How To… Shop Vintage

Vintage? You mean other peoples cast-offs, marked up by 100%? We’ll kind of.  I’ve been a lover of vintage since I was around 12. While I love combing the high street, there’s something quite romantic about vintage pieces and the stories they could tell (if they could talk, I’m not that delusional. Yet.). Fashion’s circular after all, and sometimes the old ones are the best. But not all the time. As a seasoned vintage shopper, lately I’ve noticed a lot of poor quality and frankly rubbish pieces being advertised as ‘vintage’ with a whopping inflated price tag to go with it! To make sure you don’t fall in to the trap of buying something because its vintage, (and so must be cool) I’ve shared some of my top tips.

  1.  Armpits first ladies. Sorry to be the one to tell you this, but people sweat. Nowadays, we have amazingly scientific ways of dealing with said sweat, before and after, but back in the olden’ days they probably just about had the basics. Add that on top of how many times the items been worn, (you may not be the first modern day owner), and the old pit area gets a fair share of wear and tear. Now most flaws in vintage clothing you can fix, broken zippers, missing buttons and what not, but stained or holey pits? I’d pass …
  2. This brings me nicely onto Cost/Benefit Analysis. Oh yes, think you business studies days were left in that GCSE class room? Think again. Like I said before, you can fix a lot of flaws, bring the piece into modern trends and give it a general face lift but you can’t work miracles. If something that’s only worth around £10, ends up costing you £30 to have re-fitted, a new zipper and the like, and your only going to wear it once, back away. That’s not to say, if your in love don’t get it, but just try and weigh it up in your head the amount of work that needs doing, and if you could get a cheaper alternative on the high street.
  3. Ignore labels. I’m talking every kind of label going, size, ‘designer’, price. Sizing changes year on year. Remember hearing that Marilyn Monroe was a size 12? Well yeah, she was certainly bigger than Alexa Chung but sizes were smaller back then. Just like your size varies from shop to shop, it will from era to era. Try on (if you at a fair, ask if you can either use a covered corner or nip to the loo’s) or judge from sight. Just like a modern day market, designers can be faked. I’ve been bored with enough Antiques Roadshows to know that it was happening as often way back when as it is now. Yes there are stories that people have stumbled upon gold mines like couture pieces for a fiver (these are mostly found in charity shops and not vintage shops), but any vintage seller worth their weight in gold will know how to authenticate and will sell it at eye watering prices with evidence! I think that last bit is the most important. If your not sure, ask for proof from the seller, or do a quick google on your phone. Easy peasy.
  4. Get chummy. If your searching for something particular (say a specific jewelry designer, wedding dress, prom dress) at a fair but end up feeling like you’ll never find your treasure, fear not! Find a couple of stalls/shops that sell a similar type of item you after and have a quiet word with the owner to see if they have ever come across the thing you after. If yes, maybe leave your contact details with them in case they find something they think you’d be interested in. Sellers are running a business, and they want your custom at the end of the day. If on their travels they can find something you’d be interested in and you’ll part with your cash with them, their not going to say no (mutually beneficial and all that).
  5.  Lastly, I’m going to share something with you that has kept my bank balance very happy over the years. “Would I buy this from New Look?”. Why New Look? Because New Look is is usually middle of the road price wise, with Topshop often getting a bit pricey. So as the phrase suggests, when deciding if your going to buy something, hold it up and extract the word vintage from your head. Look at the piece objectively, as if it were brand new and in a high street shop. Is it your style? Will you wear it? Will it go with your existing clothes/decor etc? What about the price? I often get drawn into items because of their history and not the practical aspect. This kind of helps bring me back down to Earth, and so far, has proved rather well at keeping me in line with a budget. 

So those are my 5 top tips for vintage shopping. I hope this will help some of the newbies, and encourage you to start searching vintage fairs and shops! Have a quick google about vintage sellers in your area, and you’ll be surprised at how many their actually are.

Have you got any top tips? Let me know!