Demand for retro and vintage fashion has never been stronger. But why are women so interested in clothes from previous decades? HILARIE STELFOX visits a new shop in Slaithwaite where a huge range of 20th century styles can be mixed and matched
IN SLAITHWAITE’S new Vintage and Craft Emporium wasp-waisted Forties dresses hang on rails alongside psychedelic frocks from the early Seventies and early Sixties Crimplene minis vie for attention with Fifties day dresses.
They will all find takers, because the market for vintage clothes is now a market force all of its own.
Emporium founder Heather Croft, who donates 25% of profits from clothes sales to local charities, discovered the attraction of outfits from past decades when she built up a small collection to sell in her nearby boutique.
Such was the popularity of the second-hand clothing that she decided to give it its own space in a mill unit at Upper Mills, Canalside in Slaithwaite.
The emporium, which also houses the work of local crafts people and artists, is tucked away at the back of a mill complex, but even its remote location along the towpath has not deterred shoppers in search of something different.
And it’s not just younger fashionistas who want to wear vintage.
Heather says: “The most popular eras are the Forties and Fifties and my biggest customers are women in their forties and fifties.”
“They like the styling and the elegance of clothes from that time.
“People are wanting to go back to traditional values and there is a lot of nostalgia.”
Claire Evans, a tutor in fashion at the University of Huddersfield, agrees that the classic looks of the mid 20th century have a certain appeal for 21st century women.
“Fifties is very much in at the moment and can look fantastic,” she said.
“People these days want to have that unique look that you can get with vintage clothes and because vintage takes second-hand clothes to the next level from charity shops it’s more acceptable.”
Many celebrities and musicians mix and match vintage styling – the late Amy Winehouse, for example, adopted Fifties and Sixties looks – and vintage is an inspirational theme for young designers and fashion students.
Claire said: “I have had quite a few students that have written their dissertations on vintage.”
Vintage clothing is generally accepted as being from the Forties and Fifties, while ‘retro’ covers later decades.
Retro clothes are, for the moment, still available from charity shops, but genuine vintage garments usually find their way to specialist dealers and shops.
Heather believes that modern women appreciate the quality of clothes from bygone eras.
She says: “Today’s teenagers can buy a huge amount of clothes really cheaply in places like Primark, but when we were young clothes cost a lot of money and were better made.”
She buys vintage stock from a variety of sources, including individuals who want to sell their own clothing.
Forties and Fifties clothes, she says, come from suppliers who buy up original garments in America.
“I get Forties clothing from someone in Chicago. I have to because there is not a lot to be had here because of the war, when women didn’t have a lot of clothes, but in America life went on pretty much as normal,” she says.
“Women were leaner and smaller waisted in the Forties and Fifties, but we can alter clothes to fit in such a way that they can be restored back to the original.”
Vintage and Craft Emporium is open Thursday to Sunday and is supporting Slaithwaite Meals on Wheels, the Kirkwood Hospice and the Waves Adult Learning Centre.
All outfits here are modelled by Stephanie Bertenshaw, 22, from Marsden. Stephanie B is an artist and has work on display in the Vintage and Craft Emporium.