What’s the secret to snagging the most exceptional ensembles? I don’t want to put it all down to luck, so here are some useful tips for successful vintage shopping:
Get out of the house!
After you’ve rummaged thoroughly through your parents’ closet, that is. Although it is so convenient to shop online in the comfort of your own home, and there truly are some great sellers on ebay and etsy, don’t underestimate what you can find in-store and the satisfaction of meeting your new best ‘fit in person.
Don’t go vintage shopping if you’re not in the mood to try anything on.
That said, know your measurements. Ladies, you should know your bust, waist, and hip measurements for sure. Gents who know the advantages of a well-tailored shirt should be familiar with their neck, sleeve, and chest measurements. Waist size and pant length are important for bottoms too.
For the love of all things holy, don’t go serious vintage hunting with a friend who’s the same size as you.
Especially if you’re both sizes that are harder to come by. And if your personal styles are similar. If your friendship is more dear to you than a YSL leather pencil skirt (which, admittedly, might be a bit of a stretch for some), leave your body double behind.
If items are sized, try to look through all the racks anyway.
Many a time have I gone to the thrift store and despaired after looking through the sections containing my size. Items get moved around by other customers, and a larger item might have some potential. Often the key is not taking a garment for what it is, but for what it can become; get creative.
If an item’s too big, you can work with it. But if it’s too small…
Sorry, but you’re out of luck. Fabric will not materialize out of thin air. Even if you do wish to insert panels you need to know a great deal about design and construction in order to make it happen, and more often than not, it just won’t. Be conscious of whether or not you already have a backlog of items to be taken to the seamstress or tailor. A piece will not realize its potential at the bottom of your closet.
Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby permit you to shop each other’s sections.
I have a few female friends who always get super lucky shopping in the men’s section—last week a girlfriend snagged an adorable corduroy blazer with elbow patches that probably belonged to an eleven-year-old boy—and a male friend who rocks 70s women’s blazers better than I ever could.
Don’t shun the thrift store.
It might be more comfortable to shop the hand-picked threads in a small, artfully cluttered boutique, but you will probably get the most bang for your buck at the thrift store. A friend of mine walked away with something like four pairs of designer shoes—Anne Klein and Christian Dior pairs among them—for under twenty dollars each. It was almost a crime!
Remember: employees can be useful.
They’re not just there to eye you suspiciously, I promise. If there’s a particular item or look you’re searching for, buyers at vintage boutiques can keep an eye out for you when they’re out replenishing.
Find out when your favourite stores get their merchandise in so you can be first to shop it. Ask about estate sales, and maybe check one out yourself!
Be patient and thorough, and you too will succeed in sourcing your favourite clothes and accessories from the past!