Over the last five years, ‘vintage’ has gradually entered the public consciousness and therefore also the world of marketing. You can hardly enter a supermarket without being bombarded by ‘heritage brands’, ‘retro specials’ and ‘vintage editions’. When even a washing up liquid brand labels itself as ‘vintage’ – has the term become just another marketing spiel?

I find it hard to admit it, but to be totally honest, I’m over vintage. Not that I love classic designs any less, not that I suddenly intend to buy all my clothes in Primark, not that I’ll ever stop being interested in the past. But I am so over chintzy spreads in home deco magazines showing you how to vintage up your home with bunting and a Union Jack cushion. And I cannot bear yet another event that calls itself vintage just because it sells cupcakes and serves gin in tea cups.

It can all sod off. Don’t get me wrong, I am well aware that vintage isn’t a recent concept by any means (Victorian and Art Deco clothes were all the rage in the Sixties), but the relentless commodification of it in recent years does strike me as something new. I don’t mind the general trend towards heritage per se. It makes sense during a recession or slow growth period, when people are more reluctant to spend, to turn to classic designs and investment pieces, and on a positive note, vintage being ‘trendy’ has resulted in some great reproduction collections and re-releases of past designs.

But it has also spurned a seemingly endless array of mass-produced tat, over-priced designer collections and a general tendency to cash in on vintage’s popularity by slapping a ‘vintage’ sticker on absolutely everything. These days just wearing red lipstick qualifies as a retro look, a mug with a mustache printed on it has become vintage by default. So have flower-print wallpapers, anything vaguely ‘Gatsby’ (whatever that means), cupcakes and any image with an Instagram sepia filter. Use an oh-so-retro font on your washing up liquid bottle, call it a “vintage edition ” and you can charge £.50 more. Or just make vintage your trademark full stop (here’s looking at you, Hemingway Design).

And this general overkill has left its mark on those who’ve loved vintage for many years too. I know many a vintage girl who’s turned her back on vintage as a lifestyle. How often have I heard people moan about eBay having become overpriced and full of fakes? Not to mention the nasty arguments and bitchy fights over what does constitute as real vintage and who’s loved it for longer.

It’s had its effect on me too and has given me many a sleepless night thinking about what to do with QueensOfVintage, because, well, vintage has lost any meaning. Because it can be spun to mean anything – cool, trendy, old-fashioned, traditional – vintage has become empty, it no longer means anything.

Do you agree? Have you got vintage fatigue?

image: mustache cupcake toppings

13 Responses

  1. Juju

    I do agree with a lot of what you say concerning the marketing of vintage, but like everything where money is concerned it is a fad that will go and they will go onto something else that they can jump on the band wagon to.
    I just look at it that when the fad is over, there will be all these goodies going cheap that they can’t sell as the sheep have moved on to the next craze.
    I love the 30’s and 40’s since I was a child and I always will…. I will never be sick of it whether it is the in thing or not. I will not let the masses spoil my love of vintage, it is in my heart.

  2. Maja

    I’m not sure, really. I think that if you get too offended (which some people do) by the common (over)use of the word or brand Vintage then perhaps you do make it a little difficult for yourself. I must admit I do enjoy the more vintage-y feel of the fashion shoots in magazines and ads all around me. As Vintage or old things is a question of esthetics for me the use of these esthetics in everyday stuff makes my world a better place;) perhaps I’m lucky to live in a country, Denmark, where the vintage influences still are a very recent “invention” and therefor we are not overflown with bad representations of eras gone by… yet….

  3. Lucy

    Vintage is popular, but I don’t think that’s a reason to love it any less!
    I enjoy Queen’s of Vintage and would be sad if it went.

    For me Vintage is a lifestyle which reflects political, environmental, cultural and fashion choices. Not everyone will agree, but we can all celebrate the things we find in common.


  4. LollyWillowes

    I agree, but I’ll always wear what I do, as I always have worn second hand clothes and liked old things in general. But a lot of what you mention makes me roll my eyes in irritation, too. The whole over pricing for instance. A certain ebay seller who has the most eye watering prices for everything but including things like Next or H & M suits because they look old fashioned in design etc, always makes me grit my teeth with pure fury! That is asinine, but more fool those who pay that for it.
    But, yes, it has become a very annoying hackneyed word. For those of us who love the stories behind the old things we collect it will be something we go on with, the rest will find another bandwagon because they never cared or understood it in the first place.

  5. Jill

    As a seller of vintage clothing, I must admit this surge in the popularity of vintage has allowed me to create a livelihood that I never would have been able to a few years ago. On the downside, as a buyer and collector, I agree with the comments regarding exasperation over skyrocketing prices for vintage caused by unprecedented demand. The ‘faux’ vintage stuff is frustrating from an ecological and also professional standpoint for me. A key reason I promote the buying and selling of actual vintage is its sustainability. The misuse of the term “vintage” has muddied the water for many people because it causes confusion of just what constitutes “vintage” clothing anyway, etc. All in all, great article!!!

