Vintage vs Thrift

Stylists have a joke that the rule of thumb is that if you wore a vintage item back when it was a new fad, you aren’t allowed to wear it when comes around for the second time! While you should opt for pieces that will mature with you (especially if they are slightly pricier), everyone should have a few classic items in their closets to add a little zing to their day-to-day wear. Rihanna put her personal spin on vintage clothes for the Grammy Awards, whilst Lady Gaga took hers on tour. But how can you tell whether a second hand item is a vintage treasure or merely a thrifty fad?

First off we should establish that there is nothing wrong with thrifty fad shopping. If 1980’s are back in vogue, you could definitely take someone’s geometric jackets off their hands and tailor it to suit the current style, and then retire it when the next craze takes over. (Let’s just hope it’s not Hammer pants.) But there is a difference between giving a second hand item a second life and buying a vintage gem.

Vintage denotes something special. The item has literally stood the test of time due to its design, quality or significance. Chances are it can stay in your closet for years and never truly go out of style. Add to that the value of owning something unique (not to mention the fact that you are doing your bit for the planet) and you’ll know why vintage is a great idea for the savvy fashionista. If you are new at buying vintage wear, start with the following tips:

  • Do opt for timelessness.

Think of Coco Chanel’s classic little black dress. Literally every generation has put their spin on it whether they jazzed it up with beads, or oversized shoulder pads, or interesting embellishments. Buying one is a good investment because you can wear it over and over again.

  • Invest in extras

A big issue that the uninitiated experience with vintage finds is that an item doesn’t quite “fit” despite being the correct size. The issue isn’t sizing standards, but the undergarments we are wearing. Different generations typically wore different styles, ranging from corsets to underskirts, to hoops and shape-shifting control underwear. You have to research the era and see if you can source something similar before making a purchase, or it simply won’t look the same.

  • Don’t fork out too much if it’s not worth it

As with any clothing item, vintage is worth as much as anyone is willing to spend on it and there aren’t standard prices to follow. But be wary of paying too much simply because an item is old. Unless the item is made by a well known designer, it’s likely not to have too high of a resale value, so you shouldn’t buy vintage as an investment without doing your research first. Buy items because you’ve fallen in love with them but don’t start collecting items as a nest egg until you’ve established whether or not they are worth the asking price.

  • Get close to it

Certain fabrics will get brittle with age and literally become irreparable. Ask for close up shots of items, and photos of any damage. If a little bit of lace has come loose, or a seam undone, it can be fixed with ease, but materials that are cracking or pulling should be avoided.

Quality vintage are items that were made to last – some by hand – which means that you can get years of mileage out of them. Opt for items that you feel comfortable in, that fit well and that can be easily tailored and modernised throughout the ages.

After all, you are a timeless classic – your clothes should match!