Fashion Practice, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp. 239–262
Reprints available directly from the Publishers.
Photocopying permitted by licence only.
© 2012 Berg.
The Rise of
and the Vintage
Tracy Diane Cassidy and
Hannah Rose Bennett
Tracy Cassidy is a Lecturer in
Fashion Marketing in the School
of Design, University of Leeds.
She is the ﬁrst author of Colour
Forecasting (Blackwell Publishers).
Hannah Rose Bennett graduated at
Manchester Metropolitan University
where she studied International
Fashion Marketing. She is a trainee
footwear buyer for a multiple retailer.
Amongst other factors, the current economic climate appears to have
contributed to the trend of acquiring and reusing vintage clothing,
accessories, and homeware products, particularly with young consum-
ers. The popularity of vintage has also been linked to a change in con-
sumer attitudes towards wearing and utilizing secondhand goods. In
addition to a change in attitudes, other factors that contribute to the
growth of the vintage trend include a change in values, the inclusion of
vintage inspirations used in current designs by fashion designers, and
in the trends marketed by the forecasting sector, eco-sustainability, the
240 Tracy Diane Cassidy and Hannah Rose Bennett
media, and technology. Also vintage consumers and vintage retailers
appear to share the viewpoint of the movement towards vintage fashion
that has been assisted by a reaction against mass-produced fast fashion,
as consumers strive for more individuality in their styling and garments.
Eco-fashion and sustainable fashion ideals have emerged as solutions
to the environmental issues that are currently inherent in the indus-
try’s manufacturing processes, which have government and pressure
group support. This ideal and practice complements the vintage trend
phenomenon. This article explores the principal factors and the demo-
graphics of vintage consumers in the UK and their consumption habits
to better understand the appeal and scope of this growing trend.
KEYWORDS: vintage, trend, consumers, lifestyle, individuality
The trend for vintage fashion may be considered a response to the nega-
tive publicity and effects of fast fashion. Fast fashion is essentially a
business model for companies that manufacture products to retail in
their own high street stores making use of vertically integrated produc-
tion methods rather than the traditional linear model commonly used
by fashion companies. The fast fashion method ensures quick response
to consumer demand as all of the production occurs on one site. This
has enabled retailers to have copies of celebrities’ outﬁts available in
store within a few weeks of their media coverage, a concept that has
found particular favor amongst young consumers. However, consum-
ers are symptomatically disposing of fast fashion goods as quickly as
the fashion companies can produce them. As a consequence, as Small
states in Brown (2010: 7), in 2009 UK consumers disposed of more
than two tonnes (metric tons) of fast-fashion clothing that had only
been worn around six times, on average, per garment. Meanwhile, the
vintage trend gained a slow but steady growth, preserving and recy-
cling fashion products that are representative of past trends from differ-
ent eras of the twentieth century rather than the in-the-moment trends
synonymous with fast fashion. While vintage, like fast fashion, can be
traced back to the 1990s, more recently vintage has emerged as a much
stronger fashion trend and the movement is showing the potential to
increase further as consumers adopt new attitudes towards secondhand
products. As Lucy Cavendish quotes fashion retail expert Mary Portas
in The Times article on December 5, 2009, “The recession means we
have all slowed down. We focus more on the value of something” and
as more people view the concept of fast fashion as “vulgar” there seems
to be a rise in the purchase of quality secondhand clothing. Also fast
fashion has equated to large numbers of consumers wearing the same
garments lacking individuality, which Palmer (2005: 197) posed as an
The Rise of Vintage Fashion and the Vintage Consumer 241
explanation for the increase in vintage fashion. She says, “Vintage has
now shifted from subculture to mass culture because of the disappoint-
ing fact that, regardless of price, fashion today is rarely exclusive.”
The rise of the vintage trend and the factors that are generally assumed
responsible for its adoption are further discussed in this article after set-
ting out the research methods used to obtain the data. The attraction
of the trend is explored both from a consumer and a retailer perspec-
tive. The demographics of UK vintage consumers are then determined
through primary research and their consumption habits are realized to
make an informed assessment of the likely future of the trend.
The most signiﬁcant factors leading to the increase in the popularity of
vintage are determined through a literature review. Resources include
academic texts and newspaper articles. Semi-structured interviews con-
ducted with six vintage retailers who were selling their merchandise at
a Vintage Fair in Manchester, UK (November 13, 2010), are used to
supplement the relatively limited available secondary sources. This data
helps to gain a better understanding of the reasons why people choose to
buy vintage fashions and the lifestyle factors of vintage consumers from
a market perspective bringing depth to the secondary research ﬁndings.
Data collected through a questionnaire survey is then used to gain an
understanding of vintage fashion consumer demographics (gender, age,
and geographic locations), their spending habits, and preferred vintage
eras. The results are discussed in sections 3.1 to 3.10. As a convenience
sampling method was employed for the data collection there was no set
criteria used to select the respondents. The results are therefore a likely
representation of the entire market demographic as opposed to a cross-
section of the marketplace.
The questionnaires were distributed online via appropriate social
media networks including Facebook to access a large target group and
also by prominent ﬁgures in the vintage industry; Fleur de Geurre, a
well-known vintage blogger, promoted the link on her Twitter page,
Mrs Moore’s Vintage Store generated interest via Facebook, and the
New Sheridan Club (http://newsheridanclub.co.uk/), “a social club for
nostalgic dandies and tweedy dreamers,” sent the link in an e-mail to
their forum members. In addition questionnaires were distributed in two
UK vintage fairs, again using a convenience sampling method, this time
with a random selection approach to select people that clearly engaged
with the vintage trend evidenced through their attire.
