If you think digging an old, unwashed T-shirt out from the depths of a closet the next time you visit your parents makes a vintage style maven, think again.
It’s common knowledge that vintage is supremely trendy right now--but understanding what “vintage” really entails is another matter entirely.
Sally Schwartz, a vintage expert and enthusiast says that to her, vintage clothing is “the best representation of a moment in time.”
Schwartz is the founder and executive producer of the Randolph Street Market, which houses a bi-annual vintage fashion event called Modern Vintage Chicago.
Schwartz sees a lot of vintage pieces: she works with some of the top vendors, who go through closets of old estates and pick up some of the best pieces. She said that vintage pieces should be “unmistakable.”
According to Schwartz, a piece must be around for at least 25 years to be technically considered vintage, but she said that most adults qualify anything that reminds them of their childhood vintage.
“Each decade was known for a look. I don’t know if we have that anymore,” Schwartz said. She believes the most distinguishing trend of recent times is the tendency to revert to older looks.
“There isn’t much innovation anymore,” she said.
While the term vintage usually refers to older pieces, Schwartz thinks some current designers nail the look: Kate Spade, Cynthia Rowley and Ted Baker are a few of her favorites. But when it comes to true vintage, the higher-end designers are Schwartz’s favorites: She cites Halston, Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel as some of the makers of exceptional vintage pieces. “The point is to have a very iconic look,” she says. “If something is going to be around for 100 years, it better have a certain level of quality.
“Vintage pieces were made so much better. They’re a better value,” she said.
Speaking of value, vintage doesn’t always mean cheap: Schwartz said you can find a great piece for as little as $50, but if there’s something that’s extremely high-end couture, its price tag will reflect this, even if it’s pre-owned. True couture pieces can go from anywhere from $900 to $5,000.
As for hygiene, Schwartz recommends sniffing the armpits--but don’t worry too much. If a piece is being sold at a reputable store, it’s definitely been cleaned thoroughly.
Stepping in to vintage duds can be daunting, especially if you’ve never done it before, but Schwartz said you should just go for it.
“Find something that you feel a little bit daring in,” she said. “Go to a party in a vintage dress. Everyone will notice you.”
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