|Written by Sacha Miller-Mcdonald|
Whether you're an op-shopper, a cyber-shopper or somebody who loves to source bargains from bygone style boutiques, there are definite tricks to getting the most out of your vintage shopping experience.
Opportunity / charity shops tend to have quite an array of stock, but are unlikely to have anyone on hand who will know very much about dating the items, care of the fabric, or the history of the garment. Charity shops are usually cheaper than vintage clothing retailers or websites, though recent times and the sudden vogue for vintage wear have caused something of a surge in prices. For this reason, looking at op shops in outer suburbs, rural areas and newer areas is the way to go. Prices are lower and the selection is greater, because these areas don’t tend to house enclaves or arty boho retro types in the same way that older, inner city suburbs do. (Adelaide girls can also rejoice – the South Australian capitol is an absolute mecca for overflowing op shops).
Specialist vintage wear retailers are generally quite a good option. The prices are generally higher than those at markets and opportunity shops, but the garments themselves are usually in slightly better condition to begin with. The other advantage to visiting specialist vintage wear boutiques is that the staff are generally retro enthusiasts who will have some knowledge of the history, period and care of the items that they stock. Specialist retro retailers are often the best sources of vintage couture and designer clothing, though the Internet is rapidly catching up.
Second hand or trash and treasure markets can also be great for picking up vintage bargains. But, much like charity shops, often the sellers won’t have a lot to say about the maintenance of the garment, and also there isn’t generally anywhere to try items on. So, if you’ve fallen in lust with somebody else’s trash that feels like it might be your treasure, appraise it carefully to make sure that it will fit, and there are no obvious and unfixable faults.
The Internet can be surprisingly useful for buying vintage wear. Though you can’t actually touch or try on the garments, reputable websites have detailed descriptions of the items for sale, including measurements, history, any marks or flaws, and sometimes care instructions.
When buying over the Internet, make sure you have your actual measurements rather than relying on your dress size. Over the years, sizing has changed, and so a size twelve from the sixties might be not be a size twelve today. And, as we all know, sizing varies dramatically from country to country. If the pictures are unclear or too small, contact the seller to ask for more, including close ups of details and any serious flaws. If the seller is unwilling or reluctant to provide these, do not proceed with the purchase.
Never believe a seller who says that a dress ‘needs cleaning’, or has a stain that will ‘definitely come out.’ Let somebody else be the sucker.
When using online auction websites, check the seller’s feedback. If there is anything negative, be very wary. Also, don’t fall for the usual auction panic about missing out, and so bidding more than you had originally intended, and perhaps more than the garment is actually worth. With vintage wear auctions, as indeed all vintage wear purchases, you have to adopt a ‘que sera, sera’ mentality. Whatever will be, will be, and if the garment is meant to continue its life in somebody else’s wardrobe, who are you to stand in its way?
Aside from actual measurements, there are a few other things to consider before making your purchase.
* Mix and match. Clothes from different eras and vintage items mixed with appropriate contemporary items can be fabulously chic.
* Check out the accessory rack. Often it’s the little extra touches that make all the difference to an outfit.
* Hidden costs. When buying from the past, look to the future. Will this single item need so much renovation, such expensive specialist cleaning or so many extra purchases to turn it into an outfit, that you’ll end up wishing you’d never started?
* Shoes. Only the very brave will buy vintage shoes without trying them on. Check the inside of the shoes for significant wear, and make sure that they fit perfectly before you buy.
And most importantly, trust your instincts. If you know that if you walk away from this garment, you’re just going to fret and regret until you go back, or else, if you have even the teensiest niggling feeling that this particular item may not be absolutely perfect, listen to that inner whisper. It’s usually right.
Happy bounty hunting!
|"Money has nothing to do with being stylish. It's about being born with that inner eye and having the confidence to convey a sense of yourself outwardly. You can't buy that. It's genetic." Sarah Mower, Fashion Journalist|