Although this may seem like a grand depart from my regular subjects of cooking, eating and drinking, vintage shopping is a long-time hobby of mine – and something I feel really passionate about. “Why?”, I hear you ask. Well, I’ve always liked old things – antique, second-hand…whatever you want to call them. I like the fact each item has a story and history of its own. Indeed, history has always fascinated me and as I got older, women’s place in modern society and how this is reflected in evolving fashion trends through the decades really intrigued me. Particularly as it seems like we can mostly wear whatever we want, without thinking twice.
Anyway, I digress. I’d dabbled with charity shops, the odd market and a couple of vintage shops before I went off to uni, securing some key and much loved pieces (including a Levi’s denim skirt which I wore to death as a teenager!!). But the real love affair began when I went off to university in Manchester at 18. (As an aside, if you’re a fellow vintage lover and you’ve never been to Manchester’s Northern Quarter, then you’re missing out; but that deserves its own article!) I couldn’t believe a) the volume of vintage shops and b) the ridiculously cheap prices for the quality. I also started getting a kick out of having unique pieces in my wardrobe…though my bank balance took a battering, I still feel it’s worth it as I have the majority of the pieces to this day, including my beloved cream lace, jewelled cardigan. Perfection.
So, why shop vintage? If I haven’t convinced you already, here are my top seven reasons:
1) Express yourself – do you ever walk into one of the plethora of high street shops and feel thoroughly uninspired? Well, if you do vintage may hold the answer. If you’re looking for something that no-one else has, then vintage shops are for you. Sequins? No problem. Cute patterns? Take your pick! Interesting tailoring? Sure.
2) Quality control – if, like me, you find yourself getting annoyed by how different the sizes are in various high street shops and how badly made/cut lots of the pieces are, then there are some easy vintage swaps you can make which can help solve this dilemma. Try some vintage Levi’s or, my personal favourite, blazers and winter coats.
3) Bargain hunter – this one doesn’t need much explaining. Nothing beats the thrill of bagging a bargain.
4) Heavenly high waists – nothing like a high waist for instant flattery. There are a few key pieces worth investing in (which will set you back between £5 and £35, depending where you shop), such as a pair of good pleated culottes (mine are old M&S), Levi’s shorts and a pair of black trousers (I have silky, tapered ankle, harem ones; straight outta the 80s – sound odd, but super flattering and comfortable).
5) Eco-friendly? – as more of us become aware of the need to reuse and recycle in terms of food, energy and waste, most people don’t add clothes into the equation. But, you can help counter the fast fashion (ie low quality, can’t guarantee slavery free) of the high street by buying second (or third, fourth etc.) hand.
6) Playing dress-up – next time you need to find a costume for a fancy dress/costume party, you’re guaranteed to find something amazing in a vintage shop. Not to mention cheaper, better made and less itchy than a ready-made outfit (made the mistake one Halloween, never again).
7) Shop local – another trend which is gaining momentum, mostly in the food arena, but there’s a lot to be said for supporting small, local businesses who really know their stuff. Good vintage/antique/second-hand/thrift shops will be able to tell you where they source their wares from, which period/decade each item is from and if the label/designer is significant.
I know I’ve waffled on a bit, but there really is a good point to this…I’m not saying I never buy things from the high street, I definitely do. But I try not to buy for the sake of it, just what I need. And when I shop vintage I’m normally looking for something I want to cherish and keep.
So, if you’ve never tried vintage shopping before, give it a whirl…you will have to be more patient and prepared to rummage. And you’re not going to see racks of the same item in different sizes, but this is more than made up for by the array of weird, wonderful and beautiful things. You never know, you may well find something which fills your heart with as much joy as my obscene collection of winter coats, lace cardigan and black sequin Frank Usher mini dress.