Sunday, September 5, 2010

Guide - How to Shop for Vintage Clothing

Love clothes with a story? Looking for unique or period pieces? Worried about the impact of large scale production and sweatshop labour? Want to stick to a budget and get great clothes? Then vintage, thrifting, charity shopping, rummaging... Whatever it's called in your quarter, buying second-hand clothing is the thing for you!
As well as finding one of kind pieces, buying second-hand helps keep your wardrobe fresh, your wallet padded and lessens the environmental impact of textiles production. So what's not to love? Here's your guide to get shopping!

Quality Control
You have found a gorgeous, nay, divine dress. Simultaneously 20s Flapper girl, 50s burlesque star and ultra modern woman, it is as though someone looked deep into your soul and produced an outfit for what they saw there. You carry it into your home, slip into it and... Disaster! You realise it's missing an essential irreplaceable button! Here's how to avoid a potentially heartbreaking situation.

Check for common problems:
  • Count the buttons. Count the button holes. Do they match? Look out for reattachments and spare buttons. Don't forget to check zips, hooks and lacing too.
  • Run your fingers along seams, checking for loose and wonky stitching.
  • Check for tears and holes, particularly on the shoulders and underarms of tops and the back of trousers and skirts. These areas get worn and stretched the most.
And if you do buy something and find you don't like something as much as you thought, don't just throw it out. Recycle it, give it to charity, alter it or start a swap meet!

Tough Choices
Within such a melting pot, it is inevitable that you will have to make some hard calls on what to hold on to and what to leave for someone else to love.

Tips on sorting the wheat from the chaff:
  • What fabric is it made of? Wool, cotton and other natural fabrics tend to last longer and are better investments than polyester or nylon.
  • Is it unique? Could you find something either similar on the high street?
  • Is it a staple or an occasion piece? If you're only going to be able to wear it once or twice, and you don't absolutely adore it, put it back.
  • Make a list of items you want, and think about what you already have. Think of any stylistic signatures you have: are you known for your love of leopard print? Revered for your wearing of red? If you see it, go for it!
  • Know what you have. Try not to buy with the idea that "I'll find things to go with it": have an outfit in your wardrobe already to complement it.
  • Finally, if you're really umming and aahing, buy it. You'll have something to stimulate your creative tendencies, and you'll either be supporting a charity or a friendly local vintage shop owner.
Happy rummaging!
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