Some Vintage shopping advice:
I don’t know about everyone else but I enjoy searching for a good vintage piece. Something that is considered a “good find” so to speak. This is not entirely true because I have never searched very hard, most of the vintage things I’ve bought was found by accident. In other words I wasn’t really looking for anything specific, the stuff just found me (they find me everywhere). But it’s amazing what you can come across if you know what to look for and have some patience. I’m usually delightfully surprised by at least one item. The best places to shop of course are upscale areas in metropolises like New York, London or L.A. I still have a pair of pants purchased from a flea market on Portobelllo Road in Notting Hill. Well made clothes never go out of style.
This kind of shopping comes by way of specialty vintage boutiques (like Decades in Los Angeles where I once bought a small Gucci bag), vintage clothing fairs (where I scored my Pucci wedge sandals), consignment stores (make friends with the owner and they’ll let you know when something special comes in), auctions, on-line sales sites (1st Dibs?), flea markets, estate sales, even yard or garage sales. I bought a one-of-a-kind Fendi baguette from a yard sale of all places. Never used (by the seller that is). In fact it was so cheap that I wondered if it was a knock-off at first. The “best-ever”bag find was bought by a friend of mine – a real steal. She purchased a Louis Vuitton Speedy Bag for only $5.00 and It’s real (major bag envy because I paid full price for mine). So we can benefit from the relatively small group of people who don’t know what they have or just don’t care.
If it’s an estate sale, head for the bedroom where the clothes of the lady of the house are often laid out. Here you could be face-to-face with the situation vintage shoppers dream about – the discovery of an entire wardrobe of a person whose taste is much like your own, and in your size. Keep dreaming, and make her a rich person who shopped in Paris, whose heirs care more about her Sisleys than her Schiaparellis. It can happen. I came thisclose to scoring a vintage Chanel jacket that fit me to a tee rummaging through someone’s closet. I no sooner put it down (never do this) before someone else snapped it up. That opportunity has not presented itself again. I think of it as “the one that got away” but I’m still dreaming….
Such sales in resort areas like Palm Beach, Long Island or Santa Barbara (I just bought a pair of Chanel costume earrings in *Santa Barbara) offer particularly rich possibilities but other suburban places and outskirts have yielded legendary vintage finds. I have friends who are experts at recognizing quality vintage jewelry (a category onto itself) which really helps.
Here’s what you really need to know:
Obviously just because a garment is old does not automatically make it better. OLD is just OLD.
What you are looking for is vintage clothes (accessories, etc.) of great quality and interest. One of the primary reasons for shopping vintage is the chance to buy a garment as beautifully styled and made as the couture clothes of today for less than you would pay for the cheesy, cookie-cutter stuff at the mall. This is easier to accomplish than you might think. Many pre 60’s clothes were made by hand, using beautiful fabrics that are now too expensive for most manufacturers to use (like a perfectly cut navy gabardine blazer I once bought in Toronto with nice buttons) or they have ceased to be made at all.
You should not settle for anything other than perfect or near-perfect condition. If the item is in the almost-perfect category make sure the problem is something you can fix.
Look for great styling, expensive or intricate fabrics, interesting finishing touches, and first-class hand workmanship. These are the qualities that make a vintage garment a wearable classic.
You can always mix classic with your contemporary clothing, in fact it looks best to do so. Most of all have fun looking. Remember, there’s only one of everything!
*the shop where I bought the earrings had one pair of Manolo Blahnik ornate jeweled flats that fit me. The store owner was going to let them go for only $20 but the toe was pointier than I like so I didn’t buy them. Sometimes even if the shoe fits and the price is better than…you might have to unfortunately say “no” if the style doesn’t suit you. You loss is someone else’s gain. Omg Only $20??? You ask yourself, should I have bought them anyway? Shades of Carrie Bradshaw…
Have you made any great discoveries?
Other Sources: Vintage Style – a great overall guide by Tiffany Dubin (former founder & director of Sotheby’s world famous fashion department store in New York) & Ann E. Berman (well-known freelance writer on art collecting and design for publications such as Town and Country, Architectural Digest, Martha Stewart Living & The Wall Street Journal) – Harper Collins. p.s. buy the way, I bought the hard cover book at a garage sale during Modernism week in Palm Springs while out riding my bike.