They're calling it the world's biggest dressing-up box. Never before has such a vast collection of vintage clothing – in excess of 7,000 dresses, 6,000 pairs of shoes and 20,000 items of jewellery – been assembled in one place in Britain.
Yet this precious attire, from 70-year-old Dior couture to Biba dresses from the Sixties, will be sold in a field at a music festival. Instead of Wellingtons and striped ponchos, the dress code at West Sussex's Vintage Festival will be seamed stockings and twinsets, kipper ties and winkle-pickers.
Festival veterans might point to the Lost Vagueness corner of Glastonbury where it became customary to cut a late-night sartorial dash in ballgowns and second-hand suits – but that was a style statement that came caked in mud. Vintage Festival will not do dirt. "It's rare that a cool person wants to be grubby – there wouldn't be a fashion and beauty industry if people enjoyed being filthy," says the founder, Wayne Hemingway. "Wouldn't it be great if you could just go to a festival and be how you'd be if you were going to a nightclub and didn't have to feel dirty?"
Vintage will be a festival where the toilets are plumbed and have basins and mirrors "so that you can do your lippy". Camping will come with ready-made beds and the option of breakfast brought to your tent. And the clothes stalls will have stylists on hand, alterations experts equipped with sewing machines and a home delivery service for any purchases.
"I'm already picking out my outfit, we are all so excited," says Judy Berger, who is curating the Vintage Market Place, which will feature clothes from the Forties through to the Eighties. "I'm going to go to the on-site hairdresser every day and do a different decade, but starting on the Fifties because that's my favourite."
Berger has brought together specialist vintage vendors from around Britain, avoiding those who source stock from wholesalers. "The biggest challenge has been ensuring that all the traders are selling something different," she said. "We've brought in people who scour flea markets and car-boot sales and who go to Paris, Italy and LA to find amazing vintage."
Arrive in combat trousers and a T-shirt paying tribute to your drinking capacity and Hemingway will not be impressed. "I would be disappointed if people turned up in that at ours, I really would. I'm not interested in just creating another festival."
Vintage is not a nostalgia fest and is targeted at under-25s as much as at those who actually remember wearing the styles of the Seventies and Eighties. The music and dress of Eighties artists, including Heaven 17 and Human League, will be celebrated by contemporary performers such as La Roux. "I like the idea that you can take from the past, enjoy the present and look to the future," said Hemingway, who has planned the festival with his three older children, all in their early twenties.
Berger hopes the vintage clothing will appeal to younger buyers who want to incorporate the style of a previous era into their look. "There will be seasoned collectors but we want to attract young people as well," she said. "You can get an amazing Seventies dress for £15 or a piece of fashion history from Dior for £300. You're not walking into a high-street chain and buying something that everybody else has."
Alongside clothes, there will be stalls selling vintage furnishings. "We have proper chandeliers coming," said Berger. "Just yesterday I booked in a 'kitchenalia' store selling glassware and pottery and stuff for the home. They will be next to a stall that sells Sixties and Seventies movie posters."
Berger has already bought a pair of Seventies roller-skates to wear at the festival's Roller Disco, one of several music arenas dedicated to specific decades. Music will range from Sixties icons Sandie Shaw and Martha and the Vandellas to contemporary party hosts Horse Meat Disco.
According to Hemingway, the music industry's problems began when it lost sight of its relationship with stylish dress. "When I was growing up, music and fashion went totally together," he said, recalling his childhood love for the style of David Bowie and the close relationship between Acid House and the Red or Dead clothing label that he founded with his wife and business partner Gerardine.
He said the media has prevented British style movements emerging in the past 20 years by saturating new trends before they had a chance to develop. Britpop, he argued, did not have its own look. "Damon Albarn in a Harrington jacket and jeans is not a seminal moment in youth culture and you can't picture how Brett Anderson in Suede dressed."
The loss of album artwork to the culture of downloading has also cut the ties between music and style, he said, claiming that the Vintage Festival could play a role in reversing that trend. "The reason that music was of more value was because it was wrapped up in graphics, design and fashion," he said. "I think there's a business case for bringing that back together, where you go to an event and music and fashion are totally intertwined."
Vintage Festival is at Goodwood, West Sussex, 13-15 AugustReuse content