Vintage shopping is a hobby that practically runs in my family. My grandmother taught my mother, my mother taught me and one day, I hope to teach my daughters. Ever since I was old enough to walk, I would accompany my Mom on her trips to markets, antique or thirft stores. And together we’ve explored these sorts of places all over the world, from Indonesia to Ecuador to most of mainland Europe, picking up a treasure here or there along the way means we have acquired vintage collections almost beyond belief. And then, of course at University, with a paltry budget combined with an almost unhealthy love affair for clothes meant that secondhand was really the only way I could afford to constantly update my wardrobe. And so, as a fervent lover of all things retro- and one to always get excited about the possibilities that lie within a scraggly thrift store or a less than chic market, I thought I’d share some of the tips I’ve learnt over the years. We decided to photograph our latest expedition to a flea-market, so follow me and I’ll give you some advice along the way.
Firstly, lets talk about what to wear – keep it simple, no heels, always flats. Dress casual and don’t wear anything that is easily distinguished as expensive, it will only encourage vendors to increase their prices when you ask. Bring a big bag – I usually prefer a backpack – I can throw all my purchases in here and keep both of my hands free for rummaging instead. This sort of shopping is work – the harder you look, the more you will find. Vendors usually put minimal effort into their presentation, so don’t expect to casually stumble upon something great. Be on constant lookout.
When considering potential purchases, be sure to quickly scan the item for damages, stains or rips. Buying used clothes is often a gamble, so its always best to double check the garment – especially if its a more pricey designer piece. Also and this is SO important and something I still fall victim to, don’t be dazzled by the pricetag – just because something is incredibly cheap, doesn’t mean you should buy it. I have donated bags and bags of stuff like this back to charity- trinkets I don’t like, clothes I’d never wear but bought purely because they seemed like such bargains. But is it really a bargain if you never use it? No, it’s not. Better to spend more money on one truly great find than buy a bunch of 1 euro junk. Be selective! My biggest weaknesses are vintage faux furs and hats – I was totally considering purchasing that oversized grey beauty above, but it was a little dirty and with 4 grey faux furs already, I decided to let it go. Same goes for that hat – I need another hat like I need a hole in my head!
Bring some ideas with you, what I mean is – I have a loose mental list of some of the things I am on the search for (some of which I have been looking for for years now, like that perfect perfume bottle shaped clutch I’ve seen nowhere ever) – this keeps your shopping priorities in check – anyone who frequents flea markets knows that sometimes they can be totally overwhelming, winding rows of stalls piled high with stuff that seem to expand on forever. Having some key pieces in mind (or you can be less specific and seek out certain prints or colours) makes the experience a lot less stressful. I was after some bright florals to use as print inspiration for the spring/summer Audrey Leighton collection – as you can see, I hit the jackpot!
And then there is that awkward endeavour called haggling, my grandmother was a pro at it – my mother and I still are yet toperfect the skill but I’d say we are getting there. Its important to be respectful with haggling, if something is less than 10 euros – I’ll always just pay asking price. As a online vendor I have huge compassion for people trying to sell and really there is nothing worse than that loud cheapskate trying to save 50 cents on something that is already so underpriced. But sometimes you gotta speak up and save yourself some dollar. Firstly, when you see something you absolutely love, don’t be too expressive about it -when vendors spot a super keen buyer they will automatically raise the price. Blankly inquire about price, if you deem it to high, politely suggest a lower amount. I spotted this adorable vintage Kodak instamatic camera – the seller wanted 30 euros for it, but I’d seen a few floating around on ebay before and knew it wasn’t worth more than 10 euros. After a couple smiles and a few laughs – he gave it to me for 10. And how cute does it look with my outfit?!
And so that concludes my little vintage shopping guide! I hope I’ve inspired you to head out and discover a new flea market, thrift or vintage shop in your area. They really are treasure troves – from furnishing your home, to your wardrobe to beautiful old books and cameras. Excited to hear which tips you put into practice and how they worked out for you!