What’s the difference between Vintage and Retro?

What’s the difference between Vintage and Retro?

I’ve recently been asked what the difference is between vintage and retro and so I thought I would write a post on the subject and welcome anyone reading to make their comments too.

In this picture you will see our daughter Florence, she is wearing a vintage dress which belonged to my elder sister and is approximately 40 years old.  The lovely pull along poodle is retro and is a remake of the classic pull-along vintage toy.

Lets take it back a little further…..

According to Wikipedia  ………..An antique (Latin: antiquus; “old”, “ancient”) is an old collectable item. It is collected or desirable because of its age, beauty, rarity, condition, utility, personal emotional connection, and/or other unique features. It is an object that represents a previous era or time period in human society.  An item should be at least 100 years old to be defined as an antique.

Generally speaking if the item is no older than an antique but not less than 20 years, it falls under the term vintage.  I have heard the term ‘true vintage’ as being at least 50 years old.  Interestingly however, the term vintage relates primarily to wine and is an altered form of the French word vendage, meaning “the grapes picked during a season.”

What can sometimes be confusing is that items that are vintage are often described as retro and so there is a one sided overlap of the two terms.

Wikipedia describes Retro style as “a style that is consciously derivative or imitative of trends, modes, fashions, or attitudes of the recent past. It generally implies a vintage of at least fifteen or twenty years. For example, clothing from the 1980s or 1990s could be retro.  Retrostyle is an outdated style or fashion that has become fashionable again.  The word “retro” derives from the Latin prefix retro, meaning “backwards, or in past times” – particularly as seen in the words retrograde, implying a movement toward the past instead of a progress toward the future, and retrospective, referring to a nostalgic (or critical) eye toward the past”.

Retro items don’t have to be old, they can be brand new, but would have to be made in the style of the time or item they are trying to replicate.

So, perhaps the best way to think about the difference between retro and vintage is that vintage refers to the acutal construction, whilst retro refers to the appearance.

Someone once told me that you can describe a vintage item as retro but never a retro item as vintage!

It’s interesting if you ask people their interpretation!  Generally speaking I have found the consensus is that vintage conjurs up images of lace, pearls and florals whilst retro implies geometric shapes, mod and iconic design led items.

Terms also used are vintage style and retro style.  But surely they are the same thing?

Confused still?

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