When you buy vintage clothing, you're not remembering something from your own past, but taking a step into the collective memory.
Nostalgia dominates our senses and our life; when we smell aromas that take us back to our childhoods, when we watch movies and instantly remember the first time we watched it. Similarly, we recycle fashion trends from the 20th-century and pass it off as ‘vintage’ and ‘cool’ in the name of nostalgia – while failing to create trends of our own. Gen-Z is now pulling out clothing from their mothers’ closets in an attempt to recreate the old look of slip dresses and mini skirts – sounds familiar? - and capture the innocent memory of the young adults at the time.
Revivals seem to be comfortable for us; when we long for a past immersed with our own sense of nostalgia, we perpetuate the cyclical nature of nostalgia itself, looking back on people who were also looking back, all pining for the golden age that was supposed to have preceded them and claiming to live in a different time, a better time. That’s why, even though nostalgia has always been a big part of fashion, it seems to be the trend that starts all trends lately.
It all started with the Y2K trend, right at the beggining of the pandemic when we all had to stay home during lockdown – what's better than going back to a time where all this wasn’t a thing and people were dressed in colorful and futuristic looks? - and it just keeps happening. Now, we have the comeback of the grungy Tumblr girl era and something twee is also starting to show. We started in the 2000’s and we’re getting to mid 2010’s, all thanks to Gen-z, the people who had to watch their early 20’s and late teen-years go by while locked in, so they chose to escape to a time they were too young to actually remember and relive it the only way they could think of: through their clothes.
When you buy vintage clothing, you're not remembering something from your own past, but taking a step into the collective memory. Whether you choose to wear a sweater that once belonged to your mother when she was your age, or to wear a thrifted Chanel bag from the 80s, you are equally holding on to a past that could not have possibly included you, invoking the same sense of nostalgia.
Nostalgia allows the vintage and reemerging aesthetics to be in, bringing back some of the most significant trends and holding onto the past while remolding it in an image of the future. In vintage clothing, past, present and future seem to converge in a manner that incarnates each element in equal measure while not embodying any of them. Just as fashion is supposed to, it effectively represents the absolute present.