Each year, new wardrobes open and old ones close, leaving the dregs of the fashion industry behind. Inevitably, though, this will be recollected and reformed by some experimental designer a few decades into the future.

Sometimes this constant slamming of doors can be a bit daunting for the aspiring fashionista. Casual flipping through magazines can easily turn into a frantic scramble through pages in an attempt to understand the workings of the fashion industry. At times, those on the outside of the industry may find themselves wondering if there is a process at all – or if the entire scene is simply a mesh of the whims and ideas of influential people.

The recurrent nature of fashion is vividly apparent in the intergenerational recurrence of what’s “in” and what’s “out”.

“One day I greeted my grandmother in the kitchen, only to find that we were wearing the exact same skirt. Except hers was from, like, 1960 and mine was from Mr Price,” says third-year chemical engineering student Holly Thomas.

It seems that in every generation, some form of vintage fashion is in vogue for at least a short while – so much so that it has given this unique style a secure subdivision within the fashion industry.

To clarify: vintage does not refer to that manky old coffee table you saw at your grandfather’s best friend’s garage sale. Rather, vintage refers to items from within living memory, unlike antique, which applies to items over a century old.

Perdeby spoke to Nicole Warr, the editor of Vintage Lifestyle Magazine. “The concept of vintage is definitely becoming more known these days,” she says. “I think society is realising what it means to have your own style and how important it is to wear clothes that best describe your personality.”

Vintage, however, is not just a set of time-worn clothes – anyone can easily fall into the trap of looking like a nightmare from the 1980s rather than coming across as a 21st-century fashion genius. For this, it is important to remember that your style needs to be a blend of both old and new. As Warr says, “Mixing modern with vintage is seen as trendy. For example, wearing a vintage dress that costs R50 with a Chanel bag and Christian Louboutin shoes will receive a fashion nod.”

But is the wheel of revisiting previous fashion trends starting to rotate faster and faster through each era? In the 1930s, it was very popular to wear skirts that were shorter in the front than in the back, just like those in style today. Then, a little later, in the 1950s, soft pastel colours and flower prints made an appearance on the fashion front. Both form the basis of the summer 2012 collection for Woolworths. Similarly, brilliant, day-glo colours and leg warmers were an iconic trend in the 1980s, but recently they have made a more subtle comeback in exercise wear before slipping quietly into everyday women’s wear, with the bright colours overflowing into men’s T-shirts and jeans. The Miami Vice style of the mid-80s has also made a reappearance of late in menswear, with casual T-shirts peeking out from beneath formal jackets. Instead of new developments taking decades to be adapted from the old, fashion seems to be cycling through trends at what can sometimes seem an alarming rate.

Some might say that fashion is only cyclical, and that what was trendy a hundred years ago will always be stylish – just at different points in society’s timeline. You may even catch yourself saying, “Hey gramps, nice pants,” at least once in your young life. It can be argued, however, that fashion in fact simply draws on inspiration from past generations, but that the innovation of each paradigm shift is reliant on the creativity and resourcefulness of the new generation. As Warr aptly puts it, “I see trends that are recycled on the catwalks today, but to me, this does not mean that fashion is a closed circle. It’s a salute to the past.”

Photo: Matthew Schnetler (Vintage Lifestyle Magazine)

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