No I'm not talking about the re-enactors that spend weekends in tents wearing wigs and pretending to be roundheads and cavaliers. Recently, there have been battles fought within the vintage community with two sides emerging: the vintage purists and the vintage inspired. Vintage purists aim to wear only vintage clothing, shoes and accessories, where as the vintage inspired could appear vintage but are wearing a mixture of reproduction vintage from companies such as Heyday and Vivien of Holloway and original garments. These debates have been brought to forums on Vintage Network Worldwide (read and join in the debates here) and have even made it into magazines with Fleur de Guerre's article in June's issue of Milkcow (who makes a very good point: what about underwear? Do vintage purists wear sixty year old knickers?) and another in July's issue of Vintage Life magazine. Personally I am a vintage inspired, and this is for many reasons. Vintage clothing is very small because people were smaller in the 1940s and 1950s because of lifestyle differences; my measurements are 40/29/40 and fit a 6' frame which are vastly different from the 24" waists and 32" busts that the vintage clothing was originally made for. Even if I did find a dress, blouse or pair of trousers (highly unlikely) that fitted me - so far, only raiding my Nan's wardrobe has ended in a victory for me - I would never be able to afford the pieces! I love the clothes of the 1940s and 1950s so these clothes are fifty to seventy years old now and thus the pricetag is rather hefty!
As a result of my size and my bank balance I only have two authentic vintage dresses in my wardrobe.
My lovely Nan gave me this dress when I was about fourteen and it sadly no longer fits me in the bust. It's a stereotypical 1950s cotton dress with a vibrant golden rose print that hasn't faded in time regardless of being stored in an attic for forty years. It has a little damage as the cotton thread has rotted slightly and the zip had to be replaced, but I love it and, even though I can't wear it, I don't want to sell it for a long, long time!
This dress was my absolute bargain! Maybe this is the only case I've seen where vintage hasn't cost a small fortune! It's a late 1950s early 1960s, golden green, silk dress. It's price? £5!! It has very little damage to it, but yet again, doesn't fit! I tried to get my sister to take it off my hands but it's not her cup of tea, so it remains in my wardrobe just being stared at.
So that's my pure vintage wardrobe, and as you can see it is very small! I have more vintage accessories that add to my vintage look, such as handbags, belts, gloves and hats, but clothing is very hard for me to find. So what do I do? I take to the highstreet of course! I've got a handful of vintage inspired dresses from all over the place, ranging from Topshop to Tesco! In fact, I have two from Tesco: a green evening style dress that beautifies the hourglass figure, and a red teadress.
Photo thanks to Steve Biddlecombe
I do have a few pieces of reproduction vintage in my wardrobe although they tend to sway more towards the rockabilly fashions. I have a couple of wiggle dresses, my Freddie's of Pinewood jeans and dungarees, and numerous blouses and jumpers. However, luckily for me I have a mother who is a keen seemstress who also happens to collect vintage dress patterns. Well I just put the two together! Now my little collection is coming along very well!
This is my favourite dress I own! It's from a 1947 pattern that was rereleased by Butterick and is made of silk - we got it in the sale for John Lewis for £27! I can't wait to wear it this summer with little white sandals and a straw hat and matching handbag.
Mum made me this dress for my nineteenth birthday, and again is from a rereleased Butterick pattern this time from 1946. I think it's a dress that deserves an evening event and as I haven't had one to attend, this one still remains unworn.
My mum's patterns range from original 1950s copies picked up for as little as a pound in charity shops to modern inspired patterns from Butterick, Vogue and Simplicity. She makes her clothing from new fabric and vintage remnants from vintage fairs and events.
So, this is the question I pose to you: if a dress is made from vintage fabric and cut from a vintage pattern, is it vintage? Should it even matter? Just because the item wasn't made forty, fifty, sixty or seventy years ago doesn't mean it doesn't encapture 'vintage', and so there is no need for a war! We all love it and shouldn't squabber over silly little things!