Viva Vintage – Why Secondhand is Trumping The New

31 Oct

Hey, Skint pals. Sorry for the delay since my last post – I squeezed in a break. Well, much as I love the city we all need to see a few trees every now and then.  

Anyway, I returned to some disturbing news. As a long-time vintage lover I greeted the news this week that Tesco does vintage with the same horror I’ll be reserving for any Trick or Treaters who come to my door tonight without a costume. (What’s that all about? Gotta make an effort kids).

Now, looking at this dress (you’ll need to click on the link above) – and noting that you can order it in different sizes – I doubt very much that it’s vintage. Might just get my lawyers to question Tesco under the Trades Description Act – yep, that’d work.

Seeing this on sale got me thinking about just how popular vintage has become recently that even the big boys like Tesco are now using it to flog their wares. Only a few years ago vintage was considered a bit shabby, musty round the edges with the faint suspicion of fleas. Now? It’s hotter than couture, dahling. In fact, fashionistas are dubbing vintage ‘couture for the ordinary girl’, and that’s music to the skint girl’s ear.

Skint has always been a vintage fan. I remember hiding in Oxfam’s doorway aged fifteen, embarrassed to be seen buying secondhand by my pals (it took me another couple of years to get out and proud). I knew even then that if you want to look good on a budget, vintage is a far smarter way to go than discount high street chains where you buy a T-shirt for three quid to find it falls apart in the wash. In Skint’s book, getting the luxe look for less has always been about key pieces and  vintage.

Seeing that Tesco dress got me wondering, how did vintage get so darned popular? A decade ago you’d whisper the word ‘secondhand’ under your breath – now it gets you extra style points. How come?

Celebrity Style – Kate Moss; Chloe Sevigny; the one and only Dita von Teese, these three women have each played a massive role in making vintage cool again and taught us all a valuable lesson – if you want to make sure you’re the only one wearing your outfit at a party, you’ve gotta go vintage.

The Rise of Primark – I don’t think it’s a coincidence that vintage has risen in popularity just after Primark and cheap supermarket clothing boomed. Pile ’em high sell ’em cheap fashion means you’re bound to bump into someone wearing the same outfit; there’s only so many times you can stand that without looking for a cost-effective way to get clothes that no-one else has.

Recession Chic – Vintage has boomed since skint became a way life, and it’s no wonder. The cut, quality and details of most vintage garments can’t be matched today. Forty pounds will net you a fabulous fifties swing coat, fully lined with a velvet collar and shell buttons. What would the same money buy you new?  With less cash in our pockets vintage is at the forefront of the drive to live stylish for less.

Vintage is the New Green – Whether you call it vintage, secondhand or pre-loved, recycling and reusing clothes is way more sustainable than cheap garments that fall apart then fall into landfill. Customising and upcycling, whether clothing or furniture, are the darlings of the green movement.

Mad Men – Yep, our favourite fifties programme has got everyone rocking the sweater, kitten heel and circle skirt look. Queens of Vintage reports that vintage sales have rocketed since Christina Hendricks started rocking our world.

So, there’s little doubt in Skint’s mind that vintage trumps new every time. Still, I admit that I liked the thrill of vintage shopping more when it was just a little bit less popular – a bit like telling everyone about your favourite hotel then being sad when it gets booked out. And with major retailers like TopShop launching their own secondhand concessions, has vintage become as mainstream, as commodified, as the high street fashion it is supposedly an alternative to? Just saying.

If you want to read more about vintage here are some of the sites Skint likes:

Queens of Vintage – A daily update for vintage lovers, packed full of great case studies

Oxfam Vintage – Terrific online stores which allows you to shop by decade, size and price band.

My Vintage – Beautifully designed site featuring vintage clothing, homewares and accessories

In the next post I’ll share some tips on how to seek out the best vintage fashion your city has to offer. How do you track down vintage? Granny’s wardrobe? Jumble sales? What’s your best-ever vintage find? I’ll share mine next time.


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