A total of 169 respondents completed the questionnaire online, in-
cluding twenty-ﬁve international vintage consumers. A further ﬁfty-ﬁve
questionnaires were completed during the visits to the two UK vintage
fairs: Vintage Threads, a monthly fair held at the Manchester Triangle
shopping center; and Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair at De Montfort
University Student Union, Leicester. Both events were very busy, making
242 Tracy Diane Cassidy and Hannah Rose Bennett
it difﬁcult to attract respondents without distracting them from their
intention to shop, which was a condition imposed by the event orga-
nizers. Following the initial analysis of the data, two further informal
telephone interviews were conducted with vintage consumer (A) on
March 10, 2011 and with vintage retailer (B) on March 28, 2011, each
lasting 15–20 minutes. Both interviewees were ﬁrst interviewed at the
fair in Manchester where they agreed to the follow up interviews. These
additional interviews contributed valuable conﬁrmation of, or support-
ing views for, the analysis.
While the primary research is relatively small scale and generaliza-
tions cannot be made as the sample is not a conﬁrmed true representative
of the population, the ﬁndings still contribute to a better understand-
ing of the attraction of the trend and vintage consumption with some
indications of vintage consumer typologies as a foundation for further
2. The Rise of Vintage
As John Walsh notes in an article for The Independent on August 28,
2010, for many vintage consumers, “vintage is about looking forward
through the window of the past.” Nostalgia seems to have a vital role in
vintage consumption, as vintage garments have the ability to represent
past eras as stories are interweaved within the garments. Banim and
Guy (2001: 218–9) illustrate the point that vintage clothes have histori-
cal attachments and by keeping garments those memories are preserved,
which demonstrates that the wearer feels these memories are too pre-
cious to be discarded. Palmer (2005: 201) also suggests that the popu-
larity of vintage clothing has risen during recent years as a yearning for
familiarity in a society that is constantly changing with technological
advancements, and becoming more fast-paced and detached than ever
before. Vintage fashion can be seen as a form of stability against a rap-
idly changing environment, which helps consumers to reconnect with a
time gone by where things were simpler. A study conducted by DeLong
et al. (2005: 25–40) also demonstrates that the history of vintage pieces
has an important inﬂuence on consumer purchasing decisions as it helps
them to connect with a past era.
In the following subsections the most signiﬁcant factors that have
been linked to the rise of the vintage trend are presented.
2.1. Changing Attitudes
Emily Cronin notes in The Guardian on September 5, 2010, that
changes in consumer attitudes towards the types of garments purchased
can also be illustrated by the diminishing stigma against wearing real
fur. Vintage retail interviewee from Memoir was originally unsure about
buying vintage furs for retail; however, since stocking furs they have
The Rise of Vintage Fashion and the Vintage Consumer 243
realized the popularity and demand for them. They also comment on
a particular high street retailer buying real vintage furs from a vintage
warehouse to use as trims on their coats. This suggests a wider level of
acceptance as the main industry retailers also adopt its use. BVintage
Bazaar interviewee also reports selling six fur coats during that morn-
ing’s trade at the Vintage Fair, Manchester. Vintage retailer interviewee
from Snooky Ookums notes the change in consumer attitudes stating
that consumers “buy fur as long as it is vintage, as it was produced in a
time when the use of fur for fashion was considered acceptable.”
2.1.1. Return to postwar values
With the effect of the recession on consumers’ ﬁnances, many have
been seen to opt to down-trade or even shop at charity shops, which
may be viewed as a factor in the rise of vintage fashion. Sarah Butler
reports in an article for The Times on April 6, 2010, that the practice of
“hand-me-down enjoying a recessionary revival” with sales ﬁgures to
support its claim. She also states that “the British Heart Foundation and
Oxfam [had] reported like-for-like sales growth of 5 per cent or more in
January and March.” This is an interesting ﬁgure to take into account,
especially as many high street chains are suffering and have actually
seen falling sales due to the recession. Celia Walden also notes in The
Telegraph on October 27, 2010, the impact the recession has on current
fashion trends, stating that “the sociology behind the midi isn’t quite so
subtle: uncertain times have provoked a nostalgia for the safer values of
yesteryear.” The article continues with Brenda Polan saying, “We’re in
between [skirt] lengths because we’re in between austerity and prosper-
ity.” The rise in popularity of the midi-skirt can also be attributed to the
television series Mad Men (further discussed in 2.5.1), which can be said
to evoke a true feeling of nostalgia in the minds of the viewer.
There is also a return to postwar mentality as vintage consum-
ers adopt the “repair, reuse, and recycle” attitude. This challenges
the “throwaway fashion” idea as people hold on to garments longer
and choose to repair them rather than discard them. This echoes the
attitudes of society in 1943; a mass-observation study conducted during
this period revealed that “women were spending more time on repairs,
alterations, [and] generally making-do” (Sladen 1995: 14). Currently
in the UK Channel 4 is televising the program Make Do And Mend, a
term very much associated with the Second World War period, which
informs viewers of all manners of money-saving tips for modern living.
2.2. Fashion Trends and Designers
Designers still take inspiration from vintage clothing to produce current
collections. As Little Red Vintage interviewee states “all fashion trends
are recycled, they come from vintage styles.” Selected past decades have
been a focal point of fashion trends for much of the past two decades
and still appear set to be key inspirations for some time to come.
