Trends come and go, but vintage fashion never goes out of style. The added bonus to going vintage is saving tons of money if you go the thrift store route and not to a pricey retro boutique for hipsters. The latter may be easier, but the former can be much more fun. Never fear, though, if you prefer to go high end. Some vintage connoisseurs offer luxury shopping experiences.
Be The Queen Of The Bargain Basement
So where do you shop for the best deals? The most obvious answers are stores like Goodwill, although they can be pricey at times depending on who’s doing the pricing. Salvation Army usually has much better pricing, but also look for independent thrift stores. Another great resource is local yard sales as well as virtual ones on Facebook for great deals on used and vintage clothing.
Don’t forget to check eBay and sites that cater specifically to vintage and handmade items such as Etsy. Not only can you find some great vintage items, but sometimes sellers have spruced them up with custom alterations and colors by using dye. Etsy can be one of the cheaper places to find vintage items, although those customizations can get pricey, but they are truly unique and one-of-a-kind.
Once You Get There
The best bets for finding vintage goodies at your local thrift store are the coats, formal dresses, purses, and lingerie. Look for classic swing coats in neutral colors such as black or camel. You can sometimes also find gorgeous formal coats in red to add to your wardrobe. Look for weathered leather or denim jackets that pair wonderfully with a flowing vintage dress or slip for a tough but sexy look.
And speaking of lingerie, that section can be a great place to find some really cool items to repurpose as skirts or dresses. Vintage slips can come in an assortment of colors or white, with beautiful lace hymns. Half slips can make slinky skirts, as well. You may even stumble upon some vintage girdles you can die pink or bright red for a very retro undergarment or skirt. Don’t forget to look at the nightgowns for those little baby doll sets. Don’t forget how Courtney Love built a career on those vintage baby doll nighties as dresses.
You’ll also find lots of vintage gloves and scarves at thrift stores. The jewelry cases tend to yield few good finds, but always do a quick scan. Also, scan for anything leopard print anywhere in the store. Rawr.
The Label and the Damage Done
On the higher end, you have the trendy vintage boutique stores, and one retailer is opening up a luxury vintage store on Rodeo Drive. Seth Weisser plans on selling vintage designer clothing in the 3800-sq. ft. space.
“It will be extremely elegant, with high-end marble, brass fittings and turn-of-the-century Cartier showcases. This is going to be the ultimate luxury shopping experience.”
If you’ve got the money to shop vintage Chanel, that’s a great option, but you can also check out local vintage boutiques if you’re willing to spend a bit more to not have to sort the wheat from the chaff. You can also expect to find items in very good to mint condition if you go the higher end route.
Sizing Up the Goods
Regardless of where you shop, be sure to check your garments thoroughly for damages, stains, and funky odors — this is one area where we don’t need the funk. Even in nicer stores where they have sorted through the damaged goods, customers can be careless with these very fragile items, ripping them or leaving makeup stains when they try them on. If it absolutely must be cleaned post-purchase, let the professionals handle it.
You may not be concerned with authenticity as much as style, but if you want to check for true vintage, look at the labels inside the garment. This is the one place where you do want to see some yellowing and some age to the garment, as it can be a great indicator that a garment truly is an oldie but goodie.
Here’s a great tip that might indicate an item is a true vintage piece if you aren’t sure. Care instructions for garments weren’t required until the ’70s, so if they are there, the garment probably isn’t true vintage.
Sizing up the goods also means keeping in my mind that women tended to be a bit shorter back in the day than they are now. If you’re shopping online through eBay or Etsy, most sellers post exact measurements of garments so you can determine whether or not they fit.
Someone May Have Worn it Before, But You’re the Only One Wearing it Now
The best part about buying vintage is you know no one else is going to show up in the same outfit. Plus you can impress your friends with your daring, “buck-the-current-trends” attitude, you fashion daredevil. And if you’re a savvy shopper, you’ll have plenty of moolah left over for all the things that make like worth living — sexy shoes, tiki bar cocktails, and hot tattoos. So get to your local thrift shop or vintage boutique and make Bettie Page proud, ladies.
[Photo by Diana Price]