What Makes Something Vintage?

Vintage fashion is becoming ever more popular but do you really know what vintage clothes are?

The difference between vintage clothing and retro is typically the age of the item. Vintage fashion is a lot older and usually from a specific time period in history.

What Makes Something Vintage?

In this guide, we’ll explore what makes something vintage. We also take a closer look at what retro and antique clothing is.

What Makes Something Vintage?

There are a couple of different things that make something vintage, including the item’s age and its style.

Vintage is often considered a subjective term, so definitions of what is vintage can vary widely.


The thing that typically makes something vintage is age. An item that is between 20 and 99 years old is considered to be vintage.

The vintage category sits between antique and old. Generally, antique pieces must be older than 100 years.

Garments that are not older than 20 years are usually considered simply old, while clothing items that are over 100 years are classified as antique.

Anything with an age between this categorization is said to be vintage.

You can find almost any type of vintage items on the market, from vintage garments and vintage toys to vintage furniture and vintage jewelry.


But when we talk about vintage items, it’s not just their age that makes them valuable. 

Vintage jewelry, toys, clothes and other products should show signs of the time they were made in. This is what makes them interesting to collectors and vintage lovers.

A vintage item must have design elements from the era to be classed as genuinely vintage. This is where subjectivity comes into play.

Not all items that are between 20 and 99 years old are interesting to collectors. That’s because they are difficult to associate with a certain era.

While many vintage items may be nostalgic to the previous owner, interested buyers and collectors look for other values in vintage pieces beyond the age.

What makes a vintage item collectable is difficult to define as this depends on the item itself, its quality and even the collector’s market.

However, an item from the vintage era with flair and something unusual is often considered valuable.

What Are Retro Clothes?

When we are talking about vintage fashion, then you may also hear the term “retro” or “retrograde” mentioned. 

Retro items are usually pieces of clothing, jewelry, toys, furniture or other products that are in the style of a certain era.

They don’t necessarily have to be old, vintage or antique to fit into this category. 

You can often find new items that are called retro because they simply reference to a certain style of the past.

Retro fashion is a great way to dress with a flair of nostalgia, while your garment is still brand new.

The advantage of retro clothing compared to vintage or antique fashion is that retro styles are a lot cheaper.

You can buy a retro dress, skirt or pants on a small budget, while you would need to spend a lot more cash on true vintage or antique clothes.

What’s The Difference Between Retro And Vintage Fashion?

What’s The Difference Between Retro And Vintage Fashion?

While the terms vintage and retro are often used interchangeably to describe older items of clothing, there are some clear differences.


One of the biggest elements that sets vintage and retro fashion apart is their age. A vintage piece of clothing should be at least 20 years old, but with a maximum age of 99 years.

In comparison, retro clothes can be almost any age as long as they are in the style of a specific era from the past.


As vintage clothing, especially haute couture, is often older, it tends to be more expensive. 

In comparison, retro clothing can be produced cheaply, which means that it also has a lower price tag.


Another big difference between realtor and vintage fashion is their style. Genuine vintage garments come from a specific era.

This means that vintage items have a certain style elements that are fully authentic.

On the other hand, modern retro clothing is simply inspired by designs from the past. This means that retro clothes aren’t exact replicas of historic fashion.

What Is Antique Fashion?

While vintage clothes are only genuine when they are between 20 and 99 years old, fashion is only classed as antique when the item is older than 100 years.

This does not just apply to clothes but also accessories, such as belts, hats, gloves and jewelry.

If an item is older than 100 years but it cannot be dated specifically, then experts don’t usually label it as an antique.

We often find antique furniture but smaller items or even day-to-day item, such as antique toys and antique clothes, are more difficult to find.

This is because many practical items have seen a lot of wear and tear. For example, a hundred years is a long time for a dress that is worn every day.

Fabrics aren’t made to last this long, so antique fashion isn’t usually something that you can wear again today.

What’s The Difference Between Antique And Vintage Fashion?

Let’s take a closer look at some of the differences between vintage and antique fashion.


Only items that are older than 100 years are considered to be antique. In comparison, vintage fashion should be between 10 and 99 years old.

The age of the item should be fully verifiable for it to be labelled as an antique piece of clothing.

Ability To Wear

You can find a wide range of vintage fashion in thrift stores and online. That’s because many items, which were cared for very well, are still in great condition.

On the other hand, any piece of clothing that is older than 100 years is usually in a condition where the material isn’t strong enough anymore. 

This means that you won’t be able to wear antique clothes without the risk of damaging the item.

Final Thoughts

What makes an item truly vintage is its age and its style.

Willa Price

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