Defining Vintage ~ Descriptions for Better Communication
- April 30, 2020
- The Glambassador
Recently, I’ve been noticing a common theme in discussions in a few of the vintage-style Facebook groups I’m in, regarding the definition of “Vintage” and other terms related to our community. It seems as though there is some confusion as to what constitutes a vintage garment, what “Retro” really means, and at what point is something considered “Antique”.
So at the risk of being the Pedantic Polly, I thought I would create a list of definitions that could be helpful. I believe that words are essential, and using the correct terminology, in general, is a virtue. I think you should say what you mean and mean what you say. But at times, it’s hard to know if what you are saying is actually correct.
Within our vintage community, it’s incredibly important to understand the correct terminology when you are searching for items on Etsy, eBay, Facebook groups, or Instagram. Using the wrong search words can take you down a road that might lead you to frustration and despair.
I think it’s also necessary when speaking to others in the vintage community, especially when you are asking questions or asking for recommendations on clothing or accessories. It’s far too easy to lump everything into a “vintage” category, but we really need to know these separate descriptors and give them each the respect they deserve.
Of course, this word is at the heart of our community, so I think it’s vital to understand what constitutes a vintage item.
Any item of clothing, furniture, or accessory that was made or produced more than 20 years ago is considered vintage. Yes, that means that clothing from the 1990s is considered vintage, whether we like it or not.
Additionally, I’ve heard it said that an item described as vintage should speak of the era in which it was produced. Meaning that the article should exhibit the best of a certain quality or qualities associated with or belonging to that specific era. It should be somewhat representational and recognizable as belonging to the period in which it was made.
**True Vintage – As the word/term vintage is used in many different ways to describe garments as well as a style, the term “true vintage” is often used to differentiate between an actual vintage item (one produced more than 20 years ago) and those of vintage-style, such as retro or repro.**
Any item of clothing, furniture, or accessory that was made or produced more than 100 years ago. This definition is indisputable, as it is written into many customs laws as the official definition of an antique article.
These are modern-made garments that have been produced from a vintage pattern or designed to replicate an authentic vintage garment. Close attention is paid to the cut, details, and silhouettes of these items to closely imitate what the garment might look like if made in the respective era.
The prefix “retro” as in retrograde or retroactive means backward in Latin. Using the term retro for clothing simply means that it’s a contemporary item that “looks back” at an era. The article itself was not made or produced in the by-gone era, and neither is it a modern reproduction, so it is not an authentic representation of a vintage garment. A retro garment is a modern piece that is simply a nod to an era.
I use this term to define my look in particular. This style tries to replicate the look that would be seen in the period you are going after. In general, this look takes cues from actual photographs or illustrations of people in the era you desire to emulate. Vintage items, as well as good reproduction items, can help achieve this look.
This is a modern fashion style, interpreting a caricature of women typically seen in paintings, drawings, and photographs made for a particular audience in the 1940s and 1950s. Pinup-style is a modern concept and one that is not considered to be an “authentic” look.
This style has its roots firmly set in the 1950s and has evolved over the years to comprise mostly of modern retro aspects with some vintage elements added in. Rockabilly style is distinct in its look with gals sporting Betty Paige style bangs, large barrel or victory rolls in their hair, cuffed jeans, high ponytails, and kitschy printed fabrics.
There are many other subgenres of vintage style, but these are some of the more popular and most searched for online. It can be frustrating at times when you are searching online for items in a particular style, and they are mislabeled. Still, hopefully, with time and diligent practice, we can all use the right terminology so that our discussions, searches, and general communications will be so much clearer and yield better results.
Zoe30th Apr 2020 - 9:56 am
Thank you for taking the time to write this. X
DJ7th May 2022 - 12:01 pm
I think your terms are spot on. This is how I’ve always thought of the terms. I don’t remember the blog, or the exact blog post, but I remember reading a Blogger who noticed that as some women wore clothing that is reflective of the late 40s to 50s that their willingness to wear period correct undergarments shifted as well. She noticed that individuals would start off with pantyhose, and then as they sought as authentic of a look any of us can manage, they transitioned to wearing open bottom girdles, steel boned girdles, stockings, fully fashioned stockings, and etc. It’s something that I’ve noticed more or less in my journey as well. I do think that much of the confusion comes in when so many of us are new to these styles and we haven’t explored enough of vintage and or clothing from specific time periods so we don’t always have the nuance to parse things and to spot key differences.