Experiencing the thrill of the hunt combined with acquiring unique pieces, vintage shopping can be a fashion lover’s dream. It’s also an eco-friendly way to shop since merchandise is recycled from previous owners. And with the popularity of shows like Mad Men and Downton Abbey, vintage shopping and historic clothing have seen a renewed interest from trendy audiences and savvy shoppers. So if you’re tired of seeing someone else wearing the same outfit you bought at a chain store, give consignment, thrift or vintage stores a try. Since previous eras valued handmade details and durability, a truly vintage high-end piece will tend to have better quality than something more contemporary.
In terms of secondhand shops, consignment stores are where the profit is split between the shop and the person who brought in the clothes to be sold. This differs from thrift stores where merchandise is donated and the profits go back towards the store or a charity. Consignment shops are typically where one would find higher-end labels since they’re picky about what items will sell. Vintage stores, on the other hand, usually sell merchandise with a sense of history and cultural significance — the clothes are timeless and reflect a specific fashion era.
When shopping at secondhand stores it’s important to keep in mind the condition of the item, quality of the piece and whether it can be worn as a classic staple or as a trend for the season. And when it comes to higher-end brands, verifying its authenticity is essential. It’s difficult to shop consignment or thrift with a specific item to look for, so always try to go in with an open mind.
Keep your eyes peeled for pieces that will fit well into your existing wardrobe and that can be easily tailored to fit. If an item doesn’t complement your personal style, it’ll run the risk of looking like a costume. A good way to start secondhand shopping would be to look for classic pieces with clean lines, quality materials and simple designs. Know what era works for you in terms of fit and style preference. Whether you’re more drawn towards the 1920s flapper period, 60s mod or 70s hippie look, you’ll get more mileage out of the purchase by ensuring the piece is wearable and fits in with your sense of style.
Your sizing may vary when shopping at secondhand stores. Sizing measurements can change over time and between different brands. So if an item catches your eye, try it on regardless of the number on the label. Tailoring can also be a very important part of the vintage shopping process. The right tailoring can turn a vintage frock from oversized and frumpy to looking like something high-end and custom made. However, not every piece can be altered, so take into consideration the fabric and structure of the garment. Cinching baggier tops or dresses with a belt can also do wonders to define the waist for a more flattering fit.
But before you head to the register, double check the item’s condition carefully. Look for any damage, stains, fading, missing details or loose embellishments. A quick way to check for areas of excessive wear is to hold the clothing up to the light.
There are tons of great vintage and consignment shops in Richmond, particular in the Steveston area. So take your time and browse with an open mind for pieces with potential. Items are one of a kind when shopping secondhand, so if a piece speaks to you, grab it before it’s gone!
[Article first appeared in the August 13 issue of Richmond Review.]