Some of the definitions of vintage are a time of origin, a group of objects of the same period and a style or fashion of the past. My personal favourite, however, is that it’s characterised by excellence and enduring appeal.
That is, for me, the true essence of vintage.
Styles come and go. We are constantly bombarded with pressure for the latest thing. If it doesn’t have a particular logo blazoned upon it, then forget it!
But just take your foot off the gas for a moment. Open your eyes, and see the beauty of VINTAGE!
Vintage endures where others fall by the wayside. It already has a lengthy timeline. It doesn’t mind when you discover it, when you fall under its spell. Vintage is patient. Quietly waiting for the right person.
My love affair with vintage started way back in the 1980s. Although, mainly, dressed up to the nines in all the 80s trends, I came across a little market stall in Cambridge with vintage clothing. Being a tiny young lady, at the time, I tried on 1950s dresses and swished around in a dreamlike state. I purchased a few over the years, smitten with the uniqueness of what I was wearing and their history.
The history element still fascinates me to this day. When I put on a vintage piece, I wonder what tales it could tell me. What parties has it danced at? Did it find love? Maybe it got through an interview and someone landed the job of their dreams. The possibilities are endless. It’s delicious, appealing.
Finding vintage now is easier in many ways. I source my wardrobe from a range of places. Online, fairs, shops and contacts. I still get that thrill, at each new piece, and its addictive stuff! The real issue now is sizing. I’m in my late forties, 5 foot 2 and sporting a quite different figure than from those early shopping days in the 80’s! But it’s just about being organised. I know my measurements and carry a tape measure on me everywhere I go. I understand the individuality of my shape and shop accordingly. I’m also not afraid to ask for additional measurements when I’m looking online. I have stocky arms and need sleeves and armholes to accommodate that. Good stockists are happy to answer these questions, and, eventually, you build up a little black book, if you like, of trusted sellers.
Some people worry that vintage feels a bit like playing dressing up. I think we’ve been conditioned to think like this. Years of current fashion, fast fashion, seeping into our minds and attitudes. But vintage is all about being individual. It’s not for everyone, and it can make one stand out, somewhat, in a crowd. For me, I feel more like I’m playing dressing up if I get too defined by an era. I like to mix and blend. Blurring the lines, and exploring how I want to put an outfit together. If that’s a mixture of 60s, 70s and 80s, then so be it. I want to look like me, not copy a particular style. My motto is Dress To Express!
In my forties, a routine eye test confirmed what I had long suspected. That I needed reading glasses. After the initial shock, and overly dramatic melancholy that ageing was unavoidable, I decided to tackle this new stage as I usually do. If I needed glasses, then, hell yeah, let them be stylish and unique! Vintage spectacles can really add that extra touch to your look and are another way to express your personality. It isn’t as complicated as you might first think. Detailed measurements, when provided, will help you to select the right pair. The temple width, especially, is a great way to compare to your own existing glasses, even sunglasses if this is your first pair of spectacles. And don’t be afraid to ask questions, to ensure the selection process runs smoothly. Once those prescription lenses are in place, you’ll never want normal glasses again. I loved undoing my vintage handbag and putting on my completely unique pair of spectacles. Sitting in a café, feeling stylish and quirky, instead of old and frumpy!
If I could impart any wisdom, from my experiences with vintage, it would simply be to enjoy it with a sense of playfulness. Explore what’s out there. Know your shape but don’t be defined by it. I’m living proof that there’s no hard and fast rules about what you should or shouldn’t be wearing.
And, remember, vintage accessories are the easiest way to add a touch of true individuality to your look. Throw on a scarf, layer up those bangles, and accessorise with some killer vintage glasses and you will turn heads.
Vintage is as unique as you are.
Kristen Ellery is a lover of vintage and an advocate of creative and individual styling, whatever your age and size. She lives just outside Cambridge with her husband and two sons, and writes an online blog called A Life Of Frills.
We are interviewing Alexandra Barnes, full time spectacle wearer and illustrator from the West Country.