retro, vintage, antique – what’s the difference?

even though we’ve been hosting Vintage May for four years now, i don’t think we’ve ever explicitly addressed the difference between retro, vintage, and antique.  i actually remember feeling very self conscious when we started this, thinking maybe i wasn’t really using the right term for what i was sewing…i’m sort of a stickler for that sort of thing.  if you are too, i hope this post helps clear things up.

and please, if you think my understanding of any of these isn’t right or you have more to add, please leave a comment!  thanks!


a new style that deliberately refers to a prior era’s style, typically 1940 – 1990.  retro doesn’t describe any era in particular, just a current style that consciously refers to an old one, usually “with a twist.”

in the sewing world, think dungarees, culottes, bodysuits.  you’ve seen those types of clothes before in prior decades, and the designers know that, but they have updated them with a more modern fit and style.

bodysuit // cut cut sew



vintage is at least 20 years old – current “vintage” decades are 1920 to 1980!  that seems crazy to me, since i was born in the ‘80s, but there you have it.  when we thought of Vintage May we wanted to celebrate styles of decades past, and most of our guests have chosen to be inspired by styles within the actual “vintage” timeline, so that has worked out well!

we have every decade represented, many more than once…i always think it’s fun to see which decades our guests choose for their projects.


20s / 30s / 40s / 50s / 60s / 70s / 80s


antique refers to something that is at least 100 years old, which would make current “antique” fashions anything earlier than 1920.  think Downton Abbey (the early seasons) or go back to pioneer days, like Rachel did!

classic Holly Hobbie pose

i hope this helps clear up any fuzziness you may have had about what is retro, vintage, and antique.

what’s your favorite decade, style-wise?  we seem to get a lot of interest in the 40s, 50s, and 70s – it was hard to pick one example for my collage – but very few from the earlier decades.  frankly, i’m surprised we haven’t seen more 60s bohemian flower children in Vintage May – maybe next year my son will be rocking bell bottoms and a leather fringe vest…haha. 

head on over to craftiness is not optional for Jess’ final guest, Caila!

VM Large


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