Retro vs Vintage: Understanding the Differences

by Komail Noori on September 20, 2023

There has been a revival in the beauty of past’s aesthetics in recent times. The heightened fascination with the charm of the previous era is what has driven this resurgence. The impact of this fascination can be seen in various aspects of one’s culture including Fashion, Designs, Music, Entertainment, Art, and Technology. Considering all these aspects, the terms of Retro and Vintage has been among the top of the list.

However, keeping in view the growing fascination for Retro and Vintage, there also exists a line of confusion between these two indistinguishable terms. This blurred line has given rise to many misconceptions with many using these two terms interchangeably attributing identical meanings to both. So, the distinction between them must be discussed in detail.

Here we are with this blogpost, has shed light on the key differences between Retro and Vintage and uncovered the complexities associated with these two terms that will offer a comprehensive understanding, enabling one to differentiate between them accurately.

What is meant by the term RETRO?

To understand what the meaning of the term RETRO is, exploring it’s nature is crucial, which has been significantly embedded in the modern culture. The term retro originated from the Latin word, Retrogradi, which means “Move Backward”. Moreover, the term Retro has been in use since 1972 and refers to the fascination with the elements, styles, or designs trends from the past, often those from the mid-20th century or earlier. The term in the recent times has been gaining momentum steadily as evidenced by the data showing that over the last six months there has been a 134% increases in revenue for the Retro Clothing purchases by both men and women, which has driven the traffic towards the fashion industry by 80%.

Talking about Retro Clothing, it is known for the perfect blend of designs from the past with a modern touch. The bold colors and the geometric shapes of the 1960s along with the sleek lines of Art Deco 1920 movement has been imitated perfectly embodying in them the soul of that era. This combination of past and present creates a charm that appeals to people from all generations.

Prime examples could be the iconic retro dresses including the A-line dress remindful of the 1960’s and the High-waisted wide-legged pants that were popular in the 1970s continue to grace fashion runways and find their way into the closets of trend following fashionistas.


What does the term Vintage mean?

The word ‘Vintage” carries much significance as it is originated from the Latin word, “Vindemia” meaning gathering grapes for the making of wine but in the world of fashion clothing, the term Vintage refers to the items that is at least 20 years but not more than 100 years old. So, anything between the age of 20-99 years old is included in the category of Vintage.

This term has been in use owing to its two fundamental attributes namely, Authenticity and never ending charm. Being two decades old, they effectively embodies the era’s trends and crafting. The growing fascination for Vintage Clothing is represented in the rise of the Google Shopping searches for “Vintage Clothing” with being increased by 94% by the end of August 2024.

From the Vintage Flapper dresses of the 1920s to the iconic Vintage Tailored Suits of the 1950’s and the Vintage bohemian flower-child fashion of the 1970s, the never ending charm of the Vintage Clothing not only pays tribute to the fashion of the past years but also serves as a symbol of high quality crafting.

How to Spot the Difference: Retro vs Vintage

Some tips and guidelines are described below that have been gathered through a deep understanding of the two terms and what sets them apart.

1. A Look at the Age

Vintage Clothing pieces date back at least 20 years old while the Retro Clothing pieces are recent ones made to imitate items from the past. Questioning the age can help spot the difference between the two.

2. Inspecting the Tags and Labels

    Any marking including the item’s labels and tags that might provide a clue to its origin and age should be checked mainly. The labels on the Retro Clothing pieces are modern and new while the Vintage Clothing pieces consist of the labels and tags that have become obsolete or worn out owing to their age.

    3. Analysis of the Detailing and Designs

      The designs and detailing on the Vintage Clothing pieces are indicative of a particular era but the Retro Clothing detailing and designs is a blend of the past and modern elements. Keen analysis of the details and designs is crucial to rule out the difference.

      4. Quality of the Fabric

        As Retro Clothing is an imitation from the past it may consist of fabric woven from modern materials while Vintage Clothing may showcase natural fibers and crafting in the fabric material.

        5. Validate the Authenticity

          To validate whether the clothing piece, either Retro or Vintage is authentic or not, look out for the signs of aging and wear such as color fading or signs of use on Vintage Clothing. While the Retro Clothing pieces are new and in better condition.

          To summarize

          Understanding the key differences between the two, Retro vs Vintage, helps in the appreciation of both styles. Retro, in short, is characterized by the recent origin with the fusion of past and modern elements of fashion while in contrast, Vintage offers to connect with the years of past showcasing the dedicated crafting and historical significance. Retro allows us to bridge the gap between the past and present while Vintage on the other hand offers to link with history to celebrate the skills and design sensibilities of the past years.

          At the end of the blogpost, readers are encouraged to explore more about Retro vs Vintage through collecting and admiring these both styles as embracing them enables one to thrive their appreciation for both fashion and history. 


          Q1. In Retro vs Vintage, which one is more expensive?

            Ans: While comparing the prices in Retro vs Vintage, Items that are well-crafted, rare and holds a high historical value can be costly and comes with a high price tag. Also, the authenticity of the item makes it significant among others in terms of price.

            Q2. Is it possible for the Retro clothes to become Vintage over time?

              Ans: After a decade of two since the making, Retro Clothing can significantly transit to the category of Vintage Clothing. These clothing pieces then gains historical significance and become one of the sought after apparels.

              Q3. Is the retro and vintage limited to fashion and design only?

                Ans: The terms of Retro and Vintage in addition to the categories of fashion and design can also be applied to various other aspects of culture including the music, art and technology. Hence, it can be said that anything that draws the attention of past and is authentic can be included in the category of Vintage and anything that is made as an inspiration from an older piece is considered Retro.

                Q4. How to authenticate the purchased Vintage or Retro Fashion Item?

                  Ans: Researching about the history of the Product, looking for the labels from that era and speaking to the experts in the category of Vintage or Retro Fashion is what can be done in order authenticate the purchased Vintage or Retro Fashion Item.

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