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Vintage, what does it mean?

It’s high time we re-examine the idea of vintage. What does this mean? Is it just a label we slap onto old clothing that people find at the thrift store? An old ornamental dress? Costume jewelry? I bring this up because I was watching a Tik Tok earlier that displayed a lady trying on her mother’s early 2000’s dresses and referred to one of them as vintage. Although these dresses were definitely not “old” by many definitions of the words, it made me think: what makes an article of clothing vintage? Are we mis-using this label? Does it even really matter? Just because an item is “old” doesn’t necessarily mean its vintage. According to google, it says that any piece of clothing between 20-100 years old can be considered vintage. However, any item older than 100 years old is considered an antique! 

During quarantine I stopped into a store in Logan Square, Chicago titled Festive Collective. It’s a magical store that sells stationary, little trinkets, polymer-clay earrings and so many other whimsical little things that are unnecessary but feel quite nice to buy. However, when I walked in I was shocked yet very grateful to see racks of “vintage” clothes. The most notable item on these racks were the Laura Ashley dresses, as told to me by the sales associate. Apparently these dresses were relics of the 90’s and we’re coming back into style today. It reminded me a lot of the Gunne Sax resurgence. Nonetheless, as I perused the racks for a dress that caught my eye I was struck by a purple, blue, floral, Laura Ashley dress. It was labeled as “vintage”. Now, by Google’s definition, these dresses were technically vintage. 

BUT my connotative definition of vintage is usually not something that was made in the 90’s, right? Like, when I’m thinking of vintage I’m thinking of Grandma’s old dress from the 60’s. Perhaps a brown, orange and white color scheme or something with too many sequins. NOT an old navy dress from the 2000’s. Now, this isn’t an issue that is novel to me, apparently there’s lots of controversy on Depop about labeling something as vintage. Maybe it’s just a whole lot of gatekeeping hooplah, but why does everyone have different definitions of what vintage is? What is this madness? 

There’s a little shop in Niles, Illinois that I often frequent with my Mother. It’s called Juju’s Vintage Resale Shoppe. By the way, this is maybe my favorite store in the entire world and absolutely deserves all the hype ever. You can find literally anything you ever need there whether it’s a vintage jewelry set, a vintage dress or anything vintage that you need. However, are the items within this shop labeled vintage simply because it’s a vintage shop? Are there other ways to label things that are vintage? Does that question even make sense? I’ve bought a couple items of clothing from there that definitely qualify as vintage. I have the most dreamy orange and brown skirt that goes down to my toes that definitely was made no later than the 1960’s, so that definitely qualifies as vintage. BUT! Would that shoppe not be an “actual” vintage shop if not everything was at least 20 years old in there? 

Now, perhaps I’m beating a dead horse here, but maybe we shouldn’t criticize people from calling something vintage. Although, maybe we as people have just moved from the actual definition of vintage to more of a morphed definition meaning “cool” or “trendy.” However, maybe this takes away from the merit of the article I just wrote, but maybe vintage has many definitions! And they’re all valid.