What Is Vintage Fashion?
Strictly speaking, vintage fashion is clothing and accessories that are at least 20 years old. However, as vintage fashion is now coveted the world over, it can be from as little as two season’s ago. ATELIER-MAYER.COM specialises in vintage fashion from 1900 –1990. Collectables are about heritage, craftsmanship, quality, style and good design. If a design can withstand time, then it is a solid investment. Wearing vintage provides an opportunity to sport beautifully made clothes that are individual, a unique piece of history and, above all, vintage is environmentally friendly because it is a recycled product.
DEFINITION OF THE TERM VINTAGE VERSUS ANTIQUE
An item described as vintage should speak of the era in which it was produced, of a certain quality, standard, fashion, design and aesthetic. Vintage is a term applicable to a wider variety of objects, including items that may or may not be antique. The strict definition of antique means over 100 years old. However, when referring to clothing, this can now often mean anything before 1920. As antique clothing becomes increasingly rare, these garments and accessories are frequently bought by museums and designer archives to fill gaps in their collections.
Famous fashion archives and museums:
- Foundation Pierre Berge Yves Saint Laurent
- Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Victoria and Albert Museum
- Fashion Museum
- Fashion and Textile Museum
- Design Museum London
- Mode Museum
- Museo Del Traje
Buying luxury vintage fashion or stylish pieces has become a clever and interesting way of investing money and being above trend. People see them as tradable assets – someone will buy a 1993 Louis Vuitton Murakami bag knowing it will become a collector’s item. Essentially, an item must belong to another era, and usually because of its limited supply and quality, in particular items from the 18th, 19th or 20th centuries are most collectable. Pieces by Chanel, Hermès, Pierre Cardin and other brands in good condition regularly retain or increase in value over time – even if you wear or use them occasionally. Most of the best vintage has been worn at some point.
For example, a dress worn by Audrey Hepburn is more valuable than if it had been just a black Givenchy dress. Value is also connected to current trends or events. The recent body-conscious trends in designer collections have seen fashion lovers clamouring for archive Herve Leger and Azzedine Alaïa. After all, anyone can walk into a department store and snap up a dress from the current collections, but it takes considerably more fashion know-how to track down an original from the 1980s heyday. The fashion archives are constantly inspiring contemporary designers, translating long-forgotten designs into modern pieces and resurrecting dormant fashion houses.
COLLECTING VINTAGE HAUTE COUTURE
Some collectors concentrate on buying vintage haute couture only. The official beginnings of haute couture started with Charles Frederick Worth, an Englishman who moved to Paris in 1845. Soon followed by others such as Madame Grés, Paul Poiret, Elsa Schiaparelli, Coco Chanel, Madeleine Vionnet, Charles James, Jeanne Lanvin, etc., haute couture reached its peak in the late 1940s up to the end of the 1950s. Haute couture is a French phrase for high fashion. Couture means dressmaking, sewing, or needlework and haute means elegant or high and together they imply excellent artistry and perfection of garments. Haute couture is the top level of hand customised fashion design and clothing construction made by a couture design house or in French maison.
Haute couture pieces are different for the fact that they are made exclusively for the wearer’s body measurements. Bespoke, made to measure clothes are literally made by hand, carefully interlined, stay taped and fitted to perfection for each client. This is an extremely time consuming exercise taking about 100 to 150 hours for a suit and up to 1000 hours manual labour for an embellished evening dress. An haute couture evening dress might have thousands of hand-sewn beads. However, it is not necessarily vintage haute couture only, which is collectable. Often, custom-made garments that are either unusual examples of an era’s definition in terms of fashion, style and design have equal value.
Shopping for vintage is about embracing style in things of old and the cachet of exclusivity. True fashionistas are becoming obsessed with the ‘new vintage’ – clothes with provenance. Think: Chanel circa 1925 and limited edition Hermès Birkin bags. The market for luxury vintage pieces with proven heritage or connection to an iconic design house has exploded. Never has there been so much cachet for a celebrity to sport archive Valentino or Chanel on the red carpet. Auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christies now regularly host sales of vintage clothing and as a result of this demand, the price of designer vintage has more than quadrupled in the past five years.
‘People fall in love with the history behind a piece. We sell pieces with royal connections, like the massive sale of Princess Diana’s dresses in 1997 [before her death], or the iconic black Givenchy dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast At Tiffany’s. The bidding reached a whopping £410.000,’ says Christie’s. In this case, the dress was more than just vintage Givenchy – it was cultural history. Buyers fall for the romance of owning a piece of that fantasy lifestyle. Vintage pieces tell a story, they are usually more ornate and interesting than today’s mass-produced products. And, vintage items have most likely been loved by someone… otherwise they would not still be around today! It is about quality fabrics, innovative techniques, silhouettes, shapes and exquisite workmanship that make the clothing so enduring and unique, both in condition and popularity.
Good vintage needs to look modern and should be able to be updated to any era. ATELIER-MAYER.COM provides those pieces. The design, collections and site content reflect the modern world of glamorous fashion combined with the very best global source of vintage fashion.