244 Tracy Diane Cassidy and Hannah Rose Bennett
Garbo Antiques interviewee states that a well-known fashion
designer bought an authentic cavalry coat dated 1904 from their eBay
shop. The designer informed the vintage retailer that they would be
deconstructing the jacket to use the pattern. Garbo Antiques also sold a
vintage lady’s suit back to its original designer via eBay; stating that
many designers appear to be buying back their old collections either to
preserve in archives to maintain the history of the fashion house, or as
in this case to use the original garment to retrieve the pattern.
2.2.1. Style, quality, and individuality
Palmer and Clark (2005: 197) suggest that the increase in popularity
for vintage fashion is an alternative response to the trend for fast fash-
ion, which is produced en masse and leads to many people wearing the
same items of clothing. Vintage consumers are trying to escape from
this trend and create individual identities for themselves by wearing
something unique that is often one of a kind (DeLong et al. 2005: 26).
Vintage retailers support this view, Little Red Vintage interviewee states
that vintage fashion is about “originality, authenticity and quality”;
Garbo Antiques interviewee adds that consumers are “looking for in-
dividuality instead of mass manufactured garments” and that vintage
offers “better quality and styles than you would ﬁnd on the high street”
(see Figures 1 and 2). Vintage retailers at the Vintage Fair in Manchester
(November 13, 2010) all noticed an increase in sales of knitted jumpers
and fur leading up to Winter and demand for sequined items as evenin-
gwear. Garbo Antiques’ bestsellers were declared to be 1950s full skirts,
stating that “they can’t get enough to meet demand” and that consum-
ers in London are particularly interested in 1920s beaded dresses, which
suggests a geographical difference in consumer demand for particular
Palmer and Clark (2005: 4) and DeLong et al. (2005: 28) suggest
vintage fashion allows consumers to mix in elements of the past with
contemporary clothing to create new identities. They also suggest vin-
tage fashion allows the consumer to become their own designer as they
alter styles and have the ability to fashion an outﬁt that might not nec-
essarily be considered on trend by the fashion industry. They identify
this as a “symbol of fashion independence” (Palmer and Clark 2005:
174) as vintage consumers buy into a trend that they identify with as an
individual, rather than what is projected to them via fashion industry
Vintage fashion can be viewed as a part of consumer interest in ethical
clothing as it is considered as a form of recycling and reusing fashion. In
today’s throwaway society UK consumers alone generate “2.35 million
tonnes” of waste clothing in landﬁlls every year (Fletcher 2008: 98). Arnold
(2009: 64) suggests that increased media coverage on environmental
The Rise of Vintage Fashion and the Vintage Consumer 245
Two young men shopping at Judy’s
Affordable Vintage Fair held at De
Montfort University Student Union,
Leicester, UK. Photograph: Hannah
issues has inﬂuenced consumers to make more conscientious purchasing
decisions. Vintage retail interviewee from Sophwaa’s Corner supports
this notion stating, “fast fashion is consumerism rather than fashion,
vintage is very much to do with recycling and its popularity has in-
creased now that the stigma for second-hand clothing has decreased.”
The recession has also led to a change in consumer attitudes as people
have less discretionary income and are therefore limiting the amount of
money they spend on clothing.
Celebrities also help to improve the image of vintage fashion. In the
past, wearing previously worn garments was frowned upon by the fash-
ion community and the secondhand culture was seen as something that
246 Tracy Diane Cassidy and Hannah Rose Bennett
only people with lower incomes would buy into as a form of necessity
rather than desire. As Garbo Antiques interviewee states, “second-hand
clothing used to be for the poor but thanks to supermodels it is now
the ‘in-thing.’” Celebrities have recently given the vintage fashion scene
a makeover and redirected fashion-conscious consumers to focus on a
once overlooked source of fashion. Joanna Blythe notes in an article
in The Daily Mail on November 12, 2007, celebrities such as Renee
Zellweger and Reese Witherspoon have helped to encourage the move
towards vintage fashion by wearing vintage attire to red carpet events.
As media documents, celebrities move towards wearing vintage dresses
this seal of approval is then noted and adopted by fashion enthusiasts
who use celebrities for fashion guidance. British singer Lily Allen quit
the music scene “to launch her own vintage fashion store and label, Lucy
in Disguise” (Smith 2010), which allows women to rent vintage dresses
Vintage Retailer at the Manchester
Vintage and Textile Fair, Armitage
Centre, Manchester, UK.
Photograph: Hannah Rose Bennett.
The Rise of Vintage Fashion and the Vintage Consumer 247
that they otherwise could not afford for nights out. When asked about
the factors that have led to the increase in popularity of vintage fashion,
all retailers questioned at the Printworks Vintage Fair, Manchester, UK
(November 13, 2010) attributed this rise to celebrities. Celebrities are
also collaborating with retailers to produce “new” vintage lines which
are heavily inﬂuenced by vintage styles but are newly produced. Such
ranges include the Kate Moss collections for Topshop and Dita Von
Teese for Wonderbra.
Dita Von Teese can be viewed as the spokesperson for the burlesque
industry as she is widely recognized as the “undisputed Queen of
Burlesque” as an article in The Independent on March 25, 2010, quotes
extracts from her book entitled Burlesque and the Art of the Tease (2006).
