A lot of people don’t abide by any kind of hard and fast rules when it comes to differentiating between “retro” and “vintage”, but I like to keep things tidy.  Here’s what I mean:

  • Retro –  Something that’s not necessarily authentic, but styled in an old-fashioned kind of way.  Every now and then you’ll see something on the shelves in stores today that looks like it could have time-warped in from the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s.  Much of the time, this stuff will have little idiosyncrasies, like a dress with a cut from the 60’s made in a print more from the 70’s.  There’s nothing wrong with the inauthenticity if you like how it looks that’s all that matters.
  • Vintage – Anything that can be traced back to a definitive date.  My typewriter isn’t a  retro re-do, it’s from 1952 (and weighs about as much as a baby elephant).  Vintage clothing is more than likely going to be brittle and difficult to wear. Vintage recipes don’t fit out modern tastes.  Vintage things can be described as “well-loved” and are often times in need of restoration.  Expect dust.
  • Antique – Usually valuable because of it’s advanced age.  Personally, I consider anything from about 1900 to 1950 to be an antique.  Any antique clothing may be impossible to wear, and the pieces that survive in mint condition may only be in museums by this point.  Any machinery or furniture may be restored to a certain point, but may not be strong enough for daily use of any kind.
  • Antique Reproduction – Because antique clothing or furniture may be just too fragile to enjoy, attempts may be made to make it over again.  Clothing patterns abound but require knowledge and experience to make.  There shouldn’t be any of the little idiosyncrasies that one would expect of something being sold as “retro”.  Even though antique reproductions may be made from modern materials on modern machinery, that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be any cheaper.  A lot of time and effort goes into making the piece look as true to its particular time period as possible.