  6. Bunny Moreno

    I agree and am so grateful that you wrote this post! I too hope you dont stop this site-I love it! I think have some writing breaks does help. What do they call it? A blog break? So yeah, that should help some. Also, I think you are right. It is not totally mainstream yet but there are people trying to ride the coat tails of the vintage community and it does upset me too. It also turns me off a bit like it does you. Just keep focused on what it is that you love about it. I love cinema and the history and lifestyle-I keep focused on that. Hugs to you! Email me if anything! xox Bunny

  7. Katie

    At some point, every trend gets sucked into the wood chipper of commercialization and marketing and spat out in untidy chunks over everything. To say that one feels like they are going to just stop dressing or being “vintage” because the trend has caught on for a minute is probably a bit premature. Admittedly, I’m pretty new to the vintage community, but that’s just because I wasn’t brave enough to try it out sooner. People want to glom onto it because it’s cool and it’s a representation of something they wish they could be or do. Some people will adopt it more heartily and others will let it pass when the tide changes, and it will. I’ve been part of a different and unrelated community of interest in which the people are mean and hateful and grabby about everything. One of the things that I LOVE about the vintage community is how nice and open and welcoming and friendly they are. I think that is something to be proud of and continue, full steam ahead. PS – I love this blog, although I have barely scratched the surface of its coolness. If it went away, I would be sad.


  8. jacquie

    Trends always come and go…if it’s over-popularity allows new vintage lovers to find a place in this world with us…then YAY! We will still be here when the trend is over…but hopefully we will have found new friends and brought them along for the ride!

  9. Tami

    I too am tired of the misuse of the word. Especially when someone says of anything floral that I will like it as its vintage! I don’t link bunting or cupcakes (aka fairy cakes to me!!) with vintage. But after reading your post and nodding agreement throughout I wondered if maybe some good has come.

    I was able to open a shop and keep it stocked (well the Vintage Room anyway) with really lovely pieces that people have kept for decades not wanting to just give away. And I constantly have people coming in and buying online thrilled with what we have. I like to think because we actually do reject items and only take great items.

    It has also provided a way for people to express individuality. And sometimes I think that’s what people mean when they say that they like vintage. You look at the high street and every shop has various ranges and collections in an effort to be all things to all people. It makes the high street a bit overwhelming and yet there is nothing different in any of the stores.

    What true vintage offers is quality – design, cut, fabric – and something different. Something you don’t get that on the high street. I appreciate for some that vintage is also a way of life but for most if us it’s a love of the clothes. And when I look at it like that I don’t mind the word being hijacked. Especially as I harbour a (secret/pointless) hope that people will vote with their feet against the huge high street retailers.

    Thanks for a great thought-provoking post. Tami x

  10. A-belle

    I agree with a lot of what you’ve said. It annoys me in movies or commercials when they slap red lipstick on an actress, side part her hair, and consider that enough for a vintage look. However, I feel very similarly about the word “organic”. It’s a word that is used for marketing purposes, and has a very loose true meaning. Consumers are more likely to buy something that says “organic” on it, even if it’s not actually good for you or helping the environment. But at the core, buying pesticide-free, locally grown, unprocessed food is good for you, and I’m not going to give up that ideal just because companies have flooded the market with imitations. I will continue to live a “vintage” lifestyle, and ignore the cheap stuff and continue to go for quality goods, which is part of why I like vintage clothing so much in the first place!

  11. Annie Towler

    Ah yes, a true dilemma, especially for true vintage aficionados who have been living this way for years. I am most probably oder than anyone else here; I first started in the 1970s when I wore my mother’s fabulous 30’s velvets and 40’s padded shoulder evening gowns [I still have most of it, moth eaten and well worn] Vintage has it’s cycles; I can remember periods in the 70s, 80s and 90s where we all trotted out our precious finds again. I even gave a way an awful lot in the 90s to my son’s girlfriend who was so into her vintage clothing. This particular period though is annoyingly mainstream, corporate and High Street. I wish it would disappear; I’ve had enough of the cupcakes, bunting, cake mixes, cutesy kitchen accessories, High Street chain store ‘vintage’ tatty clothes. Had enough of the labeling of everything as ‘vintage’…which is the real dilemma for me as I started my current business 8 years ago now, reproducing original vintage eyewear in a real need to provide modern day materials in a useable, desirable form for those who need reading glasses and don’t want to go mainstream! I’m hoping that it will ebb soon and we can get back to being the stylish select few we always were, but I don’t see an end to it; the big companies are even now just hopping on the bandwagon…is there no originality anymore? My suggestion is that you continue to live your true vintage lives as it is a way of life, not a trend; save your most precious items, hold your breath and it will disappear again.

  12. Rebecka

    Well-put Lena. If I have to see another cupcake+ginteacup party being advertised I might just gouge my eyes out. Or just drink the whole 70cl of gin straight from the bottle.
    Not very lady like but frankly, who gives a damn?

  13. Catherine

    Great article! I agree on so many of your points especially the bit about sticking a moustache on something and calling it vintage! And let’s not get started on the “keep calm” trend…
    But I also love that vintage is trendy, because it allows me to wear some things that years ago would have been kitschy and weird, and at the same time, makes buying repro vintage easier – althought the repro stuff can be really poorly made! I make my own 60s style clothes now, which I can happily wear out or to work without too much sniggering.
    As mentioned above by so many others, trends come and go and by the time you’ve thrown out your original vintage, it comes back in trend again!