Growing up in a household that was often on a really tight budget, shopping vintage and second-hand became a fun and affordable way to add extra pieces to my wardrobe as a teenager and student. Now that I’m older and making a professional income, I still choose to shop vintage for several reasons: it’s fun, it’s affordable, and you can find unique pieces that are much better quality than what you’d find in a department store. With the growing popularity of shows like Mad Men and the continuing revival of styles from the ’80s and ’90s, the vintage look is hot right now. Here are 6 tips on how to get that look for less.
1. Start small
Are you a vintage or thrifting newbie? The first time you walk into a store, it can be difficult to know where to start. I suggest checking out the jewellery and accessories: Look for items like bangles, silk scarves and Chanel-inspired quilted bags from the ’80s. A bit of patience might land you an enamel bracelet reminiscent of the Marc Jacobs one you’ve been eyeing, or a pretty patterned silk scarf to tie around the strap of your favourite handbag. Once you have a bit of confidence, move on to the rest of the store.
2. Know what you’re looking for
To prevent myself from getting overwhelmed (and to keep my sanity intact), I usually make a list before heading out shopping. Lately, I’m always on the hunt for silk shirts and secretary blouses. A silk blouse looks great tucked into a pencil skirt, worn loose with a pair of skinnies or tied at the waist with a pair of your favourite shorts. You can often find great vintage silk pieces that are guaranteed to be more wallet-friendly than that Alexander Wang blouse you’ve been pining over. Second-hand stores can often be a great place to score professional wear like blazers, too. The shape of suit separates tends not to change drastically with fashion trends, so you can find a lot of well-tailored pieces that look completely contemporary. If you’re into the retro look, most second-hand stores are stocked with ample shoulder-padded power suits and boyfriend-style jackets.
3. Know your fabrics
When you’re shopping, read the labels and pay attention to the fabric content of the pieces you are buying. I try to only buy pieces that are made of natural fibres like silk, wool, cotton or linen, though I’ll occasionally buy something made of polyester or another fabric if the piece is really, really special.
4. Always check for holes, stains and signs of damage
Before you buy any garment, examine it carefully. Small flaws, such as a seam that’s come undone, can be easily fixed; larger issues like rips, tears or discoloration are often irreparable.
5. Remember: Almost anything can be altered
That adorable ’80s tulip skirt that’s at a slightly awkward length? No problem! Take it to your tailors and have it hemmed. Skirts and dresses in particular can be easily altered to look very modern and chic.
6. Branch out
When you travel — whether it’s visiting friends or relatives in another city or town, or a business trip — try to make time to check out the local thrift scene. Small town thrift stores in particular tend to be a gold mine for vintage wares. Remember, vintage shopping is an adventure and what’s one person’s closet reject can be another fashionista’s treasure!
Simone Paget is a freelance writer and the author of Skinny Dip, a cheeky blog about love, sex, relationships and everything in between. When she’s not writing her heart out, she loves wandering around her city, large cup of coffee in hand, in search of the next great story.