Retro, vintage… or just plain old? | 9flats blog – inside the world of social travel


Retro, vintage… or just plain old?

Español | Deutsch

In an age where travellers are now bringing home cool, vintage pieces instead of the standard Eiffel Towers, we wonder: what does vintage actually mean? Resident blogger and vintage afficionada, Lúcia, shares her view and asks the experts (and her friends).

Just because it’s old, does that make it cool? Photo from Visual News*

How many years does it take for an object to become vintage? And if a dress from 1980 is already considered a vintage piece, what can I call the 1910s dress that I’m dying to buy at Mimi’s? A museum piece?!

When I think about vintage, the first image that comes to my mind is a beautiful woman, curvy, with glamorous hair and a dress to kill, dancing in some forbidden smoky jazz club. For me, a vintage item is something unique, rare, precious, that was able somehow to survive through the years. A treasure that your great-grandmother was keeping secretly in her closet to pass to you.

In my case, and yes I was a young girl during the 80s, I get really annoyed when I go to some so-called vintage shops and the only ‘vintage’ items that they have are clothes from the 80s and the 90s.

But well… maybe I’m too picky… so, I wanted to hear from the experts. I wrote to my friend, Leticia, who works for an online fashion shop. And to add a voice of the every day, I asked a person that lives vintage every day of her life: designer and singer with The Soaked Lamb, Mariana. We’re also lucky to have the view of one of our favourite listings sites, LeCool London.

Photo from

Different strokes for different folks. Photo from Visual News*

 Here’s what the experts said…

“Vintage is ‘vint’ [20 in Portuguese] -age… you can notice that, in the cycles of fashion, everything comes back after 20 years. So the 90s are very fashionable again… now grunge is back… and yes, it can be considered as vintage! Today I heard about a lady and I feel like sharing with you, because I’m crazy in love with her work. Read her history and check out her portfolio. Amazing…”

Leticia Gicovate, Farm Rio

“I feel that a garment or accessory can be considered vintage if it’s at least 20 years old, however I don’t think the age is the most important thing about vintage clothing. I’m most interested in the design, cut and fabric. I’m not afraid of calling them old, because in many cases that’s just what they are, and many times that’s what’s interesting about them. They carry a bit of history, both of the person who wore them, and of the social and economic aspects of the time. This makes every piece so unique, one can’t help feeling unique wearing them. Obviously, if we consider a piece made in the 80s or the 90s it was probably made industrially, whilst a piece made before the 50s would probably be handmade, which adds charm and interest to the garment.”

Mariana Lima Balas, The Soaked Lamb

“If there’s one way to describe the difference between vintage and retro, it would be that vintage suggests authenticity, whereas retro suggests ‘in the style of’ or more bluntly: copy. The recent collections of high street stores like Topshop are definitely not vintage, but clearly tip their hat in honour of the past. I don’t favour one over the other, but I know there are purists that do. And when does something become vintage? I’d say when the folk that were first wearing it turn 30 and the youth start wearing it again. The recent 90s throwback is a case in point. 90s is definitely vintage. I’m into the 70s at the moment. Not Abba. And not anything hippy (though that is popular). I heart disco.”

Sarah-Jayne Boyd, LeCool London, @sarahjayneboyd
(Read Sarah-Jayne’s vintage London tips here >)

 But what does vintage mean to you?

I can understand both points of view, the fashion one and the personal one, but I do have to agree more with Mariana. When I go out and I dress up in my 1930s dress, my shoes, handbag, with hair and make-up done… I do feel special. I do think about all the life that this object had. Who wore it before me? Where did they go in it? And when I arrive to the club and the swing tunes start to move my body… my feet start moving and I dance and I jump and I’m so happy! No, I was not born in my beloved XIX century and no, I was not a teen in the 50s, but for sure I can experience their lifestyle now. I can close my eyes and pretend that I’m back then.

Must fashion designers dictate what is a vintage object? Or should we consider anything that’s more than 20 years old a vintage piece? I’m not able to solve this enigma, and I still have the same question in my head: how many years have to pass until an object, a dress, a piece of music is considered vintage? Does time really matter at all?

Let us know what do you think. I would be thrilled to read your opinion and look forward to solving this question.

My top 3 vintage travel tips

Here are three of my favourite places in the world to get beautiful vintage pieces:

1. For furniture: Geraldine, Lisbon
2. For clothes: Mimi, Berlin
3. For dancing: Bassy Club, Berlin

More tips for Berlin, London and Lisbon >

My top 3 vintage 9flats

I noticed that we seem to have more and more hosts with vintage taste. Here are my favourites:

1. Old-fashioned classic: Istanbul
2. Pop art: Hong Kong
3. Retro gypsy: Piolenc

More vintage 9flats >

For more vintage finds in Berlin, check out my blog, Vintage Berlin Guide.

*We stumbled across while searching for ‘bad vintage fashions’, and the guys there kindly let us use these images. Check out their funny and inspiring articles about vintage.


Tags: , , , , , ,

Written by , October 9, 2012

1 Comment

  • Ana Carolina says:

    Ooooooh! I really enjoyed this post!

    I know you are a purist, Lúcia…. and that´s lovable and respectable. You are a romantic. I think it is a question hard to answer because there is a lot feelings on it. But to be honest, I feel the 90 got to the vintage point. Yes. let´s face it… time passes by for us as well.

    I remember that in the 90 it was super fashionable to dress like in the 70… that was the coolest.

    I met some young people that didn’t know who Andy Warhol was or The Doors… That era happened over 40 years ago now. And I think that since we crossed the XX century… time will pass by faster and faster.

    It’s pretty fascinating to have access to so much, to have the chance to choose. I think the ones that had the chance to taste a little of the XXth century, like we did, are very lucky.