Over the past few years, sustainability has become one of the most pertinent topics within the fashion industry. Consumer demand has been steadily growing as society has become increasingly concerned about ethical supply chains and the environmental impact of the fashion industry. Buying vintage or secondhand has seen a resurgence, with the likes of H&M and Browns trialling the sale of vintage clothes. I’ve been buying vintage clothing on and off for about a decade and recently, I’ve been consciously buying more secondhand pieces than new as I’ve been more concerned with sustainable fashion. I wanted to share my top tips for buying vintage clothing.
As an OG blogger, I remember vintage clothing having its heyday around 2012. Pretty much every blogger was wearing Jeffrey Campbells Litas and/or American Apparel disco pants with a mixture of vintage pieces and taking outfit pictures in their bedroom. This era really opened my eyes to buying vintage, before then I always shopped on the high street and thought secondhand clothes would be musty and in bad condition.
I was very wrong and became drawn to vintage clothing as pretty much every piece you find is unique. I also loved the process of finding a vintage treasure, shuffling through rails of clothes like you’re sifting for gold until you find something glinting in a sea of fabric. I don’t know whether it’s knowing no one else will be wearing the same piece or the ritual of finding a hidden gem, but every vintage piece I own has a special place in my heart.
I remember attending my first fashion week a decade ago. I had a much-coveted ticket to the Ashish show and zero idea about what to wear. After weeks of deliberation, I ordered a velvet and taffeta cocktail dress from a vintage site in the US. I cringe thinking about wearing it to a show now but I’ve still kept it all these years later.
Over time, I started to go off vintage. As much as I love the likes of Rokit and Beyond Retro, vintage shopping in London is pretty awful. The prices are sky-high and the choice isn’t great. I love vintage shopping in Paris, where most vintage pieces are €5 and you can score impeccable designer pieces by the likes of Chanel, Dior and Burberry for a couple of hundred Euros!
The fashion landscape also changed, fast fashion came into the fore and consumers became more trend-conscious. Falling in line and adhering to trends overtook the need to express your individuality through unique pieces. A lot of players joined the high street, the likes of COS, Arket, &otherstories have given us more choices than ever.
While working in the fashion industry, I learnt about its impact on the world. It’s the second biggest polluter on our planet after the oil industry. The fast fashion sector plays a huge part in this, as stores typically replenish their stock every 4-6 weeks rather than seasonally, consumers buy more and inevitably waste more. Fast fashion generates over 100 BILLION garments a year!
I’ve made a concerted effort to consume fashion more consciously. I’ve drastically cut down the number of new pieces I buy each season and I am much more considered with my purchases rather than impulse buying something I don’t want or need. I’ve also gone back to vintage shopping as it’s more sustainable. As a somewhat seasoned vintage shopper, I wanted to share my tips for buying vintage clothing:
1. Do your homework and find the best stores
As much as I love unearthing a vintage treasure, I dislike having to physically rummage through piles of fabric to find a hidden gem. I picked up the blazer I’m wearing from a vintage store called NOX in Bratislava. I had a feeling the vintage shopping would be pretty good so I did a little research online before heading to a couple of reputable shops. I wrote a guide to Paris and mentioned a few of my favourite Parisian vintage stores.
2. Quality control
I’ve learnt that you need to be super vigilant while vintage shopping the hard way so let me impart some knowledge – check each piece over thoroughly for rips, stains, missing buttons, frayed hems etc. Most things can be repaired but if you’re anything like me, fixing a button or hem can take months. I would also advise dry cleaning everything before you wear it – a good dry cleaner should be able to make minor mends too.
3. Ignore sizing and always try before you buy
Sizes vary widely across decades so ignore what’s on the label and try on each piece. I’ve got pieces which are three sizes larger than my “normal” size on the label but fit like a glove.
4. Don’t get seduced by brands!
If I had a penny for every time I nearly bought a vintage piece because it was designer, I’d probably have enough for the 1970s Dior clutch I stumbled upon in Paris (it was €230). I nearly bought a Burberry trench which was about 20 sizes too big and missing the belt just because it was €70.
5. Only make considered purchases
Shopping for vintage is more ethical but it’s essential to make sure you really love each piece you buy. There’s no point in buying a vintage piece if you’re only going to wear it a handful of times so make sure you really love it before you part with your cash. As vintage pieces are obviously older and more delicate, make sure you really cherish it and care for it to prolong its life.
Blazer – vintage | Slip dress – Topshop | Mules – Topshop (past season) | Belt – Moschino (past season) | Bag – Chloe (past season)
Photography by Lauren Dudley.