Burlesque has been around for hundreds of years; however, Von Teese
managed to catapult this form of entertainment back into the limelight
by attracting a new, modern audience. The burlesque performer cur-
rently has 544,777 followers on Twitter (December 15, 2010), which
demonstrates her popularity. She has also produced successful vintage-
inspired lingerie ranges for Wonderbra. As John Walsh reports in The
Independent on August 28, 2010, the burlesque industry has helped to
increase the desire for vintage underwear amongst women, with items
such as stockings and corsets enjoying a revival, “you soon discover
that burlesque—mild, peek-a-boo soft porn with ladies in ostrich feath-
ers and outsize foundation garments, plays a major part in the vintage
world” (Walsh 2010). The image of vintage lingerie has changed; it is
now seen as a luxury item of indulgence, as evident through Dita Von
Teese’s collaboration with Wonderbra, whereas in previous eras it was
viewed as uncomfortable shapewear necessary to produce the correct
silhouette. Some vintage garments that are bought today only achieve
the right silhouette when worn with the correct undergarments, illus-
trating a modern-day demand for reproduction vintage lingerie.
The media also impacts the rise of vintage fashion, as Palmer (2005:
197) states, “vintage is regularly featured within the pages of leading
fashion and lifestyle magazines and is promoted as a sign of individual-
ity and connoisseurship.” Little Red Vintage interviewee supports this
disclosing that the store was recently interviewed for a feature in Marie
Claire magazine along with three other vintage retailers (published in
the January 2011 edition) demonstrating media interest in this growing
trend. Like celebrities, ﬁlm, television, and fashion catwalks have at
some point focused on vintage fashion, which has also raised the proﬁle
of this trend.
2.5.1. Film and television
Film and television, like the arts and culture, have long since been used
as sources of design inspiration by designers; similarly, popular television
programs are a source of inspiration for consumers. The multi-award
248 Tracy Diane Cassidy and Hannah Rose Bennett
winning television series Mad Men set in 1960s America portrays the
ﬁctional lives of people involved in the advertising industry on Madi-
son Avenue. As reported on Reuters’ website (2010), the season four
premier of the drama series attracted 2.9 million viewers in America.
In addition to this, Chris Tryhorn reports in The Guardian on January
28, 2010, that the debut of season three in the UK attracted 370,000
viewers. Each season’s premiere has seen an increase in viewers’ ﬁgures.
Numerous newspaper articles have attributed the rise in demand for vin-
tage fashions to the popularity of this program. Sarah Woodhead (2010)
notes on Queens of Vintage, the online vintage magazine website, that
“the US drama [had] spurred a resurgence of glamour” as is evident
on the catwalks for the Fall 2010 season collections and throughout
high street offerings, as designers such as Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton
display collections that involve corsets, midi-skirts, and bow-trimmed
shoes, similar to those worn in the 1950s and 1960s. The program has
even had an impact on the types of models used during these catwalks,
as curvy models are preferred over modern skinnier silhouettes to add
more authenticity to the era being portrayed. Sarah Mower notes on the
Style.com magazine’s website that Marc Jacobs had used Lara Stone,
“Karolina Kurkova and Elle Macpherson, all women whose physical
attributes have acted as a disqualiﬁcation for fashion show participation
[in the past]” to showcase his collection as they have similar ﬁgures to
women from that era. Chrissie Russell notes in an article in The Inde-
pendent on October 26, 2010, how even retailers have noted the impact
of the program on their recent sales, “‘I’ve not seen a reaction in fashion
quite like the Mad Men effect—it’s huge!’ says Lisa Perkins co-owner
of Perk Up Vintage store in Dublin.” She also notes the inﬂuence of the
television series does not end at vintage stores, as high street chains also
note an increase in sales of vintage inspired garments, “Debenhams have
seen retro sets of suspenders and stockings soar in popularity, with sales
climbing more than 200 per cent as more and more people tune into the
rising appeal of Mad Men.” A continuation of the 1960s vibe can be
seen in A Single Man, a ﬁlm directed by Tom Ford, released in the UK
in February 2010. The ﬁlm, set in Los Angeles in 1962, may have con-
tributed to the increase in popularity of vintage fashion as it portrays the
fashion and lifestyles of that era in a glamorous manner.
The Internet has dramatically increased the awareness and popularity of
vintage fashion making it accessible to a wide audience. There is a wealth
of information on the background of vintage fashions with forums dedi-
cated to the topic that can be used to aide consumers with their purchases.
There is also an inﬂux of craft forums demonstrating the popularity of
people producing handmade goods, a pastime of postwar times.
Websites such as eBay are helping everyday consumers to buy into
the vintage trend by making it more accessible and affordable as vintage
The Rise of Vintage Fashion and the Vintage Consumer 249
pieces are placed on auction sites. The popularity of the television series
Mad Men, previously discussed, led eBay to report a rise in vintage sales
as viewers of the drama attempt to recreate the 1960s look portrayed
in the program. As the online news website The Sentinel reports on
October 12, 2010, “Sales of full skirts are up by 252 per cent, with
prom-style dresses making the third most-searched for item in the wom-
en’s fashion category. Meanwhile chic kitten heel sales have jumped by
140 per cent and sling-back designs have soared by a staggering 600 per
cent.” The impact of the trend continues through to makeup purchases
too, emphasizing the desire for consumers to recreate the whole look
authentically. “The classic pillar-box red pout is also in vogue, with sales
of red lipstick increasing by 117 per cent.” The Sentinel also reports that
people are buying into the whole lifestyle. The Internet has beneﬁted
vintage retailers as the interviewee from Memoir demonstrates in their
move from a high street presence to a purely online operation to lower
their overheads and reach a wider audience. This move has seen a rise
in proﬁts for the retailer resulting in plans to expand into customized
Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are also
increasing the availability of vintage fashion. A search for “vintage fair”
groups on Facebook generated 434 results (November 2010). Social
networking sites allow prompt updates of event information and for
organizers to target interested people quickly and efﬁciently, as their
members sign up for updates.
