Let it be known that I did not go out and purchase this dreamy, glamorous beyond belief vintage fur. No, this guy was a lovely “hand me down” from my ridiculously cool, stylish mom. However I’ve had my fair share of vintage shopping, I love going into a shop with a million hidden gems just waiting to be pulled out and rework in a new way. The attention to detail and the actual personal handwork is spectacular in vintage pieces. I’m also a fan of dressing for me and not wanting to look like I stepped out of page 43 in the J.Crew catalog. With vintage I know that no one else is going to have my coat or the earrings I bought at a boutique in Paris.
Sure I love trends, shopping and getting some of the newest pieces from my favorite designers but I find myself being pulled into vintage shops in every city I visit. Prime example … I fell down a rabbit hole one rainy day in London on an entire cobblestoned street filled with vintage shops. Though with vintage shopping though does come a few challenges, a few regrets and a few lessons learned. Luckily for you I’ve been there, done those and learned said lessons so here are my tips for shopping vintage.
There is a difference between vintage and thrifting!
Know that a $10 bin at the thrift shop is just that. A $10 bin with a great belt or a super soft tee but it’s rarely anything more. True vintage pieces are special, they’ve been given TLC over the years. Keep these design features in mind when shopping vintage: If a garment was manufactured before the mid-’60s there will be metal zippers, side-snap closures, saw-toothed edges (often known as pinked seams), and union labels printed in blue.
Do your research and know the designs of the eras
Every era of the 20th century has a distinct silhouette that required specific shape-shifting garments—from corsets to girdles to bullet bras and beyond. The easiest eras to fit into a contemporary wardrobe would be the those eras from the latter half of the 20th century (1960s on). Items from before that might be considered too costume-y if not incorporated well into your personal style.
If you fall in love with something that doesn’t quite fit, remember that vintage items can always be nipped and tucked to make them perfect for you. Invest in a tailor. I swear by Hong Kong Tailor Jack here in the West Village who is amazing on every level – he has restructured more pieces than I can remember and all things considered is actually quite reasonable too! No matter how much you adore the fabric of a coat or the drape of a dress, if they’re too short or long-waisted it may not read right. Be smart.
Feel the fabric
You may fall in love with a beautiful printed garment or a beaded dress, but check to see if the fabric is in good condition. If a garment looks like it’s cracking, pulling, falling apart, or fading, it’s probably wise to leave it.
Don’t swipe that card before you do your research
Do not, I repeat do not impulsively spend on a vintage piece. For instance, this vintage Chanel was a few months in the making before it was mine. Countless hours of research went into it. You need to understand and learn how to see the issues and what the real value is. It is incredibly important to know how to recognize and identify the signs that may make an item valuable and collectable.