(YC!N has closed its program and taken down contributor’s content, so I’ll be posting some of my old writing work here that I don’t have another outlet for, such as this piece.)
Be the Queen of the Bargain Basement
So, where do you shop? If you are a treasure hunter with a limited budget, thrift stores and yard sales are a great start. Now, you will have to wade through a lot of garbage, but you will get the best prices. I own vintage fur wraps in multiple colors for my retro styling closet (the only fur I own or will ever buy, for the record) and nearly had a coronary when I picked up most of them at once at a Goodwill. Seems someone had just donated a collection, and they had priced them at under $20 each. (Not typical pricing even for a Goodwill, just so you know.)Imagine, if you will, a grown woman hyperventilating in the middle of a Phoenix Goodwill on Senior Citizen’s discount day. It wasn’t pretty. It’s a wonder I didn’t get my own complimentary straightjacket.
Get in Touch with Your Inner Fashion Hipster
Best bets for vintage goodies at your local thrift store: coats, formal dresses, purses and lingerie. Remember ladies, Courtney Love built a career on vintage baby doll nighties as dresses. You’ll also find lots of vintage gloves and scarves, as well. The jewelry cases tend to yield few good finds in thrift stores, but always do a quick scan, and I also scan for anything leopard print anywhere in the store. Rawr.
On the higher end, you have the trendy vintage boutique stores, which mean wading through a lot less junk for your treasures, but paying a lot more. Since I tend to buy and collect for my photo studio styling closet, not for me, I’m less concerned with sizing, so I love eBay, and it’s newer competitor, Etsy.
Etsy can be a bit cheaper, and as it’s dedicated only to vintage finds and hand-crafted items, you can find some very cool customized vintage vendors there. Of course, those custom items can be very pricey, but so cool and unique. I always wish I had taken more home economics classes and learned to sew when I browse there.
The Label and the Damage Done
Regardless of where you shop, be sure to check your garments thoroughly for damages, staining and funky odors — this is one area where we don’t need the funk. Even in nicer stores where they have sorted through the damaged goods, customers can be careless with these very fragile items, ripping them or leaving makeup stains. If it absolutely must be cleaned post-purchase, let the professionals handle it.
When it comes to style, I’m always more concerned with the look than the era, but if you are looking for true vintage, the best way to verify an authentic vintage piece is if the tag is still intact, and is obviously old. This is one place where we want to see age and yellowing, and unless some designers get smart and start mimicking vintage labels, trust me, you can tell if it’s an oldie but goodie.
Hot tip — care instructions for garments weren’t required till the ’70s, so if they are there, you can bet your item is not true vintage, or is from the ’70s and ’80s if you dig that kind of thing (and if you don’t dig the ’80s, don’t you know they are back in style? I could have made a fortune if I’d hung onto all those bad clothes of my youth.).
Sizing Up the Goods
Ladies tended to be a bit shorter and more petite back in the day, despite all the too-thin models hype. Sure, we have some super thin types, but overall, women are a little “healthier” these days. You may need to check hems to see if they can be let out or if you find a great sweater you like that’s a bit snug, when it’s damp from your washer, stretch it out and dry flat. If you are shopping on eBay, most vendors are great about posting measurements in inches for garments, but also note how much give is in the fabrics — a little stretch in that wiggle dress may give you just the wiggle room you need.
Someone May Have Worn it Before, But You’re the Only One Wearing it Now
The best part about buying vintage is you know no one else is going to show up in the same outfit. Plus you can impress your friends with your daring, “buck-the-current-trends” attitude, you fashion daredevil. And if you’re a savvy shopper, you’ll have plenty of moolah left over for all the things that make like worth living — sexy shoes, tiki bar cocktails and hot tattoos. And if you get all that, you just may get the grand poo-bah of accessories — your very own vintage rocker boy.
So get to your local thrift shop or vintage boutique and make Bettie Page proud, girls.