15 Apr 2024

The increasing popularity of vintage clothing

4:32 pm on 15 April 2024
Clothing on a rack. Plus size clothing.

Photo: Unsplash / Hannah Morgan

They say style never goes out of fashion, and that certainly seems to be the case with vintage clothes, with a growing demand for them here and around the world.

So what is behind the vintage clothing trend?

Stephanie King is passionate about vintage fashion and has been running Painted Bird boutique in Auckland for eight years.

She told Afternoons that unlike secondhand clothing - such as that found in charity or op shops - vintage was the sort of clothing that people wanted to treasure and hold on to.

Her collection ranged from the 1940-1980s and was sourced from private collectors and vintage clothing suppliers - many of them from Europe - who did not "want their beautiful pieces to go into landfill".

King makes the distinction between designer clothing (usually a named designer or label); vintage/antique (clothing that is 50 years or older); and anything younger than that, which you would find in thrift, charity or op shops.

"Poor old vintage and antique clothing gets lumped into secondhand and they're really not... It's not the stuff that people didn't want... it's actually the things that people kept in their wardrobes, and their grandmother passed [down]. They were made to go to a wedding... they weren't just clothes."

She pointed out that most of the clothing now in charity shops was fast fashion. (This term refers to cheap, poor-quality items that are often discarded after being worn once, if at all.)

King was inspired to set up her own vintage brand after scouring secondhand shops on the North Shore, where she lived.

"It was really, really difficult to find any nice vintage... you were lucky if you ever found anything in an op shop - so that means going to op shops all day long, every day and that's not easy to find...

"And I know there are lots of people who are like me, who like vintage so [I thought] there needs to a store and that's kind of how it started."

At Dee Glentworth's Free for All shop in Porirua, donated goods, appliances and clothing are given away in exchange for a $5 entry fee to cover costs.

Charity shops can be full of bargains, but you need to spend a lot of time to find the good stuff. Photo: RNZ / Supplied

King emphasises quality over quantity at Painted Bird, and her customers range from 20-somethings to those in their 90s.

"I wanted it to be a place where only the cool stuff is, and you can go and try things on and feel things that are completely different to what you see in [other] stores.

"I think [secondhand clothing] used to be ... stuff that was all ripped and munted and stained... things that people didn't want, so I tried to curate the stuff that people did want... and saved and left for generations."

The fashion that remained from decades past was the "coolest" and more flattering, she said.

"They're not going to ever go out of fashion if they're timeless, tailored pieces, or made from fabrics that are [quality].

"Anything that's got microfibres - it's out of fashion... These are colours and styles and shapes that are always in fashion - they just get tweaked a little bit."

She was taken aback in one vintage shop after being told the clothing was more for TV and film productions, and was "not for me".

"I only wear vintage and secondhand and that's not OK to say to someone... Vintage is for everyone!"

King enjoyed helping customers style their vintage finds.

"You can look completely current wearing all vintage - it's how you put the pieces together."

Today she was wearing vintage 1970s leather trousers that belonged to her mother, a retro silk blouse and retro leopard skin jacket.

"Those things that were created 50 years ago, they're still around and - at least for the things I've got - they're in perfect nick. So why would you get rid of that?"

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