Vintage has new appeal as Australians tighten belts

today Mar 27, 2009
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By Pauline Askin

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - A not-so-new fashion trend is sweeping many parts of Australia, where thousands of people are flocking to vintage fairs to pick up unique, and inexpensive, apparel during the economic slowdown.

Museums and collectors have usually shown the most interest in vintage fashion in the past, along with brides-to-be and stylists, said Fiona Baverstock, who along with her husband Keith organizes some of Australia's biggest vintage fashion fairs.

But now, a lot more people are buying quality, used clothes, shoes and accessories as the economic recession curtails spending, she added.

"I think people look for value when times are tough," said Baverstock, organizer of The Way We Wear fashion fairs.

"And they know if they buy a nice 1930s piece it's going to be well made with nice fabric and no one else is going to have one," she told Reuters.

Australia moved a step closer to recession earlier this year when the economy posted its first contraction in eight years. The number of unemployed people has also increased, while full-time jobs dropped sharply.

The Baverstocks began organizing vintage fashion fairs in 2006, and many of their clients are collectors who follow them around the country.

Last week, some 12,000 people, a number Baverstock said was "huge," showed up at their vintage fair in Sydney, while similar events in Brisbane and Adelaide were also very popular.

The Baverstocks' collection ranges from inexpensive 1960s miniskirts, shoes and tops as well as 1920s flapper dresses to a 1901 ball gown owned by Queen Alexandra, wife of Britain's King Edward VII and priced at A$10,000 (US$7,000).

There is also apparel from the 1850s Australian Gold Rush era worth thousands of dollars.

"Ours is a collection gone mad. We had to make a decision to stop collecting and start selling so we can buy more," Baverstock said.

"There are people who wouldn't go to an antique fair, but vintage fashion fairs are something different. Everybody loves clothes and once they look, they're hooked."

(Editing by Miral Fahmy)

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