Vintage clothing is a generic term for garments originating from a previous era. 
Before the rise of industrial manufacturing, the construction of most articles of clothing required extensive hand labor. Clothing worn by farmers and laborers was more a matter of practicality than fashion. In order to maximize value, clothing was repaired when worn or damaged, sometimes with layers of patching. Used clothing, in reasonable condition, could be tailored for a new owner. When too tattered to repair, an article might have been taken down to scraps for use in a quilt or braided rag rug, or used as rags for cleaning or dusting.

During World War I, the United States launched a conservation campaign, with slogans such as “Make economy fashionable lest it become obligatory”. One result was an approximate 10% reduction in wartime trash production. The tides of popular fashion create demand for the ongoing replacement of products with something that is new and fresh.[4] This is partly due to increased visibility, as vintage clothing was increasingly worn by top models and celebrities. The popularity of period pieces set in the mid-20th century in television and film has also contributed to vintage’s popularity.

There was a resurgent interest in environmental sustainability in terms of reusing, recycling, and repairing rather than throwing things away. Sometimes vintage items are upcycled by changing the hemline or other features for a more contemporary look. Vintage items in poor condition are also salvaged for reuse as components in new garments. Throughout the world, used apparel is reclaimed and put to new uses. The textile recycling industry is able to process over ninety percent of the waste without the production of any new hazardous waste or harmful byproduct.

Historically based sub-cultural groups like rockabilly and swing dancing played a part in the increased interest in vintage clothes. In Finland, the vintage scene resulted in a registered non-profit organization, Fintage, from a common interest in the preservation of material culture and the environment. Fashion design, throughout history, has turned to previous eras for inspiration. Vintage clothing retains and increases in value due to the fact that it is genuinely from a past era.

Vintage clothing allows the buyers to be their own designers because they can choose different styles from second-hand clothing. In addition, authentic garments are made one at a time, with enough attention to detail to create an item that has long-lasting value. Garments closely resembling original vintage (retro or antique) clothing are mass-produced, for the most part, in China. An example of this is the simple slip dresses that emerged in the early 1990s, a style that resembles a 1930s design. These styles are generally referred to as “vintage style”, “vintage inspired” or “vintage reproductions”. 

They serve as a convenient alternative to those who admire an old style but prefer a modern interpretation. People who wear vintage clothing look for designer brands and limited edition products to fit in the “vintage” category.

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