~antique, vintage or retro?~

How do you know if a style is antique, vintage or retro?  And what is the difference anyway?  It is so common to see these three terms used interchangeably, but they actually do have different meanings!  

Following are the definitions I was taught, and these seem to be followed by most dealers of vintage clothing and accessories:

Antique – older than 100 years (currently pre 1910)
Vintage – older than 50 years (currently pre 1960)
Retro – older than 25 years (currently pre 1985)

Using these definitions, each period is not actually fixed but evolves with time.  This means that in the year 2020, fashions from the year 1970 will be vintage – now that does make me feel old!!


Personally I tend to put the fifties-influenced early sixties fashion in the vintage category too, and classify the later sixties fashion as strictly retro.  What about you – are these the same definitions that you use to define Antique, Vintage and Retro?  I’m really interested to hear your comments!

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Designer, Patternmaker, Blogger Of All Things Sewing. Follow as I share projects, patterns, and my favourite tricks of the trade.

8 thoughts on “~antique, vintage or retro?~

  1. I think of vintage as 25 years, because that's how old a car has to be before you can get vintage license plates for it 🙂 I used to own a '79 Chevrolet Malibu when it was 22 years old, nearly a vintage car!
    Your definitions make more sense though.. It's pretty wild that 1985 is retro already though!


  2. My daughter thinks anything from my cupboard is vintage, but you have to say it with that Sydney private school girl twang with the emphasis on last syllable vinTAGE. She also has a category for some of my gear which she calls BINtage. Say no more!


  3. Definitions may vary per country or part of the world: I was always told that 'antique' is older than 100 years, 'vintage' is older than 25 years and 'retro' is new stuff, made in vintage styles.
    And I have to say, over here, in the Netherlands, second hand shops will often label 80's stuff as 'vintage'. Which is funny to me. I remember that from when it was around for the first time…


    1. As a fashion instructor, I teach as Lauriana has it correct. Retro are imitations of older things, for example a fridge manufactured today with 1950’s styling.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I keep trying to find ways not to say the V-word. It's become such a highschool girl trendy thing- if you bought it second hand, it's vintage! The word has lost all meaning. I like to say I sew from old patterns, or that I like to wear old fashions.


  5. I've seen some seller's on etsy list clothing/objects that are 20 years old as vintage. I picked up an armoire through Freecycle, and the lady said it was an “antique…it had to be at LEAST 40 years old”. LOL.
    Retro to me means something new made in an older style.


  6. Sounds right to me!
    As a child, my Mother had an antique shop in England. I asked her what an antique was and she told me it was something older than 100 years. But then she also told me, that in America, it doesn't have to be that old to be called an antique!


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