With the rise of e-commerce stores, Etsy, and EBay, there have been more and more vintage shops and sellers popping up on all platforms to peddle their wares. Not all shops are created equally, as there are many categories and niches among the broad tag “vintage”. Google the term “vintage clothing” and you’ll see results come up with mostly reproduction, or loosely inspired vintage clothing shops, which stack the first few pages of returned sites. Browse the vintage section of Etsy and you’ll find items from antiques to late 90’s graphic tees (Etsy deems any item 20 years or older to be vintage). Vintage is a broad term, so it’s time to get specific.
You may see the term “True Vintage” popping up on your Instagram or in tagged photos of your favorite vintage-wearing muse. This phrase is being used to categorize authentic clothing and accessories pre-1965 (arguably 1960, but generally the pre-polyester explosion era). Just search the term #vintage on Instagram, you’ll see why there’s a need for more descriptive terminology for an era of such great silhouettes and fine attention to detail. Some true vintage collectors say the shape and make of the clothing is more flattering, as opposed to today’s fashion, which is over-exposing in a cheap and tacky way. Fair enough.
Most of the fabrics and details of true vintage garments are notably high-quality even though they are 60+ years old and often hand-made. Garments can frequently be found with mends or small repairs, as times of war and economic instability lead to a generation of frugal, and handy people who fixed their belongings rather than replaced them. Many collectors know to expect small flaws and even find them charming. Fast fashion, mass manufacturing, and outsourcing later changed the way people bought, wore, and discarded clothes.
In a nutshell, true vintage is authentic clothing from the first half of the 20th century or before, including antique garments. Women (and men too!) are gaining a huge appreciation for fashion history by loving and wearing clothes from previous generations. Keep your eyes out for true vintage focused shops and sellers, as they can be tucked away, like hidden gems in the vast internet desert. Find boutiques, fashion bloggers, and Instagram fashionistas who style in early vintage by looking through the True Vintage tags on social media. Google still has some catching up to do.