Friday, August 2, 2013

90s Fashion Is Now Vintage . . . And I'm Okay with That



The technical description of vintage is clothing from at least 20 years ago. Months ago, I had an argument with a student about whether his early 90s Calvin Klein coat was vintage. I was adamant that it wasn't . . . until I did the math. Yep, that's 20 years. Anything from 1993 or earlier is vintage, my friends.


After I got over the initial outrage (Am I really that old?!), I settled into nostalgia. After all, the 90s was MY DECADE. I can give you lots of reasons why I love the era: Grunge, Riot Grrrls, 'zines, combat boots, babydoll dresses, ripped fishnets, Clueless, Singles, Reality Bites, flannel shirts, Hole, Sleater-Kinney, The Breeders, Veruca Salt, Alanis Morrisette, 10 Things I Hate About You, etc etc etc.



I mean, that's some quality pop culture. I could compare it to today's pop culture, but I'll start to sound like an old lady waving her cane at the kids on her lawn.

My nostalgia for the decade turned into the realization that vintage = hip. And that means that perhaps the 90s could now be long enough ago to be due for a complete resurfacing in pop culture.

If you think about it, the idea of a 90s resurrection is highly appealing. I'm not talking just about fashion. Yes, the some of the 2012 and 2013 runway shows had a distinct Grunge vibe. But bringing back combat boots and granny dresses is possibly the least interesting impact 90s nostalgia could have on today's zeitgeist. Think about it: what if Riot Grrrl came back from the dead in all its glory? Music could really use an influx of the angry, indie grrl variety.

From a feminist standpoint, there seems to have been some regression in our movement since the 90s. When I look back at videos from the 90s (Veruca Salt's Seether from 1994 is a great example), I'm struck by how comfortable the women seem in their bodies, how little concern they have for trying to look "sexy." (And yet, they are really freaking sexy.) Did they get manicures and bikini waxes before shooting that video? Hell no.



Seether will be 20 years old next year--hey, that's vintage! Meanwhile, Veruca Salt is in the midst of a reunion. If I were a newspaper, those two facts (coupled with the recent mild interest in 90s fashion) would be enough for me to write a trend piece declaring an imminent Riot Grrrl revival. I don't think it's that simple, sadly. But even a little injection of that 90s spirit into music, art, fashion, and literature, would be amazing (for lack of a better word).

What do you think, readers? Is it time for a neo-90s movement?

77 comments:

  1. I saw the same wedding dress as mine on Ebay a couple of weeks ago and it was tagged as vintage. That was 20 years ago.

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  2. I was in love with My So-Called Life, which is up for vintage status in a year. If I could dress like Angels or Rayanne, I would be happy. :)

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    1. I dyed my hair red for the first time because of Angela Chase, and I've been hennaing it a similar color for the last several years. I like to think of it as my own personal ode to the '90s.

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  3. I don't know if I'm ready for the 90s to be vintage. It does make me feel a tiny bit old. Especially some of the fashion. "Jazzy" duffle bags, floppy hats a la Blossom and belly-tops weren't even good back then!

    Though from a music/feminist point of view a revival could only be a good thing! We are definitely slipping a bit in both of those respects (I mean have you SEEN the outrageous anti-women crap on twitter right now because a woman wanted Jane Austen on a british banknote?! Some people need a refresher course in how to be decent human beings...).

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  4. I just showed that video to my kids a couple weeks ago, they are in love :) they also really love Le Tigre - which is fun and feminist!

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  5. My 13yo is covetously eyeing my bright blue Docs (got them for my 19th birthday in, uh, 1993). If I give them to her, does that make me old? I guess I'm old anyway. I liked the 90s, bring 'em back!

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    1. Never give away your Docs if they still fit! My oldest is also 13 (okay, she will be in 3 weeks) and she loves my Union Jack Docs. Lucky for me her feet are bigger than mine, but even if we wore the same size, there's no way I'd let her wear them. I still wear them frequently. Besides, your Docs are real collector's items, since they were made before the company stopped making them all in the UK. And you're not old, since you're 2 years younger than me and I'm about to have baby #4. You're only as old as you feel - wear your Docs and be the cool mom.

