Apart from a few very treasured items I saved from my grandparents wardrobes I have very little vintage clothing in my wardrobe. I used to be daunted by the sheer quantity of messy, un-merchandised product & felt nervous about the time needed to wade through endless rails of stock.
Luckily things have moved on massively and I’ve been thinking about it more recently. Sites such as Vestiaire have given Vintage a new lease of life & a certain credibility. You couldn’t watch Miss Sands in ‘Sex Education’ without wondering if it was worth popping into your local charity shop and last year, the average weekly turnover per charity shop rose to its highest figure on record since 2014 (according to the charity retail association).
We asked our favourite vintage and secondhand shopping experts for shopping tips and ways to incorporate a bit of vintage into your wardrobe.
Sarah Brand set up Another Matinee in 2019, she sells a beautifully curated collection of vintage dresses with detailed sizing, washing instructions and useful tips on caring for your items. She says “Vintage shopping is more of an effort, I get it. But luckily there are lots of brilliant curators and buyers who are hunting for us and presenting vintage in a way that honestly doesn’t even feel that different from shopping in an independent boutique. For anyone who is new to vintage shopping, I think a good place to start is dresses, especially summer dresses. So much of what we see on the runway and trickling down to the high street is inspired by styles from the 60s/70s.”
“I love to spot trends during fashion week then go hunting for similar pieces in vintage stores or on Ebay. It’s so much more of a rush when you find a quality piece that looks like THAT Miu Miu dress at a vintage market than it is finding a cheaply made Zara version that lots of other people will be wearing too”.
Sarah’s vintage shopping tips:
- Know your measurements. Carry around a small tape measure with you so can narrow down your options quickly rather than having to try on a hundred dresses.
- Go with some ideas in mind of what you’re looking for – vintage shops can be very overwhelming. I find it hard to tackle lots of different types of products in one visit. One day I might go and just focus on trying on jeans, another day, I might just go and try dresses – it feels more manageable that way.
- Ignore the size on the label. Vintage sizes aren’t representative of modern sizes, so go off of measurements and fit rather than any size indication on the label. The dress could also have been altered from its original size too.
- Take your vintage items to a window and check thoroughly for marks/tears/colour-runs/flaws. Look over every inch of the piece, button every button, test every zip so there’s no surprises when you get home.
Boutique by Shelter in Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross, is a community focused store selling trend focused, designer and vintage treasures. And they restock every day. It feels more of a retail/pop-up space (they even hold events there). The assistant manager, Queenie, says “The way that we select stock is dependent on whether items suit the style of our shop. We aim to be on trend, mixing high street, vintage and designer pieces.”
Hattie and Queenie’s shopping tips:
- If you do have a specific item in mind, ask a staff member as they know the stock really well, as well as having access to clothes that aren’t currently on the shop floor.
- If you’re new to shopping for vintage, ease yourself in with a vintage bag or accessories which can look great and bring a spot of history to your outfit.
- If you’re not sure how to remove certain stains, it’s always worth asking the staff for tips.
- If you don’t want to go for a full vintage outfit, mix it up with high street (preferably secondhand) pieces. For example, vintage dresses look great with trainers or Doc Martens.
Zeena Shah, a print designer and author from Hackney, is known for her amazing vintage (and often hand-made!) wardrobe.
Zeena’s vintage shopping tips:
“One of my top tips for vintage shopping is to start off with plenty of patience. I regularly pop into my local charity shops and vintage stores to see what’s new, and rummage through the rails. More often than not I’ll leave without a thing but when I do get lucky it’s been worth the wait.
I usually start by targeting a specific rail and narrowing my hunt down to printed dresses or colourful shirts – a much easier way of editing though the clothing. My favourite search is for a vintage prairie dress at the moment. Although my best and most recent find is a Moschino crochet cardigan and camisole twinset. On each piece there are hand crocheted flowers carefully stitched. It was in immaculate condition.
Vintage sellers edit and curate their rails so I’ll always go back to the rails I’ve found treasures in the past to check out the new haul as I know I trust the sellers taste. Spitalfields market has a new vintage clothing section that I regularly visit along side Paper Dress Vintage and Traid in Dalston. I’ve seen Alexa Chung pop in a number of times!”
Emma’s vintage shopping tips:
- Follow charity shop fans on Instagram whose style inspires you and screenshot details on where they found things. Make a plan to visit one or two of these places just like you would if you were planning on heading to your favourite High Street shops on the weekend. You could also create a Google map and drop pins to mark your favourite places to create a route and remind yourself of your faves so it becomes second nature to visit them.
- Always go prepared to try things on. Half the fun is often trying something you’re not sure about and finding it’s an absolute winner! It’s a great way to hone your own styling skills and finding out what really suits your body and personal style versus what’s en vogue or being pushed to you in the shops by the mainstream retailers.
- Bring something from home with you. This helps keep you in ‘your personal style room’ and can be useful if you want to find something to pair with a piece you already own (a shirt to go with a pair of culottes you already own for example).
- Be savvy with the location you choose to shop in (this is really relevant for London). I.e if you want expensive designer brands that are more mature in style try Notting Hill and Westminster for example, if you want cool indie brands and retro and vintage head to Dalston, Hackney or Shepherd’s Bush. If it’s baby clothes you’re after then East Dulwich and Balham are always winners.
- Try shopping online, such as Oxfam and CRUK eBay shop.
- Don’t be afraid to mix your eras to keep it feeling enigmatic and more modern.