I was recently wearing my vintage fur coat, which is one of those pieces of clothing that can only be described, in vapid Tyra-speak, as “fierce!” But what I didn’t notice about it was that a huge chunk of said coat had ripped from its lining! So, in hoping this doesn’t happen to you, I’ve compiled a few vintage shopping tips.
I love to vintage shop. I love flea markets, antique stores, and thrift stores too. The one-of-a-kind factor is enticing, especially when every girl on the street seems to have that Target sundress. But vintage/thrift/secondhand/consignment shopping is tricky business. And so, without further ado, here are the basic tips to shopping secondhand.
1. Look at the garment closely. If it’s torn somewhere, it can’t be repaired by you or a tailor, so leave it behind. Seams are easy to fix, and things can be hemmed in a snap, but there are places, and fabrics, that are difficult to repair. Check the armpits, zippers, and look for stains that can’t be removed.
2. Lots of pilling on that sweater? Probably not worth buying.
3. Don’t buy something just because it’s designer. Via’s Vintage had an amazing ’80s rose-print Yves St. Laurent jacket but it just didn’t suit me. I had to leave it behind.
4. Try things on! If you’re shopping for vintage dresses, the sizes run a little differently than they do now. A size six nowadays was definitely not a six in 1955.
5. Don’t dress head-to-toe in vintage clothing. It’s 2009, not 1972. Polyester can work, but only in small doses.
6. Find something you love and seek to collect it. For me, it’s Vera silk scarves ($8 at Everyday People) and the hope that one day I’ll find a real Chanel or Louis Vuitton bag for $50.
The best of the best vintage/secondhand/consignment/antique shops
Tatters - Right on Lyndale & Lake, it’s painted green so it’s hard to miss. Their Levi collection is amazing, and once in awhile they’ve got one of those ridiculously perfect worn-in Rolling Stones t-shirts. They’re sort of spendy, but honestly, I wear one of my $30 1987 Harley t-shirts at least once a week. Via’s Vintage, Uptown - This is where you should go if you need a vintage piece in pristine condition. Via’s is so perfectly edited that everything offered is flawless. It’s pricier than most, but they’ve even got pieces from the Victorian era, which are probably more fun admired than worn. Lots of ’50s prom dresses, pillbox hats, and rhinestone jewelry. The last time I stopped in, I picked up a ’60s sequined cardigan for $35.
GH2, Northeast - The baby sister of super-spendy and sort of staid Grethen House, GH2 always has at least ten items on its racks that I need to own. Louboutins for $150 occur once in awhile, as do Alexander Wang sweaters and Chanel jackets. (Those are still really expensive, FYI. A Chanel jacket demands the dollars.)
My Sister’s Closet, Grand Avenue, St. Paul - It’s a house full of secondhand clothing! A house! A friend of mine found Ferragamo Varina flats there, and I know they’ve got some designer denim hidden in their shelves. And you’re close to Grand Avenue, so you can stop at Wild Onion for bellinis afterwards, or maybe Café Latte for flourless chocolate cake. (Things I love almost as much as shopping: cocktails and cake.)
Hunt & Gather, Fiftieth & Xerxes - My favorite antique/junk shop ever. It needs no further explanation. I could spend a good portion of my life in Hunt & Gather, because its rooms full of vintage dresses, knick knacks, old photographs, gorgeous, if a bit shabby, armchairs and children’s toys never seem to end.
Honorable mentions: Refind Vintage (St. Paul), Lula (Selby Ave., St. Paul), Everyday People (Dinkytown/Uptown), Fashion Avenue (50th & France), Optiz Outlet (St. Louis Park), eBay, etsy.com, estate sales
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