Well, I did say February was going to be big for vintage fairs. Averaging two a week at the moment!
Today I went to the Vintage Pop-Up at Newcastle Student Union, put on by University Vintage Fairs. Like the one at Northumbria I went to last week, it was quite a small affair, but I managed to pick up another addition to my ’80s jumper collection:
Seeing as winter’s not showing any signs of going away yet, I’m going to count this one as a ‘sensible’ purchase!
There have been a few periods in my life where I’ve tried to fit in with the prevailing fashions of the day, but in all honesty, I’ve never really succeeded, and when I look at photos of myself during those periods, I always think I look uncomfortable and not quite right. The style of the ’80s has always felt ‘correct’ to me; it gives me a strong sense of ‘these are what clothes SHOULD look like’, and later fashions just look dowdy and unstylish to my eye. I’m not sure whether I just internalised it really strongly when I first came into the world, or whether I’ve just come to love that aesthetic by chance, but thirty years later it’s still what I’m drawn to, and I think I always will be.
So, my history of being an ’80s fashion throwback, then. I don’t think it counts as being a ‘throwback’ when you’re still in the actual ’80s, but that’s where it began, and clearly my toddlerhood was the best dressed era of my life:
I wore so many different (and AWESOME) outfits during this era. I guess most toddlers go through lots of different clothes, due to the whole rapid body growth thing, but looking at pictures it really seems like in my five short years spent in the ’80s I wore more clothes than in the rest of my life put together.
Shame they couldn’t all have grown with me. Especially the moon ‘n’ stars nightdress in the bottom right corner, my favourite nightdress of all time.
The ’90s, meanwhile, were probably my most difficult decade fashion-wise. Due to a combination of hand-me-downs from family friends, thick curly hair that utterly refused to be browbeaten into the poker-straight trend it was supposed to be following, and a stubborn fully-developed taste that meant I was already gravitating towards the styles of the ’80s, I spent the whole decade doing the awkward ‘dated by quite a few years, but not enough to be retro or vintage yet’ look:
Jeans, especially, I found so awkward – I was drawn to high-rise straight-leg styles, but as the decade went on, they became more low-rise and bootcut – that it put me off them for a long time, and nowadays I don’t own any blue jeans at all. When I reach my target weight, I’ll maybe give them another go.
The ’00s were better (not in general fashion terms – I think the trends of the ’00s were the absolute nadir of fashion in my lifetime so far – but for me personally in terms of style). My teen years, 1998-2004, coincided with the first big wave of ’80s nostalgia in pop culture (The Wedding Singer! The BBC’s I Love The ’80s series! The accompanying CD that I got for Christmas in 2001! Bergerac repeats on BBC2 every day while I was on school exam leave! Websites such as Like Totally ’80s starting up! ’00s indie bands aping ’80s indie bands…now I’m nostalgic for a period of nostalgia. I’ll stop there), and so it was then that I first became conscious that I loved the ’80s so much – that the music was better, the films and TV shows were better, the fashion was better. (I also had a brief flirtation with the early ’70s due to my love of glam rock. You can’t beat a pair of silver glitter platform boots.)
2003 was also the year I became goth. Goth is a wonderful subculture for ’80s throwbacks of a certain style, because the look has basically stayed the same since 1978, and all the clubs play lots of post-punk and synthpop. Utter bliss.
Which brings us to the ’10s. The less said about the first half of the decade, the better – I was uncomfortably overweight and spent most of it hiding away in leggings, baggy t-shirts and hoodies – but now that I’ve lost most of the weight, I’m starting to remember how to have fun with fashion again, hence my recent interest in cultivating a vintage ’80s wardrobe.
I know – from reading stuff by people who are into mid-century vintage – that as time goes on, ’80s vintage stuff won’t always be as readily available and affordable as it is at the moment. As such, I’m making the most of it, with the aim of being able to dress in clothes from my favourite decade for the rest of my life. I hope I’ll be lucky and long-lived enough to be eighty or ninety years out of date one day!
I have far too many coats and jackets, because, like most things, I never throw them away. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve not yet thrown away the old winter coat that I wore to death in uni, the one that has a big rip in the front with stuffing coming out of it. It’s one of those collections that badly needs to be culled when we move into the new place, ’cause I don’t think we’re going to have a lot of hanging space for coats.
This didn’t stop me acquiring five new ones this winter, however. Three were gifts from my sister-in-law when she was clearing out her Edinburgh clothes stash, so I’m going to raise my hand and say ‘not responsible’ for those, but the other two were Etsy purchases. Having really got into vintage clothes shopping in the last couple of years, I’m developing a bit of an Etsy addiction.
