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What does “vintage” even mean?

In the past 5 years, “vintage” has become somewhat of a buzzword in the fashion and e-commerce world. From the most sustainable and trendy brands like Reformation–who has opened their own exclusive Reformation Vintage stores in Los Angeles–to small businesses like me selling on apps like Depop and Etsy, vintage clothing has been part of a retro revival. As is often said, fashion cycles every 20-30 years, however; this new vintage revival encapsulates styles from the 50s to early 2000s!

With everyone finding their niche in vintage clothing, it’s important to understand what “vintage” actually means. In general, an item is considered vintage if it is 20 years or older and is subsequently from a previous era of fashion.

Scarily enough–this means that clothing from the early 2000s is now coming of age as vintage clothing. I have to say I’m not excited that low rise jeans are coming back again…I sincerely prefer to leave the days of constantly readjusting my pants in my childhood!

There is also a distinction between what is called “new vintage” and “old vintage”-since we’re dealing with decades of fashion, there’s a simple way to categorize what’s being talked about. New Vintage is clothing from the 90s and early 2000s, whereas Old Vintage refers to clothing from the 50s and 60s. Leaving the funk and grooviness of vintage pieces from the 70s and 80s to be referred to as plain ‘ole vintage.

Well, now that you are all experts on knowing what is vintage, how can you tell if a garment is actually vintage?

Let me let you in on a few secret tips that I use when sourcing clothing for Riptide Vintage…

1. Take a look at the tags. Do you recognize the brand? If not, it may be vintage..hooray! Often, vintage tags are papery as opposed to the modern plastic coated or polyester tags–so feel it out! If it is a brand that you recognize, does the logo look different? If so, it could be vintage too! Check to see if it was made in the USA, or if it has a tag that says “Union Made”--this would help indicate that it was made 20+ years ago before production was outsourced internationally for most clothing brands sold in the US. Though, this is definitely not a golden rule!

2. For jeans, check the fabric content! A lot of modern jeans are a cotton/spandex blend to make them more comfy and easy to mold to your body. However, all vintage jeans (with a very rare exception) are 100% cotton! (I promise that someday soon I’ll share my absurdly extensive knowledge of vintage Levi’s in particular!)

3. Take a peek at the seams. Handmade clothing is definitely more often than not vintage, so if the seams are not professionally finished there’s a good chance you’ve got yourself a vintage gem!

4. Limited care information on tags. Most vintage brands don’t usually have the care tags on the side of the item on the inside (think the super long annoying tags that most modern brands have that have the scissor icon to cut them out!). Usually, the care information is on the tag alongside the brand and size.


Feel the fabric. A lot of vintage brands used 100% of one fabric (with the exception of sweaters). Materials like rayon, cotton, gabardine, or even polyester. Fabric blends like ramie and cotton were very popular for sweaters.

As you can see in my picture, I'm rocking a stunning vintage patchwork top from the 70s, a crochet vest from the 90s, and some of my favorite Dr. Martens platform oxfords (also from the 90s).

Well, that’s all for now lovely people…

Sustainability is Sexy and so are you!


Hayley from Riptide Vintage

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