Why we need more diversity in vintage One of the things that has always attracted me to vintage is that it means something very different to each person and can be used to create an infinite number of personal looks and styles. Vintage by its very nature – as mostly one-off pieces, spanning many different fashion eras – is hard to define or nail down – the Twenties-loving girl in her knit tops and with her bobbed hair will have a different idea of vintage than the Fifties casual loving chap modelling himself on Dean and Brando. So why does it feel like vintage is becoming more and more samey? Is it time to plead for more vintage diversity? I love reading about style, be it modern or vintage, but about three years ago, I completely stopped reading fashion magazines. I got so fed up with the same dull fashion spreads, the ever repeating features and the complete lack of any kind of ‘different’. But increasingly I feel vintage is heading the same way. It seems to have all been condensed into a very narrow time frame that seems to oscillate between flappers, pin-ups, Dita von Teese, red lipstick and moustaches. In part, the mainstream’s discovery of vintage as a lucrative marketing ploy is definitely to blame. But I do wonder if it’s also us, the people who like vintage. Have we categorised it too much, squabbled too many times over what is vintage or isn’t, taken the playfulness out of it and over-defined it into smithereens? For I would love to see more images of Seventies platform shoes, Eighties hip hop gear, women in the later parts of their lives showcasing their vintage style, a Sixties make-up guide for people with Asian skin, all simply under the heading of vintage. Which of course also leads me to saying, I have to hold my hands up and admit my own failure in adressing this. I try to blog about different eras, highlight style muses of different ethnic backgrounds and if you follow my on Facebook, you’ll know about my love for all things Seventies. But I do feel I’ve failed somehow, cause there is a real lack of diversity on my blog too – no Eighties loving vintage queens, no dapper ladies in their Seventies showing off their retro style. So my pledge for 2014 is simply to mix it up more and make it more inclusive. What do you think? Has vintage, or the representation of vintage, become to samey? Is it time to become more diverse? 7 Responses Maureen January 7th, 2014 I’m 61 years old and recently opened a vintage store on Etsy. I have lived through many of these eras. I recently opened an Etsy store with my daughter. If you want to see an older woman showcasing vintage style, check out Milliewinks on FB. I’m the model in several of the shots. To me, each era represents a time in my life. The 50’s – watching my older sisters ( 5 of them) using bobby pins to set their curls, the 60’s -buying records and gazing at album covers, 70’s-going to college in bell bottoms and t shirts, the 80s – raising children, the 90s – divorce and single motherhood, 2000- 10- focus on career and remarriage, the present – grand parenting and eyeing retirement. Clothing and fashion have been a part of each transition as seen by both photos and home movies of each of these decades! Reply KizzyDoll January 7th, 2014 Wow…completely on my wave length, I was just talking to my husband about this the other day!! I love vintage and I have since a child. When I started wearing more vintage, it was so much fun, but then it started getting a little tiresome, because once was unique and new, soon became conveyor belt assembly line – ‘this is what vintage is meant to look like’ by everyone. The 50’s – Dita Von Teese look seems to be the majority at times & if you don’t have that look, people can look at you and say ‘well you’re not vintage’…but what about all the other era’s that are more vintage than the 50’s. I’m sick of seeing cookie cutter vintage looks everywhere. My friend and I have decided it is more fun to mix lots of eras up together at once, because really its more fun and creative. We’ve become grouped and put in a box, when that was what we were trying to get away from in the first place. You have people saying, ‘well, I want the vintage look because that’s how vintage should look’ and then you see that they appear the same as everyone else, glory rolls, flicked liner, red lips, red nails. Really vintage clones. You don’t remember Marlene Dietrich because she had a ‘vintage look’ or appeared like anyone else, she created her own style with what she loved. I’d very much love to see more variety, more creativity in vintage. If you think about Vintage is like a playground with lots of different things to play with, if you only seek one of them, you’ll miss out on the fun you could have. I know not every era is for everyone, but with some creativity, you can create something beautiful from any era!! Loved this post!! x Reply Catherine January 7th, 2014 Here here! the 70s was 40 years ago! Someone breakout the Laura Ashley and Platform shoes already! i love when you feature someone who has a different idea of vintage, be it Victorian or 60s. though i must say they don’t always get the same response as the 40s and 50s gals. I do love the effort they put into their clothing and hair, but it would be good for the other eras to become just as mainstream as the 50s has become and for them to get as much praise for their efforts as well Reply Sue Eustace January 7th, 2014 You’ve made some very good points here. My partner is very keen on the Ivy League look, which is quite specific but my own “style” (for what it’s worth) is much more to do with what I think looks good on me. My first “vintage” piece was a 50s ball gown which I bought because I liked it. I also remember buying 2nd hand (yes we didn’t call it vintage then) Levis 501s. There’s a great book I bought last year called “A Scene in Between” by Sam Knee. This refers very specifically to a scene in the UK that made me realise we’ve been buying vintage for years without even realising. Let’s not get too sniffy about vintage, and embrace the wealth of styles we can adopt to suit our own tastes and bodies. Reply Vea Brantuo January 7th, 2014 I agree! I am so glad I have come across this site. My new go to place. Vintage is an era and its all about how you can wear it now as we move forward in the world. The quality still remains that’s why we can all wear it and at whatever cost. This is why I am here : http://www.brantuo-studio.com Thanks Reply kSto January 8th, 2014 This reminds me of being at a concert in the ’90s (I was in my 30s) with my husband (then in his 40s). He looked around at all the plaid flannel shirts and “bell-bottom” (flare to you) jeans and said, “These kids look more like me than I did.” Point being, the people who never lived through a particular era usually end up looking to just a few references for their inspiration. That boils design down to a few archetypes and cliches. When I was a kid in the 60s, then a teen in the 70s, our home had furnishings that dated back 10 or 20 years or more. Most people didn’t dress in the latest fashions every day. They might have had one or two stylish outfits, but otherwise, were making do with older pieces leading to a much more individual look than we “remember.” Also, designers have been mining past eras for current collections for so long that most styles have been rehashed multiple times with just a few tweaks. The truth about fashion is that it must serve two functional purposes: Protect people from the elements and cover whatever society doesn’t want to see. After that, design becomes merely a matter of custom. In the 20s, we broke the taboos of who could wear what and how much could be shown. The 40s and 50s were about new mass production techniques and textiles. The 60s were all about showing more, and using modern materials. The 70s introduced more extreme shapes and space-age fabrics, but Catherine’s Laura Ashley was already looking back, not forward. Since then, hems go up and down, silhouettes get slimmer or more relaxed, colors and fabrics fall in and out of favor, but nothing is really new. Our memory of any era is contaminated by the most recent interpretation of it (see: “The Great Gatsby”). If you want to see what real people were wearing 40 or 50 or 60 years ago, start by looking at old family pictures. You won’t see glamorous, sexy models, but you might find unexpected inspiration. Reply Re January 26th, 2014 I really appreciate this website’s efforts of inclusion and diversity! I was pleasantly surprised to see the variety of people and muses featured, and that the writing was professional and didn’t fall into the trap of Hollywood race glamorization. Thank you, Queens of Vintage 🙂 Reply Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.