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From Fashion To Back Again

by Anna Nuttall

I went through a phrase in my teen years of raiding my mum’s wardrobe for old clothes; I wanted to look different from all the other girls in my school and of course for this I was often ridiculed, but I still felt good about myself and knew I was making a personal statement. Now I’m in my 20s, wearing my mum’s old clothes doesn’t seem like such a silly idea. Wearing clothes of a past generation is now considered ‘cool’,‘trendy’ and ‘hip’. I thought it was uncool, untrendy to wear your mum old clothes. Has fashion finally caught itself in a ‘groundhog’ situation? Continuing loops of past generation trends that keep getting reinvented?

Are the current climates so depressing that by wearing your mum’s old clothes you can somehow time-travel back to that era?

Many young people go through a phrase of raiding their mum’s   wardrobe for old clothes, wanting to look different from all the other girls in school – even facing ridicule. However, whether or not these young girls know they are making a personal statement, they feel good about themselves and that’s what counts. As they get older, wearing their mum’s old clothes doesn’t seem like such a silly idea. Wearing clothes of a past generation is now considered ‘cool’, ‘trendy’ and ‘hip’. I thought it was uncool, untrendy to wear your mum old clothes. Has fashion finally caught itself in a ‘groundhog’ situation? Continuing loops of past generation trends that keep getting reinvented? Are the current climates so depressing that by wearing your mum’s old clothes you can somehow time-travel back to that era?

Vintage fashion in many ways is second-hand garments that originally belonged to a past generation. The word
‘vintage’ originates from wine terminology, an elegant expression for ‘old’. The public demand for affordable attire has in the past lead to charity shops selling second-hand clothes. However, since the 1990s and the invention of internet-based auction sites, any embarrassment associated with buying ‘used’ has dramatically decreased. With websites such as eBay and Etsy.com, auction sites where you can buy and sell pretty much everything, a newer more updated version of raiding your parent’s wardrobe has come about, but this time in complete privacy. For fashion collectors, what these online marketplaces offer is an Aladdin’s cave of fashion, within an instant you can get last season’s Dior collection or an outfit that your trendy aunt use to wear to revert you back to a ’60s childhood you never experienced.

The ’60s was all about cool Britannia and swinging London was at the heart of the action. Bold clothes and bold statements. We’ve seen the images, the movies and stories from our parent’s generation. Now we want to live like them. Bring back the first mini skirt designs by Mary Quant and the bold dresses. Could this need for a piece of the Swinging Sixties be the reason why in recent years the streets of London, especially Kings Cross and Carnaby Street, have seen the rise of the vintage boutique shop opening up? The public can feel comfortable entering a vintage shop and not have the embarrassment attached to other second-hand shops. Orsini vintage shop is one example, tucked away in Kensington Earls Court – a sweet little shop that guarantees to cure every fashionista’s appetite for
vintage fashion. By posing the question ‘is fashion is in a continuing loop of trends?’ to a dressmaker who work within the shop, she agreed by saying: “I have noticed that fashion is repeating trends and nothing is really original
any more, like for example the gladiator sandal keeps coming back to mainstream fashion every 5-8 years and the hippie sway skirt as well.”

She goes on to explain to me how to define vintage fashion as opposed to second hand clothes: “Vintage fashion has to have story, a history. Often we get people bringing in hand-me-down clothes that a past relative has worn in their lifetime, secondhand fashion could mean anything from last week’s Topshop dress being giving to some-one else after wearing it once. An era of vintage fashion is clothes dating back from the ’20s to the ’70s.” When asking her how she feels about high-street shops in today’s present time, she looked grim. “What make vintage fashion so unique – and I suppose this is why people today love vintage fashion – is that everything was almost hand-made, no big factory or some poor child in India working in slavery, this is why I hate Primark, mass-produced and poor quality, there’s no care or effort, no real ideas – it’s all about the money.

What with the high-street fashion being so mass-produced and not original, how can the younger generation know any different? “What surprises me the most is the range of ages of the consumers we get visiting this shop – from the young teenagers to the older generation. Whatever age the consumers are, they want decent quality clothes to wear. I personally think they can tell the difference and can spot an original unique piece that will last for a future generation.” Vintage shops online are a faster approach for consumers to view vintage fashion without leaving the house, how does she feel about this? “With site such as eBay, yes it a great way for people to viewed vintage fashion but the difference is when you enter a boutique shop such as Orsini – or go to a vintage market fair – you get to learn the clothes history, talk to the people and get a real feel for that certain era.

ChemiseDressIs this vintage fashion in danger of being over exposed or has it been commercialised already? Surely the market for vintage finds could never be over exposed – wasn’t there always going to be a little niche market for finding second-hand fashion? What of the next generation of fashion lovers – would they want our current trends to wear later on as ‘vintage’? If fashion is in a ‘groundhog’ situation, then surely trends are still going around in circles? How can we get out of this continuing loop?

When I posed the question to the dressmaker at orsini about if fashion will ever stop being creative and will run out of idea. ‘’Fashion will never stop being creative, sure it may go around in circles or have an added twist–but that’s because it looks to the past for inspiration.” If fashion is always going to be creative and isn’t in a ‘groundhog’ situation, why is vintage on the top of any young fashionista’s list?


To find out more about Orsini then please visit their website.

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(This was an old article I wrote when I studied Fashion Media at London College Of Fashion.) 

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