If you were born between the 1940s and 70s, chances are that at some point in your youth you enjoyed wearing the fashion of the times. Looking back at old photos of ourselves, it can be hard to imagine what we were thinking when we chose some of those outfits, but at the time they made us feel very hip (this author included). Of course, there were some beautiful styles as well. Can anyone forget how elegant Jackie Kennedy looked in her signature pillbox hats and big-buttoned wool day dresses?
Today, young folks enjoy recreating those times by wearing vintage clothing. They were simply made better, with superior textile quality and detail, and they’re also just plain fun to wear. Most likely you still have a few vintage garments packed away somewhere. Here’s what to look for.
Clothing from the 1960s
The 60s began an age of modernism that embraced being a free spirit. Bikinis were invented in 1963, and girls clamored for them, along with mini-skirts, Capri pants and other “skin-is-in” provocative styles. Go-go boots were all the rage, especially white ones (one of the most memorable moments in the popular TV show Mad Men was when Don Draper’s tween daughter Sally attempted to attend an event in a mini dress and those iconic white patent leather boots). Men started emulating the Beatles’ British “Carnaby Street” look. Anything “designer” was hot and expensive, and these original designer garments (including Pierre Cardin, Yves St. Laurent and Givenchy) can be quite valuable today.
Styles from the 70s
The 70s started out with bell bottom pants and Nehru jackets and finished up with the disco style as popularized by the movie Saturday Night Fever. Mini skirts gave way to maxi dresses (and while lots of retailers are selling maxi dresses today, the adage “they don’t make them like they used to” is absolutely true here). Jumpsuits, rompers, tube tops and giant loud floral prints on nylon were everywhere. Today, an original pair of platform shoes or a pink leisure suit can be considered a prize find for a vintage clothing hunter.
Trends from the 80s
The 80s fashion trends were heavily influenced by TV shows and advertising. Designers began producing fashion for the masses and promoting their products through every form of media. An especially popular marketing tactic was to associate a certain look with attractive actors and actresses, such as Joan Collins and Tom Selleck. These designer brands popularized major style aesthetics, including track suits, the preppy look and the designer jean craze. Suddenly, blue jeans, which typically sold for around $20 a pair, were being sold under designer labels (remember Jordache?) for up to five times as much…and people bought them.
A few words on denim
While nylon track suits and side-tie sweaters go in and out of style, the concept of designer jeans has persisted long past the 80s. Big-name labels such as Hudson and Seven charge (and get!) more than $150 for jeans. But again, for better or worse, denim just isn’t what it used to be, and choosy people have taken note of that. An authentic pair of wide-leg JNCO jeans from the 90s can fetch its original selling price multiple times over. And even if you can’t imagine ever lying down on the bed to zip yourself into a pair of acid-washed, zipper-ankle jeans with pleats ever again, believe it or not, someone can. And they’ll pay you handsomely for the privilege of wearing what many people were happy to bid farewell to when fashion trends changed.
As always, good condition is key
Vintage clothing and antiques stores are interested in these garments today (both men’s and women’s) but be sure they’re in good condition and clean before attempting to sell or consign them. Look over each garment for rips, stains and holes. If it’s something that’s simple to repair (a torn hem, a pocket seam), go for it (or note it on the tag), but if there is irreparable damage to a garment, most people won’t want to buy it. Unlike many other collectibles, the people who buy vintage clothes usually want to wear them, not just put them on display.
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