By Katie Kleine • The Reporter • September 23, 2008
You see it everywhere: on TV, in magazines, on the street and, once upon a time, it graced your parents' closets.
As with generations before, fashion trends are double dipping into the styles of past eras. Clothes from the 1930s and '40s all the way to the 1980s (which may not be very long ago to some) are once again back in vogue.
"The majority of my clothes are vintage, and the ones that aren't I usually add a little retro spin to," said Ashley Coffey, 17, a senior at Fond du Lac High School. "Most of my clothes are late 1950s to early 1960s, that soon-to-be-liberated housewife look. I do like to dress in some '70's punk and I really like the mod look, too."
For many, it may feel like they are in a time warp as today's generation struts about in plaid skirts and pencil jeans, vests, Converse shoes, gauze, argyle, hounds tooth and polka dots, mini skirts with leggings, jumpers with turtlenecks, brown leather boots, skinny ties, jean jackets and bomber jackets, thick rimmed glasses and aviator shades. And are they even called petal pushers or clam diggers anymore?
"The '80's have really come back — thick belts and skirts with leggings, skinny jeans — mod boots, those flat black boots, are coming back into style," Coffey observed.
These fashions have all made a comeback and are filling stores deemed as new designer fashions.
"We sell a lot of vintage T-shirts that are made to look faded with designs from the '70's," said Mandy Adams a sales associate with Fashion Bug of Fond du Lac. "We just did a fashion show here and a lot of the models wore the vintage T's under jean jackets, which are also coming back."
In reality, these fashions never really went away.
They were pushed to the back of the closet to make room for the new shopping season and then pushed a little further to the attic until spring cleaning and an urge to be charitable brought them to second-hand shops like Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul.
Second-hand shops, along-side department stores, are joining the ranks of preferred retailers for "millennials" or Generation Y.
"I see a bit of both," said Adams. "People do buy the made-to-look vintage clothes, but they also hit up the second-hand stores, as well. I know my mother has a lot of vintage stuff and when we go through her clothes I say, 'Oh! We sell this.'"
Stores like Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul sell gently used donated items at low cost, retailing everything from electronics, artwork and décor, toys, reading materials, furniture, jewelry, shoes and clothes.
Built to last
Some of the appeal to vintage fashions also lies in the price.
"I like to shop at Goodwill and 'St. Vinnies,'" said Guell. "You can find some of the coolest shirts ever and never pay more than $10."
Many teens and young adults believe some of today's styles are too "cookie cutter" and aren't unique. Young consumers also know that they don't make clothes like they used to — sturdy.
"It makes me sad buying clothes nowadays. They fall apart so easily," Coffey said. "Back then, they used thicker stronger fabrics and everything was made to last longer. Now everything is cheaply made."
Coffey attributes her two favorite finds — a $3 pair of 1960s Italian leather riding boots and a $1 pair of vintage purple leather gloves — to Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul.
Never out of style
The fact that they are used has no apparent bearing on the growing popularity of yesteryear. If anything, it adds more character.
"Being into music and skateboarding really got me into my style of clothes," said Tom Guell, 24, of Waucousta. "I like the retro/western look and it's comfortable. A lot of stores are selling clothes now that look vintage, but it's not the real deal. The best stuff is actually old."
So the big questions remain: Why is retro and vintage fashion so popular? Where do you find the best deals?
"I love history in general and when I wear vintage clothes I feel like I am wearing history," Coffey said. "I love learning about the past and this way I can wear it."
So as a new decade quickly approaches, fashions of the 1990s will soon fall in line with the mini-skirts and leggings of the '80s. Soon we will see the return of cargo pants, tech-vests, Dr. Martens and Chuck Taylor All-Stars, and wide-leg, low-rise and hip-hugger jeans — complete with the ever-popular, yet not-so-appealing, show of underwear.
And like clockwork, following that "every 20-year rule" that our parents told us about when we were 16 and scavenging their old, yet back-in-style clothes, Goodwill and "St. Vinnies" will put out a new crop of old trends.