3. Research Findings and Discussion
The questionnaire results are given in this section with relevant points
made by the interviewees and informal discussions that came about at
the fairs with the respondents. The aim of the survey is to bring about a
better understanding of vintage fashion consumers’ spending and con-
sumption habits, their vintage preferences, and demographics.
3.1. Respondent Demographics
Of the total 224 questionnaire respondents, 85 (38 percent) are male
and 139 (62 percent) female. Over half (58.9 percent) of the respondents
are aged between 25 and 39, which could be seen to be representing
the core age group of the trend and almost a quarter of respondents
(23.7 percent) are from the London area, which may be related to the
large numbers of vintage shops in the city. There is also an 11.2 percent
response from International vintage consumers from Europe, America,
Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. It must also to be taken into ac-
count that respondents claiming to be from the London area are not
necessarily “Londoners” as the city attracts many to relocate from
around the UK and beyond. When grouping the 178 respondents from
250 Tracy Diane Cassidy and Hannah Rose Bennett
England into the South region, the Midlands (a smaller geographical
area), and the North region, the southern part of the country yields
57.9 percent, the Midlands 16.3 percent, and the North 25.8 percent.
Considering that the South of England has a reputation for being
wealthier than the North and Midlands, then the aspects related to
economy in the literature may not have such a strong inﬂuence on the
adoption of the trend.
3.2. Monthly Spend on Vintage Clothing
For non-UK readers the term “monthly spend” refers to the amount an
individual or groups of individuals are currently spending on particular
items over an average month.
More than half (58.9 percent) of the respondents claim to spend
less than £40 per month, in particular those aged 16–24 and 30–39,
30 percent spend £40–£99 and only 11.1 percent spend over £100 per
month on vintage clothing. The 25–29 age group and the 40–49 age
group are more likely to spend £20–30 and the 50+ group £1–19 or
£100+ (see Figure 3). It should be remembered that generally the mature
market has more spending power and time to dedicate to a trend such as
vintage. However, the 50+ age group have the lowest response rate (4.5
percent) and cannot be used as a reliable measure. Despite this, Vintage
Retailer (B) supports this view stating that, “older people have more
money available to spend, whereas the younger people are looking for
a real bargain.” This suggests that the mature generations spend more
on vintage purchases per month as they have the appropriate disposable
income. Vintage Retailer (B) also notes their average consumer spend is
£30–40, supporting this ﬁnding.
3.3. Monthly Spend on Vintage Accessories
Of the 224 respondents, 86.6 percent claim to spend less than £40 on
vintage accessories per month. The reason for this could be that vintage
Monthly spend on vintage clothing
by age range.
The Rise of Vintage Fashion and the Vintage Consumer 251
accessories cost less than clothing and therefore require less spend rather
than indicating that they buy less in terms of volume. One respondent at
the fair explains that she only purchased vintage accessories because the
clothing was too small; however, she still enjoyed vintage fashion and
the social aspects. She claims to “easily” spend £100+ on vintage acces-
sories per month to achieve a vintage styling to her look, which she com-
pleted with a vintage inspired hairstyle and makeup. Vintage Retailer (B)
states that younger consumers “might buy a handbag at £10 whereas
an older person may buy a crocodile handbag at £100,” indicating that
older consumers can afford an authentic vintage look whereas younger
consumers adopt a more affordable vintage inspired look.
3.4. Monthly Spend on Non-vintage Clothing
The results in Table 1 suggest that vintage consumers purchase new
fashion clothing from the high street. Vintage accessories attract an av-
erage monthly spend of under £40 by 86.6 percent of the respondents
and vintage clothing 58.93 percent compared to 72.3 percent for new
clothing. Similarly, 11.2 percent spend £40–99 per month on vintage
accessories and 29.9 percent spend this amount on average on vintage
garments compared to 21.9 percent non-vintage and only 11.2 percent
spend over £100 per month on vintage clothing compared to 21.9 per-
cent spending the same on non-vintage clothing. This could indicate
that consumers are still fashion-conscious and purchase other seasonal
trends, which suggests that vintage is only one facet of their interests and
lifestyle. However, respondents may view reproduction vintage clothing
as non-vintage as this was not distinguished on the questionnaire.
3.5. The Attraction for Vintage
When respondents were asked what had attracted them to vintage a
total of 925 responses were given as some had multiple reasons. The
most popular attraction to the vintage trend is styling supported by
90.2 percent of the respondents, followed by quality (62.5 percent),
one-of-a-kind (56.3 percent), lifestyle (44.6 percent), value for money
(42.4 percent), nostalgia (41.1 percent), ethical/recycling (30.8 percent),
Monthly spend on vintage and non-vintage clothing.
