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How to shop vintage

Posted by Laurie Rose Belle Oxfam Fashion blogger and vintage lover

3rd Aug 2012

Fashion loved for longer

Whether you love the Parisian glamour of the 30's or long for the strong tailored line of the 60's, getting to know your chosen decade is a must. Does it flatter your shape? Can you make this look your own? Will I look unique? When you are out searching for the perfect vintage item, do your homework, familiarise yourself with the designers, all the information you need is right at your finger tips, and with the internet and great sources at your local library it has never been easier. Firstly you don't need a degree in fashion to know what looks good on you, and secondly if you feel great in it who gives a monkey's what anyone else thinks. I have spent long enough toying with the idea of vintage and now I have taken hold of it and I am having the time of my life foraging through the many rails at local charity shops or sourcing out items in specialised stores all over the country. This is now a full time operation - something to be taken with due care and consideration.

Now you have researched you will want to rush out as quickly as possible, pushing and shoving anyone that gets in your way of finding that one off piece. Now I know from experience you want to look unique, isn't this the whole point of shopping vintage? These pieces are out there, but they are there to find you, so be patient. I would often find myself emptied handed, wandering disheartened after hours of what felt like a pointless outing; but take that as a stepping stone, now you know what you don't like, which styles are wrong for your shape or where not to shop next time.

Identifying vintage is simple, in any jumble I can now home in and I will soon find myself arms full of items to try on. Feel it, is it good quality, is it well structured, does it smell old? Who's the designer? The questions are endless and I have often found myself analysing one item for over half an hour. Once you have established the age, now it's on to any imperfections. With anything old there is bound to be some wear and tear, and keep in mind the majority of theses garments are older than you are. Check the seams, are they loose? Can they be mended easily? Are you in love with the pattern but the garment is beyond repair, is there a way you can be creative and make it work for you, a skirt, scarf or cushion perhaps? The biggest cause of imperfection is insect damage, materials such as lace, net and chiffon are often prone to these sorts of damage and a thorough inspection is needed. Any experienced seller will be able to answer any queries you may have so don't be afraid to ask, they won't bite.

Now you've found the item for you, it clearly states its a size twelve on the label and you hate using fitting rooms so all that's left to do is pay and get home to style your new look, wrong! Vintage sizing is very different from what we know now, you might be a modern size twelve but the measurements will vary on every single item. Jot down your measurements before you leave the house or like me carry a measuring tape in your handbag (always secretly hoping that overnight my waist has dropped a few inches) Be aware of what you wear to go shopping too, be prepared to whip your clothes off at any given occasion or if your not quite an exhibitionist like me wear something thin that you can try something on over the top.


You will find most places will not accept refunds, and if you have purchased from a charity shop you would feel pretty shameful taken back donation from the hard working volunteer behind the counter.

Okay so it's a little bit big, but you are in love, can you make alterations? Is there any way you can snip it here and sew it there? YES! Then great, but if it's too small leave it where it is, as much as you are hoping that one day your waist will suddenly shrink by three inches, it won't, if it doesn't fit now it never will.

You are now approaching the till, is it within budget? Is it truly worth what it's marked up as? Was it a style that was mass produced during this time and do you think it should maybe be a little cheaper? Why not make an offer, if you don't ask you don't get and if it's a no then at least you tried.

You are now prancing around the house and you couldn't be happier, but you feel you're a little stuck for idea's on how to add the finishing touches. Unless you are out there to replicate your chosen decade then add new accessories to modernise your look. I will often find vintage shoes wear a lot quicker so either something completely out of context or a modern replica will look just as great. Try out pin curls or victory rolls or experiment with scarves, the possibilities are endless and always down to you. Always feel confident in who you are, you are already half way there by choosing vintage.

Blog post written by Laurie Rose Belle

Oxfam Fashion blogger and vintage lover

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