Vintage clothing is a generic term for garments originating from a previous era. The phrase is also used in connection with a retail outlet, e.g. "vintage clothing store." Today vintage dressing encompasses choosing accessories, mixing vintage garments with new, as well as creating an ensemble of various styles and periods. Vintage clothes typically sell at low prices for high end named brands. It has been part of the world since World War I as an idea of reusing clothing because of the textile shortage.
Vintage clothing can be found in cities at local boutiques or local charities, or also on the internet (e.g. eBay, Esty and Mayan Copal). Goodwill and Salvation Army are the top two Charites to donate or shop for vintage clothing. Vintage clothing is used as a muse for new designs and is known to be retro clothing.
Generally speaking, clothing which was produced before the 1920s is referred to as antique clothing and clothing from the 1920s to 20 years before the present day is considered vintage. Retro, short for retrospective, or "vintage style," usually refers to clothing that imitates the style of a previous era. Reproduction, or repro, clothing is a newly made copy of an older garment. Clothing produced more recently is usually called modern or contemporary fashion. Opinions vary on these definitions.
Vintage clothing is a form of ease in a fast-moving world. Re-wearing clothes from a personal wardrobe and wearing newly acquired vintage and retro clothing, can be understood as a desire to recreate familiarity, or felicity, in a world that is rapidly changing and increasingly impersonal.
Most vintage clothing has been previously worn, but a small percentage of pieces have not. These are often old warehouse stock, and more valuable than those that have been worn, especially if they have their original tags. Referred to as deadstock or new old stock (NOS), they nevertheless sometimes have flaws. Vintage clothing may be either commercially produced or handmade by individuals.
Since the beginning of World War I the idea of vintage clothing or reusing clothing was a way of living. During World War I, most clothing was repaired, mended, or tailored for other family members or recycled within the home as rags or quilts. The government conservation campaign used slogans such as “Make economy fashionable lest it become obligatory” resulted in an approximate 10% reduction in the production of trash.
In the late 20th century there was as increased demand for high end name brands. During the 1980s, vintage clothing in North America increased because of the demand for reduce high-end name brands. Now fashion is non-selective as it used to be, as vintage clothing has moved to subculture to mass culture it is often not limited.
Fashion is fast and at our finger tips. The very definition of fashion fuels the momentum for change, which creates demand for ongoing replacement of products with something that is new and fresh.
This increase in interest is due in part to increased visibility, as vintage clothing was increasingly worn by top models and celebrities, e.g. Julia Roberts, Renée Zellweger, Chloë Sevigny, Tatiana Sorokko, Kate Moss, and Dita Von Teese. Popularity of period pieces set in the mid-20th century in television and film have also contributed to vintage's popularity. There is even an international magazine called * Vintage Life – specifically a Women's Fashion and Lifestyle Magazine.
There has also been an increasing interest in environmental sustainability in terms of reusing, recycling and repairing rather than throwing things away. Sometimes vintage items are upcycled via changing the hemline or other features for a more contemporary look. Vintage items in poor condition are also salvaged for reuse as part of a new garment.
The textile recycling industry is the environmental part of the fashion industry. Throughout the world, used apparel products are salvaged as reclaimed textiles and put to new uses. The textile recycling industry is able to process over ninety percent of the waste without the production of any new hazardous waste or harmful by product.
A resurgence of historically based sub-cultural groups like rockabilly and swing dancing has also played a part in the increased interest in vintage clothes. In Finland the vintage scene has even spawned an officially recognized association or non-profit organization called Fintage out of common interest in the preservation of material culture and the environment.