The Difference Between Retro, Vintage, and Antique..

In case if you've ever wondered what technically defines something as vintage, retro, or antique (like I have more times than I can count...) you're in luck! I know I've been on the borderline for quite some time and it's nice to finally know the exact answer..
antiques: According to Merriam Webster, an antique is "a work of art, piece of furniture, or decorative object made at an earlier period and according to various customs laws at least 100 years ago." Make sure that if you're listing something as "antique clothing" that it is AT LEAST 100 years old (this is different with cars).
 Here is an antique wedding dress from the 1900's my Grandmother Kutch gifted to me from her antique store called, "Plain Jane's Antiques"
vintage:Although widely misused, the term "vintage" refers to an item that is at least 20 years old or more (there you go, you 1980's fans!) I know I hate seeing it misused and overused because it is such a fanatic thing today for something to be "vintage." One of my teachers at school insists that the term vintage should not be applied to any object under 50 years old. This is currently up in the air, but at least twenty years is the accepted age to deem objects under the "vintage" category. True vintage could be categorized at least 50 years old. "New vintage" is a term I've heard describing 1980's barely vintage items.
Here I am wearing a vintage dress owned by my Great Grandmother Frisina in the 1930's and 1940's.
Retro: retro simply refers to anything that looks out of style for the current time period. This could be clothing that was popular in the late 1990's (not technically vintage,  yet) or any new design that references designs or ideas of the past. This also seems to be somewhat interchangeable with the word, "vintage inspired." The 1970's are often referred to as "retro" although they are technically over 40 years old... which can be (in my eyes) considered "vintage."
Here's a dress I bought at Modcloth that is retro, or "vintage inspired."
I hope this cleared up some minor confusions for you like it did for me! 
love, polly


Brittany_Va-VoomVintage said...

yikes- that means that my wardrobe will soon be antique fashions! I still refuse to call anything 80's just kills me. I call it "80's" instead. hehe!!

Elyse (Give Me Bows) said...

Thanks for this, really helpful! :)

KristiMcMurry said...

helpful! Thanks for the explanation...and I love that antique dress in the first photo. Beautiful!

Maria said...

Gorgeous pictures and what an interesting read! I learnt something new today! :)
The Antique wedding dress is beautiful on you!


This Charming Style said...

Wow, this is really helpful! Thanks for sharing Polly :) xx

Catmint said...

Thank you so much for clearing this up! :D I was actually wondering specifically about the difference between "vintage" and "antique" the other day; this is perfect timing (no pun intended). XD

Lauren said...

What an educational post! x

Margaret said...

Thank you so much for this post. The word "vintage" is so abused these days in blogging that even when someone says that the dress is a vintage dress they found at a thrift store, I'm a little hesitant, unless the style is pretty obvious.

Maria Elyse said...

Ahhh, this was super helpful! Thanks for sharing, love! :)

Maria Elyse
First Impressions
Flying Ships Vintage

Anonymous said...

wow is cool! i like it! :)

Love Simple Green

ftashion said...

This is so insightful! I'm so envious of your antique dress! It's 100 years old!!?

Fang Ting

t said...

Cool post!

Cilou said...

Thank you for the information, it will be very useful for me! =D
Your explanations are really simple and your illustrations are nice, the antique dress is sooo cute!

AspirationsOfGlam said...

...its all so clear now!
beautiful pictures!


Mathilde said...

Thanks for the information ! It was really interesting and your explanation very clear ! <3
Love all the dresses, antique, vintage and retro, i'm in !

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info, I actually didn't know all this stuff! You look gorgeous in your grandma's antique wedding dress xx

Ly said...

This is super helpful! I never knew vintage had a time limit so to say.


punkychewster said...

that is helpful. i use vintage on everything! now i know better!


A Girl Named Leney said...

I just always love your posts Polly! Once again I featured a link to this over on my blog today! Hope you don't mind:)

<3 Leney

Anonymous said...

Great post!!

Anonymous said...

Thank u for another informative post. :)

Unknown said...

I was very confused about the differences, but then you explained it well. Great post! Thanks!! This is very helpful! :D

Unknown said...

Well put. Its a good question and you answered it well. Can I ask where you found your definition of vintage? Not disputing it at all, as it seems to be the accepted policy by Esty but it can be sooo loosely used everywhere else. Good post. cheers

Gina De La Mora said...


Gina De La Mora said...


Befenchy said...
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Hallebose said...

I don't think of things that are out of style as being retro. I think for me, I describe things as retro once they adhere to what you stated in your article plus they are also more than ten years old.

I agree with your teacher's definition. For me, a vintage dress would have to be about two generations old.

Unknown said...

That has cleared a lot of confusion for me, thank you so much.

Glyn (UK)

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Unknown said...

Super helpful ... thank you!