£ Vintage clothing Non-vintage
1–19 134 (59.8 percent) 100 (44.6 percent)
20–39 60 (26.8 percent) 62 (27.7 percent)
40–59 20 (8.9 percent) 32 (14.3 percent)
60–79 2 (1 percent) 12 (5.4 percent)
80–99 3 (1.3 percent) 5 (2.2 percent)
+100 2 (1 percent) 13 (5.8 percent)
252 Tracy Diane Cassidy and Hannah Rose Bennett
and the social aspect (24.1 percent). The increase in new vintage styles
and the increase in availability (5.4 percent and 4.1 percent respectively)
appear to have very little bearing on its appeal. Styling and quality both
link to the standards in which vintage clothing was made, as garments
were not mass-produced to the same extent as today and in many cases
more time was spent making them. This could be viewed as a response
by modern consumers against the trend for fast fashion. One-of-a-kind
also supports the anti-fast fashion movement as identiﬁed by Palmer and
Clark (2005) and DeLong et al. (2005). These views are also supported
by Vintage Retailer (B), who states that people buy vintage as it offers
quality and it is an investment as garments will last a long time, which
intrinsically links to value for money. Vintage Retailer (B) also notes
that much of her business is generated from consumers who “want to
wear something that is unique.” ‘Lifestyle and nostalgia were identiﬁed
in section 2.1.1. This supports Banim and Guy (2001) and DeLong et al.
(2005) who suggest that the history of vintage pieces have an important
inﬂuence on consumer purchasing decisions as it helps the consumer to
connect with a past era. This was also echoed by both interviewees who
referred to the history of vintage clothing and its connections with the
past. Vintage Consumer (A) suggests that it “brings you closer to your
family.” Value for money supports Butler’s (2010) indication of “hand-
me-down enjoying a recessionary revival.” Consumers might be pur-
chasing vintage fashion as a response to the current economic climate,
as consumers have to consider their purchases more carefully during a
recession, a view that is supported by Vintage Retailer (B) who reported
an increase in sales due to the recession. Ethical/recycling indicates con-
sumers are conscious about environmental issues in society as it has had
an effect on their purchasing decisions, which supports Arnold (2009).
Interestingly, the media elements discussed in sections 2.4 and 2.5 are
not considered signiﬁcant by the respondents. However, as these factors
are quite subliminal, consumers may not realize the effects that they
do have on their purchasing decisions, or they could also be viewed as
being superﬁcial. Vintage Retailer (B) states that the increase in popu-
larity and therefore attraction to vintage fashion could be attributed to
“famous models wearing vintage clothing” as they have made it seem
“acceptable to people that otherwise would not have thought about it.”
Perhaps the media is somewhat overrated as a signiﬁcant inﬂuence of
lifestyle. Vintage Consumer (A) also states “the whole vintage revival
at the moment makes it all a lot more accessible,” which suggests that
availability has increased; while vintage is more accessible this is not
recognized as an attraction to the trend.
A further note of interest is the signiﬁcant response rate for the so-
cial aspect. This is also evident during observations at the vintage fairs
as consumers are with friends or relatives sharing an interest (see Fig-
ure 4). Vintage Retailer (B) notes that many of her customers purchase
items to wear whilst attending vintage events and evenings and Vintage
The Rise of Vintage Fashion and the Vintage Consumer 253
Consumer (A) states that she meets like-minded people during events
who inform her of further events.
3.6. Favorite Vintage Eras
When asked to state their favorite vintage era multiple responses were
again given yielding 435. The most popular eras are the 1940s (57.6
percent of the respondents), 1930s (50 percent), and 1950s (48.7 per-
cent), followed by the 1920s (35.3 percent) and 1960s (20.1 percent).
The 1970s and 1980s yield much lower responses (13.8 percent and
13.4 percent respectively). Perhaps the respondents who attend vintage
fairs or subscribe to vintage blogs may seek clothing from the more
popular eras, whereas consumers who look for 1980s clothing may use
high street alternatives or simply do not consider the last forty years to
be related to vintage. However, one young respondent states the 1990s
as her favorite vintage era highlighting different attitudes between age
Vintage consumers at the Manchester Vintage and Textile Fair held at the Armitage Centre, Manchester, UK. Photograph:
Hannah Rose Bennett.
254 Tracy Diane Cassidy and Hannah Rose Bennett
groups. Both interviewees comment on the current popularity of the
1940s era. Vintage Retailer (B) states that it is her bestselling era of
3.7. Vintage Purchases
Multiple responses (1,545) were also given when asked what vintage
items were purchased. Dresses are the most popular vintage pur-
chases among the female respondents (95 percent), followed by skirts
(63.3 percent), then reproduction lingerie (39.6 percent). Overall,
dresses are the top most popular fashion garment but second to acces-
sories (76.8 percent of all respondents) when excluding male responses.
Skirts are the third most popular (females only), followed by bags
(54.2 percent), jewelry (53.1 percent), outerwear (51.8 percent), home-
ware (47.8 percent), suits (46 percent), shirts (44.6 percent), shoes
(43.3 percent), jumpers (42 percent), (skirts 39.3 percent in the over-
all ranking), trousers (38.4 percent), tops (37.5 percent), reproduction
lingerie (24.6 percent), costume (24.1 percent), and jeans (7.6 percent).
The interest in reproduction lingerie may go some way to support Walsh
(2010), who identiﬁes the inﬂuence the burlesque industry has on con-
sumers purchasing reproduction vintage lingerie. It also illustrates that
there is a modern-day demand for these items, as they are necessary to
achieve the right silhouette with some vintage garments, as stated in
section 2.3. Vintage Retailer (B) notes 1940s crepe dresses are her best-
sellers. Homeware also receives a signiﬁcant response rate. This suggests
that this is a way of life for a large proportion of vintage consumers,
more than a fashion trend as they complete the whole “look” through
every aspect of their life.
