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Wildcat Chronicle

The student news site of West Chicago Community High School

Wildcat Chronicle

The student news site of West Chicago Community High School

Wildcat Chronicle

Illinois Vintage Fest and the rapid growth of “vintage” attire

Old sweaters and retro videogames come together at the 19th Vintage Fest, held in Wheaton.
The 19th Illinois Vintage Fest, held March 23 in Wheaton, brought together people with a desire for nostalgia.

Nostalgia lovers gathered in Wheaton at the DuPage County Fairgrounds on March 23 to celebrate the 19th Vintage Fest held in Illinois and to buy and trade all sorts of vintage attire. 

Illinois Vintage Fest (IVF) stems from an unlikely source: the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown and job losses that affected many.

“I lost my job during COVID and we didn’t have anything to do, so we started selling old clothes all together in a collective space. Here we are nineteen big ones later,” Illinois Vintage Fest founder Shayne Kelly said.

Robin Grave of the_grave_yard models her wares at the Illinois Vintage Fest in Wheaton. (Photo by Sebastian Alarcon)

Kelly, who also runs the Illinois Vintage Fest social media and vintage stores prisoncityvintage, and heydayevanston explained the market grew out of consumers’ love for vintage clothes, but also out of a desire to give small businesses a space to sell their wares. 

“Really and truly this is for the people, and it’s for all the vendors here. You know they’re really struggling out here doing what they do and you know, this is a way of life for a lot of us, this is how we make our money,” Kelly said.

Throughout the past couple of years, Illinois Vintage Fest steadily grew from a way to make a couple of bucks through a time of struggle to a rapidly growing festival that goes across the state of Illinois multiple times a year. Stops include multiple parts of Chicago, such as Tinley Park, the capital of Springfield, and colleges, such as the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where the next festival will be held on August 6. It has even crossed state borders, as festivals were held in Indiana and Wisconsin as well. 

For the vendors, “vintage” has many different meanings.

“Anything older than ten years. The 90s is vintage, the 2000s are vintage,” Robin Grave, who runs the_grave_yard, a small business that focuses on self-made jewelry, said. 

Some do not focus on the years in which products were made, but the idea as a whole.

“Vintage means nostalgia. It’s like how do you go back to what was once important and the best?” Lojayn Ottman said. Ottman runs Saboona Soap, which specializes in hand-crafted soap and custom stickers featuring a variety of cartoons and characters. 

Plants that use basketballs as vase are what Greenly Goods offers (Photo by Sebastian Alarcon)

“Saboona actually means soap in Arabic,” Ottman said. She grew up with eczema and “wanted to make something that was fun and affordable for people to use.”

Ottman uses more traditional ingredients, such as goat’s milk and olive oil, that are more natural and gentle towards the skin, and explained that some of the vendors at the festival sell new products with “original” or old-fashioned ingredients, thereby providing another notion of “vintage.”

Likewise, Samantha Kuelbs, whose business, Greenly Goods, focuses on recycling old basketballs and using them as unique vases for plants, sees “vintage” in a unique way.

“Vintage, to me, is giving older things a new meaning, giving them a new life,” Kuelbs said.

These are just a small pinch of the 100+ businesses Illinois Vintage Fest has to offer across all locations. There is a wide variety of retro attire and items available: clothes focusing on old metal bands, custom made Pokémon cards, even 90s camcorders and film cameras. Anything that seems to fall under the retro and vintage image is bound to be sold at these markets.

The fast growth of the festival may indicate that there is increasing demand for nostalgia.

“I’m just happy people are here, that’s all that I can ask for,” Kelly said.

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Sebastian Alarcon
Sebastian Alarcon, Multimedia Content Creator
Sebastian Alarcon is a senior at WCCHS and a first-year journalism student. Formerly, he was a dedicated soccer player for 14 years. Sebastian is a very sociable, friendly, and charismatic individual who loves connecting with others. Currently, Sebastian works at Sonny Acres and is also in the process of deciding which college to attend out of state. When he is not studying or working, he plays tennis and does some boxing on the side. In his free time, Sebastian likes to listen to music for example rap, and Spanish rock, and also watch movies.
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