06 Apr How to shop for vintage fashion
The seasoned bargain-hunter and style journalist Bay Garnett shares her tips for buying second-hand clothes
DON’T BE FOOLED Essentially, ‘vintage’ is just another name for second-hand clothing, but it’s a label that has been adopted by the fashion industry to make it sound more exclusive and aspirational, like ‘vintage champagne’. In other words, expensive! Yes, antique flapper dresses from the 1920s and original Ozzie Clarke designs are beautiful, but the joy of finding something that’s ‘one of a kind’ needn’t be so costly.
BE OPEN MINDED If your funds don’t stretch to antique 1920s flapper dresses and classic Balenciaga, try ‘thrifting’, or charity-shop rummaging instead. It takes a little more effort, but the results can be far more fun and affordable. And although today’s environmental concerns weren’t such an issue 15 years ago when I first started thrifting, the turnover rate of clothes has now become so rapid that there’s something refreshing about stepping outside of it occasionally.
MOST WANTED LIST The key to a successful expedition is to go with a tangible piece in mind, otherwise the whole thing becomes too daunting. Chloe Sevigny is my favourite person to go thrifting with. There are some fantastic thrift stores in her hometown in Connecticut, and she’d begin every trip with ‘So, what are you looking for?’ If you go in blank, it’s much harder to feel inspired.
ACCESSORIZE If you’re still a bit squeamish about second-hand clothes, start with accessories. Bags, belts and scarves instantly refresh an outfit, and are easily incorporated into your everyday wardrobe. A shop’s accessories are a good indicator of the rest of the stocks
FOLLOW YOUR INSTINCT My most treasured find is a studded punk belt from the seventies that I found in a downtown New York charity shop, and fell in love with on the spot. I didn’t have a single penny on me, but I’d gone in to pick up the sales money from a magazine I write called Cheap Date – it wasn’t very professional of me, but after a bit of bargaining they kept the money and I took the belt.
KNOW YOUR LIMITS Build up a suitcase of ideas whenever you go shopping and come up with your own list of thrifting rules – I automatically pounce on anything leopard-print or patent. Steer clear of anything stained rather than just a little grubby and always pay attention to the fabric. Nylon or polyester is an instant veto
PAY ATTENTION TO DETAILS Look out for little details that lift a piece and make it part of a bigger style picture- a little lace edging round the cuffs, a great set of buttons or a fantastic loud print. The key is to imagine them out of the bargain bin and in the context of your own wardrobe.
HAVE PATIENCE Thrifting requires a different attitude from regular shopping. You need to be in a more relaxed frame of mind. Try church fetes or second-hand markets and pop into charity shops regularly for a quick browse – choose upmarket districts if you’re after designer labels. Nine times out ten you won’t find anything, but the tenth might unearth a real gem of a piece.