encompasses choosing accessories, mixing vintage garments with new, as well as creating an ensemble of various styles and periods.[1] Vintage clothes typically sell at low prices for high end named brands. It has been part of the world since World War I as an idea of reusing clothing because of the textile shortage.[2]

Vintage clothing can be found in cities at local boutiques or local charities, or on the internet (e.g. eBay and Etsy). Vintage clothing is also known as retro clothing.

1950s bridal vintage slip.


"Vintage" is a colloquialism commonly used to refer to all old styles of clothing. A generally accepted industry standard is that items made between 30 years ago and 100 years ago are considered "vintage" if they clearly reflect the styles and trends of the era they represent.

Items 100 years old or more are considered antique.

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 copy of an older garment.

Clothing produced more recently is usually called modern or contemporary fashion.


Deadstock refers to merchandise that was withdrawn from sale and warehoused without having been sold to a customer. This is due to the item no longer being in fashion or otherwise outdated or superseded. Such merchandise might once again be in demand and at such point can be returned to sale. Return to sale of fashion merchandise would make it vintage clothing. However, repurposing of deadstock in new products is one way to improve sustainability in the fashion industry.


In the United States, due to changes in clothing sizes, vintage sizes are often smaller than the corresponding contemporary size. For example, a garment from the 1970s labeled as Medium (M) might be similar in size to a 2010s Extra Small (XS). Vintage sewing patterns offer an option for those who want a historically accurate garment but cannot find one in their size.

Retail market[edit]

Vintage Edwardian-inspired fashion

Popular places to buy vintage clothing include charity-run second-hand clothing shops, thrift stores, consignment shops, garage sales, car boot sales, flea markets, antique markets, estate sales, auctions, vintage clothing shops and vintage fashion, textile or collectables fairs. With the rise of the digital world and social media. Vintage clothing is now available online through e-commerce websites; there are also Instagram pages that sell vintage clothes.

Typically in the United States, vintage clothing shops can be found clustered in college towns and artsy neighborhoods of cities. In contrast to thrift stores that sell both vintage and contemporary used clothing, vintage clothing shops are usually for-profit enterprises, with the market mixed between small chains and independent stores. These stores typically range from 200 to 5,000 square feet in size, and will usually have a fitting room. Vintage clothing stores may obtain clothing from individuals in exchange for cash or store credit.

The advent of the internet 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. Many vintage clothing shops with physical locations also sell their goods online.[1]


A girl wearing Victorian-inspired fashion.

Before the rise of industrial manufacture, construction of most articles of clothing required extensive hand labor. Clothing worn by farmers and laborers was more a matter of practicality than fashion. In order to maximize value, clothing was repaired when worn or damaged, sometimes with layers of patching. Used clothing, in reasonable condition, could be tailored for a new owner. When too tattered to repair, an article might have been taken down to scraps for use in a quilt or braided rag rug, or used as rags for cleaning or dusting.[2]

During World War I, the United States launched a conservation campaign, with slogans such as "Make economy fashionable lest it become obligatory". One result was an approximate 10% reduction in wartime trash production.[2]

The tides of popular fashion create demand for ongoing replacement of products with something that is new and fresh.[3] This is due in part to increased visibility, as vintage clothing was[when?] increasingly worn by top models and celebrities. Popularity of period pieces set in the mid 20th century in television and film have also contributed to vintage's popularity.

There was resurgent interest in environmental sustainability in terms of reusing, recycling and repairing rather than throwing things away. Sometimes vintage items are upcycled via changing the hemline or other features for a more contemporary look. Vintage items in poor condition are also salvaged for reuse as components in new garments. Throughout the world, used apparel is reclaimed and put to new uses.[3] The textile recycling industry is able to process over ninety percent of the waste without the production of any new hazardous waste or harmful by product.[3]

Historically based sub-cultural groups like rockabilly and swing dancing played a part in the increased interest in vintage clothes. In Finland the vintage scene resulted in a registered non-profit organization called Fintage, from common interest in the preservation of material culture and the environment.

Vintage inspired and vintage style[edit]

Fashion design, throughout history has turned to previous eras for inspiration. Vintage clothing retains and increases in value due to the fact that it is genuinely from a past era.[4] Vintage clothing allows the buyers to be their own designers because they can choose the different styles from second-hand clothing.[5] In addition, authentic garments are made one at a time, with enough attention to detail to create an item that has long lasting value. Garments closely resembling original vintage (retro or antique) clothing are mass-produced, for the most part, in China. An example of this is the simple slip dresses that emerged in the early 1990s, a style that resembles a 1930s design, but upon examination will show that it only superficially resembles the real thing. These styles are generally referred to as "vintage style", "vintage inspired" or "vintage reproductions". They serve as a convenient alternative to those who admire an old style but prefer a modern interpretation. People who wear vintage clothing look for designer brands and limited edition products to fit in the “vintage” category.[6] Sellers claim consumer advantage in that, unlike the original garments, they are usually available in a range of sizes and perhaps, colours and/or fabrics, and can be sold much cheaper.

See also[edit]


  • 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


  1. ^ a b Palmer, Alexandra (2004). "Vintage Whores and Vintage Virgins: Second Hand Fashion in the 21st Century". Old Clothes, New Looks. Dress, Body, Culture. doi:10.2752/9781847888815/OCNL0022. ISBN 978-1-84788-881-5.
  2. ^ a b c Claudio, Luz (2007). "Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry". Environmental Health Perspectives. 115 (9): A449–A454. doi:10.1289/ehp.115-a449. ISSN 0091-6765. PMC 1964887. PMID 17805407.
  3. ^ a b c Hawley, Jana M. (2006). "Textile Recycling: A Systems Perspective" (PDF). Woodhead Limited: 13.
  4. ^ "Die Goldenen Jahre – Eine Zeitreise mit Collectif Clothing" (in German). Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  5. ^ DeLong, Marilyn; Heinemann, Barbara; Reiley, Kathryn (2005). "Hooked on Vintage!". Fashion Theory. 9 (1): 23–42. doi:10.2752/136270405778051491. ISSN 1362-704X.
  6. ^ Veenstra, Aleit; Kuipers, Giselinde (2013). "It Is Not Old-Fashioned, It Is Vintage, Vintage Fashion and The Complexities of 21st Century Consumption Practices". Sociology Compass. 7 (5): 355–365. doi:10.1111/soc4.12033. ISSN 1751-9020.