I am absolutely delighted to have our first guest blog post on Retro Birds tonight from the lovely Heidi. Thank you so much for sharing your article – it’s so well written & really tackles the issues of vintage becoming mainstream. Handing you over to Heidi….

Mine is a small town, but just a short stroll along its main high street and you’ll find a wealth of, ironically, brand new vintage stores – ‘Deja Vu’; ‘Second Time Around’; ‘Macc Vintage’. And it’s not just shopkeepers that are capitalising on the trend for loving things from the past; a visit to any local library throws up ads for groups offering opportunities to learn skills that were second nature to our grandparents; knitting; sewing; grow your own; hen keeping; delousing children’s hair (ok so I made that last one up). The trend has taken a hold of prime time TV schedules too, with the hugely popular Great British Bake Off, and Kirstie’s Hand Made Britain, sitting alongside a glut of period drama such as Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey, and Mad Men. But as waiting lists for the WI grow – membership increased by a quarter in the past 3 years, and Cath Kidston, supplier of products that ‘evoke a sense of nostalgia and fun’, report a 30% rise in sales, I find myself asking why the vintage boom, and is it here to stay?

‘Knit and Natter’ groups started springing up around 2002. A keen, but quiet, knitter myself, I found it funny to hear knitting heralded as the new cool by fans of the craft Cameron Diaz and Kimberley Stewart. In 2009 arts and crafts chain Hobbycraft, reported a 28% increase in wool sales, and at about that time Oxfam launched the first online vintage charity shop. You could say that the timing of vintage popularity is significant, coinciding as it did with the start of the UK recession. Second hand clothing, knitting, sewing and growing your own, are certainly ways to combat increasing prices in our shops, but with a single 50g ball of Rowan wool costing an average £5, sewing machines retailing from £100 – £1499, and vintage style Silver Cross prams setting you back a cool £1450, perhaps vintage styling and crafting isn’t just about saving money.

The trend has certainly gone from strength to strength since 2002. Stores like Get Cutie – ‘They’re all about retro charm,’ seeing a 400% increase in sales coinciding with the launch of their online store; the success of Etsy – ‘Buy and sell handmade or vintage items’, and the launch of Victoria Pendleton’s retro-themed bikes being brought forward a month in response to record pre-orders, all indicators that the passion for vintage shows no sign of abating. But, there are mutterings afoot that too many are jumping on the vintage bandwagon, that genuine vintage items are becoming harder to find, and in my own industry of wedding hair accessories, complaints have been made that categorising an item as vintage, is just an excuse to hike the price and it’s discontent like this that can mark the end of a trend.

The beauty of vintage styling is that having been popular once true vintage can never be accused of having ‘gone out of fashion’. True vintage clothing, or crafting an item yourself, will always leave you standing out as an individual, and for those who don’t want to adhere to the latest high street fashions, this has huge appeal.

So, as much as I relish rummaging through second hand shops seeking out brooches for use in the modern bride’s vintage brooch bouquet, and putting together scrap books of vintage stimulus to help design those on-trend tiaras, it feels as though we’re experiencing the crest of a vintage wave that must surely see the tide turn.

Vintage is undoubtedly one of the biggest trends to envelop the UK in quite some time, encompassing as it does home wares, how we spend our leisure time, our look, and what we watch on TV; but when people start to feel exploited by over pricing, or annoyed that a popular tag is being used to disguise shoddy merchandise, then you can be sure that genuine devotees will become more discerning in their consumer habits. So, bye-bye, vintage smart phone covers, and £89 mass produced vintage blouses, and hello sipping tea from a genuine Staffordshire pottery tea cup whilst rocking those 1950’s crystal AB earrings. To all lovers of genuine vintage I say: ‘Keep Calm and Carry On.’


About the author

Heidi Reid is the owner of Glorious Tiaras. She loves to design and craft unique bridal hair accessories, often with a nod to the inspiration of bygone days. Heidi also creates vintage brooch bouquets, and is greeted like royalty at her local second hand shops! Based in Cheshire, Heidi also loves to knit, look after her 3 hens – Lady Gaga, Rhianna and Ruby, and tries valiantly to keep her teenage Goth years a secret.

 If you have a burning vintage or women’s issue you’d like to write about, get in touch! karenwhybro@gmail.com x