Why Are Vintage Clothes Better Quality? (This is why)

I have been involved in the fashion industry for over three decades and during that time I have been amazed by various designer’s repetitive attempts to drag old styles back into fashion.  In each case the design may be similar to previous originals from earlier decades however, the uniqueness of the original is always distinctly different.  

Superior fabric; higher momme grade, thread count, densely woven.  All construction elements add to the overall integrity of the structure; top stitching, French seams, and hand hemming, finish is always exceptionally better in vintage than in a modern copy.

By the end of this post you will have a greater understanding and appreciation of the value and integrity that an item of vintage clothing embodies; why it has greater longevity and despite being decades old, still commands glances of admiration from the modern fashionista.

How Vintage Clothes Are Made.

The distinctive attributes which a vintage item possesses are a reflection of the age within which it was produced.  In the past an item had to be quality as it had to last longer, it was an investment. Consequently, the design was less transient and more classic than perhaps we have grown used to in our modern insatiable desire for the new. 

Once the classic design, think Dior and its distinctive nipped in waist and slightly rounded soft shoulder, is established in the consumer’s mind, the fashion house retains that image and tweak it ever so slightly to satisfy the age.  

The foundation of a successful garment is the fabric and cut; quality fabric will always catch the eye and a good cut gains the respect of the admirer.  

The pattern is laid and generous seam allowance is given which adds to the overall substance of the finished item. 

Before being put together each piece may be overlocked or laid and top stitched to a lining cut to match the pattern piece in order to give the finished product more body (especially in the case of a short fitted jacket or in any type of bodice design which will need more substance and support), the button stand, facing, collars and cuffs are interfaced and a complete final lining with facing attached is then fitted.

It is in essence two perfect garments inside and out.  How many modern equivaltives could boast the same?  

Weights or chains have been put in the hems of coats or jackets to encourage them to fall and hang smoothly, the inside facing is stitched on the edge close to the seam where it is joined to the outer piece, securing the invisibility of the lining and giving added definition to the garment. 

Ideally stitching in a vintage garment should never be obvious unless it is meant to be characteristic of the piece such as tailored top stitching on a collar and lapel, think Max Mara.   The finish of a vintage garment is incorruptible;  time shall not alter quality.

Ways Vintage Clothing Is Better Than Modern Clothes. 

The most obvious difference between modern and vintage clothing is of course glaringly obvious when you put them side by side: it is quality.  

Why Do People Like Vintage Clothes?

Everyone values individuality and the way to define yourself is through fashion which can allow you to become  a different person every day.  The problem is that unless you have exceptional amounts of money, you very often end up looking the same as everyone else who dresses on the high-street. 

Vintage clothes can help the look appear more individual and self expressive.  The fuller figure is totally compensated by quality clothing; a size 20 can look equally as good as a size 10 in quality cut clothing as long as the correct fit for size is selected.

The inner lining in a vintage garment takes any stress from the fuller figure and as a consequence the outer part of the garment flows freely.  In fact a tailored vintage piece has a the ability to flow smoothly that today time is of a premium whereas conversely in the past quality was what set one apart.  

How To Care For Vintage Clothes.

This is a very important topic; the custodian of vintage clothing has a duty to maintain and store their cherished items carefully so they maintain their brightness and body.

Firstly it is essential to check clothes for stains or sponge the inside lining which has been close to the body before hanging up after it is worn, it should ideally be covered in a cotton or linen cloth bag so the fabric can breathe whilst being protected by UV rays and dust, but if this is not possible, the plastic that the cleaners provide is a good alternative. 

I advise having a small linen bag of lavender on each hanger as it helps to repel moths who particularly relish the pure wools which many vintage items are made of.  If you do not have lavender, then bags of whole cloves will do as an alternative. 

Never use wire hangers as they can rust and ruin fabric, also a nice padded shoulder on a hanger can help to support the shoulders of your vintage.   Keep rotating the items in your wardrobe and shake the clothes well on the hangers just to ensure there are no moths making their home in them.

It is wiser to dry-clean items as the texture on silk and some wools can be compromised by handwashing and the results can be very disappointing.  Be mindful of fabrics that are richly embellished with beads or embroidery as these really need to be laid flat rather than left hanging in a wardrobe as the weight of the whole item can prove too much for shoulder seams and cause fraying.  

Keep an eye on the maintenance and condition of your clothes, never leave loose buttons hanging on by a thread, remember this is a vintage item which means that it may well be very difficult to find a replacement should one button go missing.  It is much wiser to restitch loose buttons or fasteners as soon as possible. 

When a vintage piece is bought, it is accompanied by a history and deserves our respect and care.   

Sharon Cunningham

I enrolled in The Grafton Academy of Fashion and Design and studied there for six years before being taken on by a German fashion house with whom I worked for nine years, eventually leaving to return to university to complete my MA.

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