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    2. Really, they are? I had no idea. I would totally wear them myself if I could get the left sole fixed--it cracked. Which is really only a problem on rainy days, and I live in California, so... :)

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    3. Hi! I know you don't know me, but I've got a tip for you, about the boot soles- find a shoe/boot repair guy, preferably an Eastern European one. Those guys can fix boot boo-boos that you would not BELIEVE. I've had Docs re-soled, toes repaired on equestrians, you name it, and the Russian/former Soviet Block guys can do amazing stuff with even the worst cases. Try searching your local phone and business listings- you'll probably be able to find a good repair shop in your area. :) Best of luck!

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  6. I love Veruca Salt! I saw them open for Bush when I was 14...that's some quality angst! I wouldn't mind a full 90s music revival. I remember when Missy Elliot rocked a trash bag & it was the flyest thing ever...

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  7. Amen, sister. I agree with all of this. This post actually made me a little teary. I was a theatre student in college in the early 90's, and this made me think about what a free, experimental, awesome time that was in my life. I turned 40 this year, and I think I need to get some of that back.

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  8. Totally love the 90s and was just wondering the other day where my cozy flannel shirts are. I would love to see a reboot of some of that style after suffering through the 80s / leg warmer / ice pop / day glo revival of the last few years. However, was very disturbed to have to watch a Justin Bieber perfume ad on YouTube before the seether video!

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  9. It's amazing how the 90s are already considered vintage for us who were born at the end of the 70s. Vintage has a test of something that is from another time, a different generation. Wearing clothes from the 90s will not feel vintage to me, just a regression to my youth :P

    I agree that the feminist movement went backwards in the last years. Now you need to look completely different than what you are, and if you don't do it (count me in it) then you're not considered sexy. Natural lines are not in fashion anymore.

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    1. I do agree that everything seems to be more "middle of the road "now a days .
      Too much of everything has to be like everything else .( bOring )
      But i do think we had a kind of freedom people growing up now don't have .
      There was a lot less presure of having to fit in .
      Not that i ever did or ever will ;)

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  10. Sorry, I don't agree. I was just a kid in the 90s, and didn't understand the aesthetics back then either. To me, it just wasn't pretty, and I like pretty. :)

    And is vintage really just clothes older than 20 years? For me, quality is just important as age. Here in Sweden, some says vintage is clothes from between 1920 and 1969. Before that, it's antique. And after that, just second hand.

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    1. StinaP, I am SO with you. I think what you said is a perfect definition of vintage. There's no reason to cling to this "20 years old is vintage" idea, especially when so many of us (of all ages) find that it's not really working.

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    2. I'm in the same boat as you, Stina. Most things from the 90's remind me of being a chubby awkward little girl. I know a lot of good underground music happened in that decade but I also feel like some of the worst mainstream pop was produced at that time (I'll take Lady Gaga over Spice Girls any day.... Not that I'm a Gaga fan, I'm just sayin.) But I think part of the nostalgia of Gertie and others stems from the feeling of empowerment they got in the 90's, which I didn't really experience until about 2007. So in 2027 I guess I can start wearing "vintage" nostalgic clothes from my prime, too.

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    3. Good points in this thread. Seeing as I was a child in the 90s and my classmates listened to 90s pop while my favourite music was inevitably always "out" (like, at one point I was crazy about Dvorak's 9th symphony, of all things - and still am), I do not see much allure in the 90s. I'm finding the good bits now, but they were not there for me the first time around.
      If empowerment is what you're after, I got mine from discovering music I still love musically, and books I love reading, and films I love watching, and finding people who love the same, and angst and anger do not figure there much and it does not have much to do with gender. With apologies to the 90s nostalgic feminists here, though I certainly do get the "image" point Gertie's making.

      There is some confusion about what is and isn't vintage, and as far as I'm concerned, it's very much about the quality as well. Like, presumably, with the wine the term stems from?

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  11. Yeah, I'm old enough for 90s to be personal nostalgia. I just started rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which I first watched religiously when it was new on the air) and it's totally influencing my daily style yet again!

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  12. I'm totally with you! There are many things about the 90s that weren't so great, for me, but so many that were. I loved me some alanis morrisette! Yessss! And Clueless? I loved all the clothes so much. Even had me some short dresses with thigh high socks and chunky shoes. It would be awesome to see some of this era resurface.

