Friday, 30 November 2012

Escapism from the contemporary...

Recently so called "vintage clothing" has become a large trend. But what does vintage mean? And why has wearing someone's second hand clothing become so trendy?
Well these have been questions that I have now been asking myself for a while and recently I was lucky enough to learn the answer in a lecture for my fashion history course. Because this had been puzzling me for such a long time I thought that maybe others out there felt the same way and therefore decided to share my notes in the form of this blogpost. 
Hopefully it will make more sense to you as well after reading this. 

First of all, what does the term vintage actually mean? Well according to my macbook pro, vintage was a term only used when referring to wine and only recently has begun to be used when talking about fashion and other items such as furniture.

urban outfitters dress by one and only collections. Vintage fabric was used to create this new dress. 
Vintage clothing was formerly known as second hand clothing and was something that only the working class would wear. In a time before ready-to-wear clothing existed and everything was tailored, clothing was a lot more expensive and had greater value. Therefore people would wear their clothing until it was literally falling apart. Once the original owner was done with them, they were sold at markets for second-hand clothing. 
During the World War II because of the rationing of raw materials it became hard to buy new clothing and therefore people had to learn to make-do and mend their old clothing. Children wore second hand clothes passed down to them by their siblings or family friends. To the generation that lived through this era second-hand clothing would naturally have a negative connotation.

However, in the 1950s and 60s wearing vintage army clothing became popular amongst youth- and sub-cultures. The mainstream culture did not follow this trend. The 1960s were also seen as the age of mass production (aka "The Golden Age") so buying new became affordable. Buying second-hand clothing was considered a sign of poverty. 

This is my vintage jewelry collection. Some pieces belonged to my grandmother and others were purchased at flea- markets. 
Nowadays the generation that lived through WWII is dying out and the youth culture of the 1960s is growing up and working and can therefore promote the selling of vintage clothing. 

left: ring my grandmother gave me   right: ring bought at the winchester vintage market

The four main reasons for the growing popularity of vintage clothes are : 

-the end of history

bracelet my grandmother found and gave to me. 
It appears that we want to consume an era that we did not experience first hand. It could be seen as escapism from the contemporary. 

The End of History
It has been said that we have reached the end of history and discovered and invented all there is. In terms of fashion it is hard to be innovative as many ideas have already been done. Therefore second hand clothing and putting a modern spin on the old trends can be fun and interesting. Vintage tends not to be historic copying. This means that one would not go out dressed fully in a 1950s outfit, but one may have a 1950s dress on and combine it with a 1920s handbag and modern jacket, for example.

After the attack on the twin towers on September 11th 2001, vintage culture expanded a great deal. This can especially be seen in interior design. Before 9/11 interiors were bright, simple, modern and with large open spaces. About two months after 9/11 (which is the time it would take for a magazine to plan,shoot and print) old fashioned interiors become more popular as they were more "cosy"making you feel more "safe", they were promoted in interior design magazines.

Nowadays one could say that you do not even have to buy designer clothes to be fashionable. It is possible to get a designer knock-offs on the high-street. One can spend very little money on an outfit but look as if it has cost a lot. This is why recently what one wears has become a reflection of one's connoisseurship. Cultural capital has become just as, or more significant than economic capital. Finding good deals on vintage clothing means that one has the time to search for these little boutiques in order to find these "treasures". And as we all know, nothing has changed, time=money=status. So having this time to "waste" would imply that one does not have to work all the time because one is wealthy 
enough as it is.

vintage crocodile leather bag purchased at the flea-market in Frankfurt.

There has been a lot of influences on the catwalk where designers rework vintage pieces. Often these vintage items are reworked because people have generally become bigger ( Eating all that McDonalds has taken it's toll...) and often it takes less time to rework an existing piece of clothing than create a new piece from scratch.
Interestingly enough only the youth culture's fashions have been revived (Yes, this means not everyone used to walk around in maxi hippie dresses...)
Vintage is generally for the middle class and accessible to everyone. This trend can also be seen in other markets such as the food industry i.e the growing popularity of ladurée that sells amazing, but overpriced, pastries and macaroons in old-fashioned shops (Also, interesting fact: Ladurée became really popular after Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette movie came out, in which she is eating macaroons, but FYI macaroons, the way we know them, did not exist until the beginning of the 20th century). Vintage style furniture has also grown in popularity recently. 

So there you go! Now, you too, know why vintage has become so popular recently and I reviewed my notes effectively! WIN WIN! 

And in the spirit of the revival of the old, I will leave you with some old vintage tunage:

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