3.8. The Longevity of the Trend
Those new to the trend are either 16–19 years of age, 30–39, or over
50. More than half of the respondents (59.9 percent) have engaged with
the vintage trend for ﬁve years or more, 23.7 percent engaging for three
or four years, and 16.5 percent for two years or less. However, Vintage
Retailer (B) states that she had seen an increase in popularity “over the
last year...or 18 months,” whereas Vintage Consumer (A) has been pur-
chasing vintage fashion for twenty-ﬁve years. This suggests that while
the acquisition of vintage is not new, as a minority have long since had
an active interest, it is the growth of this interest by fashion consumers
from diverse demographics that has stimulated the extent and support
for the trend in more recent years.
3.9. Purchasing New Vintage
There is little difference in new vintage purchasing behavior with 46.9
percent of respondents conﬁrming that they purchase new vintage pieces,
compared with 53.2 percent who do not. This includes ﬁfty-three males
and sixty-six females, with the majority aged 20–39. Of those who do
The Rise of Vintage Fashion and the Vintage Consumer 255
purchase new vintage, thirty-two are male and seventy-three female, aged
mostly 25–39. Vintage Consumer (A) indicates that she has purchased
new vintage items from Topshop; however, she states that she would
not wear them to attend a vintage event as they would be recognized by
attendees as lacking in authenticity. This signals the varying degrees of
dedication to vintage fashion, which could be situation-dependent.
The most popular place to purchase vintage products is from spe-
cialist vintage shops (74.6 percent of those surveyed) closely followed
by charity shops (73.2 percent), eBay (70.5 percent), and secondhand
shops (67.9 percent). Just over half of the respondents also purchase
from vintage fairs (58.9 percent) and around one-quarter (25.4 percent)
claim to use vintage dealers. Just over one-ﬁfth of the respondents use
the Internet site etsy (22.8 percent) and other similar Internet sites,
such as nasty gal vintage and jadore vintage clothing. Vintage auctions
are least used attracting only 15.2 percent of the respondents; this may
be due to the current limited number in the UK. Almost one-third (28.1
percent) purchase new vintage products from high street stores.
A spread of respondents purchasing from charity shops is relatively
even across the age groups supporting the point raised in section 2.1 that
consumers are experiencing a change in attitude, also raised in section 2.
Vintage retailer Sophwaa’s Corner (2010) also states that the stigma to-
wards secondhand clothing has decreased. eBay gained the third highest
response, supporting the subject of Internet retailing further highlighted
in a statement by The Sentinel (2010) that reports a rise in vintage sales
on eBay. Interest in etsy, a handmade and vintage item retail website,
and other Internet sites also supports the concept of the part technology
plays in the increase in popularity of vintage fashion. Vintage Retailer
(B) notes the popularity of Internet usage amongst male vintage con-
sumers, claiming “very often I’ll sell one or two pieces [at a vintage
fair], whereas if I put them online I can sell 20 or 30 items in a week for
men.” The majority of respondents that use vintage auctions are aged
25–49 and mostly from the South East or London regions, followed
by the international respondents, and their monthly spend on vintage
clothing is evenly spread. In addition, two respondents also purchase
vintage from car boot sales and market stalls and another two also use
personal tailors or dressmakers to reproduce styles for them.
3.10. Vintage Eras
To determine the most sought after vintage items, Figure 5 shows the
eras that participants speciﬁcally note in their responses. It clearly shows
the 1940s era as the most popular, followed by the 1950s, and then the
1930s. The 1940s is also highlighted as being the most popular era by
both interviewees, Vintage Consumer (A) and Vintage Retailer (B). The
most popular responses for items sought by respondents are shown in
Figure 6 with various types of dresses (ﬁfty-nine respondents), suits (ﬁfty
respondents), and accessories (thirty-seven respondents) being listed the
256 Tracy Diane Cassidy and Hannah Rose Bennett
most. Only nine mention seeking a speciﬁc designer item, this includes
those who especially mention Savile Row.
Table 2 shows the results of the ﬁnal question used to determine
how respondents describe the clothing from particular decades.
Those found most synonymous with vintage are the 1940s and 1950s
(84 percent and 77 percent respectively). The respondents are almost
equally split on their views of the 1920s; half feel this decade is a
stage further than vintage, agreeing that it is best described as antique,
46 percent, however, feel that this era is still vintage. Fewer respondents
view the 1930s as antique (31 percent) as opposed to 65 percent view-
ing it as still vintage. In general terms antique is usually deﬁned as being
100 years old or more. The results conﬁrm that more respondents con-
sider antique to be related to the decades that are close to 100 years ago.
Like the 1920s, the views of the 1960s are split with 44 percent viewing
The eras that respondents mostly
seek items from.
The vintage products that
respondents mostly seek to
The Rise of Vintage Fashion and the Vintage Consumer 257
the era as vintage and 51 percent retro, and 70 percent view the 1970s
as retro. It can therefore be seen that in general terms when considering
eras closer to the present, views move towards retro. Similarly with the
1980s where 59 percent view this era as being retro, others (31 percent)
perceive it as being outdated. Out of interest, one respondent at a Vin-
tage Fair from the younger age group asked if she could add 1990s as
a vintage era category, which again demonstrates different perceptions
of time in relation to vintage. This suggests that attitudes towards eras
are probably closely correlated with age, as another respondent said
“if you have lived through an era you would be less likely to class it as
vintage.” The results of this question are shared by the interviewees:
Vintage Consumer (A) classes anything pre-1950s as vintage and so
does Vintage Retailer (B) but she stocks anything pre-1970s to cater for
all consumer tastes.
