Not Your Mother’s Vintage Clothes

Want to be hip this spring with a one-of-a-kind style you call your own? Then it is time to shop ‘vintage’ to make your statement. Buying vintage, or gently used clothing, is the rage from young gals to celebrities who know how to shop!

Mention vintage clothing, and most people think of classic vintage fashions from the 1920’s through the 1970’s, with a heavy emphasis on the 1940’s. Today’s vintage is modern. The hottest clothes now for all ages fall under the descriptive words boho, cowgirl, and gypsy. Think lace with cowboy boots! Even brides are wearing real western boots under their gowns. Not new boots, but gently used, slightly worn ones, that have character and are comfortable.

I don’t shop for age as much as I look for style when I hunt for my vintage treasures. Padded shoulders tell me a piece is vintage, but do I seriously want padded shoulders to be my fashion look? I want to be hip in vintage, not dated in vintage. For me there is a huge difference between the two. If I love a piece with pads in the shoulders, a quick snip with my scissors takes care of that problem. I have the look I want, without feeling dated.

Tags are a great clue to the age of a piece. Union tags attached to the inside seam is proof that piece was produced by a clothing union prior to the 1980’s. Square in size, about ½ inch by ½ inch, the name of the union will be stated and “Made in U.S.A.” A union tag assures you your piece is at least twenty years old. Today’s modern vintage dates clothing from the 1970’s through the 1990’s, however the later dates may also sport “Made In China” tags.

Another clue to the age of a piece of clothing is the label design. In the 1980’s tags were usually “bigger” and brought more colorful designs compared to earlier years, like the 1950’s and 1960’s, when labels were simple in design. With the brand name you can do a trademark search and see when the trademark was first filed.

In 1971 the Federal Trade Commission issued care symbols. A piece of clothing was not required to label its fabric content until after 1960, when the USA Textile Products Identification Act was introduced. If your garment does not reflect this information, chances are it was made prior to 1960. Remember, however, there are always exceptions to any rule.

Dating your vintage find can be fun, but it is not necessary if you are just simply trying to develop your own style. If you are spending big dollars for a piece of clothing, you need to know what you are getting. I shop thrift stores, estate sales, flea markets, and garage sales to find my vintage treasures. The cost per item is low, so if I feel I have a bargain, I grab it. A “Made in U.S.A” tag makes my day! But if the style is cool and I can pair it with an older piece for a statement, you will find I buy “Made in China” items too. I love cotton sundress with gently used denim jackets as toppers for cooler summer evenings. A boho styled skirt with a newer, vintage look, lace blouse is another trend I love. One piece may be from the late 1980’s and the other new but gently used. The look I’ve created is what is important to me. The cost was minimal, the style priceless!

I am always a sucker for vintage Scott McClintock prom and evening dresses as well as anything made in white cream lace, or net lace, to pop over jeans or leggings.

I do check out my purchases carefully before I hand over my money. I don’t care how great a piece looks, or how little it costs, if there are stains, holes, and odors, I do not buy. There are so many wonderful items of clothing available in more modern vintage I can find something else I love as much. I insist my vintage clothing is in excellent, wearable condition.

Recently I opened a small clothing boutique in Monroe, Georgia, at Hodge Podge Art, Antiques and Interiors. I call it ‘Gypsy Lace Vintage’. The name speaks volumes as to the look you will find there. In additional to clothing there are shelves of cowboy boots, old Mexican tooled handbags, western belts, and leather shoes made in Brazil, Italy, and Spain. I love the feel of gently used leather too.

I recently visited a metro Atlanta hot spot to see what new clothing looks like. I am so out of touch. I was excited to find that the vintage boho look I sell, was the look new clothing manufactures are producing in China, and with prices starting at $200. The clothing at my shop has “Made in U.S.A.” tags for the most part and items are between $25 and $65.

Vintage clothing can be fun, it doesn’t have to be expensive, and you can define your own style without breaking the bank. It just takes a little initiative to know where to shop and to shop often to find the real treasures.

Barbara Barth, C.E.O. of Life


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