The Dos and Don’ts of Vintage Shopping According to the Experts

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It wasn’t until recently that I learned to really appreciate the art of vintage shopping and hunting out gems in local charity shops. I’ve become so adept at getting creative with clothing and looking for alternative and more affordable options over the last few months that shopping new season from the high street actually feels a little odd – not that it will stop me. 

Don’t get me wrong, getting your hands on the latest product launches, off-the-runway looks or even custom designed pieces is a little slice of living the dream but not all of us can afford to fill our wardrobes that way and in the name of sustainability (among other reasons) some of us choose not to fill our wardrobes with fast fashion garms. 

Founder and owner of Dungannon based vintage clothing shop, Alf & Roe, Erinrose Arthurs, started her own vintage business just over two years ago but by no means was this the start of her journey into the vintage world. “As I grew up, going through the rails of vintage shops in Belfast, Leeds, and Liverpool –  that was me at my happiest – wanting to find that killer piece that will turn heads – the beads, colours, prints, collars, shoulder pads etc always made me, my mum and sister so excited. Working in the trade now I see people who would never have worn vintage before, coming back to my shop again and again because of how good they felt wearing their vintage and to be reassured no one would arrive in the same outfit as them.”

Buying vintage or second hand clothing found in charity shops is the perfect way to suss out unique pieces. In a time when so many of the new season trends revolve around those of previous decades, there’s no better time to brush up on your vintage skills, find yourself the real deal and authentic pieces that truly emulate retro trends – the items in the vintage shops were there when the trend came around the first time after all. 

“In a world of fast fashion and quickly changing trends, vintage is always timeless. The quality and detail in pieces from well known vintage designers (Frank Usher, Stenay, Jaeger etc) cannot be matched in today’s high street, unless you want to spend a lot!” Erinrose continues. 

The thing is, vintage shopping isn’t always fun and games. It can be very hit or miss and while you may be a seasoned high street or luxury shopper, shopping for second hand clothing is an entirely different kettle of fish. It’s a skill that needs to be practised and allowed time to grow and develop. Some people just have a great eye but for those of us who love the treasure hunt aspect of shopping pre-loved items but find they’re tired of playing a game of chance, we hear you. In a bid to help you overhaul your wardrobe with the best of the vintage finds, we called upon the experts to share their tips and tricks for vintage shopping.

Photographer: Filly Campbell. Stylist: Erinrose Arthurs. Clothing: Alf & Roe

Location, location, location

This is particularly important when it comes to scouring the charity shops. Suss out the charity shops available in affluent areas around you. It seems obvious but is an easy tip to forget and can make all of the difference in how successful your shopping trip at the local charity shops will be. Think about, when you do your annual clear out (you know the one where you decide to dump all of your belongings and just start all over again with your wardrobe) chances are you opt for the closest charity shop to make your bundles of clothing donations. Guess what? That’s exactly what those more financially blessed do too. Wealthy area tends to mean wealthy occupants meaning more options for high end second hand clothing. Plus, there’s no denying how rewarding it feels to find a vintage designer piece for a tenth of the price.

Searching for that perfect vintage piece can be arduous task at times but knowing where to go is half the battle. 

According to Jon-Joe Rodgers, owner of Belfast vintage shop, American Madness, location also comes into play in terms of where an item has originally come from. “When looking for a good pair of vintage Levi’s 501’s check where they are made. Made in USA is the holy grail but hard to come by nowadays. In my opinion, Made in Mexico is the next best. If they are manufactured anywhere else they are likely to be of a lower quality.”

“Check the buttons & zippers to help identify the age of a piece. If the piece is American look out for Talon zippers, if it has Talon zippers the piece is likely to be made prior to 1981 as thats when Japanese company YKK began to dominate the zipper market.” 

Know what you’re looking for 

This isn’t a rule of thumb to be applied to every vintage shopping spree. Vintage shopping requires an open mind and allows for great opportunity to express your individuality through fashion and choosing things you’d never normally pick up while shopping. However, for the real deal vintage shopping hunt it’s important to know the kind of thing you’re looking for especially if still in the early stages of your vintage shopping career. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of stock. Sometimes the easiest way to get creative is to actually add in a little structure. Have a scroll through Pinterest and your style inspirations on Instagram. Make a short list of the kind of things you’re looking for whether thats jeans, a good blazer, a few brooches or just heading into the store with an idea of the kind of decade you’d like to channel through your wardrobe. 

Photographer: Filly Campbell. Stylist: Erinrose Arthurs. Clothing: Alf & Roe

Keep an open mind

To totally contradict what we’ve just said, while identifying your priority items will be incredibly helpful, half the fun of shopping in vintage stores is when the ultimate piece picks you. It’s a love at first sight moment and as soon as it happens to you, shopping on the high street will never feel the same. 

One of my luckiest finds was a pair of vintage Manolo Blahniks in my size and down to $35. Yes, their soles needed a little bit of love from the cobbler but I couldn’t believe my eyes. While I’ve made many a purchase over the years and the majority of items in my wardrobe have stolen little bits of my heart at one stage or another, nothing will ever compare to the moment those Manolos made their way into my life. 

Support Local

Last but by no means least, as Rodgers explains, vintage shopping allows you to really support your local businesses, something that’s important in more than just the fashion industry. 

“Support your local vintage shop. A lot of the fast-fashion organisations are jumping aboard the current trend for vintage and setting up vintage stalls / sections in-store. But the best selection & friendliest service is always in your local shop!”

Photo Credit: @americanmadness

Images (including cover) courtesy of Alf & Roe. Photographer: Filly Campbell. Stylist: Erinrose Arthurs. Hair: Honeycomb Hair. Makeup: S.A.K.DESIGNS. Set Design: This Old Home. Models: Cleo Wears Clothes, Claire Barnes. Millinery: Lori Muldoon Millinery. Photography Assistant: Conan Quinn

 

Niamh Crawford-Walker

Niamh is a freelance writer covering fashion, beauty and lifestyle articles. Her work has appeared in IMAGE magazine, image.ie and Emirates Woman. Niamh is also a blogger at niamhserena.co.uk and podcast host of Werkin’ On It.

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