What is the true value of vintage?
Having attended a panel discussion this week on the role of vintage fashion in Britain – held at London College of Fashion to accompany the re:address exhibition – I was moved to write on the subject of vintage fashion once more. The inspirational panel included:
- Roger K. Burton, founder of The Contemporary Wardrobe Collection, Europe’s largest collection of street fashion
- Kerry Taylor, founder of specialist costume and textiles auction house Kerry Taylor Auctions
- Stefanie Braun, photography curator, vintage collector and founder of Fraubraun
- Amber Jane Butchart, trend forecaster and one half of creative DJ and designer collaboration The Broken Hearts.
The one thing that really stood out to me throughout the discussion was that, no matter what the individual’s specific stance on vintage clothing and what it means to them, everyone seemed to drift off into another world when discussing the garments themselves. Whether it was remembering the first piece they bought, sold, customised or auctioned, discussing a love of alterations which tell a garment’s life story, reminiscing about 60s shirts being re-invented in the 1970s, or telling us about a giant collection that just begs to be shared, each of the panellists had an absolute love of individual items of clothing.
Kerry Taylor may have spoken of the monetary value of vintage fashion, but the thing which seems to unite more people is the sentimental value these items hold. By wearing old clothing, we are giving it new life and adding to its history. By viewing it in museum, we are appreciating the skill and dedication which went into making and preserving it. Some garments may have value at auction, but that’s not really what it’s all about.
Clothing is made to be worn, and the really good stuff is made to be cared about. It both shapes and is shaped by the society we live in, and it has meaning far beyond trends and magazine spreads. I think we should stop viewing vintage as some kind of current trend and treat it with the respect it deserves. After all, as we become increasingly aware of the world’s finite resources, surely pre-worn garments will remain in fashion for quite some time.
UPDATE: There’s a great review of the re:address exhibition over at Worn Through.