Saturday, 30 May 2015

My vintage life: What vintage means to me.

Vintage is defined as 'denoting something from the past of high quality, especially something representing the best of its kind'. Yet over the last decade, the term 'vintage' has become so widely used (and in places overused), that it has come to be synonymous with anything that is 'old' - original clothes from the 40's, 50's, 60's (and even through to the 90's), reproduction clothing, music, antiques, second hand furniture, 'shabby chic', retro, - pretty much anything from times gone by.

So when a person says that they "like vintage", it can mean a plethora of things, to a huge range of people. As much as the details of their passions will all be a variation on a theme, I think that every person who is a vintage enthusiast will have a different take on vintage and experience it differently. 

With that being said, I would like to talk you through what vintage means to me...

My love affair with vintage began in 2010 when my work colleague decided to put some music on in the office. She chose a swing album called Peppermint Candy which featured music by Glenn Miller, The Andrews Sisters, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Prima, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Etta James - the list goes on. I had never heard anything like it and before I knew it, I was swinging along to the album in the car, in the shower, whilst hoovering; I was absolutely hooked. I felt so incredibly good whilst listening to it, that I soon began to listen to more and more music from the past, not just Swing and Jazz. I discovered music from all eras; music from the 1800's right through to the 1950's. I discovered Classical music and Waltzes by Strauss and Tchaikovsky, Ragtime by Scott Joplin, popular music from the early 20th century by Ada Jones and Billy Murray and swing music by Al Bowlly and The Andrews Sisters from the 30's and 40's. Just discovering vintage music alone enriched my life so much and opened my eyes (and ears) to a lifetime of culture that I never knew existed. I had only just scratched the surface and I was eager to find out more.

The Andrews Sisters were America's most popular female singing group of the 1940's.  
My interest in vintage music sparked an interest in history in general and I started to research some of the times in which these musicians lived. This, as you can imagine, opened a huge can of worms. My imagination went wild! Victorian London, Jack the Ripper, Prohibition, World War 1, World War 2, the Plague, the Great Fire of London, the Blitz, inventions, medicine, the Titanic, historical architecture, Land Girls, the home front, post-mortem photography, graveyards, shipwrecks....(gasp for air!) You name it, I've Googled it! As a child, I liked history and was good at it, but I have never been as interested in it as I am as an adult. If I could have one magical power, it would certainly be the ability to go back in time.

RMS Titanic
One of my many historical obsessions is the Titanic  
Not only do I love reading and learning about history, I love touching it too! Most weekends you will find me in my absolute element at some antique or vintage fair. Most people cannot stand it, but I love the smell of antiques shops. That kind of 'bottom of an old ladies handbag' smell; the smell of history - fusty, slightly unclean, moth eaten and worn. I love all sorts of antiques - furniture, china, Victorian oddities (I once tried to buy a file containing cross sections of real body parts from 1904, but was told it was too weird), old food tins, vanity sets, sewing machines, teapots, books, tapestry bags. When it comes to antiques, I love anything from the early 20th Century. 'Titanic era' stuff really floats my boat (no pun intended!). I don't buy these items because they have any particular use to me, I buy them as I find them interesting - constantly. I often look at my 1920's Singer sewing machine and wonder who it belonged to originally. The same with my Art Deco tea spoon set and my tapestry bags and luggage. Who owned them originally and how did I come to own them?

Antiques and Vintage Fair Alexandra Palace
My recent trip to the Antiques and Vintage Fair at Alexandra Palace
 in London was my idea of heaven on earth!
When it comes to vintage fashion, I started to look into buying true vintage at one of my many trips to Lou Lou's Vintage Fair in Norwich. Yet I have found that neither my styling skills (nor my body shape) were quite up to scratch for original vintage. So I prefer to wear reproduction clothing. My eras of choice - the 1940's and the 1950's. I also love other fashion styles from those eras including Rockabilly, Hawaiian and Tiki, Asian Pacific, Mexicana and Latino.

To sum up, I love vintage as it feeds my uncontrollable need to be 'different'. Although the saying goes that there is nothing new under the sun and rarely can anyone be considered truly unique or different any more, wearing vintage style fashion and adopting a vintage lifestyle, does make me feel different. I often get stopped in the street and complimented on how I look - not by men, but by predominantly women; women who remember wearing my outfit the first time around in the 50's! I know that there are literally hundreds of thousands of people around the world who wear the same clothes as I do, yet its not just about that. It's about all of the above.Vintage is not just 'The 1940's' or 'The 1950's'. It is more subjective than that. Not all vintage lovers love antiques. Not all like history. Not all like old music. Some like retro as well as vintage. Some like genuine vintage fashion and others reproduction. All these little idiosyncrasies make all vintage lovers unique.

So the next time someone asks you why you "like vintage" sit them down with a cup of tea. If you are anything like me, the discussion may take a while!

- x - LMDW - x -

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