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  13. Missy Elliott was such a riot grrl! I loved how all her music and videos were about her being amazing, rather than about her looking sexy. She had some serious attitude, and it's really missed in modern music.
    And yeah, back in the day Hole were brilliant, but I preferred Le Tigre!

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  14. Yeah. I don't know about this one. #1 it would make me feel old since I grew up in the 90s. I do fondly remember some of the music. And I still love Clueless!

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  15. I dont miss the 90's clothing didn't wear it than and wont wear it now .
    But the 90's attitude ? Yes, bring it back !!!

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  16. And is vintage really just clothes older than 20 years? For me, quality is just important as age. Here in Sweden, some says vintage is clothes from between 1920 and 1969. Before that, it's antique. And after that, just second hand.

    I agree. Best definition I have read that finally says it well. But when I googled it, this definition is common.

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    1. In cars, over twenty years is usually described as 'classic'. Then there's vintage and then antique. I think there's room for a 'classic' classification in clothing. In Scotland, we probably wouldn't describe clothing as vintage unless it was 1970s or before.

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  17. Ahhh, the 90's. I remember fighting with my mother over my first flannel because she said it wasn't "feminine" enough. I wore that thing everywhere.
    Veruca Salt's American Thighs was one of the very first CDs I bought with my own money. Good times.

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    1. Funnily enough, my mom sewed my first flannel shirt, and then I never wore it much because I dislike buttons...

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  18. I have mixed feelings about '90s style coming back. It's difficult for me to separate the style from the circumstances I was faced with at the time. Also, does anyone recall being pressured to be "too cool" or "above it all" all the damn time? Like you couldn't get too excited about anything? Or every other word had to be sarcastic? I can't figure out if this was a function of the environment I grew up in or the 1990's in general.

    On the other hand, if some grunge influenced music could muscle out the autotune crap that is all over these days, that would be great!

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  19. I agree not only about what was sexy, but how the media perceived women as a whole. So many shows were based on female characters: my So Called Life, Felicity, Buffy, Ellen. But now, I feel like women are more like an accoutrement to men. They're not considered funny (unless they're a trope making fun of women). And I think resorting to a "sexier" image is just a way to get positive attention.

    Ugh.

    Okay, I'm done now. Although I really really want some docs. -Tina

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  20. I'm on team wikipedia where the 70's, 80's, and 90's are considered "retro", not vintage lol. I so do not miss anything about the era I grew up in, and therefore would like to segregate it from my favorite bygone eras haha!

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  21. Very happy to see a grunge/ riot grrrl revival - who doesn't love tea dresses and para boots

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  22. Oh the 90's - how I miss you. Sort of. I loved the music and clothing and wearing flannel and t-shirts most days (again - Mom hated this at the time - but with today's teen choices she seems relieved). I have been playing tons of music and movies from that era lately - and you say there's a Veruca Salt reunion? Sign me up for that concert!

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  23. I've definitely noticed that Nasty Gal clothing is bringing back the 90's in quite a few dresses.. I can't say I hate it.

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  24. I remember watching Much Music maybe 7 years ago now and thinking what a rocking line-up of music they had and maybe I could watch it more often. Then I realized with horror that I was watching their retro hour.

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  25. Being that we are about the same age, I love the 90s. It spoke to the Tom Boy and Tough Chick in me. It was my time of rebellion. lol
    I don't know that I am ready to think anything from my childhood could be vintage, but I do love the 90's....70's,...60's...50's...etc... the only decade of fashion I think the world would be better off not repeating is definitely the 80's with all that perming and teasing and hairspray... anthough Madonna was 80's and she was pretty cool, and there were a lot of other cool things that came out of the 80's... just not so sure that the leg warmers and hair should do a repeat...lol

    Ps. Ummmm.... wheres the kitty dress ;)

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  26. While there were things to like about the 90s, for me, fashion wasn't necessarily one of them. Then again, there is plenty from that period that endures and still looks fresh. A leather biker jacket and Doc Martens aren't going to be anachronistic anytime soon. But to the matter of 90s music and Riot Grrrl acts, I'd like to mention a new documentary about Bikini Kill/Le Tigre's Kathleen Hanna, called The Punk Singer. It's a fascinating education about what Kathleen saw going on around her in the culture, and why she started a movement. It chronicles the rise of Bikini Kill, and the morphing into Le Tigre, until her illness forced Hanna out of performing. I watched this with my 15-year-old, self-identified feminist rocker daughter, and I think one of the things we both got out of it is, perhaps even Kathleen Hanna would say don't copy her, don't "return" to Riot Grrl -- start something new. Okay, now it's time to go commune with my vintage pattern collection.

