I am a huge fan of vintage and thrift shopping, I just love it. I feel this sense of competition when perusing second-hand wares, like I am competing to find the best hidden gem for the best price. For me, it’s not just about getting a cool item but getting it for so cheap that when someone asks where it’s from I can proudly say I got it for $5 and wait for their incredulous response. It’s a similar thrill I get when finding amazing buys at fast fashion retailers but we’ll save that for another post. We recently went to the San Diego Vintage Market in nearby downtown North Park and perused the wares for sale. This got me thinking about my advice for vintage and thrift shopping and prompted me to share my top tips for buying from vintage, thrift and second-hand stores.
TIP #1 : THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
I don’t focus on the womenswear section of a vintage shop or market, I look at everything. Men’s, children’s, home goods…I scour all of it. With changing trends, there are often styles worn by men or kids of yesteryear that are now on-trend for women. I have found sweaters in the kids section, shawls in the home section and jackets in the men’s section so make sure you get a look at everything not just the pieces for “women”.
TIP #2 : FABRIC FIRST, FIT SECOND
Unless the item in question is super teeny, the fit of a vintage piece is totally irrelevant. I scan the racks for fabrics before I even pull anything out to see what it looks like. Why? Because everything can be altered, tailored and adjusted but the fabric is what you’re stuck with. Just by scanning the racks I can see if there are specific colors, prints or textures that catch my eye. I found a bright blue floral housedress last spring at my vintage shop that was a size XXL. It was comically huge on me when I tried it on. Which was the jackpot in my eyes since it meant I had a ton of fabric to work with. I know not everyone is going to create a brand new piece like I did, but simple alterations are easily done by any tailor. So focus on the fabrics, not the fit. You can never go wrong with a great vintage print!
TIP #3 : LOOK OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Unless you are willing to pay more than you have to, never go to the famous vintage shop or market looking to buy clothes. They jack the prices up at these places since they know tons of tourists will be there. Instead I like to hit up the the more unexpected spots. Beyond my local vintage shop (here was my go-to in NYC), I check out Goodwill, Salvation Army and random mom and pop shops. Oftentimes the people who are shopping at these stores aren’t interested or even know what the “trendy” styles are so your competition for finding an amazing piece is way less. I even scored a beaded blush chiffon vintage flapper dress from Buffalo Exchange for $12 once, so I don’t write those places off either.
So those are my top tips! I hope this has inspired you to get out there and dig for hidden gems at your local vintage, thrift or secondhand store. Not only will it save you some money, you get something totally unique and help reduce waste by recycling old items. Let me know if you have any other tips for finding great vintage!