Vintage. What is it, and how do you know if an item is really vintage or just second hand? Well, first you have to distinguish wether you are talking, cars, furntiure, wine etc? In furniture, for example, an item is not considered "vintage" unless it is 50 years old. I just feel I should point out right away that this guide is about specifically clothing and accessories only. I don't know enough about furniture, next to nothing about cars and I can sum up what I know about wine in one word: Merlot.
In general, an item of clothing is usually considered vintage at about the 20 year mark. I like to use the 'skip a decade' rule of thumb. For example we are in the '00's or should I say, the "naughties", so anything from last decade, i.e. the nineties, is not vintage or cool, yet. Just like in the nineties, anything from the 80's was to be avoided like the plague and anything 70's was HOT. And did you know that in the 70's, there was a big 50's revival? Think back to shows like "Happy Days" and movies such as "Grease". They were all made in the 70's.
Thus we have the what I like to call the "ferris wheel of fashion". (Yes, another idom, don't worry, I have a million of 'em.) I could probably write a thesis about why this is, but apart from the fact that I'm lazy, I'm also pretty sure someone else already has. Those of you who'd like to explore this idea further should check out a book called 'Subculture: the meaning of style' by Dick Hebdige. Suffice it to say that if you stick to my rule of thumb, you are on the right track to on your path to 'Vintage Heaven'.
However, thinking about this theory of mine, I asked a friend who has a very popular vintage and retro store in the uber-cool suburb of Surry Hills, what he considered to be 'hot right now' in vintage. What was flying out the door, I asked him. I should perhaps point out that this friend also happens to be my ex-business partner and ex-husband. We ran a recycled clothing store in the ninties together. And made quite a lot of money out of flares until the market... I'm sorry, I have to say it, 'bell-bottomed' out and we went our seperate ways.
He told me that he couldn't say exactly. He said the market now seems to be very 'eclectic' and that pretty much anything goes as long as it's authentic, original or special. Whether it be 50's, 60's 70's or 80's. He said people seem to more into creating their own look, then following a set style. I asked him about ninties stuff and he said, nup. Not cool. Too recent.
Interesting. So, my 'skip a decade' rule is still working, but now it's anything as long as it's from the decade before the most recent one to the one you're in. Get it? Good.
However, in my mind, vintage is not just about time. Not everything old is valuable. A true vintage piece has what I like to call, (get ready for another idiom...) an 'aura of time & place'. It should evoke something of the period from which it was created. But, it also has to be wearable now. That is where condition comes into place. Bad repairs, stains and crude alterations detract from a vintage item's true quality, and there-for it's value. Just because something is old, doesn't mean it should look worn out!
Things to check for when buying vintage. Rusty zippers, underarm stains, missing buttons (easily fixed though), strain around seams from pressure probably caused by the original owner wearing the item well passed the the appropriate time, frayed hems and trims coming off. For accessories, such as bags always check the inside of the bag. The worst offender is ink stains from leaking pens. The bottom of the bag, hinges closures, missing chains ect. Sunglasses, check for scratches on the lense. Don't just give them a quick clean, put them on. Some times scratchs are not visible until you put them on. For jeans, always check the crotch.
The label. The first give away if you are not sure whether an item is the real thing, or just a retro copy is the label. Most vintage labels are sewn not printed, and you can usually tell by the font and typesetting that the item is from another time. Another tip, is to check the sizing. See the next paragraph for more details.
Sizing. In Australia, sizes such as 8,10, 12 etc were not used until the early seventies. Before that the sizes were W-women's size average. (Usually a 14) XW=12, XSW=10, and XSSW was a size 8. So if you find an item with this type of sizing then you are in the possesion of a pre-seventies vintage item.
I hope you have found this guide slightly informative. If you have any questions or feedback, something I've missed. Please email me. And, don't forget to visit my ebay store: Vintage Heaven Outlet Online Store for lots of examples of vintage pieces.