Capital City Antique Mall

Is it Vintage, Antique, Retro... or is it just out of style?

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The words antique, retro, and vintage still leave collectors in open combat as their meanings and their proper use. Our language is ever changing, and we continue to redefine words and use them in different ways. For example, try to read Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in its original middle english vernacular you will see just how far the english language has changed. HINT: Try reading out loud - or just read the translation below.

And of the feste that was at hir weddynge,
(And of the feast that was at her wedding)

And of the tempest at hir hoom-comynge;
(And of the storm at her homecoming;)

I wol nat letten eek noon of this route,
(I will not hinder not anyone of this group)

Lat every felawe telle his tale aboute,
(Let every fellow tell his tale about this,)

And ther I lefte, I wol ayeyn bigynne.
(And there I left, I will again, begin.)

 Cars only need to be 25 years old to be considered antiques - According to that definition I am already an antique!

Cars only need to be 25 years old to be considered antiques - According to that definition I am already an antique!

Um, yep...words like "bitwixen", "weddynge" and all of the crazy spellings can drive a modern american english speaker to madness. This illustrates to how a language can evolve. In 2014 the words hashtag, selfie, tweep and duck-face were all added to the dictionary - and I can almost guarantee in five hundred years english speakers will have no idea what those things area....I laugh to think of the futuristic wikipedia entry that will describe duck-face.  

ANYWAY, getting back to the topic on hand - should you list it as an Antique? Or when you buy something how do you know if its vintage? Or just someone's old clothes that went out of style, like the chunky square toed heels your mom used to wear in the 90's? What is the difference?

Often modern conversation has attributed these definitions to the following words:
1-Antique. Something that is really old, dusty, possible made of carved wood... maybe it came from your grandma's parents attic or basement.  My niece equates antique with old and ugly, i.e. "That dress is practically an antique!"...but vintage is old and totally adorable...or "totes amazeballs."
2-Vintage. Old but cute enough to charge double the price for it. Usually nostalgic is some way or could be useful as a movie prop.
3-Retro. Either something that is in the style of something from the past and its brand new or its something that is outdated and coming back into style.

As you can see these definitions are totally nebulous and inconclusive. Easily interchangeable in common conversation their true meanings have been lost except when we look in the dictionary. Here are the official definitions that I found in an article by

What is antique?
According to Merriam Webster, an antique is "a relic or object of ancient times" or "a work of art, piece of furniture, or decorative object made at an earlier period and according to various customs laws at least 100 years ago."Ruby Lane, an online marketplace of independent antique and collectible shops, offers a similar definition, explaining, "Most authorities consider the actual definition of the term 'antique' to mean an age of at least 100 years. If an item is not definitively datable to 100 or more years in age, it should not be directly referred to as an antique."

What is vintage?
If antiques are things that are 100 years old or older, what are vintage pieces? The defnition of vintage is trickier. According to Merriam Webster, the term vintage relates primarily to wine and is an altered form of the French word vendage, meaning "the grapes picked during a season." One of its secondary definitions is "a period of origin or manufacture" (e.g., a vintage 1960s Mercedes) or "length of existence: age." Ruby Lane provides a much more helpful explanation, noting that "an item described as 'vintage' should speak of the era in which it was produced. Vintage can mean an item is of a certain period of time, as in "vintage 1950's" but it can also mean (and probably always should) that the item exhibits the best of a certain quality, or qualities, associated with or belonging to that specific era. In other words, for the term vintage to accurately apply to it, an item should be somewhat representational and recognizable as belonging to the era in which it was made." Ruby Lane also suggests that'vintage' should not be used in reference to objects less than 20 years old

What is retro?
According to Merriam Webster, retro is "relating to, reviving, or being the styles and especially the fashions of the past : fashionably nostalgic or old-fashioned." Retro furniture may not actually be old but it references styles of the recent past. Retro can also mean something that is not very old but is old enough to be more than just "so last season". (i.e., the woman wearing the early 80s high-waisted jeans because she hasn't updated her wardrobe since the Reagan Administration is not retro. She is just outdated.) I am still not entirely clear on the difference between retro and vintage, I must admit. There seems to be some overlap.

So as you can see - clearly defined - but people will still use the words interchangeably so its always best to meet a buyer or read all the information so you know how old that "vintage" piece really is. Happy antique hunting folks!