Every so often, I decide that I’m going to start buying all my clothes at vintage stores. In my head, it’s that easy; it’s like shopping for new things, only cheaper and better: the men’s clothing will magically fit me, and various weird brocade jackets (that I’m too cowardly to wear in real life) will be arrayed before me in all their splendour.
But that’s not how it goes, of course, so I want to know how people make this work. Is it a matter of sticking with it? Knowing how to alter things to your size? I’m not much good at either one; but still, I’d like to have a victory, so I’ll take advice from anyone who can offer it.
16 responses to “Vintage”
Oh man, this here is my jam. I pretty much buy all thrifted at this point, and I’m really happy with how my wardrobe has evolved as a result.
I tend to drift between having a clear precise goal of what it is I’m looking for that day, trying not to compromise, but being a little flexible if I’ve found something truly magical that I know I’ll never find again. Having done it for a while now I’ll go in knowing what I like and seeing if anything they have fits within those parameters. I really enjoy vintage because I feel over time it’s been about learning who I am, what I like, if it’s an expression of how I feel, and if it looks good on me.
Get lots of inspiration, put it on your phone or desktop, make a folder of the things you like, and seer it into your brain, eventually it’ll start to come naturally.
If you’ve found something you love but there’s a sizing issue then have it tailored, it’s not too expensive and so worth it. But above all be brutal with yourself, and really ask whether it’s something that will fit in your wardrobe, or is “you” and something you will actually wear. As sometimes we may be in love with the idea of something, but it may not necessarily look good on us.
At this point I’ve come to realize what works well for me, I kind of have archetypes of what I like: teacher chic, secretary chic, flowy patterned silk blouses, winter ambivalence. I also love contrast, hard and soft, feminine masculine.
Community Thrift in Gastown is my goto, both the Frocks and Dude version around the corner as it’s reasonable and purchases go towards the downtown eastside women’s shelter. C’est la Vie on Main is great too, there’s also the vintage thrift place on Robson that’s decent. Some of the more vintage places can be crazy expensive so only good if there’s something very specific you absolutely must have, or also check Etsy.
Good luck, it’s all about the thrill of the find.
Shanna! Bless you, this is exactly what I needed, particularly the local recommendations.
I think the visual inspiration is a really good idea. When I buy clothes new, I usually have the chance (online) to look at them and mull them over for at least a week or so; separate them from the things I don’t care about, and try them out in my head. I take that for granted, now.
Shanna, any tips on alterations tailors in Vancouver?
I personally really like Granville Professional Alterations downtown, it’s run by two friendly ladies just a few steps away from the skytrain station on the 4th floor of an old classy office building. I’ve done a lot of business with them on very special pieces and they’ve always done a great job.
My rules for clothes shopping are 1. Know what cuts fit my body or know how to accessorize the ones that aren’t easy 2. Stick to a uniform style of wardrobe except for occasional special items (simplicity) 3. Go with a certain item in mind but allow all of the variations to present themselves.
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My favorite way to thrift shop is actually online. ThredUP allows you to search by size, color and brand. It’s only women’s clothing, but still a treasure trove. Being able to narrow down my searches and know that I’m already looking at things my size helps.
I have been going to thrift stores for my clothes since the 80s. It is always good to go to thrift stores for a reason: cheap retail therapy, work clothes, special occasion clothes, house hold items. have that one focus, then relax as you go through the isles. I look for my focus first, then look at everything else.
Shanna said “but being a little flexible if I’ve found something truly magical that I know I’ll never find again.” Good rule to shop by in thrift stores..
I always try my clothes on first, that way I don’t waste money on something I don’t wear! I take note of what styles shape my body the way I like as well.
Thrift stores: love em. I came away with a one strapped black lacy shiffony layered fancy dress for $5.00. I got it for Halloween. I wore it to a party, where I didn’t know many people. I wore heaps of gold costume jewelry. I want with my partner. Despite that, when I spoke to a couple men, their partners got very upset. Those women didn’t think I was in a halloween costume. They thought that was how I dressed. But that’s the cool thing about findsing such bargains. You can splash out a bit and have fun. On the other extreme, I found a long black velvet dress with a cowl neck a couple yrs ago. I’ve worn it both to a wedding, and for Halloween. ( most of the time I’m in jeans & sweaters).
I am a Hindu, living in Mauritius. I wear the traditional saree when I attend functions and parties, but I feel more comfortable and ‘myself’ when I wear jeans and jeggings ,shirts and cotton tops which I buy in London,UK .End of season bargains are amazing but you have to be there as early as possible to get what you are looking for.I have visited the States several times but I don’t know where to shop for clothings.
My experience is mostly in England, but my $0.02:
Know what you like and what you hate before you go in, and bear in mind this might change over time. I used to think I hated embroidery, then found a royal-blue silk cheongsam with dragons on it… and wore it to death. I used to think I loved beads, bought truckloads, never wore any of them.
It helps if you’ve got the confidence to wear weird stuff in public, because weird stuff IS mostly what you find.
And if you or a friend can alter clothing it’s a lifeline – I have Tommy Hilfiger jeans I bought as too-long bootcuts for 50p, ripped out the inseams and turned into perfectly-fitting slim jeans. If you look at something and think ‘I MIGHT be able to fix that if…’ leave it. You’ll never get around to it and it’ll just make you feel bad.
And be patient. It once took me six months and… over a hundred visits to various thrift stores… to find the perfect knee-boots. But when I had them they were so much more satisfying because of the wait, and only two quid at that.
In my experience, you have to go shopping consistently. At least a couple of times a month. Also, I’ve been doing it for so long, I know the best spots in my city. Typically, but not always, thrift stores or second-hand stores in the middle of wealthier neighborhoods have the best stuff. I have a closet full of skinny Levi jeans from shopping at one particular spot once or twice a months.
Wear the weird brocade jackets!
When I lived in Indiana, I went to several thrift stores every weekend to build on my wardrobe. I had specific basic colors and styles in mind, and would add eclectic items only once in a while. You have to go often to find good stuff among the worn out things. A few hours on a weekend of mindless wandering through others discarded closets is a good way to relax.