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  27. I love much of of the 90s fashion, especially all the goth, grungy and early 90s stuff, until the entire rave, neon-colour, fur boots, weird braid thing came along. I was in elementary school for most of the 90s, and I always thought the Grunge kids from high school TV shows were the coolest and I'd grow up to be like them... Never did, but that's fine. :D

    I am in agreement with you, 100%, on the feminist side of things. The developments, like the most extreme pinkification of girl toys, and the level of objectification in mainstream media, in the last 10 years worry me. (I really need to re-read "Living Dolls" by Natasha Walters.)

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  28. I still can't believe my decade is on the oldies station.....long live the 80's!

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  29. As someone who has been a fat girl since the age of 11 and suffered through the I-hate-my-body phase of the preteens and teens dressing in those clothes, I'd rather that fashion zombie be shot right through the head. Kill it. KILL IT DEAD.

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  30. Oh man, I was a small child in the 90s and even I knew how cool it was. It's definitely starting to make a comeback in fashion from what I've seen - I think I'll have to start a riot grrl band to solidify the revival!

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  31. I'm not sure where the idea that anything 20 years old is vintage came from. When I was a kid my mom owned an antique store and I was told that vintage was anything that was 50 years old or more. I mean, we called clothing from the 50's vintage back then, but most antique dealers would tell you that it technically wasn't. When did that change?

    As far as the change in attitude of the mainstream since the '90s, I would say it probably has to do with the fact that people are getting too far removed from the Women's Movement and tend to take for granted our ability to work and raise families simultaneously. I'm also going to go out on a limb and say that the pinkification of girl items is probably a backlash to the gender-neutral influence of people who were born in the 70's. I loathe pink, as a general rule, although in small doses and in a sophisticated color palette it can be okay. As a kid my mom bought me boy's jeans for a long while because she knew I'd take care of them and be able to hand them down to my brothers. I didn't wear pink and my mom was not a girly-girl as a kid so I wasn't, either. I've encouraged my girls to be themselves and not have to live up to the pink and pretty commercial image the media subjects us to. I'd like to point out that the parents of most people born in the 1970's were frequently both working - we were latch-key kids, we went to the park and rode our bikes by ourselves, we played outside without adult supervision. Parents of kids born in the late 80's and early to mid-90's were more likely to have parents who over-supervised them. I send my 13 year-old to the grocery store on her bike all the time but my MIL thinks that this is too dangerous. It's all about how paranoid people have become, and we want to put kids in little boxes so nothing will happen to them. Which is exactly what happens - nothing. But it kills the defiant and independent spirit that existed in youth culture in the 90's.

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    1. I was always told "antique" is defined by 50 yrs, and "vintage" is 20. This was borne of me being aghast (in the 90's) that the 70's were vintage.

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    2. Perhaps the definition has changed since I heard it, or maybe the people I heard it from were old enough that, to them, 20 years old wasn't remotely vintage, lol! That's entirely possible, since more and more I see the term being used for things that are 5-10 years old. I think I saw a caption about a dress someone wore on the red carpet and it was referred to as 'vintage' Armani (or perhaps Valentino) but it was less than 20 years old. I think it's hard to know anymore, since as a society we don't all use the same definitions for things. English is such a fluid language, sometimes. :)

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    3. When I grew up in the 60s and 70s antique was 100 years and vintage didn't exist. Things change. I'm 50, so i guess I am old, and sometimes I am surprised that vintage is often worth more than antique. I do have some good memories from the 90's though. My kid's were young, my marriage still happy, my 73 Z had a great stereo, and I had a lot more energy. I am also a lot calmer, and pretty darned happy. Hmmmm I do miss my flannel shirts.

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    4. I was born in the early 60's, and by the early 70's even kids who weren't latch key kids, which I was with a single father, were out playing in the parks unsupervised. I haven't smothered my kids, but I am not sure the streets are as safe are as safe as they once were, at least where I grew up. I don't worry about my daughter walking around our small town, but where I grew up, on Capital Hill, in Seattle, not so sure.

