A Rough Guide To Vintage Shopping

This morning I caught up with Lily Allen’s quest for anonymity under a pile of (rather expensive) clothes. She and her party animal sister, Sarah Owen, are setting up shop together with the help of my favourite fashion consultant, Mary Portas.  The unique concept is that while couture pieces from the likes of YSL, Ossie Clark, and Dior are for sale at sky-high prices, shoppers with more flash than cash will be able to hire items at a subsidised rate.

I love vintage clothing for it’s one of a kind appeal and the feeling of being transported back to the decade you’re wearing.  My personal favourite vintage is 20’s, I love the glamour surrounding each piece and imagine myself in a smoky jazz club dancing the Charleston.  But back to 2011,  it’s not always easy if you don’t know what you’re looking for.  I have decided to compile a very quick guide to vintage shopping, by each decade, in the hope that you might find something beautiful.

If you are looking for a glamorous 1920’s ensemble, look for beaded dresses, feathers and fur.  This look is best kept for evening when you can go all out and have fun accessorising with layers and layers of pearls, pretty headbands, beaded clutch bags and a decadent fur stole.  Wear with round toe Mary Jane’s and shimmy the night away like Mr Bojangles.  30’s pieces are glamorous again but longer in length and made with sumptuous fabrics.  Look for cute hats and tailored riding jackets to wear with jeans for daytime. If you enjoy ladylike trends seek out 1940’s tea dresses and wear with pearls.  1950’s vintage dressing is all about creating womanly curves with figure hugging items such as pencil skirts and ¾ length fitted cropped jackets.  Accessorise with pretty neck-scarves and clutch bags.  Vintage prints are absolutely beautiful especially 60’s retro prints which are bold, bright and colourful.  Offset these prints with mini shapes (skirts and dresses) or pretty blouses.  Accessorise with plain, narrow, patent belts, classic knee-high boots or a statement chunky bracelet.   70’s hippie styles have unstructured and draped silhouettes, while the colours are often soft and muted which makes them great for your summer wardrobe.  This decade has been a major source of inspiration for designers this season and the high street has gone mad for hippie chic, so as well as hunting down original pieces why not seek a peep of what Phillip Green’s team have to offer.  Again, with 70’s dressing KEEP IT SIMPLE; think middle eastern touches with tan bag/shoe combos.  80’s dressing can be difficult, if you lived through the 80’s as a teenager it is more than likely that this is a decade you’d wish to completely forget about, fashion wise.  If you love the style look for shoulder pads and glitzy fabrics adorned with sequins and shimmer.  And that’s as far as vintage goes, I don’t think the 90’s qualify just yet!  So you’ll just have to wait a few years before scousers, Adidas poppers and lycra become vintage…

When shopping for vintage goods there are a few things to keep in mind.  More often than not a size 10 back in the day is more like a size 6 these days.  The average woman in Britain is more like a curvy size 14 now.  So when you’re looking at the finest vintage piece, YOU MUST TRY ON.  Vintage shops don’t have favourable returns policies so you may find yourself stuck with something you won’t ever wear.  When considering how much a garment costs think about the quality and condition.  LOOK AT THE LABEL, You may be surprised to find most vintage clothes are made closer to home or are even home-made.  Think of the time and care which may have gone into making one of those garments and remember anything made from wool, silk or cashmere is definitely worthy of a higher price tag.      Most importantly HAVE FUN!  Make a day of it with a friend or even better your mum, who will act as a walking encyclopaedia for vintage dressing in the 80’s, 70’s, 60’s and maybe even as far back as the 50’s!  Plan a vintage shopping route map before you leave and schedule time for afternoon tea of course.  Happy shopping!

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