Vintage fairs in Yorkshire return as the Saltaire Vintage Home & Fashion Fair brings retro glamour back to the future

Vintage fairs are returning across Yorkshire. Fair organiser Caroline Brown of Rose & Brown Vintage tells Stephanie Smith that there is nothing quite like being able to see and touch the real thing.

They don’t make clothes like they used to, back in the days when glamour and quality reigned supreme. All lovers of vintage will tell you this, and they should know.

Vintage fairs give enthusiasts the opportunity to step back in time, if only for an hour or two at the weekend, to meet with fellow vintage fans, some even dressing up in period clothing to mark the occasion. So the cancelling of vintage events during the heights of the pandemic was a blow. But now they are back. One of the largest, the Saltaire Vintage Home & Fashion Fair, returns next Saturday, when more than 40 independent traders will fill Victoria Hall with clothes, accessories, jewellery and homewares that have survived intact from the 1920s to the 1980s – often in pristine condition.

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Caroline Brown, of organisers Rose & Brown Vintage, promises stalls offering everything from 1950s frocks to Art Deco prints, kitchenalia, vintage vinyl, collectable books and toys, jewellery from every era, mid-century ceramics, furniture, lighting and curios galore.

In May 2019, our Sunny Bank Mills fashion shoot with actor Rose Muirhead wearing 1970s orange velvet dress by New Generation, £40; 1940s handmade wire flower brooch, £12. Both from Rose & Brown Vintage, featured in a fashion shoot in 2019 by Tony Johnson at Sunny Bank Mills.

“We are dedicated to true vintage, which means all the stock must be pre-1990,” she says, adding that refreshments will be provided by Shipley’s Interlude Tea Room, and there will be a soundtrack of cool tunes from the 1920s to the 1980s to shop along to.

Caroline and her husband, Julian, organise fairs across Yorkshire, including at Whitby Pavilion, Sunny Bank Mills in Farsley and at Lotherton Hall in Aberford. The pandemic, she says, forced vintage businesses to adapt. “For many, this involved leaping – sometimes with great trepidation – into the 21st century at last, and setting themselves up to focus on selling vintage online,” she says.

“But face-to-face selling is the thing that vintage traders really enjoy, so when the lockdowns hit, this could have left vintage sellers in a big black hole, not just in terms of profits, but in job satisfaction, socialising and sustaining a passion for the work.”

The vintage world rose to the challenge, integrating online selling. “It probably means that the market for vintage has expanded to customers who might not have considered buying vintage in the past,” Caroline says.

Catriona Power wears: 1940s strapless satin floral evening gown, £45; long green gloves, £6; 1950s green shoes, stylist’s own; green glass necklace, £14; small green feather boa, £15. All from Rose & Brown Vintage. At Saltaire's Victoria Hall. Picture: Simon Hulme.

But now vintage sellers and customers are keen to get back to the fairs, not least because they have missed the contact with fellow enthusiasts.

The attitude of both the public and the fashion industry to vintage has changed as more people understand that it is such a sustainable way to shop. “Because the public are more aware and concerned about the effect fast fashion has on the planet, they welcome the opportunity to practise the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ approach by buying vintage fashion or vintage items for the home,” Caroline says.

“There are signs that the fashion industry sees this too, with news stories of high street stores incorporating pre-loved sections within some of their shops. Much of this is second-hand rather than true vintage (more than 25 years old) but at least it encourages the public to shop more sustainably.

“The vintage customer has definitely changed since we set up our first vintage fair 15 years ago,” she says. “Back in 2007, a lot of customers would come along to a vintage fair dressed head to toe in original vintage. A full 1940s or 1950s look was the most popular, complete with hats, silk stockings, jewellery and glorious suits or dresses of the era.

