Shopping vintage : 6 questions to ask

It’s a fantastic feeling to find unique fashion pieces that everybody wants but nobody else has, and one of the best ways to do this is by shopping for vintage.

That doesn’t have to mean a wardrobe of outfits blaring straight from the sixties (unless that’s the look you’re going for, in which case more power to you). If you get it right, vintage shopping can result in one-off pieces that help you create stand-out outfits which in turn produce a wardrobe that friends and strangers alike will envy.

Start by only buying things you truly love and avoid being sucked in by ‘bargains’. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and persuade yourself to buy a piece because it’s cheap and unique, but take a moment to be sure everything you bring back to your wardrobe is a true reflection of your personal style and will add value to your outfits.

Keep an open-mind or you can overlook the best finds. And also remind yourself that it’s okay to come home with nothing at all – sometimes the fun of vintage shopping is in the browsing.

A quick online search will bring up vintage shops near you. Antique centres are a great place to start because they house treasures sourced by many sellers, who will likely specialise in different eras and styles.

And when you’ve found where you intend to shop, here are six simple questions to ask yourself when hunting for vintage fashion.

1.    What condition is the piece in?
Items that are faded and look tired, losing their stretch, missing buttons or embellishments are sometimes more hassle than they’re worth. Make sure you check the garment thoroughly for imperfections.

2.    Will I wear this?
Take a quick photo of your existing wardrobe before you go shopping. It makes it much easier to decide whether what you’re trying on will go with anything back in your wardrobe.

If you have a bad habit of buying things that don’t go with what you already own, try limiting yourself to vintage accessories. Take a photo of a few outfits you wear often and have them in mind when looking at accessories. Leather belts are an easy place to start. This is also a good approach if you find yourself overwhelmed by choice in a vintage store.

3.    Do I already have something similar?
We are constantly drawn to familiarity. Do you bring items home only to discover you’ve already got something extremely similar? Again, take a photo of your existing wardrobe – it will help you decrease the chances of bringing home doppelgangers.

4.    Will this need tailoring?
If you’re going to buy something that doesn’t fit perfectly, don’t let it sit in your wardrobe taking up space – get it tailored immediately. Also keep in mind that tailoring isn’t a cheap exercise so if you’re going to the trouble, make sure it’s for a piece you really love. When taking an item to get tailored, be very specific about what you want. For example, never assume the tailor knows you want stitching in a certain colour or the sleeves to be a certain length.

5.    Is the price right?
Ask if the marked price is the best they can do. As New York fashion collector Iris Apfel says, if you don’t ask you may be doing the seller a disservice – if you don’t haggle, they’ll think they’ve priced it too cheap.

6.    Is this a legitimate piece or am I buying counterfeit?
If you’re buying fashion by well known and high-end brands, do your research to make sure the piece is legitimate. A quick google on how to distinguish fakes of a particular brand is a good place to start.

At first glance you may be able to tell an item is a fake by poor workmanship and cheap materials like dodgy zippers or the substandard look and feel of synthetic leather, but sometimes it takes a closer inspection.

For example, if you wanted a Chanel classic flap bag, the hardware should never bend or tarnish - that includes zippers, buckles and chains. If the bag has quilted stitching, the stitching on the flap of the bag should align with the stitching on the body of the bag when it’s closed. That level of detail is beyond most replica bags.

Let the treasure hunt begin!