Hannah Chima explores the reasons behind the vintage clothing craze.
Fashion trends seem to change as quickly as the British weather. Autumn/Winter’s collections are quickly succeeded by Spring/Summer’s fashion lines; the next highly anticipated season is welcomed before we’ve even had a chance to purchase some of last season’s trends. It is puzzling that styles come back around when they hardly hang around long enough when introduced in the first place. However, there is something comforting, a nostalgic feeling, that we feel when we resort to similar clothing we have worn before.
Henrik Vejlgaard, trend forecaster and author of Anatomy of a Trend, stated in 2007 that “a fashion trend lasts two to five years”. I’m no expert, but even I can see that within the two to five years that Vejlgaard refers to, styles will come in and out of popularity. This is arguably different from what we have seen in the past. Think of the 1970s: an era dominated by flares; or the severe lycra-overload throughout the 80s. Now we’re seeing much faster fashion cycles — simultaneously some people are still going back to the trends that have been around before!
Fashion must follow the seasons. There is a limit to the items and designs that we can wear. So, aren’t the same trends bound to come back around at some point? After all, there must have been a reason why they were popular in the first place. Writer for StyleFlair Fashion, Bethany Mayfield, believes that “shoulder pads haven’t made a comeback, but it seems as though nearly everything else has! …the real reason is that designers look to the past and see what worked and what didn’t.”
This sheds light on the way that designers take popular items and tweak them, so they are able to stick with consumer habits but keep making new clothes so customers continue visiting their stores. There must be something drawing people to vintage clothes, something to take them away from sticking to the fast-paced changes of this decade’s fashion — it seems there are many explanations.
The vintage clothes market is booming. Despite rapidly changing fashion trends, market researchers IBISWorld have valued the second-hand clothing market in the UK at £658.7m for 2016/17. This is also due to clear growth in the number of old-fashioned clothing fairs, which are increasingly popular with teenagers and students looking for fashionable clothing on a budget.
Many factors may encourage people to shop retro: uniqueness, a desire for nostalgia, or the excitement of hunting through the rails to find that one perfect item. A clear incentive has to be the attraction of a cheap steal. Berger, a company that runs vintage fairs (for example at universities) pointed out that people are still feeling the effects of the financial crash. But people from very different socioeconomic backgrounds buy vintage clothing nowadays — therefore, the reason behind this craze must go beyond economic motivation.
So, what is the real reason people are embarking on this fashion-trip back in time? First, by going back to old-style clothing, the quality is often better. People are always complaining about the poor quality of clothes these days, so a good way to solve this is to buy vintage; the clothes have already proven their longevity by still being around for us to buy them! Quite often, the retro clothes are replicated in high-street stores as the trend comes back into fashion.
For example, ‘mom’ jeans, first popular in the 1980s and now back in fashion in high-street stores; by shopping in vintage stores, you might find better quality clothing, at a cheaper price. Moreover, old-fashioned clothing shops stock the ‘classics’: trench coats are weather-appropriate and stylish, likewise, black ankle boots are versatile and practical. The choice is yours, but you’d be foolish to deny the opportunity to get the same item for less.
If you’re wanting to shop vintage for a unique style, you’d better be good at finding obscure items. Everyone looks the same nowadays, as far as I’m concerned: hardly anyone has an ‘original look’. Retro clothing is closer to offering individuality. In buying such clothes, although there is no guarantee, you’re much less likely to be caught wearing the same jacket as everyone else than if you’d have bought one from Topman or Topshop.
That said, the more this type of clothing becomes popular, the less unique it is. One of this year’s it-girls, Bella Hadid, was pictured wearing a retro velour tracksuit in March, last year. Whether there is a correlation or not, there has certainly been a comeback of these two-piece tracksuits over the past year. If you’re wanting to shop vintage for a unique style, you’d better be good at finding obscure items.
The increased popularity of old films has also inspired this return to past fashion. Take The Breakfast Club (1985), or Clueless (1995): both classics. People are turning to old films: they’re well made, a change from the remakes and profit-driven filmmaking we have become used to. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but I’ve certainly seen a return to Clueless-esque fashion recently: Spring/Summer 2018 is seeing the return of check and cycling shorts, worn by Alicia Silverstone in the film and both very big sellers in the 90s.
We turn to vintage because it’s cheap, unique and it surrounds us in daily life. Now we have entered an age where everyone shops online: the death of the high-street shop is upon us. Although you can buy old-fashioned clothing online, it is much more of an experience in store. People enjoy the nostalgic sensation of visiting a big store and having to rifle through piles of old clothing, it’s almost a challenge!
In an online blog on Psychology Today, Jennifer Baumgartner argues that “vintage pieces become the embodiment of the bygone era”. We live in a materialistic world. Therefore another benefit of shopping retro is that it is sustainable— it’s mad to think that people replace clothes merely because their ‘old’ ones are last-season.
Vintage clothing is evidently popular at the moment; so, what is making a comeback this year? This season certainly incorporates many old trends. Elle magazine said this season would bring “a sense of feel-good nostalgia”, with the return of the 80s party girl. For both men and women, some of the big themes will be pastels, cargo denim and the grunge look. The 90s will also be making an appearance as Burberry-check is set to return, along with cycling shorts — although I can’t say that I am a massive fan of these outside of the cycling context…
So where can we get our hands on these vintage stocks? Whilst there’s no need to state where you can buy the new clothes which are based on the return of old styles, if you want the authentic vintage items, London is full of places to explore to go find them.
Old Spitalfields Market in the East End is sure to provide the goods. Just five minutes walk from Liverpool Street Station, the market hosts over 30 independent traders — if you’re looking for clothes, Friday is the best day to go. Also found in East London, the quirky Brick Lane Market provides vintage and handmade clothing, open Thursday to Sunday. Tourist’s favourite Camden Market boasts many unique and old-fashioned stores amongst the food stores: the market is on everyday. Last but not least, Portobello Market, in popular Notting Hill, offers a wealth of vintage clothing. The main market days are Friday and Saturday.
Some people are on the beat and can’t bear the thought of not wearing the most recent season’s fashions. Of course it’s expensive, but you can be confident that you’re looking good. However, with the return of vintage style, you might (with a bit of searching) be able to find equally fashionable clothes at a fraction of the price!