Top Tips For Buying Your Vintage Bit$
One woman’s trash is another’s treasure.
Buying pre-loved fashion is not only a bona fide way to guarantee an individual edge to your personal style, it’s also the most sustainable option in an era where fast fashion is a huge threat to the environment.
Yet, browsing through dusty racks in pursuit of a winner or deciphering size measurements online can be time consuming and frankly, off-putting.
There’s light at the end of the tunnel though - often in the form of a beaded trophy jacket from the 1980s, a perfectly-distressed band or collegiate tshirt, or an authentic piece that will last a lifetime.
Here are some tips to help you persevere, and make it to the cash register with a gem:
*Look for fabric first and foremost - everything can be altered. While garments can be transformed by a skilled tailor, of course you should go oversize in favor of something that is too small. On that note, find a good seamstress through word of mouth recommendations who won’t charge you an arm and a leg.
*Think beyond the garment that’s in front of you - if you’ve fallen for the print of a dress but can’t stand the silhouette, ask yourself if it can be turned into a skirt or worn with a wide waist belt? Bare in mind that dowdy frocks can be given a new lease of life by altering them into co-ord sets or ditching the shoulder pads.
*Be wary of vintage shoes, while the idea of embellished silk ballet slippers or woven rattan mules seems wonderful, decades-old shoes are notoriously unreliable. I once had to complete the majority of a long-ass commute through New York City in a pair of dainty turquoise embroidered slip on shoes…. one of which had no heel.
*Know your brands. If you pine for 1970s-style fashion (!guilty!) - read up on which designers reigned supreme during the era (Diane Von Furstenberg, Ossie Clark, Biba, Laura Ashley, Gunne Sax, etc.) Arming yourself with this knowledge is essential when you’re faced with trawling through countless pages of product online.
*Re-selling vintage is a great way to make a buck. Educate yourself as to which brands will always do well and keep an eye out for them at flea markets and thrift/charity shops - even if a mint-condition vintage piece isn’t your style, consider whether it will fetch a higher price online. (Hey, it worked for Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso.)
Vintage 1970s dress by Gunne Sax via Etsy
*If you’re in the market for a splurge, there are some excellent luxury vintage dealers. In New York, A Second Chance and What Goes Around Comes Around (also in Beverly Hills) are two places I like to frequent - not that I can ever afford their beautiful stock.
*There’s an abundance of bargains to be found on consignment sites like The Real Real, Tradesy, and Vestiaire Collective. Pro tip: if you see something on The Real Real, keep the tab open for at least a couple of days on your browser before purchasing. They discount heavily at breakneck speed, so chances are you’ll score the item for 30% off just by waiting a couple more sleeps.
*Invest in a steamer, especially if you intend to travel with your new-found vintage pieces. I fear the dry cleaners and its potential to ruin pieces like some people fear the dentist. Hand wash, line dry, and steam your items as much as possible.
*When I first got into buying second-hand pieces, I found that it was quite easy to get the hang of it (where to go, how to style them, etc) by starting off with ‘entry level’ items like silk scarves, beaded evening bags, oversize sunglasses, whicker baskets, band tees, and waistcoats.
I’m still a divil for frivolous high street purchases - but really searching and sourcing a special one-off piece delivers a different sense of satisfaction altogether. Plus, you’re guaranteed that you won’t bump into someone else in the same frock walking down the street.
Photos by the wonderful Lauren Lotz