I have a weakness for Vintage, both champagne and clothing! Actually, any given Monday morning, I’m feeling a bit vintage myself!
Vintage shopping for me began in my young and carefree days when living in London. I loved to jump on the bus to Camden Market and rifle through the goodies calling my name. I can still smell the delicious smokey city air with the notes of Cafes and Caribbean food stands on Portobello Road. I would get off the tube at Notting hill and wander down Portobello Road peeking at the Vintage goodies. I recall the amazing jewellery, dresses, lace, silks and oh………time to stop reminiscing!
Vintage fashion happily skips along with my capsule wardrobe mission. It’s not only more sustainable but by collecting the outstanding Vintage pieces over time. They become part of a wardrobe that I can now begin to say “I love”. I have noticed that despite my style & taste being the same over the years. My shopping approach has definitely taken a different path. I am changing towards no longer buying clothes that are made to last just one season but now drawn towards buying clothing that once you really nail your style and the look you’re after, then those pieces now last a decade. Hear the drum roll for a spot of Vintage shopping.
This is the perfect time to declare my love for a good old Vintage fair. The best bit about a Vintage Fair is that everything is prepped ready for sale. The pieces are often cleaned, inspected and ready for their new owner. It’s a very different experience to rummaging through a thrift or charity shop. Last weekend I went to the bi-annual (Fall & Spring) Ottawa Vintage Clothing show. It’s a beautifully curated show full of Vintage treasures from across Canada. Stunning pieces from Military jackets to Kimonos and Fur coats to Chanel handbags. Absolutely bloody stunning.
What clothing is classified as vintage?
The opinions can vary slightly but with a little trip to Wikipedia, I have learnt the general meanings behind the terms:
- Antique is clothing produced before 1920
- Vintage is clothing produced from 1920 to 20 years prior to present day
- Retro (Retrospective) interestingly is considered clothing that imitates the style of a previous era
- Reproduction (Repo) is a newly made copy of an older garment
- Modern/contemporary is clothing produced recently
What I love about vintage
There is so much to love about Vintage. For me, I say ‘bring on’ the supreme quality of pieces as they are often made with pure craftsmanship and beautiful fabric. Why buy a ‘vintage inspired’ patterned polyester neck scarf from H&M for $10 when you can buy a genuine 100% silk scarf from a Vintage show that reflects a pattern true to its era. Not only are the vintage pieces made so well to high standards but the cut and natural fabrics are so much better than today’s clothing. Apart from the beloved dodgy 70’s polyester treats. You will often find vintage clothing is the real deal with the use of silk, wool, cotton, fur, leather etc.
Vintage flies the flag for sustainable fashion
I adore the vintage labels modestly telling us they are made in England, Canada, Paris, Italy etc. You know they have arrived at the vintage show carrying with it a piece of history and a story of its own to tell. This is sustainable fashion at its best. Quality clothing made to last and loved throughout the years. By buying vintage pieces, you are helping towards preventing more rubbish heading to the landfill rather than buying the fast fashion replicas.
My Shopping tips for a Vintage Fair
- It’s good to go early for the selection of amazing pieces and possibly towards the end of the day too as vendors may be happy to take a little less than asking price.
- You snooze, you lose! If you see something heavenly that you can’t live without then just bloody buy it. Vintage pieces are often one of a kind. If something is calling your name and you feel it will be a winner then just promptly Whip your purse out. It’s not a ‘good look’ on a woman to be sat in a corner sobbing and rocking back and forward muttering ‘evil greedy cow’ to the woman who bought the Givenchy scarf you lusted after but left to look at other stuff.
- Don’t cry at the label sizing numbers. Remember we are a different shape to the way they were back in the day. Ironically a size 16 in the 50’s equates more towards a size uk12 or us8 today. So no need to bring the hyperventilating paper bag, just eye pieces up and try them on!
- I say, wear your vintage shopping battle gear. There won’t be any purpose-built changing rooms, and if there was a changing cubicle. It will probably be communal. Be prepared and co-ordinate your outfit of the day with some leggings and a tank top underneath. That way you can try things on at a moments notice anywhere, anyplace.
- Remember that vintage clothing is exactly what it’s title declares…..vintage. Don’t go expecting pristine ‘fresh from the packet’ items wrapped in tissue paper. Having said that, I can’t count how many times have I seen a wonky seam or threads loose on bargain high street gem. If it’s vintage, you like it, then just wear it. End of!
A very different shopping experience
The best bit about a vintage show is the buzz. The people sifting through items and racks are collectively all ‘ooh-ing and ahh-ing’. They all have something in common with their passion for fashion and vintage treasures. But they are all eclectic and individual in their style and how they carry off the vintage pieces in their wardrobes. The vendors often passionately share the story behind the item or how they acquired it. As I go to try a coat on then three other women stand and we patiently take our turns with the ‘yay or nay’ reflection. I love how we all stand dishing out the compliments to one another and giving each other tips on how to style it, wear it or alter it. The whole room seems alive.
Highlights of the Vintage fair
The Pierre Cardin Skirt
I met a lovely lady from Vita Vie Vintage selling this stunning Pierre Cardin skirt. I was drawn to it instantly and asked if I could take a photo of it. She then proceed to tell me about how excited she was to have this piece to sell as the ‘sister’ skirt is in the Pierre Cardin Museum in Paris. Fascinating information that I would never get on a Sunday afternoon at Zara!!!
The 60’s Cape
I then spotted a beautiful checkered cape that I liked but needed to grab my husband to get his opinion on. Once I holler him over to the booth, he tells me that he remembers Allegro Retro as it was a retro shop he would go to in the 80’s. Low and behold when I decide to buy the cape ( in the meantime five other women spot me trying it on and are hovering over me to grab it if I put it down. I knew I was onto a winner!) I chat with the vendor and tell her how my husband remembers the shop in the 80’s. Instantly she told me she recognized him and recalled him as a Mod! So then the three of us get chatting and share our life stories, sharing what the two of them have both been up to the last 20 years. She was not surprised he moved and lived to England for 16 years and was not surprised he married a Brit! Such a great moment and instantly the shopping experience went from just buying a cape coat to securing a fabulous piece of vintage with a fabulous purchase memory and connection with Allegro Retro to boot. Again, not likely to happen in H&M on a Saturday afternoon!!
The incredible collection of Vintage Chanel bags
This was an amazing booth from Luxe touch. The loveliest people were behind this booth. They saw my eyes light up at the bags and kindly gave my boys a bottle of water and a cookie to sit down with whilst their mad mum considered selling a kidney to buy one of these beauts. The bags were in pristine condition and ranged from $2000 to $2500. I began to contemplate why you would buy a new one if you could bag (pardon the terrible pun) a vintage one for much less. Certainly not my reality but for someone else with the pocket-money, these stunners would be perfect.
You know I didn’t go home empty-handed!
The yellow cape was clearly a winner. It had to be done. I also came across a lovely little booth selling silk scarves, ties and vintage tops. My ‘spidey senses’ instantly came to life and I found the most beautiful silk Echo leopard print scarf. A gorgeous $10 bargain that had cost at least half the price of a polyester one at Zara!! The scarves were neatly folded and labeled in little plastic ziploc bags. It was a breeze to delve in and go through the selection. I also came across some beautiful vintage Liberty of London scarves. I bought a beautiful black one and gave me the warmest glow to think this gem had travelled all the way to Canada from England. Can you imagine the stories it could tell and the lives it had been part of.