For real vintage fashionistas, getting the right look is never about simply creating a bona-fide flash photograph of the past.
Instead, it's about combining pieces from a variety of eras - a cocktail dress from the 1960s with a jacket from the '50s and a modern hairstyle, for example.
It's about building something new, rather than simple nostalgia.
"Usually what I like to wear is a mixture of vintage and modern," said Sarah Rempel, organizer of the fourth annual Fall Vintage Fair, set for Saturday at Fairfield United Church.
"What I really like about this fashion is it's 'everything goes.'
"With vintage clothes, you can always wear your own eclectic style and make it your own look."
Vintage doesn't mean antique, although pieces usually need to be at least 20 years old to be considered vintage - old enough not to just seem out of date.
For this interview, Rempel wore a sparkly green cocktail dress from the 1960s, a '50s crystal necklace, crystal/rhinestone earrings from the '40s, a short mink jacket - possibly from the '40s or '50s - and brand new, very modern oxblood-red pumps from Nine West.
The 29-year-old former social worker started the Vintage Fair four years ago. It's since grown from 13 vendors to 35 and offers everything from clothes to housewares and Rempel's specialty, jewelry.
Rempel said she always has a waiting list of about 30 vendors who want a chance to get on board. Customers are welcome to bargain and even trade.
Vintage buyers and sellers will scour thrift stores, flea markets and garage sales for special pieces.
Rempel said she has found some of her best discoveries in free piles outside people's houses, like a recent set of chairs from the 1970s.
These days, Internet shopping, with sites such as E-bay and etsy, has brought the vintage look to a wider audience.
But Sam Medley, a 35year-old former financial adviser turned retailer as owner of Sideshow at 590 Johnson St., cautioned would-be buyers to beware of clothing that's billed as vintage but was actually produced only recently. When shipping costs, customs and sales tax are tacked on, an item that looked like a bargain is anything but.
Confusion also persists about the trend. Medley said she's had teenagers in her store demanding to know if things are "really vintage."
"The little hipster kids come in and say, 'I don't get it, it's just really old,' " said Medley, who also likes to alter older styles.
Skirts from the 1950s can be shortened and necklines on dresses can be dropped to look less prissy. With alterations, the look is modernized without becoming completely modern.
One advantage of working with older clothing is that the quality construction and durable fabric can withstand fresh cutting and stitching, although natural fabrics such as wool and cotton can degrade over time.
That's not a problem with man-made fabrics from the 1960s and '70s.
"That polyester stuff is going to be around forever," Medley said. "As much as people wince and would like it to disappear, those crazy prints aren't going anywhere soon."
For vintage newbies, the Vintage Fair can be like a gateway drug - trying one or two small pieces can lead to something bigger.
"They will sort of ease themselves into it," Rempel said. "They can start with something small, like a purse or shoes, and slowly accumulate other items.
"They can pick a pin or a piece of jewelry and they can wear it with the modern clothes, and they will look great," she said. "And people will say, 'That's so unique - where did you get that?' "
The Fall Vintage Fair runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Fairfield United Church, 1303 Fairfield Rd. The entry fee is $3, or $10 for those who want an advance look from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Kids are admitted free. Go to vintagefairvictoria.com.
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