‘Defining’ Terms

“Vintage” ….  ah, what a tricky adjective that is! It’s one of those chameleon words that mean whatever the user wants it to mean, and woe betide the person on the receiving end. Ask a half dozen people and you’ll get just as many definitions, ranging from “antique” (nope… only something 100 or more years old qualifies for that) to “fifty years or more” (a fair assessment) to “at least twenty years old” (which raises some eyebrows). There is some logic behind the 20+ definition because that is considered to be a biological/generational boundary, i.e., the object is at least old enough to belong to our parents’ generation – and let’s face it, we’ve been considering them “old” ever since we were in grade school. On the other hand, many who have twentysomething offspring would scoff at any notion that they are even remotely close to being “vintage” anything! Yet the Census Bureau considers a generational shift to be 40 years. So it’s a sticky wicket to maneuver our semantics ball through, for sure.

My own personal redline for “vintage” is 30 years. Truth be told, even that is pushing it a bit because 1980s items often smack too much of modernity – and I’m not only thinking of fashion which as we all know is a fickle beast. My mother used to say “Eventually everything comes back into style again” which I in my teenage ignorance thought was only her Depression-era mindset against getting rid of old clothes. And so I disdainfully tossed my Huk-a-Poo blouses, bell bottom jeans, and the Mary Quant dress that my aunt sent me from London into the charity donation bag and, in later years, my mother’s 1930s and 1940s cocktail dresses …. because of course they weren’t anything I’d ever consider wearing. Talk about stupidity running rampant! But who knew? (other than Mom, apparantly)  There was no such thing as the collectible culture back then; it was all just “old stuff”.

Even today for many people it is still “just old stuff” and frankly, some of it doesn’t deserve any higher appellation than that. Mere age alone doth not value confer, in my opinion anyway, although if I were to discover a small ragged piece of faded tattered dress fabric or lace from 1500s or 1600s England I would snatch it up in a heartbeat because I am obsessed with that era. But in most cases, there needs to be something interesting about a vintage object other than simply how old it is. Some redeeming aesthetic value, even if it doesn’t happen to conform to my own personal taste (e.g., I wouldn’t ever wear a large piece of Art Deco Machine Age jewelry but can appreciate its clean lines).

Which inevitably led me to my opening an online shop, Chatsworth Vintage, on Etsy in late 2010.  As a shameless Anglophile, it was a tough naming choice between that and “Hardwick Hall” (that pure gem of Elizabethan architecture) which lost out only because of a nagging sense that it might sound a bit Harry-Potter-ish …. not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it wasn’t precisely the sensibility that I was aiming for. And so Chatsworth, with a nod toward its indomitable creator Elizabeth Shrewsbury who was essentially the Meg Whitman of her time, it became.

UPDATED 2/10/2015: This blog was first established on Tumblr in early 2012, as “Chatsworth Vintage” and later expanded from posts on vintage to also include my other passions which include gardening and various other things British. It was renamed to “The Chatsworth Lady” in January 2015 when I decided to close my Etsy shop due to several factors which included a growing dissatisfaction with the direction that Etsy as a venue had been pursuing for the past year or so. Another factor was that old bugaboo, time, and the decisions we all have to make about how best to allocate what we have of it from day to day and week to week. I’ve thought for a while that WordPress might be a better fit for me than Tumblr, and so this is where the Chatsworth Lady will be for the foreseeable future; welcome!

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