One thing that I love in this world is vintage shopping.
Not the kind where you’re online Goggling “bohemian threads” and trying to look cool and follow trends with pieces resembling days gone by that somehow only look good in the photos with tiny young models sitting on the back of old classic cars with their hair blowing in the wind and big cowgirl boots on.
No that does not thrill me one bit.
I am talking about walking into an old classic vintage store where the smell of “musty meets mysterious’ wafts past your nose as you inhale and you light up at the potential staring you in the face from the racks of clothes and treasures in front of you.
You quickly suss out the sections and get your bearings; menswear, skirts, tops, jeans, long dresses, short dresses, and accessories.
As you do this you are already deciding where to tackle first and most importantly what colours, textures and fabrics are drawing you in today. I refer to this initial stage as ‘setting up the mojo flow’. When this initial sensation occurs I always feel it’s a positive thing, like I will find something in there, a lost treasure tossed aside waiting for me to come and rescue it again from the lonely life on the racks.
I have been trailing vintage shops since I was about 11 years old and in fact I would always prefer to go “Opp Shopping” when I was a kid instead of the local plaza or mall.
We call them “Opp shops” in Australia. Opp = Opportunity shop.
A name given to them for the opportunities they bring to those less fortunate and in need of help and support. Could also translate to the opportunities they provide thrill seekers like me searching for the next ‘statement piece’ to add my expanding wardrobe of discarded goods from all across the globe.
I love the hunt.
The way I scan the shelves and racks waiting, daring, begging for something to call out my name. Then as I receive that call I take into my hands the lucky chosen piece that has in some way tickled my fancy. As I inspect further I look for a clear “yes” or “no” as I study intimately the piece before me whether it’s shoes, a bag, a jacket or a dress. I don’t bother with “maybe’s” it has to be a clear “yes” to get through into the next round with me in which has to pass the ultimate 5 question test…
- Will I actually wear it? (very important)
- What kind of condition is it in?
- Will it fit me? (how much altering does it need to be perfect)
- What do I have that it will go with in my wardrobe?
And the most important question of all…
- Can I actually pull it off? (Translation: Can I look smoking hot in this piece of recycled goods instead of a try hard dressed in Great Aunty Ethyl’s daggy hand-me-downs!)
Now to get past this round it usually requires trying the item on and assessing it whilst you are wearing it.
Giving it a proper test run.
Now let me tell you that the majority of dressing rooms in these vintage stores are not pretty. Nor do they enhance the item or shopping experience like the ones you’ll find in the classy high street boutiques.
No these are quite the opposite. Small, pokey little rooms with bad lighting and badly placed mirrors. Some don’t even have mirrors at all!
Imagination is absolutely essential in these circumstances. You really have to feel out the piece and imagine how it will look alongside your boots, some red lippy and a leather belt for example. You have to engage all your senses and creativity and assess whether it needs a tuck here or a nip there or the hem raised or sleeves cut off. This is the creative process that I love – feeling and imagining the potential of this piece, not just accepting it for how it looks now.
Unless of course it is perfect and then my friend you have found yourself a rare gem and you should celebrate immediately by purchasing the item and follow up with either gelato or wine (depending on the time of the day).
I find it fascinating that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure and I love the fact that I can instantly revive this old tossed out piece of clothing and make it whole, loveable, wearable and living again. I love the concept of vintage shopping not to mention the less impact it has on our environment. Why do we have to have brand new stuff all the time? The rate the majority of people consume and discard these days makes me incredibly sad for the impact it has on our planet. Another (and somewhat important) reason for me to continue my love of vintage shopping.
I love the way different vintage shops are designed and laid out.
There are the ones where people have actually gone through and chosen pieces that are in good nick and sell at a higher price, the crème de la crème of vintage pieces that have already had the junk tossed aside leaving better options open for consumers. They often have very groovy, cool staff with lots of tattoos and piercings and fun music playing, often on an old recorder.
Then there are the vintage stores that are completely disordered and nonsensical. These require you to pull up your sleeves before rummaging through the racks. They make you work harder but also have hidden treasures that when you find them brings a real sense of accomplishment with the elatedness of a new piece. Usually run by volunteers who are always up for a chat and love putting their ‘two bob’ in about the selective pieces you have chosen when paying for the item. There is nothing like getting fashion advice for the $4 top you just purchased from a 77 year old volunteer named Bob.
And lets not also forget about (my personal favourite) the ‘colour coordinated’ vintage shops. They have the blue section, red section, pink section, and pattern section for example. The sweetest old ladies frantically trying to keep control by putting the right clothes back in the right colour section are often on staff at these vintage shops. I always chuckle when I find these ones; it provides some comedy to the search, which amuses me to no end. Especially when you come across a yellow jumper standing out amongst the green section. Classic!
Everywhere I travel in the world I always hunt down the vintage shops. Big cities are usually the best (particularly in Europe) as are very small country towns (particularly in Australia).
However my all time favourite place in the whole world to go vintage shopping where I have had the most gems, most success and most fun is Paris. Hands Down. The Parisians do vintage like no other (in fact they do most things like no other particularly in the fashion world). When I walk into the vintage shops in Paris my whole body comes alive and I get overwhelmed with excitement and possibility. A ‘quick look’ often turns into a 3-hour mission in the one store and through experience my husband quickly learnt to have a ‘meeting point’ for me when I am done, as I always take longer then I anticipate so he doesn’t have to sit and watch me try on 1000 dresses. The most treasured and admired pieces in my wardrobe come from the flea markets in Paris and these are the clothes I always get the most compliments on. If I could I would fly to Paris every year to trawl the beautiful markets for clothes, books and don’t even get me started on the antique furniture and art…ahhhh**swoon**
But my love affair for vintage clothes just really comes down to this;
I love the fact that I didn’t just grab my size amongst the identical clothes next to it on the rack.
I love the fact that this is a one of kind piece that already has mystical stories to tell.
I love the fact that it has already stimulated my imagination and creative juices for it to come alive again.
I love the hunt for treasure with the possibility of finding something awesome that no one else has.
And I love the fact that if I don’t wear it and I decide it’s not for me then I simply give it back and let someone else be called to it’s side.
So I wonder are you a treasure seeker on the search for the next vintage piece?
Have you ever brought a piece from a second hand store and fallen in love?
Where are your favourite places to shop for recycled threads?
I would LOVE to hear your thoughts, experiences and advice!
Happy Treasure Hunting