Vintage Chic Unveiled: How I Exclusively Shop Vintage and How You Can Too

–By Sophie Bishop

©Adiel Gavish, Unsplash

My love of fashion all started with a pair of dungarees.

I must have been about six years old at the time. My mum (a fashion-phobe to this day) had given in to my demands and let me loose in my wardrobe to choose my own eclectic choice of outfits. From the back of the wardrobe, between what I imagine was a selection of fluffy rainbow-coloured jumpers and elasticated waistbands on early 2000s jeans, I pulled out THAT pair of dungarees. The pair I would wear almost every day for the next year of my life. 

Fast forward twenty-ish years and I still have a fair few pairs of dungarees in my collection, though maybe not as many as my six-year-old self would have liked. They’re there, sure, but now I have a new love that’s filling my wardrobe, and it takes the form of a treasure trove of vintage clothing.

When I Started Buying Vintage

I’ve always enjoyed expressing myself through what I wear. But, even though it makes me a little red in the face to admit, when I hit my awkward teenage years I hung up my vibrant corduroys and flare skirts and decided to follow the crowd instead.

Falling into that age-old trap of teen anxiety, I traded in creativity for trends in order not to stand out (any introverts out there who can relate?). It wasn’t until I settled into life as an adult that the desire to play with fashion started to come back, thread by vintage thread. It was finally happening! My inner child was jumping up and down in her dungarees, clapping as my creative side took the wheel.

It was about this time that high-street shops lost their shiny PVC appeal. Mass-produced trends that were already in everybody else’s wardrobe had lost their magic and I was looking for an answer. Right on cue, along came vintage.

About three years ago, I started buying accessories, such as hats or scarves, and antique jewellery to satiate my desire for unique pieces that weren’t going to suit my wardrobe for a season, but for a lifetime. Within weeks, I was converted. A few choice rings turned into regular visits to charity shops, thrift stores, and vintage clothing boutiques. My thirst for fashion was back.

Why Choose Vintage Clothing?

©Austrian National Library

So, why solely vintage?

It’s a question I’m asked fairly frequently and one that actually comes with a few answers.

The first is that many pieces are one-of-a-kind. You’re not likely to see anybody walking down the street wearing the same exact 1950s Christian Dior blazer you just picked up in your local vintage shop, are you? As someone who was tired of wearing the same as everybody else, that appealed to me.

Vintage fashion is usually much better quality than newer clothing, too. Natural materials, like cotton, wool, and silk are found far more frequently than planet-polluting polyester and acrylic, and the overall craftsmanship of each garment is far better than pieces made today. I have a gorgeous 1930s pink velvet coat with these incredible bishop sleeves and not a single button has come loose on the many, many occasions I’ve worn it. You just can’t find quality like that these days!

It’s also a fashion no-brainer in terms of being eco-friendly. I love that I can buy a piece I love without adding to the unsustainable production of clothing, making for guilt-free shopping trips. Less pollution, less waste, and more treasures in my wardrobe.

But, Really, Only Vintage?

Yes, really! Once I’d caught the bug for vintage clothing, nothing else interested me. 

Of course, it’s not the only way to shop second-hand. I have friends who find tons of great pieces from modern clothing brands at charity shops and thrift stores, some of which are even same-season pieces. For me, though, it comes down to style.

I love finding a dress from the iconic 90s era or a handbag from the swinging 60s. There’s just something about wearing clothes that have a history already attached to them that fills me with a joy that newer pieces just can’t replicate. 

©Tessa Simpson, Unsplash

Okay, now on to the part that everybody’s been waiting for -how can you shop for a vintage wardrobe? 

I have tons of tips and could go on for days talking about how I find wonderful vintage clothing, but for the sake of your time, I’ve kept things simple with the advice I think will be the most helpful. Let’s dive into it!

1. Have Patience

Shopping for vintage clothing isn’t always an instant success. From my experience, I find that going out to find something specific rarely works. Instead, pick up pieces as you go, creating a wardrobe you love so that when the occasion arises you always have something beautiful to wear. Have patience; a vintage wardrobe wasn’t built in a day!

2. Don’t Underestimate Antique Shops

There are plenty of go-to places for vintage clothing, from Etsy and Vestiaire Collective to vintage clothing boutiques. One place that I’ve found to be amazing for vintage finds, though, is antique shops. From the street, they might appear full of furniture and art, but go inside and you’re bound to find a rack of vintage dresses and clothing! 

3. Only Buy What You’ll Wear

Even if I admire a vintage piece, that doesn’t always mean I’m going to wear it. It’s easy to get sucked in by labels or incredible, rare finds, but if they don’t match your wardrobe then put them back! It’s far more eco-friendly and leaves the clothing for someone who will wear it with joy.

4. Ask for Measurements

Vintage sizing isn’t always the same as modern sizing. You might find pieces from different countries, too, where the number you’re looking at means something very different. When browsing online, it’s smart to always ask for the measurements of clothing before you buy to make sure it’s a good fit.

Final Words

One thing I wanted to say before I leave you to your vintage shopping (exciting!) is that you don’t need to buy everything you see. Having a massive wardrobe isn’t nearly as fun as you think it might be and, even though the pieces are vintage, it’s still not a great option in terms of sustainability. Reduce the stress of getting dressed and buy less, reserving space in your home for pieces you truly love.

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