There is no denying the electrifying effects vintage clothing has had on the world of fashion. As the British fashion designer Bruce Oldfield once said: “Fashion is more usually a gentle progression of revisited ideas.” Ideas were taken from past looks as people subtly tweaked current trends because they admired what had come before. This nature of revisiting is how the underground scene of vintage dressing has become so popular today.
A Vintage Affair in Morgan Arcade, Cardiff, is one of the three boutiques in the city which specialises in vintage clothing. Here are some of the highlights:
Walking through Cardiff City Centre one may begin to question what decade we are actually living in. The streets have become a playground for the experimentation of styles. The winter weather has encouraged women to don vintage furs, while nightclubs act as a stage for women to dress in outfits which may once have been considered fancy dress. South Wales is living through a time in fashion where absolutely anything goes. By just looking at women’s street style in Cardiff it is clear a sub-culture exists for those who do not believe in religiously following current trends. If a woman sees something she likes from a different era she can wear it and stand out from the crowd: be it a 1926 classic Art Deco flapper dress, or a 1970’s wide legged trouser suit; it is socially acceptable to dress vintage.
This experimentation with past eras reflects the independent minds of today which wish to promote their individuality through every medium possible. A person’s style is not something which functions to be aesthetically pleasing. The sartorial discourse speaks volumes about an individual’s personality. Women want to be unique and dress in a way that is a true reflection of their character. Someone who prefers a demure style may have an affiliation with Christian Dior’s New Look of the 1950s, which focused on the feminine ideal women yearned for after the Second World War. Or, perhaps it is the culture behind the clothes and the overall ambience of a period in fashion, which draws a person in. This was the case for Julie Copper.
Julie opened her shop 18 months ago. Big Girls Blouse is located on Cryws Road, Cardiff.
Julie’s passion for vintage was evident throughout my time talking with her. She highlights how people’s affair with vintage fashion is deeply rooted in their desire to be unique. Or, like Julie, turning back to the past in order to find her style was a means of discovering something she identified with.
The queen of burlesque, Dita Von Teese:
“My look and my style is a combination of inspiration from many things, and from decades of my own personal evolution.”
With only three shops specialising in vintage fashion in Cardiff, it suggests the vintage scene has not fully blossomed in this city as much as it has in other areas of Britain. Nevertheless, it does have a growing presence here. Yet, the popularity of vintage begs the question: What will happen when it runs out? When vintage clothes can no longer be sourced? It is evident that as time goes on vintage has become harder to find. From talking to those in charge of the vintage boutiques in Cardiff, I have learnt that coming by genuine vintage from any time before the 1980s is actually very difficult. Finding pieces from the 1920s and 1930s is practically impossible. The idea that vintage will always be here holds no weight. By the middle of the 21st century, vintage retailers will be looking at clothes from 2010 and considering them of a reasonable age to be classed as vintage. Yet, the way they have been manufactured and produced threatens the foreseeable future for vintage because today’s clothes are not of a durable quality.
Melanie King, A Vintage Affair
I spoke to Melanie, the owner of A Vintage Affair. Her attraction to vintage is somewhat of a love affair, yet she is realistic about the climate of vintage and what she thinks of its future.
Melanie highlights the important issues surrounding the fate of vintage. Listening to an expert voice explaining the difficulties of sourcing vintage from decades ago, hints at the truth which lingers around vintage: it will run out. And how can clothes today be expected to age as vintage items, when they are simply not given the attention and care they were once made with, in order to last?
Melanie shows a few vintage items and discusses their quality.
The gritty reality as to why clothes on the high street have plummeted in quality is because the 21st century is dominated by materialistic, consumerist societies who want products quickly and cheaply. Clothes are no longer made to last like they were during the war years, for example, when textiles were rationed; clothes were made of a high quality which would last, as new dresses could not easily be bought, as is the case today.
Ben Downing has been the manager of Hobos Vintage Clothing for twenty years.
Ben talked to me about his experience in Vintage and what he thinks the future holds.
The problem is that vintage will run out; today clothes are made in a throw away fashion and as a result are short-lived. Of course there are some timeless pieces of outstanding quality, yet such products are not what the average person buys. The future of vintage is threatened, not just in South Wales, but worldwide. It is unlikely clothes will stop being produced using weak textiles of a low quality; therefore a stable climate for vintage is not being prepared. Perhaps by 2040 vintage will sadly be nothing more than a distant memory.