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The Story Behind the Style

After a visit to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, I have gained a new appreciation for the past. The trip reminded me that we take so much influence from bygone eras, sometimes not even knowing the history behind the style. If you have set foot in any high street store lately you will see that vintage has been made mainstream. Not preloved clothes per say, but preloved style - the sixties and seventies are as strong a trend as ever. Today I talk to vintage homeware trader Betty Orr about why the past is so important and I hear from Elaine Lavery, my mum, who has experienced the height of seventies fashion the first time around.

The last time I visited the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, I was a little child. My memory of it was hazy but to be honest I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as an adult. I was pleasantly surprised. The museum is a time capsule, taking you on a journey from the eighteen hundereds right up to the eighties. Interestingly, snippets of today's creative culture were found in these windows to the past, from classic suitcases to Belfast's 1970s trolley buses.

Picture House - Ulster Folk Museum 
One era that stood out to me on my visit was the late '60s to early '70s, this timeframe is a very current source of inspiration for this season's fashion. Of course, there is a contemporary twist, however walking into some high street stores most definitely feels like a time warp. I am not just talking flared jeans and fedora hats here, from interiors to fashion - this once dated epoch is now considered fashion forward and modern. But why is it that the past is now trendy? 

Betty Orr trades vintage homewares under the acclaimed company name Betty's Lounge. Celebrated in Belfast and beyond. Betty Orr admits that our society is looking to the past because today's furniture is being created to fulfil a basic need, however, we need more than that, and that's where the past comes in.


Unfortunately, the furniture that is massed produced and used in today's society is quite often purchased without thought other than to fulfil a basic need, we are on a mission to educate and supply people with not only the basic need of furniture and homewares but to offer this along with good design, build quality and elegance.

Orr insightfully points out similarities between the homeware and fashion industry. She highlights that there are different sectors within each industry that offer their own interpretation of merchandise to the masses.


Furniture and fashion design have mirrored each other right throughout the last 50 years. In fashion there are pioneers all throughout the industry from high end to high street that try to offer items to the masses that differ from the basic needs, again the two worlds of fashion design and furniture parallel again.

1970s Poster Art at the Ulster Transport Museum 


Summer of Seventies at ASOS

1960s Living Room Replica - Ulster Transport Museum

You only need to walk into any high street store to see the regurgitated version of this adored style where rust oranges are contrasted with a mustard shade of yellow and crochet cardigans are made cool. But how was the trend way back when it made an appearance for the very first time? I talk to Elaine Lavery to hear her thoughts on growing up in the height of '70s fashion.

“Our flares came in a rainbow of colours - orange, yellow, royal blue, you name it. I think the '70s may have come from an aftermath of the hippy movement in the 60's. I tended to hang about in strides and t-shirts paired with platforms I stole from my sister’s wardrobe. You didn’t need to buy a lot, you borrowed and swapped back in them days. It was simple.”

There is no doubt that the past serves a purpose in today's fashion, we take influence from the 'it' looks of previous times when women of former decades sported a different style. A point that both Betty Orr and my mum makes is that the quality back then is something that we don't see as often today. With fast fashion at the forefront of our generation, trends move so quickly and it's hard to keep up. Maybe as well as adopting hand me down colour palettes and retro patterns we could adopt the hand me down culture. Reviving the longer lasting pieces that are good enough to pass on to a younger sister, or even a daughter. After looking at pictures of my parents in the heyday. I wish she had of kept a few pieces for me. Vintage in the family? Why not!

Check out some of my favourite vintage shops in Belfast:

Betty's Lounge

Betty's Lounge is a vintage homeware company situated at - 1 Main Street Ballyclare or alternatively like their Facebook page.

The Vintage Magpie

The Vintage Magpie is a clothing vintage store situated at - 5 Rosemary Street Belfast City Centre or follow them on Facebook.

Kloth Vintage

Kloth Vintage is a trendy clothing vintage retailer that sells through kilo sales and online through ASOS Marketplace. Find them on Facebook here.

Oxfam Vintage

Oxfam Vintage is a charity shop that sells vintage specific pieces, the store is situated at - 8 Castle Street in Belfast City Centre or visit their Facebook page.


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