3.11. Further Findings
During informal observations at the Manchester Vintage Fashion and
Textile Fair at the Armitage Centre a large number of vintage consum-
ers can be seen to be purchasing vintage fabrics, wool, and patterns in
order to make their own clothing. Vintage Consumer (A) supports these
observations saying that she would alter and adjust her purchases for
a better ﬁt and has a friend who also knits items for her using original
1940s knitting patterns. Vintage Retailer (B) says that her consumers
regularly talk of adjusting or customizing their purchases and of their
intentions to use the garments for patterns. This supports the discussion
in section 2.1.1 regarding an apparent return to the make do and mend
way of thinking.
Through the informal observations it can be determined that there
is a type of vintage consumer, who may be described as the “vintage
eccentric,” that follows all aspects of the vintage lifestyle, even down
to mannerisms. They appear to have more spending power, as they are
willing to pay more for authentic vintage pieces. It can also be said that
the vintage phenomenon is not such a new movement, as previously
Era descriptors according to the respondents.
Era Antique Vintage Retro Out-of-date
1920 50 percent 46 percent 2 percent 2 percent
1930 31 percent 65 percent 3 percent 0 percent
1940 10 percent 84 percent 6 percent 0 percent
1950 3 percent 77 percent 19 percent 0 percent
1960 1 percent 44 percent 51 percent 4 percent
1970 1 percent 18 percent 70 percent 12 percent
1990 1 percent 10 percent 59 percent 31 percent
258 Tracy Diane Cassidy and Hannah Rose Bennett
identiﬁed, which may be attributed to the large number of older genera-
tion respondents engaging with the questionnaire survey.
The purpose of this article is to explore the principal factors and the
demographics of vintage consumers in the UK and their consumption
habits to better understand the appeal and scope of this growing trend.
Through the literature review it was suggested that vintage fashion
has links with nostalgia, which is inﬂuenced by the interlinked factors:
changing attitudes towards secondhand goods and personal values;
the style and quality of products and their ability to offer individual-
ity; design inspiration and marketed fashion trends; a response to eco-
environmental issues and fast fashion; celebrities and popular televi-
sion programs promoting and upgrading the image of vintage; and the
role of the media and the Internet, particularly online auctions, Internet
retailing, and social networks, as a supporting system for the trend.
Intrinsic in these factors are the impact of the current economic climate
and the desire to obtain a simpler lifestyle reminiscent of those from
Through the questionnaire survey and semi-structured interviews the
attraction of the trend is explored from a consumer perspective and
from that of vintage fashion retailers for a market perspective allow-
ing for the conceptualization of differences between vintage consumers
and consumption to better understand the nature of this popular trend
and its appeal. The ﬁndings suggest that females are more likely to en-
gage with the trend than males; however, males did constitute a sub-
stantial one-third of the survey respondents. The core age range can be
determined as being 25–39 but by no means exclusive to this age group
as the remaining 41.1 percent of the respondents are relatively evenly
spread throughout the extremities, 16–19 and 50+ age groups being
less populated. As the majority of the questionnaires were completed
online the more mature vintage consumer may not engage with social
networks and the younger age group may be less likely to attend regu-
lar fairs where the remaining questionnaires were completed. A larger
majority of respondents are found to be from the South of England,
which may correspond with the large numbers of vintage boutiques in
and around the capital city renowned as the UK’s fashion city. Monthly
spend is more suggestive of hobby purchasing rather than one of more
serious investments with more than half of the respondents spending
less than £40 per month. This suggests that less than £10 per week
which, to put into perspective, is most likely to be less than the average
smokers weekly spend on cigarettes.
While many of the interviewees supported the majority of the appar-
ent inﬂuences that drive the vintage trend, the survey ﬁndings suggest
The Rise of Vintage Fashion and the Vintage Consumer 259
that it is the personal elements of style, quality, and individuality that
are considered to be the main drivers by fashion consumers. The recy-
cling aspect is a consideration of one-third of the respondents and the
social aspects appeal to one-quarter of those surveyed but the media and
celebrities are not important factors. However, these could be viewed as
subliminal factors and consumers may not be aware of the extent of
media inﬂuence on their purchasing decisions and behavior.
The most popular eras are the 1930s to 1950s. This may be because
the majority of the respondents view these decades as the most syn-
onymous with vintage. Earlier decades are viewed to be more antique
than vintage and later decades are viewed as retro or simply out-of-
date fashions. Dresses, skirts, and accessories are the most sought-
after products. While the reasons why were not explored, accessories
make for cheap purchases to bring the vintage look to any ensemble.
The most popular places to purchase vintage are vintage and charity
shops, eBay, and secondhand shops. Fairs are not so popular, which
may be because they often have entrance fees that will leave less to
spend on goods.
This study achieves its aim in being instrumental in providing more
understanding of the UK vintage consumer and their spending habits.
It reveals some important ﬁndings, including some contradictions with
assertions made in the literature. Consequently it provides a good foun-
dation for a further study using a more probing survey to bring deeper
insights to assist the development of robust consumer typologies and to
thoroughly compare the vintage and non-vintage purchasing habits of
vintage consumers that is lacking here.
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