When I was a kid my parents would drag me to thrift shops to buy clothing to wear to school. We had recently emigrated from Russia and were penniless. Both my parents were working two jobs so my brother and I barely saw them.
I was mortified to be at the thrift shop, choosing to sulk in the corner instead of looking for things I might actually like to wear. In the end my mom would choose clothing for me, but since our sense of style differed to the extreme, I was forced to give vintage shopping for myself a try. Rather quickly I got really good at it, finding truly unique and flattering pieces of clothing and accessories that would get me lots of compliments. Eventually vintage shopping grew to be a passion of mine and now I love to venture out for a fun afternoon of “treasure hunting”. It’s truly thrilling to me to find a one-of-a-kind piece for a bargain to add to my thrifty vintage collection.
Here are my “Top 6 Vintage Treasure Hunting Secrets”:
I love vintage jeans because they are durable, easy to wash in hot water and have that pre-loved look to them. Shopping vintage jeans allows you to inexpensively discover how various jean features look on your body. After I gave birth to my first child I gained a lot of weight and none of my jeans fit me. I was craving comfy jeans. Many times I’d gone jean shopping and a pair of jeans I tried on for a minute in the poorly lit dressing room looked and felt right, but weeks later I’d come to the conclusion that these jeans were unsuitable for my lifestyle as a mom and unflattering for my body type. Having learnt my lesson, I didn’t want to pay a fortune for brand new jeans, then lose the extra weight and not be able to wear the jeans anymore. Through vintage shopping I discovered my love for boyfriend jeans.
My Vintage Denim Tips:
Take note of the jeans you love and why, and then eventually, when you know exactly what you like, what flatters you, and what you know you will wear for sure, see about investing in a nice new pair made sustainably.
Consider the following elements when shopping for jeans: straight leg, boot cut, slight flare, pencil, slim fit, high waist, low waist, light denim, dark denim, black, white, also consider your body shape. What features do you want to highlight? What features do you want to minimize? A good friend of mine recently pointed out to me she has short legs and wide knees. So, she discovered she looks good in and likes to wear short skirts with a bit of a flare to them to draw attention away from her knees and give her legs added length. This design knowledge usually comes with experimenting and vintage shopping is the most economical way to get this experience. You buy, you try them out (you need time to fall in love with a garment), if you like it, you keep it. If you don’t like it you can ask yourself “Why?” and donate the clothes back to the thrift store.
While on your denim search keep an eye out for overalls, jean jackets and jean dresses. As long as they are made from 100% cotton and have that authentic thick quality jean fabric, you are good to go. Vintage Levi’s, 7 For All Mankind, Citizens of Humanity, and True Religion are a sure bet. Stay away from really worn, stretchy, saggy jeans with funky buckles and stitching. Some authentic patchwork and embroidered jeans from the 1970’s are a goldmine if you find them, but replicas can look cheap. The more you shop vintage, the more you’ll start to recognize the difference.
2. NATURAL FABRICS
Fabrics sourced from nature such as bamboo, wool, silk, cotton and linen, feel great on the skin and are easy to wash, which you’ll want to do when working with vintage clothing. Natural fibers break down easier and faster (which is great for the environment), but when vintage shopping you want to look for only gently used clothing made of plant fiber material. This may take some extra treasure hunting effort, but it can be done. People donate or resell clothing for various reasons and some clothing might even still have tags attached. People who donate their clothing might not like the way the style, cut or color of the piece looked on them, while you give it a chance and it looks and feels spectacular.
3. ANIMAL PRINT
I don’t think animal print will ever go out of style. There is something timeless about it. Wearing animal print goes all the way back to when we lived in caves and wore animal hyde to keep warm. I imagine a battle with a wildcat back then, where the human survived, was a powerful reminder of the life and death cycle that rules the world. Any human who lived to tell the tale of fighting a wild cat went on to wear the animal skin with pride and gratefulness of being alive. We don’t need to fight wild cats these days, so a simple animal print or accessory will suffice. If you are getting ready to battle it out in the world of finance, business, or even surviving a trip to the park with your little ones, add a small element of animal print to help you tap into the primal animal powers. If you happen to find a vintage animal print made of natural fibers (replicated prints, not actual animal skins) kudos to you! If not, and you see one made with a mix of synthetic and natural fibers, for comfort reasons, make sure there is a higher percentage of natural fibers than synthetic one.
4. VINTAGE BAGS
I asked my friend Candice, who is an award-winning film director and wardrobe stylist on some of the most popular television shows out there, what her style secrets and tips are and she said she buys really simple clothing in dark colors and invests in unique, quality accessories. Accessories pull the entire look together and a luxurious, well made, vintage bag is one way to do just that. We have a lot of stuff to carry with us: snacks, tissues, wallet, keys, makeup, wallet, etc. We carry so much stuff that countless stand up comedians have used our bags to build entire stand up routines upon. Let’s own it. We need a good, useful bag that makes us look stylish, and the best, most frugal, most environmentally friendly way to buy it is vintage.
*Check out “What Goes Around, Comes Around” and "The Reel Reel" for fine luxury vintage - including jewelry, scarves, belts (look for animal print!) and much more.
5. USE A LUXURY PIECE AS INSPIRATION
Take your favorite piece of luxury clothing or accessory that you own and use that as a jumping off point for your vintage shopping adventure. While browsing look for retro pieces with stories from another place and time to pair them with your favorite luxury item that will create the perfect “High/Low Contrast” look. To create these contrasts simply observe what elements your favorite piece encompasses; for example, is it soft, light, bright, romantic, textured, tough, dangerous, playful, or simple, muted and dark? Whatever it is, choose contrasting design elements when looking for vintage pieces to complement it.
Pair luxurious silk harem pants with a tight simple graphic t-shirt or try rockstar tight black leather pants with a soft white cotton t-shirt with a cute and cuddly image of a puppy. How is that for contrast!
“The High/Low Contrast” form of styling became popularized when Anna Wintour became Editor in Chief of American Vogue in 1988, and for her first cover with the magazine she decided to dress model Micaela Bercu in a very expensive bedazzled sweater and then contrast it with a simple jean. The look was so unexpected and revolutionary the printers had to double check with Ms. Wintour that they were printing the right image. Ever since then, the most stylish people in the world have relied on the “High/Low Contrast” when getting dressed.
What is a classic? Nina Garcia’s fabulous book “The 100: A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own” presents an in depth list of of timeless pieces of clothing and accessories. Simple to read and full of witty, fun fashion stories and gorgeous fashion illustrations, this little book is a classic every woman should own. The clothing and accessories Nina features in her book have been around forever, translating through every fashion season, and have set the standards for true classics. Give the book a read and then head out to “treasure hunt” for some of the time tested pieces Nina features.
I hope you find my “Top 6 Vintage Treasuring Hunting Secrets” helpful and inspiring.
SOME OF MY FAVORITE FASHION DOCUMENTARIES: