Sarah and Helen work together at Green Heart Collective and share a love of clothes. They know what they like and don't like. From different generations, experience and perspectives, the two women often have discussions about clothes. We thought you might find it interesting to eavesdrop on some of their conversations...You can catch up with their last conversation on 'Quality' by clicking here.
Helen: I wanted to talk today about vintage because I feel that we do talk about vintage quite a lot and it's a really difficult thing to nail down. Different people mean different things when they talk about vintage clothes, so do you want to say first of all what you mean when you talk about vintage clothing?
Sarah: I think generally of vintage being at least 20 years old for clothing. Also, particularly with some of the more recent vintage things from early 2000s/late 90s, I think they also have to have a distinctive look as if you can tell that they're from that time period.
Helen: Yes, I researched it for an article about vintage for the website and it said that it doesn't just mean everything from a certain era. The item actually has to have something about it that makes it look like it's from that era, like shoulder pads from the 80s or like the Peter Pan collar dresses from the 60s.
What kinds of pieces do you feel comfortable calling vintage?
Sarah: On Depop, we list things that a quite have quite a retro look anyway, so anything that is at least 20 years old, I would describe as vintage. That's because we do pick out things that do have quite distinctive look about them anyway.
Helen: How do you know that an item is 20 years old?
Sarah: Something about 20 years ago was 2002. Even though I was only about 10 at the time, I was quite into clothes, so I can kind of remember the look of things. With more well-known brands, you can tell by the labels that they're older. It's usually just looking at things like where they were made, fabric composition, the design of the labels and the font that's used...things like that help. And if I'm not sure, then I do a bit of research and see if I can find the brand anywhere.
Helen: Do you think it matters whether something is genuinely vintage or not? There must be vintage stores out that are selling things that aren't really vintage but look it. Does that matter?
Sarah: I don't think it matters for a lot of people now, especially young people. I think there's a lot of vintage wholesalers out there as well which don't only stock vintage because they get so many clothes. A lot of teenagers or people in their early 20s they just want things that look good at a good price if they're shopping second-hand. And I don't think they will get too worried about whether it is actually genuine vintage or not.
Helen: What era of vintage do you like and wear yourself?
Sarah: I have things from lots of different eras, I like 60s style stuff. I always did but it's really hard to get hold of genuine 60s things and also especially with dresses, they are so short and the sizes can often be so small that you know you just can't fit into them. I have a lot of late 90s/early 2000s things because that's the easiest to get hold of but also I remember that style from growing up.
Helen: You've been into second-hand and vintage since you were really young which is unusual. What is it about it?
Sarah: Originally, it was about finding things that were a bit different to what other people were wearing when I was a teenager. At my school particularly, it was all about trying to be different and finding things that were really unusual and it was also quite cool around 2006, that kind of time. It was quite a cool thing to go to a vintage shop and buy things. I think that's come around again now.
Helen: I guess in London there was Carnaby Street, Kings Road and places like that....
Sarah: I used to go to Camden which was quite big back then for vintage shops and there was a little area just off Carnaby Street which had a few vintage shops that aren't there anymore. And Brick Lane as well. Growing up around London, you do have access to a lot that you wouldn't maybe in another part of the country, but when I used to come up to Newcastle in the summer, I'd go to Retro and there used to be a few more vintage shops on High Bridge Street as well.
Helen: There aren't so many smaller vintage shops in Newcastle now, is that representative across the country and if so, why? Do you think it's that people don't want to pay the prices in proper vintage shops?
Sarah: People are looking for early 2000s brands and logos. Shops can't get as much money for what you consider proper genuine vintage anymore. That makes it hard to survive.
Helen: We've noticed too that some of the charity shops have vintage sections now and are charging higher prices for those things or have stores dedicated to vintage items.
Sarah: Yes, it's getting harder to go into charity shops and buy vintage. The staff will see something that they think is vintage - it might not even be a particularly nice thing or something that people are necessarily going to want - but they'll see that it's vintage and immediately put the price up. It doesn't always make sense because it's not always good quality and not always something that's in demand, so I don't think they get it quite right with everything. But yeah, they're catching on to it and have all got their little vintage rails or a whole shop dedicated to vintage.
