A Love Letter – And Guide – To Vintage Shopping

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I love vintage shopping so much it makes my crotch hot. Forget Maestra; give me a new vintage website to trawl and I’m yours. Vintage shopping has come to define my travels: the vintage crochet blouse I picked up at Reformation, in LA; the white ruffle off-shoulder blouse purloined from the Haight, in San Fran; the red cape from the best Sunday market in The Marais, from which I will forever regret not also buying a double breasted velvet-trimmed leopard print blazer; a blue velvet coat that became subject of my first ever street style shot – worn with a hideous neon orange beanie and double hideous crystal choker; the white lace t-shirt that cost £1 from a market in the south of France and has been borrowed by every friend who chances upon it.

Of course, much of it is done in London or from London, online: the suede and sheepskin coat, the suede fringed jacket oh, and the other fitted suede jacket; the pale pink blouse with shoulder padding; the red polkadot slip dress from St Michael in its pre-M&S days; the gold shirt with ginormous lapels; the Michael Jackson t-shirt; the Céline belt, the YSL shirt dress from the Rive Gauche era (possibly my most favourite vintage spoil); the pink floral button-down maxi dress; the navy waistcoat; the aran knit (which has appeared in five posts on this blog, thus far) and the YSL gold sandals.

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Initially, I meant to share 3 vintage looks to go with this post. But then – full disclosure – I realised how many of my favourite pieces are vintage, and that couldn’t waste all my upcoming outfits under the guise of ‘vintage’, or I’d have no content left. I am passionate about vintage shopping for two reasons. Firstly, because it has serious feel-good factor. It’s cheap, unique and it’s unlikely to have been mass produced. If you want to put it in simple, pat-on-back terms, you are taking clothes out of the landfill, rather than putting them in.

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Secondly, because it feels like the right way to be shopping. I am no stranger to a cripplingly expensive buy. As my mother pointed out, the problem with me working in fashion is that my value system has changed. (I place value on something which costs £500, whereas my mother places value on something that costs £50. I am not sure either is the right or wrong way to be, except I am a profligate twat and she is not.) I am also no stranger to over-shopping. I recently did a massive spring clean – which felt fucking amazing as it enabled me to donate a big fat wodge of cash to charity, something I had long been meaning to do. Most interestingly, in that big fat sale, there was hardly any vintage. When I buy vintage, I love it. It’s exists outside of trends and fast fashion and feels all the more honourable and precious.

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All that said, I know that vintage shopping scares some people witless and shitless. Where do I start? People whisper, worriedly.

So here are some tips:

1. Don’t go vintage shopping in a rush. Give yourself a lazy hour or two to trawl the internet, or to peruse the rails. My favourites are the little stores along Golbourne Road, including Found & Vision and Rellick, though that’s very much for the vintage expert and the price tags are high.

2. Look up a market every time you hit a new city. It’s my favourite bit about travelling. The best I’ve encountered is the Sunday market in the Marais (Paris) so do google that before you go. I am still gutted I haven’t managed to coincide my LA visits with The Rose Bowl flea market yet. It’s where buyers for all the major high street stores go, to buy samples in order to ape for mass production. Yup, it’s that good.

3. Bookmark some great online destinations: for ‘pre-loved’ designer, I love Vestiaire Collective and The RealReal (although do note that Vestiaire is quite slow to arrive, so don’t buy if you want it sharpish.) For super affordable pieces, ASOS Marketplace is really brilliant (never be snobby about vintage haunts; often a total gem is surrounded by swathes of naff) and Beyond Retro has a vast database but if you have the time and patience, is totally worth it. My favourite, for near 15 years now, is eBay. It’s a matter of right time and right place with eBay, but in my opinion it’s the best.

4. Remember that you can get stuff tailored – buttons re-attached, armpits darned, zips re-instated, hems raised. But also remember that you can’t change the essence of a piece of clothing. So don’t buy it if there is anything structurally wrong with it.

5. Vintage shopping should not scream ‘VINTAGE’, it should assimilate into your closet as much as, say, a pair of brand new designer boots would. Case in point, is this outfit. My absolute favourite new shoes – Celine Rodeo boots, acquired as pre-payment for a job – align themselves well with my vintage belt, gold necklace and beloved leopard print shirt.

6. And now I’m going to tell you my favourite vintage spot: the basement of Topshop’s flagship store on Oxford Circus. I know, it’s hardly intrepid. I thought about not sharing it and instead name checking some obscure European second hand store that I ‘discovered’. But honestly, it’s brilliant – particular the Peekaboo Vintage section. It’s curated in line with current trends, so it means that you buy into something new you might’ve seen in a magazine, but with a one-off piece that no-one else gonna have (notice a theme here?) In particular, there are a lot of embroidered dresses (I just found an amazing off the shoulder embroidered white Mexican dress that I find people go ga-ga over and spend silly money on), A-Line mini skirts, suede and frilly shirts (my favourite.)

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I’m wearing a vintage shirt from Peekaboo Vintage and belt, All Saints leather jacket, Christie Nicolaides earrings, Re/Done Levi’s and Celine boots via Browns Fashion.

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