Sofia Wallis held up a delicate lace garment, in awe of its history. “This is an original 1930s puff-sleeve wedding gown, and I have a photo of the original bride on her wedding day,” she said. “It’s from Texas. And I have the original box and where it was bought and everything.”
At 18, Ms. Wallis was the youngest vendor at the Manhattan Vintage Show, a three-day event held recently at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea, where vintage fashion enthusiasts gathered to socialize, shop and swoon over old clothes.
The aisles were lined with Victorian-era diamonds, flapper dresses from the 1920s, sculptural hats from the 1940s, minidresses from the 1960s, motorcycle jackets from the 1990s and so much more.
While many events in New York City are self-segregated by age — a party that attracts 20-somethings, a restaurant with a mature clientele — the Manhattan Vintage Show is a magnet for New Yorkers from various generations who indulge in fashion nostalgia. Three times a year, it draws young people attracted to sustainable shopping and unique pieces created before they were born and elders who lived through eras with fewer mass-produced styles.
Amy Abrams, who with her husband, Ronen Glimer, bought the 20-year-old show last year, has boosted their social media presence and invited new dealers, attracting new shoppers of all ages.
And at some sales booths, the vendors, too, were multigenerational.
Lucille Damone, who was born in the ’80s and loves “the psychedelic ’60s,” owns Galipette Vintage, which specializes in elegant statement pieces, and was working the booth with her mother, Donna Damone.
“She is not only style inspiration, but my shopping partner since day one,” Lucille said.
The elder Ms. Damone, who was born in Puerto Rico in the early ’50s and loves the aesthetic of the ’60s and ’70s, said that style was in their blood: “We’re from sort of a long line of fashion enthusiasts. My grandmother loved fashion. My mother loved fashion and I love fashion.”
Her daughter noted that enthusiasm alone is not enough — vintage clothes require care.
“There’s a lot of work that goes into getting them ready to be here on the floor today,” she said. “You’re mending, you’re cleaning; if you can, you’re dry cleaning. And I always try to bless each piece, too, to bring them forward to their new owner with good, clean energy.”
There was a different kind of intergenerational relationship at Lady V’s stall, Second Time Around.
Vivian Rodgers-Hill, Lady V herself, works with interns from the Fashion Institute of Technology, and they cycled in and out of her booth all weekend, selling brightly colored pieces from multiple eras.
“Vintage is about legacy building, vintage is about sharing memories,” she said. “A young person will learn a lot of history about fashion here.”
Lady V, who was born in the late ’50s, is retired from her position as an assistant principal at a school in Queens. As an educator, she said, she values the multigenerational aspect of the vintage show. “I have an innate ability to teach,” she said, “so the young people just come easy to me.”
Around the corner, at Olive’s Very Vintage, was a mother-son team: Jen McCulloch, who was born in the ’60s and loves “a really great 1940s jacket,” and her son, Evan Miller, who was born in the year 2000, but admires the fabric quality and tailoring of suits from the ’50s.
Ms. McCulloch, who has been selling vintage clothing for 20 years, said that she had recently noticed a resurgence in interest.
“Vintage is so popular right now,” she said. “It’s very trendy and young people are really embracing it.”
Mr. Miller admitted that he didn’t always appreciate their unique finds: “Growing up, I’d be playing video games while my mom was thrift-shopping and stuff, and I’d just be so bored,” he said. “Over time, I definitely started to realize the beauty — and the history.”
The history is especially key for Keesean Moore, the proprietor of Moore Vintage Archive.
Mr. Moore, who was born in the late ’80s, is “specifically obsessed” with Black designers of the ’80s and ’90s.
Mr. Moore searches for pieces by Stephen Burrows, Patrick Kelly, Scott Barrie and Willi Smith. His mission, he says, includes educating shoppers about the contributions of Black designers.
“So much of this process is about preserving those stories and just letting people know, even if they’re not buying, we exist,” he said. “Not only do we exist, we existed in luxury spaces, we existed internationally,” he said.
“The future of fashion is vintage,” said Amy Abrams, the owner of the show.
Among those interested in more recent history was Tomide Moradeyo, who was born in the early ’90s, and is the curator of the Igala NYC, a curated collection of leather jackets, mostly from the ’80s and ’90s.
Mr. Moradeyo, who was wearing an Avirex jacket from 1986 (“You can just tell it’s high quality; the fading on it — it’s really faded nicely”), arrived in New York from Nigeria about five years ago and works as an engineer. He is interested in the positive global impact vintage clothing can have. “I like how it also helps the environment,” he said, calling it “technically recycling.”
Browsing the show were Jean and Valerie, style bloggers in their 70s who are known just by their first names, or as the Idiosyncratic Fashionistas, to their 54,000 Instagram followers.
The pair are always impeccably dressed, often in whimsical hats and bold eyeglasses. Both have been going to vintage shows for decades, and have seen a lot of change — including what counts as “vintage.”
“There has been a shift,” said Jean, who was born in 1949 and loves garments from the ’40s. “Vintage was 1920s, ’30s, ’40s.” She pointed to her ensemble. “This is Norma Kamali from the ’80s. This is Moschino from the ’80s. It’s not vintage to me. Vintage is Bakelite,” she said, referring to the jewelry she collects, made from the brittle resin invented in 1909.
Jean gravitates toward items that are beautifully made. “I have no skills whatsoever. I can’t make anything,” she said. “So I support the people who do — and the people that can actually save these things, retain them and pass them on.”
Still, both welcome a new generation of vintage enthusiasts, and younger people often approach them with compliments. “It’s very fulfilling when people come up to us and say, I’m not afraid of getting old anymore,” said Valerie.
“I’ll tell you what I love more than anything else,” said Merle Weismer, 70, a friend of Jean and Valerie’s who tagged along to the show. “Gender fluidity. It’s so creative.”
And there, interviewing shoppers and vendors and creating content for social media, was David Ross Lawn, a bearded, gender fluid social media sensation who was born in the early ’90s and collects Gunne Sax dresses from the ’70s and ’80s. The beribboned and lace-adorned calico confections are a little bit Victorian, a little bit prairie, a little bit renaissance faire.
“I feel more myself when I wear these dresses,” he said.
Mr. Lawn, who has over 180,000 followers on Instagram and 500,000 on TikTok, often uses the tag “vintage style not vintage values” on his posts. “We don’t want to perpetuate ideas from the Edwardian era or any of the fatphobia and racism and gender inequalities and all of that,” from other decades, he said. “We want to be able to leave the house creatively and freely.”
His look captures the attention of even the most jaded New Yorkers. “On the subway, people will be like, ‘Are you going to a fancy dress costume party?’” he said. “And I’m like, ‘Yeah — it’s a Friday. What’s the special occasion? Being alive is a special occasion.’”