Thing is, I love ’80s trenchcoats. They’re much longer than their modern-day equivalents, so you don’t get the awkward hem battle when you’re wearing a skirt, and like most clothing cuts from the ’80s, it’s a much more dramatic silhouette, with nice wide shoulders and a nipped-in waist. I find that in the depths of winter, when you’re always wearing a coat outdoors, a bit of dramatic dressing is refreshing, especially after the sparkly Christmas stuff has all had to be put away.
It’s probably for the best that there’s only one more month left of winter, ’cause Etsy keeps tempting me with more and more coats in all the colours of the rainbow (and in the ’80s, it was a very brightly coloured rainbow). If only I had the space!
I’ve been a lot colder than usual this winter. I’m guessing this is because I’ve lost a lot of weight and so I don’t have that cosy layer of fat keeping me warm anymore. Luckily, my love of vintage clothing fairs came to the rescue, and so in recent months I have become the shamelessly proud owner of a new collection: a collection of vintage ’80s jumpers.
In previous winters, I lived in hoodies. This was the most practical thing at the time, because the various sources of heating in the house, combined with my larger self’s tendency to overheat every time I did any activity that wasn’t sitting down, meant that I was constantly doing the too-hot-too-cold dance and needed something that was easy to throw on and off. This winter, though, I’ve found it’s most comfortable to wear something warm and cosy all day long, which is where the jumpers come in. They’re nice and hardwearing, and there’s never any shortage of them at vintage fairs, so I think they’re going to be my winter go-to for a few years to come.
This weekend, I finally got round to starting packing all our stuff up for the move, and immediately remembered that it’s a far bigger job than it seems. Guess I’m going to be spending tomorrow afternoon drawing up a minute-by-minute immovable schedule for the next few weeks, seeing as we’re on a strict timetable in terms of moving out. Geth has suggested getting it done bit by bit in the evenings (and is far more excited about it than I am), so it will get done – it just seems like an impossible mountain at the moment.
So far, I’ve packed about 80% of our books (which has reminded me exactly why I asked for a Kindle for Christmas – ideally I’d never buy another physical book again, but not everything is available in ebook format yet, and sometimes for a vintage/retro lover like me it’s nice to have the original physical versions of old books; still, for reasons of space I would need to have a serious book cull before I bought any more physical ones) and about 60% of my shoes. The shoes take up three holdalls so far and I’m not done yet:
I currently have 87 pairs. I’d have a lot more if I hadn’t forced myself in recent years to be better about chucking them in the bin when they wear out. I’d also have a lot more if I hadn’t been so broke during my most shoe-obsessive years – much as I’m still magnetically drawn to The Shiny, with age has come (a small amount of) wisdom and nowadays I’m a lot stricter with myself about only buying stuff that I know I’ll definitely wear.
Hopefully, this time next week we’ll have got a lot more of the packing done and I won’t feel quite so stressed about it.
When I was a kid in the ’80s and ’90s, I spent what seemed like an inordinate amount of time in the back of a car, travelling around the UK to visit family, who lived all over the place. My dad likes to take a lot of driving breaks, and so while we visited a lot of motorway service stations, when we were out on more remote roads our pit stop of choice was always some random country pub.
I don’t know where my hoarding/collecting/general possessiveness tendencies come from (some family members have suggested it’s genetic, as a lot of us are like that), but they’ve always been there, and so as a small child I soon started to notice the brightly coloured and highly collectible bits of cardboard that were always sitting there on the pub tables, preventing my glass of Diet Coke from leaving an unsightly ring. I think you all know where this is going.
As an adult, I’ve turned part of my large beermat collection (i.e. as many as will fit on the above corkboard) into a slightly dubious-quality ‘piece of art’ that hangs in our hallway. The display is an exercise in nostalgia as much as anything else – I often pause in the hallway and marvel at the way that some of them are painfully of their time. The Furstenburg one in the top-left corner is absolutely classic ’80s advert styling, the competition advertised on the Martini one in the third row has a closing date sometime in 1986, and the ‘Head Out To Marlboro Country’ one in the second row brings back memories of an impossibly long-ago century when you were actually allowed to advertise smoking as cool and adventurous with only a tiny, hard-to-read government warning along the bottom edge.
At the same time, some drinks are so classic that I don’t think they’ve updated their beermat design in the intervening 20-30 years (Strongbow and Newcastle Brown, I’m looking at you) and I still see identical ones in the pubs of today.
I stopped collecting beermats around the point in my mid-teens that the alcohol itself became more interesting, but I’ll always have a soft spot for this particular hoard.