Helen: What about the kilo sales that travel the country, what do you feel about them?
Sarah: I haven't really been to many of them. I did go to some when I was a student. And you can find some good things, you just have to be prepared to rummage. You can get some good things at good prices.
Helen: Is it important for somebody to stick to a particular era? There are some people I know who stick to an era like the 40s and they do the hair and make-up and the clothes and everything. Whereas I pick and choose from lots of different eras. Does it matter?
Sarah: I think it depends what you want your look to be because I do know people who are really into the 70s and they dress like they've come out of the 70s. If that's what you want your look to be, then that's fine and you should go for that, but if you're buying more because you want to mix up your wardrobe, you want some unique pieces then I think there's nothing wrong with mixing all different eras together rather than trying to recreate a look.
Helen: What would you say to someone who's never really bought vintage or retro clothing before. Why would they would benefit from giving it a go?
Sarah: I think that it can add a bit a bit more interest to your clothes and make your wardrobe a bit more exciting. It is hard work in a way. I feel like you have to be quite dedicated to want to go out and find something good but I think it is worth it to find something different. I've said it before with other second-hand things, but you can just find something that no one else will have and you're probably more likely to keep it for longer as well, because it's not a current trend.
Helen: Do you find it easier to shop for vintage online or in shops? Is it a different experience?
Sarah: I think it's easier online if you're looking for something really specific because you can search for it on eBay or Depop and you get exactly what you're looking for coming up. So that's if you're looking something really specific. But if you want to find something you're not looking for you, you just want to go and have a look then going to an actual shop is good, because it's easy to see if there's any damage or anything.
Helen: I think shopping online is difficult because like you said about damages and when you can't tell like the quality of the fabric. If you can't touch it, I guess you have to trust the seller that you buy it from, look at their reviews and things like that, but the size can be quite difficult to assess too.
Sarah: That's another thing you have to be prepared for with buying online. If it's an older piece, the sizing is probably a bit smaller than it would be today. So it's not always the case, but just bear that in mind. If you're looking for a 12 for example, it might be worth looking at vintage 14 and also if they've got measurements in the description then compare the measurements in the description to clothes that you've got that fit well.
Helen: I sometimes wonder what in 30 years time is going to be considered vintage from now. I mean at the moment, what is there in terms of trends and things that will be remembered?
Sarah: When you go somewhere like Urban Outfitters, it's like going back in time 20 years, so it makes me think that we're mixing so many things from previous eras. I really don't know.
Helen: And fast fashion items don't last that long anyway, so people don't keep clothes like they used to. Thinking about clothes in landfill, where are people going to find the clothes from now in 20/30 years time because they'll all have gone. Nobody keeps them for long in their wardrobes today.
Sarah: We'll just have to wait and see. It will be interesting to see what happens.
Helen: When you look through the donations we receive, what are you looking for?
Sarah: I like to find actual vintage like the 60/70s St Michael dress which was really nice to find. Anything that looks a bit vintage is good too, so it might only be 10 years old or something, but it might have a retro kind of 60s/70s kind of look. I like to find a good 80s jacket or cardigan or jumper or something like that, anything with good patterns and prints and interesting buttons.
Helen: What attracts you most? Is it the pattern, the colours, the style, the fabric, the texture?
Sarah: I think the first thing is always the colour and the patterns and then how it feels. I'm very drawn to bright colours, things that are glittery and sparkly as well.
Helen: What would you say from our range on Depop do people buy the most?
Sarah: When it gets towards winter, some of the vintage and retro kind of jumpers - ugly jumpers! - they go quite well. They're nice and thick and usually made from a good material, not just acrylic. I think they're quite popular.
Helen: Wouldn't it be great if this conversation inspired someone to buy a vintage piece for the first time? I'd love that. Sharing the joy and all that...
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