Thursday, October 30, 2008

Vintage clothing finds new fans

Thursday, 23 October 2008
By Hannah Yakobi

Ottawa may not be a fashion capital, but its vintage clothing market is expanding due to the increased interest and demand from the city’s residents.

New vintage aficionados are emerging on top of the existing fan base, which has always been large according to fashion experts.

The Ottawa Vintage Clothing Sale on Nov. 9 is going into its 24th installment. Organizer Penelope Whitmore says the event is always welcomed with open arms and people save their money for it all year.

The single day sale attracts vintage collectors from all over Canada and up to 2,000 visitors.

Fashion experts say the popularity of vintage clothing is on the rise because it allows people to be creative in a city like Ottawa where clothing choice is limited.

“There seems to be a trend going towards the individualist look and fine-tuning your personality in the way you dress,” says image consultant Annette McConnell. “We are also starting to see a surge towards accommodating the needs and wants of the Ottawa population.”

She adds that vintage clothing is certainly part of the trend.

“Vintage clothing is fabulous. It allows people to really create the look that is true to themselves. It’s from eras gone by, yet can be incorporated into an existing wardrobe and have a different spin,” says McConnell.

Sheila Furlong, fashion design co-ordinator at Algonquin College, agrees. She says vintage has never been more popular.

“All of a sudden it just peaked and really came back full-force. It has peaked through, occasionally, in the last 20 years, but not like it has today.”

There are also permanent collections of vintage clothes at local stores and these are refreshed on a regular basis.

Ragtime Vintage Clothing off Bank Street has hundreds of designs from the past, be they from the 1920s, 1960s, the Edwardian era or even medieval times.

“We are really busy,” says owner John Greaves, who has been running the Centretown store with his wife for the last three decades. “There’s always an interest in vintage clothing.”

The variety of items at vintage stores is jaw-dropping. There is something for everybody, such as flapper dresses, bow ties, dome-shaped umbrellas, Victorian-era pendants and 1970s suits à la Saturday Night Fever.

But it’s not all about sales. Greaves says that many people also rent out garments for Halloween or costume balls.

He adds that they often consign their own items too, pointing to the big pile of consignment catalogues.

“A lot of people don’t want to go to the malls because everything is the same, so they come here because it’s different,” he says.

Even boutique stores have recognized this interest and have started to update their existing collections.

The trendy Victoire Boutique on Dalhousie Street has a wide range of vintage accessories that store owners say are very popular. In addition, they host a vintage shoe sale several times a year. These events are conducted with shoe collectors from Montreal, who bring a U-Haul filled with vintage shoes.

Régine Paquette, Victoire’s co-owner, says their store was “jam-packed” during the last sale.

“There is a really high demand, and vintage is definitely gaining a wider audience,” she says. “Even though we are not a vintage store we have a vintage line because it’s part of our customers’ aesthetic.”

Whitmore predicts that vintage will stay in style.

“The love of vintage clothing has always been there, but it has been made more popular by Hollywood stars. It’s one-of-a-kind. You just can’t find the same quality and workmanship in the clothing of today.”

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