It is a bright January afternoon in St Albans. St Peter’s Street is buzzing as the vintage fair is well under way.

Traders have come from all over and shoppers are looking for something to capture their imaginations.

I’m looking forward to rummaging around and maybe stumbling on some interesting vinyl records or pretty gemmed brooches that might be half a century old. You just never know what you might find.

Jenny the market organiser is sitting relaxing with a cuppa, warmly wrapped up in a scarf, hat and big coat. I smile and tell her how pleased I am that this market has been a success since it started.

Jenny confides: “High streets are becoming meeting places more than anything else these days, with so much actual shopping happening online, so markets like these just seem to work. They bring people together.”

“Absolutely! and I think it also brings visitors into the city.” I add.

Last time I came, I got completely absorbed with second-hand books and old toys, but this time I’d like to have a closer look at some vintage clothing. I’m learning so much about how wasteful fast fashion is and how clothes end up in landfill.

Every teenager I speak to seems to be wearing at least something vintage these days. The younger generation is aware that new clothing is not that well-made, and that other people may be wearing the same dress.

Originality is highly prized in this Instagram age and wearing vintage allows you to build your own personal style and express your individuality; by simply adding a few finishing touches like a silk gardenia in your hair or a polka-dot scarf over a jacket you will ensure that there will be nobody else wearing anything remotely similar.

A fast fashion shirt may stretch and lose its shape after a few washes whereas vintage jackets, scarves or gloves are timeless. Young consumers are spending less and looking at more sustainable ways to shop. The more unique an item, the greater the self-expression it allows. You can look arty or edgy, express your love for a particular era and create a well-integrated look of sophistication by mixing old and new. Cameron Silver, consultant for Azzaro, writes: “Wearing vintage liberates one from the dictates of the contemporary fashion machine. It sets one apart and creates the mystery in one’s personal style.”

I step into a spacious black marquee decorated in union jack bunting and have a browse in B Curios Ltd, which sells 'antique, vintage, retro and collectible’ clothing and accessories. It is a professional outlet with pop up shops held in various venues throughout the year. I like their black cat logo.

They take the quality of their vintage clothing seriously and have an intriguing and wide range of stock transporting their customers to different eras. I marvel at a rail filled with dresses of so many fabrics from satin to linen and imprinted with designs from shooting stars to animal prints. I travel back in time with a 1940s Miss Pendleton’s American tailored jacket, which is size eight and could only ever fit me in my wildest dreams; then I’m shown a tailored 1940s Horrockses dress suit, a label worn by Queen Elizabeth II when she was a princess, reminiscent from an era gone by.

I meet Ian and tell him how amazed I am by how reasonably priced it all is. Ian tells me that it’s important to keep selling and turning over stock.

“Yes I suppose there’s no point in hoarding it!” I exclaim.

We take a look at a light blue 1951 US Air force coat. Ian shows me how well-made it is, the quality of the buttons, the high thread count and how it expands at the back. The label shows the actual year and place where it was manufactured. I can see the investment potential if you’re willing to spend that little bit more, as it is of superior quality.

I have a look at some more men’s tailoring. I love pinstripe; a purple stripe on black fabric or a light blue stripe on dark grey works perfectly. Other garments include a two-tone fabric which reminds me of a shirt that my brother once wore to a Gary Numan concert back in the early 1980s. Ian laughs. “Actually two-tone originally came from the Mod era,” he informs me.

I think I’ll go and have a browse at one of their pop-up shops soon, maybe they’ll have something bigger than size eights and tens! I can’t believe how small these dresses and jackets are, but people were smaller and shorter in 'the olden days'.

Vintage is essentially about reviving styles from past eras and inspiring the latest trends. Hilary Alexander, fashion director for the Daily Telegraph, once said: “Vintage is a version of archaeology, every article of clothing has a story to tell. It is through us that old fashion lives again.” These garments are so well made and the attention to detail such as darting, pleating or fastenings is phenomenal. As I walk away, I stop and stare for a moment. Sunlight scatters onto these couture vintage dresses as they flutter in the winter breeze. These creative designs have survived decades and have lived on into the 21st Century, such beautifully made clothes that in a sense have been reborn and will undoubtedly pass onto future generations.

  • Marisa Laycock moved to St Albans in 2000. She enjoys sharing her experiences of living in the city. These columns are also available as podcasts from 92.6 FM Radio Verulam at