So now I’m vintage too

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Vintage vendors are now raiding my old wardrobe…

80s jacketAs a dedicated buyer of vintage clothing, I must say it’s a bit of a wake-up call when the vast majority of the ‘vintage’ now on sale is from the 1980s.

How can it be? That was MY era. Wasn’t it yesterday?

Well, mmn, no, it wasn’t – what a sad truth that is.

When I first began seriously collecting vintage clothes at about the age of 11, it was 1974. At that time I was entranced by Victorian and Edwardian whites (I was a romantic sort of child), but I quickly moved on to the silks and velvets of the 1920s and 1930s. At this time, this was clothing that had been made about 40-50 years before I was born – when my grandparents were young – and that made it truly ‘vintage’. 

In my 20s, I collected fashion from the 30s and 40s. By the time I reached my 30s, I had expanded into collecting clothing from the 50s and very occasionally the early 60s – clothing made 10 years before I was born, or roughly contemporary with my birth. Still felt vintage enough for me.

I had a bug up my ass about the 1970s for a long time – growing up in a working-class family in this era, all I recall is the godawful crimpelenes and nylons, the flares of static that occurred every time you took your clothes off, the ghastly colours and prints. Now, I am just about able to accept that the 70s also produced some high-end clothing and may have had something to offer. So that is clothing from when I was a young girl.

But the 80s? How can this be? How can something that I wore in my heyday, be vintage?

This is not, of course, how the young see it. For them the 80s is a long time past. Looking at the 80s, and knowing nothing of the political turmoil of those days, all they see a delightfully kitsch era, characterised by rubbish music, mad hair, bling everywhere, and loads of colour. 

And of course it was like that – not that we noticed at the time. We never noticed the big hair and the poofy sleeves, the plethora of metallics and sequins, the zinging magentas, blues and purples – it was just the way things were, the ever-turning circle of fashion. When my friend Fergus had his bubble permed hair dyed in alternate locks of ash blond and golden blond, we thought nothing of it, nor of the fact that he tucked his baggy pants into his pixie boots – all 6 foot 4 of him. 

When the teenagers and 20-somethings of today wear 80s clothes, they are dressing up in their mums’ frocks, just as my friend Becky and I used to do with her mum’s 1950s rayon shirtwaists with their neat piping and collars and cuffs. But for kids now, 80s clothes are worn with a massive dose of irony. Words often attached these items when on sale are ‘trashy’, ‘bling’, ‘transvestite’, ‘kitsch’, ‘grunge’, ‘goth’, ‘rockabilly’.

They wear our clothes as a joke – it was a crap era and they know it. Is it a shame or not that we ourselves didn’t? 

Oh well. I only wish I’d hung on to more of it, frankly.  Now, I could spit. The Chesterfield jackets with football-player shoulders from Alexon and Planet; the Wallis coatdresses with contrasting collars and cuffs; the beaded bustiers and picture sweaters covered in scottie dogs and sheep. Five years ago, I couldn’t even give them away – sell them now and I’d be minted. 

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