Vintage, retro, nostalgia; call it what you will, but the British public seem to have taken quite a shine to all things vintage of late. Whether it's a desire to look back to the past in a whim of nostalgia, a preference for vintage clothing and home wares, or simply a case of lovingly restoring vintage items and treasuring past trinkets, vintage seems to have made quite an impact on British culture in the past few years.
As the vintage boom has grown the vintage fair has certainly begun to take over our city halls on the weekend and it's not just big cities taking a shine to the vintage fair, towns and villages across the country can be found holding vintage fairs in abundance. But what exactly makes a fair a vintage fair? Can anybody throw up a spot of bunting, cake stands & tea and turn any old craft fair into a vintage fair? Certainly not, but you will find a large number of craft fairs turning towards more of a vintage flair.
The vintage fair tends to comprise of vintage goods, there is a fine line between vintage and second hand goods admittedly but the majority of large run vintage fairs tend to stick to strict settings for what differentiates a vintage stall from a second hand stall. Your vintage stall generally tends to consist of vintage goods which can range from clothing (usually up to the 1980's era), costume jewellery, kitchenalia, home goods and assorted bric a brac, from those 1970's Jackie annuals to tea strands. Generally vintage goods tend to, and in my option should be, of an excellent quality, items that have been looked after well in their past life alongside a dash of the kitsch for good measure.
There does tend to be a vague difference between fairs and vintage traders in terms of what constitutes as vintage, although in general most tend to stick to the above when classifying vintage goods.
When it comes to shopping vintage admittedly there are items where a fine line can be drawn, the thought of wearing vintage footwear does leave me a little befuddled when you can find such a great selection of reproduction wares on the market nowadays, but there are great treasures to be found at a vintage fair. Items such as costume jewellery, home wares, accessories and even bric a brac can be lovingly restored, and more often than not found in impeccable condition, I've found many a brooch, handbag & even tea set at a vintage fair that have become firm favourites in the home and my wardrobe.
What can one expect when attending a vintage fair? There is often little difference between the big boys of the vintage market as it were, fairs such as Judy's Affordable Vintage Fair & Discover Vintage tend to set up home in a number of institutions across the country from town halls to race courses where the stalls fit in well alongside the decor. It's not a messy jumble sale, you'll often find rails of clothing lined up by stall section and tables of jewels to browse. When visiting a vintage fair for the first time allow plenty of time to take everything in, you'll often find an overwhelming amount of stalls to view but if you're arriving with an intended item in mind such as perhaps a vintage table to restore, this will make browsing a little easier as you can view the room and find the stalls that you're after.
Certainly take time to go around the room a few times, it's easy to miss those hidden gems the first time around. Above all remember to take plenty of cash with you for those purchases. Certainly make a day of it and take on other avenues of entertainment at the same time, with the larger city fairs most are located near to shopping areas so you can make a full day of shopping out of your trip.
Most importantly check over any items you are considering purchasing to ensure that you are happy with the quality and condition before you part with your cash, I wouldn't want to come away with a new frock that needs a lot of repair! With vintage in such a huge boom there's never been a better time to take advantage of the flurry of vintage fairs on offer.
Looking for a fair to attend? I recommend the following:
Clerkenwell vintage fashion fair : London's utmost designer vintage fair, if you fancy trying your luck at finding a vintage YSL frock here's the best place to start.
Judy's Vintage Fair : the original touring vintage fair, visits most UK cities every few months.
Discover Vintage : If it's vintage home wares you fancy they run The vintage home show in Manchester & London which are well worth a visit.
Alternatively a visit to vintage fairs.co.uk will reveal hundreds of fairs across the country