What is it? The definition of vintage clothing differs from one person to another. In general, for clothes to be considered vintage, they should be at least 20 years old. There are some features that make a piece of clothing to be labelled vintage. Some of these include;
- Quality – this is one of the most unique features used in categorizing clothes as being vintage. Manufacturers in the 70s believed in producing quality over quantity. This is not the case anymore. Clothes are being mass produced and this has a huge bearing on the quality.
- Uniqueness – one of the reasons vintage clothing is preferred is because they are rare. Chances of finding someone wearing the same type of clothes as you are close to none. That is why they are preferred by celebrities and people in positions of influence to enable them stand out from the crowd.
- The stories each clothing bears – each piece of vintage clothing has a unique story passed down from one generation to the next. Vintage collectors have a deep passion for telling unique stories about each piece of vintage clothing they
- Significance – the main motivation behind vintage clothes collectors is to stand out from a crowd. They are people who are fashion setters and considered fashion forward. It should be stylish enough to cause heads to turn when someone walks into a room or walking down the street
- Time frame – clothes that are considered vintage date back in the 1920s and early 1980s. Those that are earlier than that are considered antique. Some fashion lovers even dispute that clothes made after the 60s should be referred to as vintage.
- Value – the value of a piece of clothing is not measured necessarily on how much it sets you back. There are other many more factors that are used. Clothing made in the 1920s and 1930s will be more value because of its scarcity while clothes made in the 1980s will be more expensive than those made in the 40s and 50s. Clothes made by designers cost an arm and a leg. Clothes made by regional tailors also tend to attract a higher price because like designer clothes, they tend to be scarce.
- Misconceptions – for vintage clothing collectors, there is a thin line when defining high quality vintage items versus older clothes which are outdated in terms of appearance. Most vintage lovers do not mind wearing a piece of clothing that looks like they have been picked up from a garbage bin somewhere as long as they make a fashion statement. Acid- washed denims for example have made a comeback and are a preferred piece of vintage clothing by even the younger generation.
- Considerations – vintage clothing are suitable for those who love making a fashion statement by helping you stand out from the crowd. However for new vintage clothing collectors, there are some factors you need to keep in mind before embarking on your collection. One of the things I would recommend is for you to start with simple as you progress to more complex designs. You should also opt for clothes that are timeless. The second thing is to consider how the clothes are crafted. Go for those that are made from natural materials such as silk, wool and cotton. Keep out an eye for stained clothing because they will prove hard to clean. Another thing to consider is the fit. Do not buy a piece of clothing just because you love the way it looks. Try it on before purchasing.
History of Vintage Clothing
The origin of vintage clothing can be traced back to two incidents that occurred. One is Davy Crockett hat craze and a number of Bohemians who wanted to swathe themselves in old fur. We are going to look at events that shaped the origin and growth of vintage clothing.
In 1955, there was a popular television series “Davvy crocket: King of the wild frontier” followers of the shower, majority of whom were children especially boys wanted to have frontier caps which were worn by the actor Fess Parker. Departmental stores took advantage of the rise in demand to reuse far from unsold raccoon fur coats and added the coon tails that were found in frontier accessories. The coats where the fur would be got from had been made in the 1920s. The reason why Raccoon was the preferred material is because they were the cheapest and most readily available materials then. They were also a symbol of consumer luxury. The coats were mainly worn by college men from Ivy League although you could spot some daring girls styling the look. They were a preference for the growing black middle class. They were a symbol of wealth.
Coonskin automobile coats gained popularity becoming a preferred piece of clothing when one wanted to attend a football game. It was not only rocked by football lovers only but football players as well. Red Grange and Rudolph Valentino are some of the stars who helped promote the popularity of the coats. Following the stock market crash in the 1930s, the coats lost their value and were only left lying in the departmental stores with no one to purchase.
Raccoon coats gained momentum at a dinner party hosted by Stanley and Sue Salzman in the Greenwich Village apartment. The village was for a long time dominated by the Bohemians. All this changed in the 50s when rent rose forcing artists and hipsters to move to the more affordable Lower East side leaving the village to be occupied by those who were wealthy like the Salzmans.
During the dinner, Sue Salzmans openly talked about how she had walked into a junk shop and spotted a raccoon coat but lost it to another buyer. One of the guests at the party, Gene Futterman who was a former architecture student of Stanley Salzman hinted about the availability of another raccoon coat. He also talked about the availability of a pile of coats, a 20 year old supply from the 1920s.
Some of the material from the coats was used to make Davvy Crockett caps while most of the supply remained stored away as Salzman and one of his neighbors wondered how they would use the many coats. Although many coats were being chopped off to make the Davvy Crockett hats, a great number still remained. Sue got the chance to rock her fashion statement following the party and also helped to publicize the coats.
The initial aim of Sue was not to sell the coats but rather make a fashion statement by wearing them. Soon people started noticing how fashion forward she was and they began to ask around where they could purchase them and that is how they got into the business. They not only sold the first bunch they had acquired, they went canvassing wherever they could get the coats. By 1957 they had managed to sell over 400 coats. They became a huge sensation and could be spotted being worn by celebrities which further helped increase their popularity. The Salzmans publicized the coats by stating that in one coat they had found a revolver and a mask and in another a list of speakeasies.
In June something big happened. Glamour magazine published an ad about the coats and stated the Salzmans as the main suppliers. These lead to an increase in orders the couple received some from departmental stores including Lord and Taylor. Following the purchase, Lord and Taylor went ahead to put out an ad about the coats titled “vintage raccoon coats” in a promised “state of magnificent disrepair.” College students became popular with college students who helped in promoting sales of the coats. Departmental stores were cashing in from this increased demand and soon some including Macy’s, Peck’s and I. Magnin exhausted their supply. They contacted the Salmans in order to replenish their stock.
The coats soon lost their popularity. This was mainly fueled by the rise in popularity of its main competitor- the Davvy Crockett caps. This meant coats were being cut at a higher rate to keep up with the increased demand of the caps. What followed after that is a surge and craze about of new raccoon accessories but this did not have the same effect as the former.
It can be said without any fear of contradiction that the real raccoon coats were those from the 1920s. They were a real representation of that era and appealed to a vast majority of groups including car enthusiasts, magazine editors and fashion models. They were a symbol of wealth.
The use of the word vintage before the 1950s, which was derived from wine was used when giving reference to old but stylish automobiles and furniture. What followed after this is vintage clothing which came about as a result of elective politics which was meant to create backward-looking and distinctive fashion. What was meant to cause differences in people ended up bringing revolution in the world of fashion. Vintage clothing has become a popular trend among people of different social standing. It keeps making a comeback and it is something that is going to be with us for generations to come.
Examples of vintage clothing
- Business suits – the long suits that people were used to seeing were replaced by shorter suits.
2. All-purpose suits – before the 1920s there were different suits to be worn for the different occasions. However all this changed in the middle of the 1920s when men were allowed to wear colorful suits and from then were able to transition from work to an evening wear.
3. Casual wear – golf jackets, cropped pants, and knickers all gained traction in the 20s.
4. Shoes – lace up shoes were the preferred type of shoes to complement a formal. Saddle Oxfords became popular during this period.
5. Formal wear – tailcoats were the most popular type of suits. However in the 20s tuxedos began gaining popularity.