Vintage or Retro? How to Be On-Trend
Bill Maher, Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake. Stars young and old are adopting a new sense of style that harkens back to the 60’s.
With the changing of each season comes a bevy of style trends. They line the racks of department stores and fill the display windows of the savviest shopping districts. You can see them on runways, in magazines, and on the streets of every town and city across the country. But when a trend passes, fashionistas are left with closets full of newly out-dated looks that may or may not ever come back onto the scene.
But one trend that never goes out of style is vintage or retro fashion. These looks harken to eras gone by, and they are perennial favorites that can accent a current trend or stand alone in all of their inspired glory. When selecting vintage or retro clothing, it is important, first, to understand the differences between the two genres. Then you will have the tools you need to fill your wardrobe with special and unique pieces with a lot of history.
Vintage fashion includes authentic clothing from earlier decades that is back in style. These pieces can be new (never worn during their original time) or second-hand. Vintage clothing that has never been worn is typically considered more valuable, and it often comes from old warehouse stock. Second-hand vintage clothing has been worn and usually has a more accessible price point. The key to vintage clothing exists in its authenticity. While it may have new repairs — restored seams, replaced buttons, or inconspicuous patches, for example– it is a garment manufactured in the past. This gives vintage clothing its fashion power; it contains all of the history of its design and creation in every fiber of the fabric.
Speaking of which, vintage fashion often features fabrics that are ubiquitous to their time. For example, the 1970s are synonymous with polyester, and vintage clothing from that popular era will almost universally be crafted from it. An important element to keep in mind is that the quality of some vintage fabrics may have degraded over the years; lace from the 1940s is likely to have some weaknesses, for example. Another important consideration to make when purchasing vintage clothing is the fit. Sizing in bygone eras differed significantly from sizing today. Vintage clothing is typically made smaller than an equivalent size on the market today. A medium from the 1950s will fit more like a small or extra small by today’s standards. Larger sizes such as extra large or larger are rare in vintage fashion, so vintage patterns might be an option for those who need larger sizes than are typically available in vintage stores.
Popular vintage clothing styles include 50s dresses with voluminous skirts and narrow waists and skinny ties paired with body-conscious blazers. Also in vogue today are styles reflected in television shows like Mad Men (which has also inspired the skinny ties revival) and Downton Abbey, which are igniting the search for vintage 1960s and 1920s fashions respectively.
Retro fashion is fashion inspired by the past but manufactured today. These fashions recall an earlier era and reference an older style, but they have the benefit of modern construction and modern fabrics. Easy access to retro clothing may have drawbacks for those who wish to own authentic pieces of the past, but retro clothing has benefits too. Because they have been crafted today, retro clothing designs reflect today’s sizing and are made in large quantities. This can make it easier for fashionistas to find exactly what they want in the size they need.
Another benefit of retro clothing is that it is produced in today’s modern fabrics. This may make retro clothing more comfortable. Fabrics can include lycra for better movement or be made from environmentally-friendly fabrics.
Inspiration from the past is at the heart of retro clothing, but today’s designers often find ways to combine modern style with the designs of the past. For example, skinny ties are being incorporated into clothing for both men and women, independent of accompanying 1950s-inspired pieces. Other retro trends include lace details reminiscent of the past but crafted from more resilient fabrics of today.