Sunday, January 11, 2009

What a difference 20 years makes!

I've been thinking a lot about Etsy's decision to use "20 years or more" as the mark of a Vintage piece. When I first saw it, I had to laugh. I thought, "That's just silly". But at the same time, I wholeheartedly went along with the idea, because it meant I could list more items there.

After many debates about, say, 1988 being Vintage, I think I'm finally beginning to see the light. Here's why:

Great changes have taken place in 20 year spans. Not only societal and historical changes, but major changes in home and fashion styles. I can't help but think about the giant leap society took between the 20 years from 1900 to 1920. At the turn of the century, they were just barely out of the Victorian era, still wearing blowsy shirtwaists, bustles, and full length bathing suits. But by the 1920s they have moved on to bathtub gin, short flapper dresses, and cupid's bow lips.
When I was a young housewife in the mid-50s, anything from the mid-30s was considered positively antique--so out of it and old fashioned! We were well into modernistic, streamlined, Scandinavian influences and people were throwing out that 30s junk by the carloads. (Especially the clunky Mission Oak furniture we now associate with Stickley and other sought-after Craftsman era makers. It was way too big for our little ranch homes.)

By the late 50s and early1960s, we were throwing out the old cast-offs from the 1940s--those stuffy old mohair sofas, those rose-strewn rugs, those chenille bedspreads. Who would want that tired old junk? We didn't become nostalgic for it until years later, when it suddenly became popular again. It's that cycling of the old stuff--our grandmother's stuff-- that we've come to call "nostalgia".

In the 1980s, we were throwing out the 60s and 70s stuff, including the eye-popping psychedelic remnants of a free and easy culture, and heading toward the more abstract, the more natural, earthy (or earth-bound) aspects of a hippy generation that leaned toward hand-thrown pots, macrame, and unpainted barn siding.
And now here we are, in the 21st Century, already getting nostalgic for that past century. . .

I wonder what life will look like 20 years from now?


  1. I agree with you! Things sure do change fast and at my age I probably won't be around 20 years from now! Have a great day! Esther

  2. I have had the same thoughts! I never thought that 80's fashion would look good again, but on this generation, it does:).

  3. I think I was born vintage :) and I agree with you, having said that I have my fav 20 year spans and so glad I am able to enjoy them!
    Lynn d diva

  4. I'm the odd ball out here. Having worked in the antiques field since the 70s, I've been "trained" to a 25 yr bare minimum until something becomes potentially considered as collectible. And then everything is not automatically qualify as a collectible.

    Was it issued in limited form and quantity?
    Did it bespeak of a unique style or art form?
    Did it somehow represent an aspect of our culture?

    The new, highly overused, term these days seems to be "vintage". I just can't wrap myself around the idea of 80s being vintage. But I agree - it allows a broader spectrum of goods sold on Etsy. ;)

    Back in the 70s when vintage clothing shows were growing all around, we barely even blinked at the idea of 1950s items being in the booths! It was the 40s and back!

    I still prefer the old idea of a timeline cutoff guide - and would really like to see sites like Etsy move it back a little ..... pre-1980 ....meaning the 70s is it! OR - create a new term for the more recent goods - on the idea of what Shabby Chic created.

  5. Hi Barbara, you're not an oddball! I've argued many times that Etsy should make Vintage much farther away. I've voted for the 30-year mark, and pushed for it. But since they've stuck with 20 years, I wanted to get a feel for what was happening in those 20 year spans.
    This morning I was looking at a Country Living magazine from 1989, and I have to say, there isn't as much difference in that 20 year span as there were in those two-decade spans in the past.
    We're catching up! So I do feel a little uneasy about calling items from 1988-89 "Vintage"
    I really don't like the term "Collectibles", even though it's used interchangeably with Antiques more often than not. It's too broad a term and is used to encompass anything that might possibly be collected. That could be anything from matchpads to Flintstones glasses.
    When I use "Vintage", I envision good quality items from the past. Of course, the word Vintage is now as misused as Collectibles is. We'll have to come up with a new term!
    Thanks for commenting. I really do appreciate it.

  6. i make some good connections that make a lot of's one reason why i never fought etsy's 20 year policy...even though i'm a child of the '70s/'80s and it makes me feel kinda old, but oh well...those decades are sure worth celebrating!

  7. Rachael, a child of the '70s/'80s?? I have a grandchild who fits in there. . .talk about feeling kinda old!

  8. Ok, I can relate to you. I want to know anyone who was around in the 1950s. Great blog.