In the past year, I've become absolutely obsessed with vintage. Over the years, I've inherited coats, belts, bags, shoes, jewelry, etc from both my mom and grannie's closet that are, without exaggeration, older than I am. Items that, my mom (now in her mid 50s), wore during date nights and and girl's weekends during her 20s ... sweaters and bangles that my gram wore while raising my mom, are all now in my possession. Such a blessing. These pieces hold a special place in my heart and have immense sentimental value. In a sense, these are my legacy items. With all vintage pieces, there is a story to be told, and when its placed on a live body? ... Those stories come alive and are transformed into living art. Wearing my mom's pieces now, at almost the same age she was then? ... It's almost, as if I'm continuing her story, keeping a piece of her energy with me wherever I go. Perhaps if I'm blessed with a daughter, she'll receive all of these, plus my personal closet additions as well.
Living in NYC, you have SO many opportunities to source amazing high quality items that it can be a bit overwhelming. I won't lie, initially, vintage hunting can be a bit hit or miss until you find a rhythm and a keen eye. With racks upon racks of clothes in some spaces, how do you dive through the fray to find that one coveted piece that will add infinite value to your closet?
Trash Your Expectations of Perfection
- Like you on dates, vintage pieces have history and sometimes baggage to them. Finding that one unblemished piece is rare, but if you're shopping vintage, that's the draw. Vintage, means you get leather soft and worn-in with aging ... finding quality cuts and designs to fabrics no longer used ... fading that adds character and a uniqueness that makes your item one of a kind. Be open minded in your search. Again, if your looking for fresh out the box perfection? .. Shop at a major chain retailer.
Turn on All Your Senses
- The difference between traditional store shopping and securing great vintage pieces is the need for your other senses. Usually, when shopping you might rely on just your sight and personal taste in clothing. Many vintage spots literally have an endless number of racks, shelves, and bins. How then, do you discern between the diamond in the rough and the random toss away from someone's yard sale? By using all of your senses.
- Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does the item smell moldy or just plain old?
- Are the rips, missing stitches, stains, not worth the cost of fixing?
- Close your eyes. Does the "genuine leather" feel more like paper instead of thick, soft, buttery, and supple
- When you lightly run you hands or fingers over that fur coat, does it feel smooth, soft, and like stroking a pile of feathers, or does it have a rough, plasticy, or stubble-like feel?
- Turn your item around and inspect it from all angles. Check the hardware, including handles, zippers, hems, buttons. Get to intimately know the piece ... appreciating but also considering its imperfections.
Check Inside Labels
- Another great way to be sure of what exactly, you are purchasing is to check the inside labels / tags of the pieces you are buying. Think that amazing leather jacket is a quality find? ... Be sure to check all the labels / tag(s) on the interior. There, you'll find not only the materials used to make your item (whether it be wool, leather, polyester, rabbit fur etc) but the percentage. That will help you decide not only the quality of you piece, but more importantly, if it's worth the price. A glance at the designer label can give you a hint at the quality of design longevity of your item as well.
Seek Out a Good, But Inexpensive Tailor
- So you now that you've found your new Lord of the Rings "precious," you can't wait to take it home ... only, it's baggy / needs to be taken in ... it's missing a button ... it's torn and needs closing .. there's fading. What you DON'T do is put it back! If the mends you need aren't things you can fix yourself (often times it is), stop by your local "mom & pop" seamstress. I found mine next-door to my neighborhood laundromat. Show them your new piece and describe what your looking for. I've had fixes range from $5 - $25. The more expensive adjustments included completely deconstructing a sheath into a super cute huggy African "flapper" style" dress (shown below).
As a second example of the benefits of non-expensive tailoring, take a look at the play-suit below. Super cute, but when I found it, there was a HUGE rip in the sleeve, from shoulder to chest. I could have easily passed it up, but instead, after an inexpensive trip to the tailors, its transformed into this fun sleeveless jumpsuit with new value! Why pass up a great piece, when all it might need is some love?
Keeping these these tips In mind you have the tools to unearth some super cool finds bringing your closet to the next level of awesomeness! Admittedly, I'm still learning myself, but I think I'm going pretty good so far ...
Here are some of my favorite recent vintage finds!
Shop the Webstore
Love what you see, but don't have the time to sift through endless piles of thrift store madness? Check out a few vintage pieces in the Q.A.C webstore! New pieces are added all the time!