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Retro’s Finest Gather For The York Festival of Vintage

I am passed on the stairs by an American GI, he nods politely. I turn to my left and spot a row of Vespa’s parked up in a row, chrome glinting in the sunlight and to my right a group of girls with brightly coloured hair done up in victory rolls walk in besides me. Even in my original sixties baker boy hat and bright green military coat I feel instantly underdressed.

There’s something about big vintage fairs that I love- and it’s not just the clothes.  It’s a place where people come and to meet other like-minded stylish retro folk and indulge their passions in what is a form of escapism from the banality of modern life.

The nostalgic extravaganza that is the “Festival of Vintage” took place at York Racecourse the 26th and 27THApril is one of many vintage fairs across the UK that are becoming increasingly popular.

As well as impeccably dressed the modern vintage enthusiast is highly competitive. They want to look unique. Old or young, from we’ll meet again war time to the swinging sixties; “One of a kind” retro styling is the order of the day.,

Some women embrace 50s rockabilly with patterned dresses and a short black bobs, others opt for ultra glamorous; favouring stockings, heels and furs. The gents look dapper in cool combo of tweed, tattoos, braces, punctuated by impressive beards.

York Vintage Festival

On the Saturday I joined Laura Adams from Grandma Eileen’s Affordable Vintage. Laura set up her business a year ago “I wanted to sell products that were not only excellent condition but affordable and distinctive” she says.

I regularly frequent vintage fairs as a buyer so it was interesting to observe from the other side of the rail so to speak.

The modern vintage enthusiast of course, loves to make a purchase.  It seems the enthusiasm and interest is not just limited to the outfits.   You have the “Discerning Purchaser”, they need to know date of the item and its origin before committing.  The “Bargain Hunter” – what’s on the price tag is never a done deal, they love to haggle and finally you have the “Frenzied Fashionista”. If look like it fits and its cheap, its sold.

Laura explains she likes to use the fair as a networking opportunity to promote her online business. “it’s a great place to meet people and mix with industry insiders she says”.
It’s not just clothing that brings the crowds. Antique stalls, paraphernalia and pop up beauty parlours fill the ground floor; offset to a dance floor filled with moves that would put even the most limber to shame.

As I leave I am feeling reflective. The festival  may well be a playground of quirky styles and dress up encouraging us to remember to good old days for a weekend, but back then people took real pride in the way they dressed. One reason these festivals are proving so popular.  Clothes were tailored, well cut and often reflected a movement. Today we have mass consumerism, “throw away fashion” and a hotchpotch of eras. This is the modern world, but has this meant our attitude to clothes has become throw-away too?
Maybe there is some truth in what their promotional flyers say, When it comes to fashion – there really is no time like the past.