Here is a question for you: when did people start to wear vintage clothes as a fashion choice?
As far as I can tell, it was in London in 1965. when musicians started shopping the Portobello Rd flea market for exotic, romantic older clothing. In contrast to the mod fashions of the day, they were seeking a bohemian aura of faded grandeur.
This photo of Jimi Hendrix wearing an antique military jacket is one of the earliest images I have seen of a musician wearing vintage:
By the Summer of Love in the Haight Ashbury section of San Fransisco, musicians sought out Victorian lace and velvet to wear along with their jeans, fringed vests and tie dye. Think Grace Slick and Janis Joplin here. This evolved into the granny dress, a late sixties-early seventies classic.
In some ways, the seventies were a forties throwback. The early Pointer Sisters (who sang lots of swing-era songs and were awesome) dressed in forties clothes head to toe, as did both a young Bette Midler and Stevie Nicks.
The late 70’s early 80’s also gave us punk, ska and New Wave. Vintage clothes were a big part of that style.
In women’s clothes, there was a 1950’s feel with crinolines, bustiers, and bubble skirts, mixed with a tumble of jewelry, gloves and lace, much like Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan. At the same time, groups like the B52’s more directly borrowed vintage looks.
For men of this era, skinny ties and porkpie hats gave a throwback feel to their style.
Singers continue to use vintage clothes to echo what they are doing musically. The branch of music that evolved into alt country and rockabilly borrowed both a musical and sartorial sensibility from the past..
For men in music, wearing vintage pieces has become part of a persona having to do with authenticity. Here are two very different musical styles, both using older clothing to express the relationship between their music and a previous era.
Vintage clothing worn by modern women performers can be a way of exploring ideas of femininity and womanliness. Or it can just be fun and look great. Thanks for that, Jimi!