Done right, a spot of thrift store style can be just what your wardrobe needs.

Done right, a spot of thrift store style can be just what your wardrobe needs.

Cars and champagne aren’t the only things worth going vintage for.

Dressing vintage has its advantages: it’s cheap, unique and often dapper. But the second you start making some decent cash it’s all too easy to overlook second-hand stores in favour of factory-fresh fashion. Which is understandable, given how annoying it can be to trawl through piles of second-rate items in search of that perfect piece.

Not to mention it can leave you looking like a particularly terrifying children’s entertainer if you mix and match without impunity.

But, done right, a spot of thrift store style can be just what your wardrobe needs. Whether you want to dress head to toe in your new finds or just add a little extra something to your usual look, there are some things to look for – and pitfalls to avoid – when embarking on a vintage adventure. Take my hand.

Location, location
If you want to be specific, vintage clothing refers to anything produced from the 1920s to the 1960s. Before this is considered antique and after this period it's, well, '70s and '80s awesome. Though, in this instance, let’s take vintage to mean second-hand clothing in general.

While any old mothball-smelling shop can call itself vintage, it’s best to stick to specialist consignment stores or well-known recycled clothing stores along major shopping arteries.

Quality control
The single most important thing when it comes to pre-loved clothing is quality. You might be able to get away with the odd beautiful-but-poorly-made home furnishing but when it comes to daywear, threadbare isn't going to cut it.

The good thing is that quality vintage is from an era where clothes were built to last. Check that your new favourite jacket or the like is lined and well cut. Look for holes, insect or otherwise, uniform colour that doesn’t fade away in patches and that all buttons or other embellishments are there. After that you’re good to go – if it’s made it this far in one piece then it’s a keeper.

Tried and tested
Try the thing on. Not only is this a foolproof way to make sure a garment fits you properly, you’ll be up close and personal enough to take in any weird odours. While we’re on the topic, most reputable shops pre-wash the clothes before putting them on the floor but not all do so give it another whirl when you get home or drop it off at the cleaners.

Also, don’t be afraid of alterations. Never buy something that’s too short or tight across the back or inner seam, but if there is excess fabric on an otherwise great item it might be worthwhile getting something taken in or up.

If you’re buying online ask about the return policy in advance. You might land a bargain, but if it doesn’t sit right it’s still going to be a waste of money if you can't send it back.

Contextual relationship
It’s good to keep an open mind when it comes to thrift stores. A leather jacket might seem ridiculous on a mannequin also wearing flares and a mesh singlet, but on its own could be a great find. Think of what you have in your wardrobe back home and where it could fit in.

Conversely, don’t get tricked into buying something you’d never wear in your day-to-day life. Go into the situation with a specific budget – rare pieces can sometimes get pricey – and item in mind. You’ll be much less likely to walk out carrying something you’ll end up donating back to the store after your next closet cleanout.

What else do you look for when searching for second-hand style?