Sunday, 8 February 2015

How vintage is 'vintage'?

In which I feel Very Old.

Yesterday I went to a vintage fashion fair in Liverpool. Part of the attraction was that it was held in the crypt of the Metropolitan Cathedral, which I haven’t visited for ages. It’s always interesting to have a look round there, marvel at the scale of it, and try to imagine what the completed cathedral would have looked like, had it been built.

Part of the crypt

There were some 1950s items on sale, but much of clothing was later than that, up to and including the 1980s. I’ve come across this in other vintage fairs, and I always find it slightly mind-boggling (and worrying) that something I wore the first time round now counts as ‘vintage’. There is also the awful possibility that one day I will come across one of my own creations for sale!

In some ways though I can’t complain. In the mid-1980s I made a dress from this 1948 pattern of my mum’s, which I loved. The pattern is now a candidate for a remake as part of the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge although I will have to, ahem, let it out a bit.

Simplicity 2683 - 1948

Another favourite dress of mine in the eighties was a 1950s sheath dress with a wide collar. I bought this second-hand, took a pattern from it, and wore both the original and my remake. So, given that I was wearing styles which were 30-35 years old, I suppose that it’s not unreasonable that people now want to do the same, which means clothes from the 1980s. According to Laver's Law, which defines fashions by their age, 1980s dress is now 'amusing'. Not the word which I'd use, but never mind.

Laver's Law

It’s not just vintage fashion fairs that regard the 1980s as fair game. The Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge allows patterns up to the 1990s. This fact, combined with recent fair visits, got me wondering. Sure enough, despite a massive (and now much regretted) clear-out in the 1990s, a check of my pattern stash reveals that I could actually meet my pledge of making three items from ‘vintage patterns’ simply by reusing patterns which I already have! Ouch.

This one dates from 1980. I think I made view 4. Certainly it wouldn’t have been views 1 or 2; I wasn't keen on bows then, and I'm not keen now.

I was horrified to discover just how old this next pattern is. 1982. Horrified because I still have a top I made from it in my wardrobe - view 1. I’ve been wearing vintage without even knowing it!

The co-hosts of the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge have both posted about their collections of vintage patterns (you can read them here and here), and have included, “The pattern I’ll never make, but won't get rid of”. This is definitely my equivalent. With a date of 1989, it only just sneaks in.

I have no idea why I kept this pattern, and it’s not something I’d ever wear now, but as it's survived this long I can’t imagine getting rid of it.

On the subject of my lost pattern stash, at a recent fair in Chester I came across a pattern which I used to own. In a fit of nostalgia, I bought it.

It dates from 1979. I made view 1, in a fine green cotton lawn with small white flowers. It's just as well that it was a fine fabric as the blouse contains a ridiculous amount of cloth; view 1 requires 2.6m / 2¾ yards of 115cm / 45" wide fabric. I've made dresses from less. Plus, I must have spent a phenomenal amount of time just ironing the thing.

So having bought the pattern the question was, where to file it? My vintage patterns were in one drawer, my remaining few Style patterns in another. Which was it to be? In the end it went in the Style drawer, as I convinced myself that it wasn't really vintage. Whatever other people might think!


  1. I love that Style 2580 pattern! I would definitely buy that and possibly make it, if I could get over how much fabric it needs :-) In fact all those Style patterns are great. You do know that we're including 1990s patterns in vintage, don't you? Technically they count as half the decade is 20 years or more in the past. yeah, that's a bit depressing!

    1. 1990s? That makes even more of my pattern stash officially vintage. Eek!

      Style were always my favourite patterns, which is probably why most of the ones I kept were theirs. I was really sorry when they closed down.

  2. I love that Butterick 3119. I actually liked the 80's. I haven't enjoyed a lot of fashion since then. I'm sad I got rid of most of my patterns from the 80's. Not that I think they should be vintage (yet) but fashions have a way of coming back full circle!

    1. I've had great fun browsing online sellers and Pinterest boards for 1980s patterns recently, although I found surprisingly few of the ones I owned. I can think of one pattern I'd definitely buy again if I could find it, but unfortunately I can't even remember which company made it - it's a good excuse to keep looking, though!