...What I'm talking about is "Vintage" and "Shabby Chic".
These terms are bandied about everywhere these days as popular terms for a new culture of, basically, old things. Or things that are a bit distressed, or pretty in a cottage-y kind of way, or... well, you name it, everyone has their own definitions! And I'm afraid that is my problem. We are straying too far from the real meaning of the actual words.
Going back to basics, and on the same theme, we all know pretty much where we stand with the term "Antique" - it is a word we generally use to describe anything of around 100 years old or more. Lovely, nice and clear. Done.
OK, so what about Vintage? Well, I have researched this one and, getting away from wine (which was difficult, in more than one way!) I can conclude that it is a generic term that refers, or should refer, to an item that is "of old, recognised and enduring interest, importance or quality". Perhaps not quite so clear, but it gives us a good point of reference. I have often been worried that when I am selling "vintage" crockery (in particular my gorgeous tea cup candles) that I am simply picking up a term and running with it, probably for the sake of cashing in on today's trend for items with age, provenance and beauty. But, as you see, there is no age limit on being vintage (my major worry vindicated), and in fact it would appear to be a rather esoteric handle, that people can turn to fit their items (cars, furniture, clothing, wine... crockery!) just so long as they fit the broad spectrum of being a good example of their own place in time. I like that last phrase - for me that sums up vintage pretty damn well.
Now to the absolute minefield that is "shabby chic"; and I guess I am about to have a soap-box moment! You see this adjective just about everywhere. My regular readers will know that I have an Ebay addiction, so it will come as no surprise that my first gripe starts there. So many items are described as shabby chic - maybe because they are old, maybe because they are a little worn, maybe because they seem to fit the seller's perception of what this term means - but in my opinion, they live up more to the shabby and less to the chic!
Having trawled the internet for a true definition of the term, my old friend Wikipedia has come to my rescue:
"Shabby chic is a form of interior design where furniture and furnishings are either chosen for their age and signs of wear and tear or new items are distressed to achieve the appearance of an antique. At the same time, a soft, minimalistic, and feminine feel is emphasized to differentiate it from regular vintage decor; hence the "chic" in the name."
It is the second part of this definition that I feel most often gets forgotten - so many people concentrate on the shabby, but forget the chic part. To me shabby chic should be "faded elegance" or "distressed beauty" - not crappy rubbish that might once have been quite nice, but now really is beyond all redemption!
But there is also a second detractor from the true essence of the term... And I will call this "The Cupcake Revolution". Now I like a cup cake as much (if not more) than the next woman, and I do also like pretty home wares, and I'm not adverse to the odd biscuit tin or china mug depicting a cup cake pattern. But please. Come on. I will spell this out quite plainly...
A BRAND NEW CAKE TIN IN PERFECT CONDITION BEARING A CUP CAKE DESIGN MAY BE CUTE, BUT IT IS NOT, AND NEVER WILL BE, SHABBY CHIC.
(Well, maybe give it 30 years, a few dents, a little rust, and you may have a nice retro piece of social history - but you get my drift.)
I have probably now alienated half of the female population, and my Twitter followers will be un-following in droves. But I just had to say it. I love vintage, I love shabby chic, I love faded elegance, I even love cute, chintz, kitsch, retro, classic and cupcakes - but please can we at least try to describe our products accurately?
And just to show no hard feelings against the humble cup cake,
I do happen to think these tins from Lakeland are pretty lush.
No mention of shabby chic in their description though....