Keeley Rosendale was all set to celebrate her tenth Festival of Vintage at York Racecourse in April when she was forced to postpone the weekend event that she hosts just five weeks before visitors from around the world were due to enjoy some of the best vintage shopping in the UK.
Instead of being run off her feet at the racecourse, Keeley, whose surname was formerly Harris, was busy with the irksome task of refunding ticket holders and traders of original vintage and reproduction fashion. The lockdown meant she also temporarily lost her outlet at market shop Space in Harrogate, where she has a stall.
“It was a huge shock having to deal with the fallout of postponing the festival until next year,” says Keeley, of Kippax, who runs Discover Vintage, her interiors showroom in Garforth, which also closed for three months. “Once the rush of refunds had passed and I’d sewn a few buttons and done other repairs to my clothing stock, I couldn’t stand just sitting still.
“It was when I did sit still for a few minutes that I had the idea of setting up a marketplace for me and other traders to sell online. I don’t think that there’s any other outlet for selling fashion from the 1930s to the 1980s in the cloud in one place, so Discover Vintage Marketplace was born.”
Setting up a trading website was a steep learning curve for Keeley, who usually runs six major festival events a year and began selling vintage furniture with her father when she was a teenager.
In 2006 she realised that her passion for hunting for vintage clothing, furniture and collectibles could be her business and in 2009 she gave up a steady job. Keeley is now a leading expert on all things vintage and has written a book, Style Me Vintage: Home. “Even though I had websites before, for the events and my old Discover Vintage one, this is different from anything I’ve done before, but the marketplace website makes sense for the future. I wish I’d had time to do it earlier,” she says.
“It’s like a virtual vintage fair, where dealers can trade their goods and buyers experience the variety, excitement and thrill of a fair whenever they like and from the comfort of their own home. It’s really taking off, helped with images of outfits and links through Instagram.”
Keeley says lovers of period fashion, furniture, homewares and textiles can find dealers all in one place that they trust. “They find favourite sellers they know, and it acts a bit like an introduction agency too between dealers and buyers. It’s the place to uncover top quality items from the past and quality inspired-by-vintage reproductions, from hats and handbags to outfits, hand-picked by the finest traders.”
Dealers can be contacted through the website for more information on items and to arrange payment. There’s also a blog with updates of new stock. Buyers can search for ladies, gents and children’s fashion and jewellery by type, decade or dealer.
What do enthusiasts love about style from decades past? “Clothes were well made and had a recognisable style and we adore looking back at previous eras – the clothes, the furniture and the music. You can instantly spot a 1970s dress, or 1950s separates, or a song on a record. After the 1980s that definable style disappeared and interest in clothes from the last 30 years was lost,” Keeley says.
The 1970s, she says, is very on trend. “Prairie and maxi dresses, big floaty floral prints and straw and rattan bags are very fashionable now. The modern versions are very expensive – we don’t like to put silly prices on vintage, so you won’t pay over the odds.”
The demand for original items from a certain decade is often influenced by television shows and films, Keeley adds, such as the BBC’s Call the Midwife. Key shapes for women in the 1960s were mini-skirts and dresses with Peter Pan collars or bibbed fronts, long ballooned sleeves in chiffons with large cuffs and clothes made from the new man-made materials such as crimplene and polyester.
Anything went when it came to colour, including those that clash like orange and pink, along with psychedelic prints. Popular accessories were coloured tights, flat Mary Jane pumps or go-go boots, chunky bangles and plastic handbags.
If you want to go back a century, a search on the website reveals a flapper shawl at £250, while a green art deco celluloid compact would set you back £125.
During lockdown dealers struggled to find new stock but once people re-emerged after clearing their wardrobes there was a surge in supply.
“I advise anyone who finds clothing they think is old, in their own or an elderly relative’s wardrobe, to consult a vintage expert,” Keeley says. “You may have something good that someone else will enjoy wearing. A dress with a side zip could be 1950s and a 1940s dress could be worth £150. You can check out styles, the cut and shapes on the website for clues. I also hate the idea of clothes going into landfill.”
What else should you consider when buying? “Some customers love to focus on one era and add to their collections. But really, anything goes, as long as you love the look,” Keeley says.
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