Variety is the spice of life, is it not, so today I’m mixing things up with a guest post from Monica Murgia. Monica is one of those happy internet finds, another kindred spirit with which to chat on twitter and to admire her own lovely blog, Monica D. Murgia. As she posted there:
“As a fashion lover and professor of fashion history, it’s no surprise that I have a passion for vintage. It’s a logical progression that since my working hours are dedicated to looking at art, fashion, and interiors from past eras that my enthusiasm for history often spills over into my free time. I’m an avid eBay shopper. American Pickers is my favorite show. Digging through flea markets and thrift stores is my idea of a modern-day treasure hunt. “
So a big thanks to a fellow treasure hunter and vintage fashion fan, Monica:
My real love of vintage began long before I even knew what vintage was. Both my mother and grandmother were avid vintage shoppers. They took me to countless auctions, rummage sales, estate sales, and thrift stores. Some of this was because they had seen harsher economic times when they were children. When forced to be thrifty, they were really surprised to see that there was an almost limitless supply of garments and accessories that had either never been used or worn a handful of times.
As a child, I was absolutely bored out of my mind as my mom would comb through racks of garments in search of that one, pristine piece. So, like any antsy child who’s mother is occupied, I’d wander around and amuse myself close by. These semi-supervised vintage extravaganzas served as my initiation to become a fashion connoisseur.
Picture of me as a child in front of mirror, trying on a jumper
As my indifference grew to interest, I learned from the expert: my mom. She trained me how to identify good quality fabrics, interesting silhouettes, and unique accessories. Of course the journey was filled with trials and errors. Not everything I purchased was good. But as time progressed, finding vintage that worked for me became easier.
Picture of my mom holding me. She looks like the 1980s poster girl!
The Vintage Traveler is focused on all of Lizzie’s amazing finds, which I love! So I was delighted to share a few of mine, along with my strategies for vintage shopping:
1) Enter with an open mind. This is a general rule of thumb for any shopping trip. It seems that whenever you are looking for something specific, you can’t find it. You box yourself in by looking for one idea, and loose the ability to find alternatives. Going to an estate sale, vintage boutique, or thrift store is unpredictable. There is simply no way of knowing what is there. It can be hit or miss. So the more flexible you are with your approach, the happier (and more successful) you will be.
2) If you like it, pick it up. Go through the store or sale, and gather everything that catches your eye. It’s much easier to edit your treasures down once they are in the same place. But if you don’t snatch it off the rack or shelf immediately, chances are it won’t be there when you’ve made up your mind.
3) Evaluate the quality of the item. Always look for stains, holes, tears, missing buttons, and odors. Tears and holes can be fixed, but you need to think about how much it will cost to repair the item. Also check to see if zippers function. Other things to evaluate are fabric content and fit. Is the fabric a good quality? Is the fit flattering? How does the color look on you? I found an jacket in a gorgeous shade of yellow that just spoke to me. The buttons were intact, but there were a few small holes along the seam. I was able to hand-stitch the areas back together easily. It was fully lined, and made in America from English wool. Which leads me to my next tip . . .
4) Read labels. Check the garment to look for distinguishing labels. Some garments might be homemade, which is always a nice find. Finding an old Made in America union label is also a treat. But once in a while, you’ll come across something you’ve never heard of. This happened to me several weeks ago. I found a stunning dress, and the label said Futurama Modes. It was a ready-to-wear line made in Paris, but I still haven’t uncovered anything about the brand. Now I have a great dress and a research project. What fun!
5) Ask around. Once you start shopping vintage, you’ll surely get hooked. Start asking around about good boutiques, expos, and stores. A little internet research goes a long way. That’s how I found Cheeky Vintage in Houston. And I found two lovely dresses there. One is blue with a tiki and floral print and has a matching bolero. The other is white with pink roses. Every time I wear it, I feel like Charlotte York from Sex in the City. If you are traveling, read up on the area and plan vintage shopping into your itinerary. Or consult The Vintage Traveler for some good recommendations!