You Should Be Reading: The Rise of Vintage Fashion

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It seems like everywhere you look today, vintage fashions are making a comeback. Whether on our TV screens, in our magazines, or in our stores, styles from decades ago are suddenly popular once again. While the idea of making the old new again isn’t, well, new,  vintage styles today have crossed over into the mainstream. With the increase in mass-produced fashion, many men and women are seeking to stand apart from the crowd; online vintage retailers, thousands of which can be found on websites like Etsy, cater to this new market. How do such vintage retailers compete for customers who want to look vintage but not “old-fashioned”? Apart from standing out, what other reasons exist for customers looking to buy vintage? These questions and more are explored in this week’s edition of “You Should Be Reading.” We hope you enjoy!

1. Jenß, H. (2013). Cross-temporal explorations: Notes on fashion and nostalgiaCritical Studies in Fashion & Beauty, 4(1-2), 107-124. 

The article explores intersections among nostalgia, the circulation of images and temporalities of fashion. It traces shifting meanings of nostalgia from its spatial connotation as a diagnosis for homesickness to its temporal connotation as longing for the past. While homesickness became counterproductive to ideals of modernity, consumer culture became a key site for the processing of spatio-temporal longings – potentially associated with the production of ‘false’ memories. This article highlights how nostalgia and memory are dynamically configured and intimately bound up with the development of sociotechnical practices, mediation and commodification. Uses and experiences of nostalgia range from the idealization of the past to its demystification. A perspective on the current enactment of nostalgia through vintage dress and photography points to its potencies in embodied practice as performative exploration of the experiential dynamics of temporality and being/becoming in time. — Full Article Abstract

2. Matthews, K., Hancock, J. H., & Gu, Z. (2013). Rebranding American men’s heritage fashions through the use of visual merchandising, symbolic props and masculine iconic memes historically found in popular cultureCritical Studies in Men’s Fashion, 1(1), 39-58.

This article takes a critical examination of how merchandising inspired by popular culture communicates various notions of history, and in this case, to display and sell heritage fashion lines. In specific retail locations popular and historically cultural-influenced visual displays and aesthetic merchandising strategies are studied to ascertain and interpret the importance of visual display as one vehicle of fashion branding. A careful interpretive analysis, determines that retailers associate cultural-influenced thematic props and icons reflective of America culture to sell men’s mass-fashion garments and give them an aura of authenticity and American heritage. These displays and the branding stories convey conceptual (pop) cultural masculine icons or noted historical memes of US historical masculine imagery that include such male icons as the rebel, the cowboy, the Ivy Leaguer, jocks and blue-collar workers, revealing how these worn styles have infused into American culture and men’s mass fashion as contemporary street style. — Full Article Abstract

3. Veenstra, A., & Kuipers, G. (2013). It is not old-fashioned, it is vintage: Vintage fashion and the complexities of 21st century consumption practicesSociology Compass, 7, 355-365. 

This article reviews consumption practices concerning vintage, a fashion style based on used or retro-style garments. Existing studies connect vintage with authenticity, nostalgia and identity. We explore how the vintage style deploys and comments on consumer culture, bypassing producers by wearing old garments to communicate ‘authentic’ identities. We argue that existing theories on consumption, fashion and subculture cannot fully explain vintage practices. Bypassing the dichotomies and one-dimensional explanations of these theories, we show that vintage, with its ambivalent relation to both subcultural distinction practices and mainstream consumer culture, serves as a prism through which to examine and understand the complexities and subtleties of 21st century consumption practices. — Full Article Abstract

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