Catriona wears: 1960s rare Italian-made tartan culottes, £68; 1970s stripe poloneck, £12; 1970s Peanuts shoulder bag, £20; red DMs, stylist’s own; wool and velvet beret, £8; wide green belt, £6. Rose wears: 1980s Escada wool trousers, £130; handmade cream/brown Victorian costume jacket, £18; deep red velvet 1980s jacket, £15; sequinned and embroidered belt, and Chelsea boots, stylist’s own; faux fur hat, £18. All from Rose & Brown Vintage. From a pre Christmas shoot by Simon Hulme in November 2017.

“It’s very infrequent that someone dresses up fully vintage now. It’s more often a cool vintage leather jacket thrown over modern jeans or a ’50s coat worn with a contemporary dress, or a ’60s mini skirt worn with DM boots. Customers also come along just as much for the vintage furniture and homewares these days.”

Period TV drama series including Gentleman Jack, All Creatures Great and Small and Peaky Blinders have no doubt increased the general interest in vintage fashions of the 1920s and 1930s. The earliest vintage fashion pieces are becoming hard to find, with 1920s flapper dresses and exquisitely beaded handbags bought up by collectors or now too fragile to transport to vintage fairs.

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“These are the kind of vintage treasures that make my heart stop a beat,” Caroline says. “With homewares, it’s a slightly different story. The mid-century era has been so popular for several years – think G Plan and Ercol furniture and Scandinavian homewares – so that really good examples of these are becoming harder to find as they are gracing people’s homes again.”

Catriona wears: 1960s navy nautical swimsuit from Vintage Beau, £25; sunglasses, model's own, from a shoot by Simon Hulme in Whitby in the summer of 2018.

Here we take a look back at some of the fashion shoots collaborations between the Yorkshire Post Magazine and Rose & Brown Vintage, featuring models Rose Muirhead, from Bradford, who is an actor, writer and film-maker, and Catriona Power, who is a make-up artist and hair stylist.

Caroline advises those thinking about introducing vintage pieces to their wardrobe or home to follow their own passions.

“If you love the bright textile prints of the ’60s or stylish shapes and colours of the Art Deco era, then treat yourself to a really good piece or two, and they can play a starring role in your wardrobe or interior.”

* The Saltaire Vintage Home & Fashion Fair is at Victoria Hall in Saltaire on Saturday, March 26, 10am – 4pm, £3 to enter, under 16s free.

* Leeds Vintage Furniture & Home Fair at Sunny Bank Mills in Farsley on May 7 and 8.

* The Great Seaside Vintage Fair is at Whitby Pavilion on July 16 and 17.

Rose wears: 1980s parrot print T-shirt from Rose & Brown Vintage, £10; 1970s patchwork denim jeans from Rose & Brown Vintage, £20, from a shoot by Simon Hulme in Whitby in the summer of 2018.

* Lotherton Vintage Weekend at Lotherton, Aberford, Leeds is on August 13 and 14.

* Visit:

Rose Muirhead wears 1970’s handknit ‘Brenda Hemmings’ wool cardigan from Mothball Vintage, £40; Edwardian lawn chemise, £15 and 1980s red ‘CG Sports’ shorts, £10, both from Rose & Brown Vintage; cerise pink beret from Vintage Beau, £10; Converse high tops, stylist’s own. A fashion shoot in 2019 by Tony Johnson at Sunny Bank Mills.
In the Sunny Bank Mills Archive which holds thousands of cloths, designs and wool dyeing recipe cards, weaving looms, ledgers, photos, memorabilia and books. Rose Muirhead wears 1970s purple jumpsuit from Nowhere Near New, £35; Chelsea boots from Rose & Brown Vintage, £10. Rupert Hughes wears 1960s navy jacket with anchor patches from Rose & Brown Vintage, £15; 1970s tan leather trousers from Rose & Brown Vintage, £10. a fashion shoot in 2019 by Tony Johnson at Sunny Bank Mills.
At Victoria Hall in Saltaire, where the vintage fairs are held, Rose wears: 1970s silver lurex top £10; 1980s black and silver A-line party skirt, £15; shoes, stylist’s own, from a pre-Christmas shoot by Simon Hulme in November 2017.