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  32. I LOVED Reality Bites, and wasted a good percentage of the 9s trying to replicate Winona Ryder's hair in that movie - I failed! Not sure I'm ready for a 90's reunion, it still feels too fresh although that's really just denial. I don't like feeling old!

    I liked the grunge/androgynous look at the time, but then I was a teenager. Not sure it works so well when you are nearing 40, a mum and a manager! But it would be nice to think the ethos might come back. It would be a refreshing change from manicures, cocktails, hair straighteners, platform shoes and fake tan that seems to be obligatory these days!

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  33. I was in my 20's in the 90's and still love most looks borne of the era. It helps that the 90's brought MN looks to popular culture, and flannel shirts & big boots will never ever be out of style in the Twin Cities.

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  34. Late 80s to early 90s were my teenage years, and initial vintage wearing days. Vintage was a key part of counter culture then. Then from the mid 90s I entered the real world of work and I ended up wearing my vintage less and less to the point where it was redundant and I sold most of it. The 90s to me felt like the dark ages. It felt you could do anything but be unashamedly feminine, a rejection of 80s glam or something. I spent a lot of that time secretly fearing I could never wear a dress again. Thank goodness that is all behind me, so no 90s for me, but thanks for the reminder.

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  35. Oh shit I love the 90's! The best was the grunge and tee shirts were sexy to us. I don't quite know how looking back, but omg I thought it was awesome.

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  36. The fashion I can take or leave but you've just given me a great reminder of some movies in need of a re-watch this weekend!

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  37. This is amazing news. I have just made a pair of DKNY dungarees that I first made in 1992. Back then I made them and wore them, day in day out. NO over analysing. This time, I changed my shoes twice and spent all afternoon 'doing my hair'. I resigned myself to make-up as I didn't think I should take too much time over it. I already had. I am taking them with me to London this weekend, how much I wear them depends on how much of a wimp I am. Wish me luck - I don't think I have your outer layer of confidence. Anyway, I love every blooming outfit you ever make which I wish I could say about the stuff I sew.

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  38. Totally can't wrap my head around this. I'm 30! Only 30! Vintage to me is stuff my grandma wore. Not stuff I wore. Sigh. Guess you can't stop the train. Runaway Train that is (wink wink).

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  39. I feel the same way add Samantha Kennedy. I'm 30, and I can't believe the 90's are considered vintage! I always thought anything beyond the 50's and 60's are vintage. Wow, time flies!

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  40. I love the Reality Bites, and wasted a good percentage of the 9s trying to replicate Winona Ryder's hair in that movie

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  41. hate, hate, hate the idea of 90s being vintage! Surely we can not be that old!?! But it does seem to be popping up all over the place! I used to love bands like Hole and Garbage that had strong female leaders and you're so right about the mani/pedi/wax thing! Those ladies were all about the chipped nail varnish and ripped tights!

    It was My Decade too and it was the best decade. My fave TV hows were 'my so called life' and 'blossom'. I wish they'd do reruns of those shows!

    If only I'd kept all my old grungey outfits. It's clearly time to cut some holes in my fave jeans!

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  42. Coming from the UK it was more a decade of indie mixed with dance music, Stone Roses, Blur, Massive Attack, Stereo MC's. I never really made it to grunge status. As for the 1990's being vintage... I can't go with that personally.

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  43. This definition of vintage makes me rethink the by-line of my blog, "Vintage Style Retro Sewing" and change it to Retro Style Sewing. Never quite thought of 90s as vintage. So I guess the era I enjoy (40s and 50s) is called what . . . "Ancient/Antique"?

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  44. I've been aware of this trend for a while now, my 17 year old has been wearing "vintage" 80' and 90's stuff, and it makes me feel very old. I guess just how my Mum felt when I was into the 60's in my teens.

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  45. I loved reality bites and singles...93 was the year I toured the US by train and was in Seattle to visit all those grunge places...though we couldn't see them at night as I wasn't 21 yet (mind you I hate that law)... I was never into grunge fashion really but still I remember those years with great fondness. Thanks for reminding me about those years!

