Know your vintage before investing

Having a true love and appreciation for authentic vintage is like space travel; there’s no end in sight. You could start by focussing on a particular era in the 20th Century, or what the heck, just embrace the entire vintage world.

(This is a replica cloche hat based on the popular 1920s trend. Cloche is the French word for bell. The middle hat is a treat – almost a ‘mad hatter’ style made entirely of peacock feathers.)

The first Vintage Fashion Fair for 2012 was held in Notting Hill at the 20th Century Theatre, the perfect setting for a feast of vintage treats including the new addition of an old-fashioned sweet shop. Anita Bott, founder of the Vintage Fashion Fairs was at the door to greet us dressed in a divine floor length cream satin dress and draped faux-fur across her shoulders.

Originally one of London’s five patent theatres the 20th Century Theatre in London’s Notting Hill, became a penny-picture house, a professional theatre named the Bijou, a music hall, a repertory company called the Century Theatre and a theatre for amateur groups, namely the dramatic societies of Harrods, D. H. Evans and the BBC. (Taken from the official website.)

I love the fact that the stall holders encourage interested buyers to try on and show them how things should be worn, or the slightest twist to make it a little more suitable to modern times. It’s particularly encouraging when sellers know the origin or background story to a piece. This time I was impressed with the story of a heavy satin 1930s bridesmaid’s dress. Salmon pink in colour, swooping to the floor in a row of frills, with a simple round neckline and finished with a baby blue satin ribbon.

There you have it, a complete visual description, and it once accompanied the lace wedding dress with 1930s bell style sleeves and another maid of honour dress matching the first, but baby blue in colour with a salmon pink ribbon looped around the waist.

The wedding dress and maid of honour dress were sold separately and the seller gave the new owner the wedding photo that went with the day, that tell a thousand words leaving us to imagine the day.

This fair, my heart was wrapped around a huge love of the label Lanvin. Showcased in all its glory was a 1970s halter maxi dress with the ties just under the breast to accentuate just enough for the St Tropez glitterati set. There are quite a lot of Lanvin pieces from the 1970s floating about, but to see something so striking and exceptionally well looked after was a treat.

So, a little Lanvin background:

Jeanne Lanvin was famous for coordinated mother-daughter outfits, fabulous ball gowns, and she created the chemise-style flapper dress. Lanvin’s trademarks was a skilful use of intricate trimmings, virtuoso embroideries and beaded decorations in clear, light, floral colors.

Vintage fashion is very much for wearing, and if you find a specialist seamstresses to make intricate alterations so that it fits perfectly, this will ensure your investment is worth every penny. There are some instances where material is very delicate especially with silks or embroidery pieces close to the 100 year mark.

The vintage travel cases and trunks are huge and aren’t suited to modern travel, as once upon a time people had porters to deal with luggage. It’s these items that aren’t necessarily practical and work better as piece of a design and stylish storage in the home.

Older materials are naturally less robust and will not have the protective finishings of modern design. It’s really a case of ‘handle with care’ and take the time to get to know your piece. Ask the questions, what is it made of? How should it be stored?

This is something which Vintage Seekers can advise upon and they encourage questions on follow-up care or recommend specialist insurers. Vintage Seekers very much see ‘vintage as being something one can enjoy in the here and now rather than stowing away in a safe, it’s just about taking reasonable care to protect the piece from both wear and tear, and theft’.

When it comes to Collectibles and Design, such as prints and posters, the majority are for display. Furniture, lighting, mirrors are luxury pieces intended for use, but handle with care, and get appropriate insurance cover.

Know your vintage when buying. Anything older than 100 years old should be classed as antique. Vintage should refer to anything more than 20 years old, while retro can be used to describe furniture that is either genuinely from, or in the style of, a past period. A pair of leather club chairs will bring classic 1930s style to your home.

If like me, you don’t have the right space for a 1950s Hamilton teak side-board, then learn about embellishing with accessories such as ornaments, art-deco style mirrors perched above Scandinavian-style 1960s desk, with a vintage vase or fruit bowl for display.

And, don’t forget to ask questions about the background or age of what you are looking at when trawling markets, car boot sales or the internet. Invest in books about vintage fashion and collectibles, and get to know experts such as the team at Vintage Seekers, and become a regular at the Vintage Fashion Fair.

The next Vintage Fashion Fair is Sunday 18th March 2012 at the 20th Century Theature, Notting Hill, London.

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