Vintage: a wider sort of femininity?

There's been a lot of talk on blogs lately about the way the word 'vintage' is being misused or appropriated for other things (there's a great post on it over at Red Legs in Soho) and I've been thinking a bit about it. (Yes, beware, a braindump is coming!)

One of the things I really like about vintage is that you don't have to be sexy. You can be sexy, and as a great many vintage stars and modern vintage lovers prove, vintage can be devastatingly sexy. But against that, in vintageland it's also fine to look appropriate. Miss Lemon, as seen in the television versions of the Poirot stories, is a bit of a fashion icon to many vintage lovers, and she's not sexy. Stylish, yes, and capable, and intelligent.

I sometimes feel that in mainstream culture, sexy is the only thing that counts, that if you're not wearing something short and/or tight and trying to look in your 20s, regardless of whether you're 16 or 61, you're failing at being female because your ultimate value lies in how much other people find you sexually attractive. Leave your brains in the umbrella stand and your talents by the door; if you haven't got a rack worth looking at, there's no point in any of the rest of it. And I hate that. When did 'I am woman, hear me roar' become, 'I am woman, make me moan, big boy'?

This is one of the reasons I think people might be attracted to a 'vintage' that isn't really vintage; it's because it's seen as a space where people can be feminine without necessarily being sexy. Those rose-patterned tea cups and distressed white cupboards may be their own bandwagon, but the people riding it have stepped off the bandwagon of being an object.


  1. You owe me a new keyboard for the last line of the penultimate paragraph! Coffee went everywhere.

  2. Mim - Do you know what - I had not thought about it in this way. If you had read Min's post - then you would have seen my reply. The bandwaggon jumping *does* irk me - but it is more the generalisations that go along with it that bug me much much more. And the lack of effort that seems to go into some of the highstreet inspired looks. Walking into Topshop and out again with a ditsy print dress and VR's, to me, feels like cheating a bit.

  3. Well said Mim! I think you are absolutely correct. I love dressing up. I do not love being an object...

  4. Hi :) Great post! I have been thinking about vintage and femininity and feminism quite a bit recently. It's such an interesting topic... and this is a different take on it that I hadn't thought of! I guess it depends on what you deem sexy as well. Vintage does emphasise a woman's femininity and I think there can be something quite political and liberating about that too! And there is room for lots of different femininities in vintage fashions too, from androgynous 30s to super-girly 40s etc.

  5. Thanks for the nice comments everyone! I find the 'vintage' bandwagon particularly annoying as I work in the media, and come up against shabby-chic products that don't fit into any real past period in history, mid-thigh floral dresses and suchlike being described as 'vintage' every day. I also meet plenty of people who spend masses of money on stuff labelled 'vintage' that I'd scout out for a fraction of the price in charity shops. What I was musing on was why these people feel drawn towards period items and what sort of world they're actually creating, and what therefore might be missing in the mainstream.


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