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  46. I have to admit that I am a purist when it comes to these things and, actually, "vintage" is 1920 through 1959 and "retro" is 1960's through '70s. On rare occasions, the early 1900's is referred to as vintage as well but prior to 1920 is technically antique. Most people that don't really understand vintage, historical clothing, etc think that "vintage" can be used to describe most anything, creating the supposed rule that only 20 years of age makes something vintage. In actuality, "vintage" describes a range of particular eras, not just something that's 20 years old or so. "Antique", "vintage", and "retro" each denote a specific time period(s).

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  47. As someone who appreciates wine, “vintage” to me means the harvest of a particularly good drop! Of course, it also means “a past time”, no line in the sand, but I personally put this at 20 years or more, so yes, the early ’90’s are now vintage.
    “Antique” to me = 90+ years old, and finally, “retro” means “in the style of an earlier time”, therefore many of the garments Gertie makes are “retro”.
    Oh, and remember Twin Peaks - loved that show.
    BTW, I still have the original magazine (think it was an Elle) that the top image comes from...so old, feelin’ so old!

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    1. Nope, it was a Vogue (American) - December 1992, Lucie de La Falaise on the cover. Remember it was a controversial article at the time because the grunge look came from the streets, not the designers.
      Searched high and low for the mag last night and found it rolled up in a boot - really should invest in some boot shapers.

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    2. I couldn't remember what Vintage used to mean... Probably because I was never a wine drinker. Antiques were always 100 years, 90 + is close enough, to my father, and I still find it amusing that Retro or Vintage items often sell for more than true antiques...at least for a little while.

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  48. A beautiful brides attractiveness is improved when she stroll down the aisle having a properly chosen wedding robe. In case you are a conservative bride, strapless robe could nicely not be your choice. Even although it's a well known craze amongst most modern brides, you ought to actually choose a factor you're comfortable sporting and never what exactly is fashionable.

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  49. It getting taken care of like an isolated incident, however it not an isolated incident. This can be taking place to not simply my daughter, but to other daughters throughout the nation," mentioned Black.

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    1. SPAM... How does this stuff get through the prove your not a robot thing? It of course links to a website selling the aforementioned dress. Silly. I wouldn't buy from a company that advertised this way if it was the last dress on earth, and I needed it to save my job.

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  50. I'm all for a neo-90s movement! I loved the music, I loved the fashion. It was all appealing to me. I was in high school at that time. I never considered myself a girly girl so maybe that's why it was all so appealing. I idolized the girls in The Breeders and Veruca Salt. They didn't care to fall in line with everyone else and that's what made them sexy. We need more of that today. Being yourself is beautiful whether it's grunge or glam. But most of all the music popular today could definitely benefit from it. Oh well maybe I am and will always be stuck in the 90's, just listen to my ipod.

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  52. Re: Riot Grrrrl music... if you're looking at it from the perspective of pop music only, then yes, what you describe regarding music exists. However, there are a PLETHORA of women who are not pop chart toppers who are making edgy music and videos. Amanda Palmer comes to mind, as do bands like Pussy Riot. They're out there and they're not mainstream.

    As for the fashion, I too grew up in this era; however, I'm mildly distressed to see young teen/20-something hipsters co-opting the look of the 1990s (specifically grunge) without really understanding where it came from. I completely and totally understand that grunge was co-opted long ago when mainstream magazines started featuring "fashion spreads" but it still causes my hackles to rise.

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  53. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well.
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  54. So now I can tell my husband that he absolutely can NOT throw out my high school Hypercolor sweat shirt as it is now vintage - and I've had it for more than 20 yrs.. only one small hole - crazy right...

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    1. No, not crazy. I wish I had my 70's & 80's high school clothes! Probably even more, I wish I could still fit into them!

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  55. Count me in for the neo-90's! While I'm generally a 40's/50's kinda gal, I grew up in the 90's and definitely get nostalgic for my flannel and doc's on occasion ;)

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  56. wonderful post lovely fashion blogs i like this kind of fashion style thanks for sharing

    vintage clothing

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  57. If the 90s were vintage, I must be very vintage then :) I have mixed feelings about 90s fashion, I love plaid flannel shirts and I wish that I'd kept my sunflower babydoll dress. But, although it seems like an "anything goes" era of fashion, there was actually a lot of pressure to look/act cool and adopt a certain attitude. I was the awkward smart kid and going to public school in the early 90s was hell.

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Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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