Generally speaking, clothing which was produced before the 1920s is referred to as antique clothing and clothing from the 1920s to 1960s is considered vintage. Retro, short for retrospective, or “vintage style” usually refers to clothing that imitates the style of a previous era. Reproduction, or repro, clothing is a newly-made but faithful copy of an older garment. Clothing produced more recently is usually called modern or contemporary fashion. Opinions vary on these definitions.
Most vintage clothing has been previously worn, but a small percentage of pieces have not. These are often old warehouse stock, and more valuable than those that have been worn, especially if they have their original tags. Referred to as deadstock or new old stock (NOS), they nevertheless sometimes have flaws.
Although there has always been some demand for old and/or second hand clothing, the awareness, demand and acceptance of this has increased dramatically since the early 1990s.
This increase in interest is due in part to increased visibility, as vintage clothing was increasingly worn by top models and celebrities, e.g. Julia Roberts, Renée Zellweger, Chloe Sevigny, Tatiana Sorokko, Kate Moss, and Dita von Teese.
There has also been an increasing interest in environmental sustainability in terms of reusing, recycling and repairing rather than throwing things away.
At times, the cycle of fashion design turns to history for inspiration, and garments closely resembling original vintage (retro or antique) clothing are manufactured. An example of this is the simple slip dresses that emerged in the early 1990s and were based on undergarments of the 1930s. These styles are generally referred to as “vintage style”, “vintage inspired” or “vintage reproductions” depending on the faithfulness to the historical design, and serve as a convenient alternative to those who admire an old style but prefer a modern interpretation – another advantage is that, unlike the original garments, they are usually available in a range of sizes and perhaps, colours and/or fabrics.