Vintage clothing: it doesn't cost the earth

Vintage outfit

Shopping for clothes can be difficult sometimes. It can be frustrating if you're looking for something special or unique - especially if you're on a budget.

Many of us have experienced the moment when you turn up to a social occasion in clothes that you spent ages choosing, only to find that somebody else is there in the same outfit.

So how can you find clothes that are unique, relatively affordable and eco-friendly? The solution for increasing numbers of people these days is vintage.

What are the advantages of buying vintage?

Vintage can, admittedly, be a very nice word for 'second hand'. That doesn't mean, however, that vintage clothing is inferior to clothing you could buy on the high street today. There are, in fact, many advantages to buying vintage, such as:

  • It's cheaper. As a rule, for what you get, you do pay less. This is especially true if you get your vintage clothing from charity shops. Try http://www.oxfam.org.uk/shop/vintage. In some stores you can even get vintage wedding dresses for a fraction of the price of buying one brand new. And it's always worth having a look at your local car-boot sale. Try http://www.carbootjunction.com/
  • Vintage clothes displayed in a shop
  • It's eco-friendly. Many clothes today are made by processes that damage the environment. That's not to say that vintage clothes weren't made in this way - but by buying them you keep them in circulation, and out of landfills. It's basically recycling for clothes.
  • It can be free. Think about the relatives in your family who were your age or size during your favourite 'vintage' era. Well, there's a chance that they might have held on to those clothes - and they might let you have a rummage in their wardrobe.
  • Vintage clothes are often higher quality than modern ones. Vintage pieces often have hand stitching, embroidery and other examples of intricate craftsmanship. As one of your older relatives has probably told you - clothes were made to last 'back then'.
  • Fashion goes in cycles, so you could easily find something vintage that is in fashion right now.
  • You can get yourself a unique outfit. There may be thousands - perhaps millions - of people in the world wearing the latest high street pieces, but you'll own something truly original.
  • If you don't want to go the 'whole hog' with vintage clothing and still want your outfits to have a modern feel, consider buying some vintage accessories such as sunglasses, headscarves, belts, shoes or handbags. These items could complement a range of your current outfits.

Things to bear in mind

Vintage styled girl

Buying vintage can leave you with some wonderful, unique outfits, a healthier bank balance and a clean 'fashion conscience', but there are a few things you should bear in mind.

For example, vintage clothes are old. So when you buy old clothes, make sure you buy them from a retailer who gives their stock a lot of care and attention. Look out for imperfections in the clothes - small ones are fine, but take a good look to make sure it's not ripped or showing signs of mould.

Carrying on from this point, once you've bought the clothes you'll need to know how to look after them. Treat them with care, avoid strong washing powder and either hand wash or use a gentle cycle.

Secondly, depending on the era you're buying from, sizing may have been different back then. In a shop this can be easily rectified by trying it on first, but extra care should be taken when you shop online. Try to find a store that does free returns, if you can.

You can find some gems in vintage shops, but don't expect to find a designer dress for practically nothing. People all over the country - and the world - including designers, are looking for vintage bargains too. Bargains that are too good to be true are often snapped up very quickly. Be wary of vintage 'boutiques' or trendy stores too, as they may charge far over the odds for vintage clothing you could find in a charity shop or car boot sale.

If you want 'true' vintage then do your research. Vintage clothing is very popular at the moment, and high street shops are churning out imitation pieces. If you want a piece that is actually vintage, rather than just looking vintage, you'll need to know what to look out for. For example, avoid materials that are inappropriate for the time (like synthetics), plastic zips and buttons and modern labels.

Related resources


First/main image (Top) iStockPhotos / Izabela Habur

Second image iStockPhotos / PhotoBlanche

Third image iStockPhotos / RetroAtelier


Tags: Vintage, fashion, Oxfam, saving money, budgeting, environment, eco, clothes, recycling, ethical, vintage clothing

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