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Has vintage shopping become old hat?

Date

Stitched Up

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Unique finds are still possible, but beware items purporting to be vintage that are not.

Unique finds are still possible, but beware items purporting to be vintage that are not. Photo: Quentin Jones

Recently, while on the hunt for a new jacket, I found myself trawling the racks of some local vintage stores where I spotted a t-shirt that was, to be frank, practically a rag.

But it was a rag that also happened to be tour merchandise for a particular musician I was obsessed with in my youth. So I bought it. For $80. Actually, that made it more expensive than the mint-condition baseball jacket I bought at the same time. It wasn't until I got home that it actually sank in that I had just bought a second-hand t-shirt – complete with holes – for close to a hundred bucks.

So what is it about the term 'vintage' that makes even the most level-headed person part with serious coin for something that is, at the end of the day, second-hand?

Dale Mckie is Sydney-based stylist who often uses a mixture of vintage with contemporary designers in his work. He says the primary appeal of vintage is the probability someone else won't have it. “You are buying into something that is unique, something you are less likely going to see someone else wearing,” Mckie explains.

There is also much to be said for nostalgia. Fashion tends to look backwards in order to move forwards, and the old saying that if you hold on to something long enough it will eventually come back into fashion does have a grain of truth to it.

That doesn't mean you should hold onto your favourite pair of screen-printed paperbag-waist flares on the off chance that the decade they were made in will become on-trend again. However, like artwork, there is much to be said for owning an 'original'.

“When you buy vintage – real vintage – you're also buying into design and history,” Mckie says. “If you found a pair of Vivienne Westwood pirate trousers from her first runway collection in 1981, I'd snap them up – the value of these would be worth far more than what is in store now! These pieces are collector items and moments in history.”

Another reason to shop vintage is the environment. With disposable clothing from questionable sources becoming ever more prevalent in modern society, buying vintage is one way of minimising your wardrobe's carbon footprint.

With so many high street chain stores pumping out thousands of units of each garment, why not purchase a vintage version for similar cost? The same amount of work, if not more, has gone into producing the garment.

When all is said and done, however, it helps to remain realistic about buying secondhand. Much like 'organic' has become a get-out-of-jail-free card for supermarkets to mark up everything from bananas to bottled water, the term vintage is sometimes applied to things that may not be worthy of the tag.

It's not uncommon to walk into 'vintage' stores or visit websites selling alleged heirlooms that are, in reality, five years old at best. (Having said that, there is much to be said for the fashion of 2010, and I personally can't wait for it to come back into fashion).

A good rule of thumb whenever shopping for vintage is 15 years or older, unless you're after a specific style or era.

What has been your experience of shopping for vintage clothes?

39 comments

  • I remember in the 80's when you could do your vintage shopping at Vinnies and get a genuine vintage frock for no more than $2.00. Times have changed. Even Vinnies and the Salvos have cottoned on to the money to be made from vintage and people's desire to be 'unique'.

    Commenter
    Lyn
    Date and time
    May 02, 2014, 7:56AM
    • Yes I remember the 80s, when Wham were popular and you could buy a house for around 50,000 pounds. Your point is?

      Commenter
      Steve-O
      Location
      Sloane Square, London
      Date and time
      May 02, 2014, 10:24AM
    • Vinnies and Salvos and Lifeline and Anglicare and other charity op-shops are mostly still much cheaper than the inner city privately run 'vintage' or 'retro' stores, especially away from the inner suburbs. You might have to look through a lot of old stuff to find a gem, but that's part of the joy. And the money goes to charities. Just avoid the word 'vintage' and then 'even the most level-headed person' WON'T have to 'part with serious coin for something that is, at the end of the day, second-hand'.

      Commenter
      alto
      Date and time
      May 02, 2014, 12:51PM
    • Steve-O, the point might be that buying second hand clothes used to be a great way to score reasonably well-made, pre-sweat shop clothes until a generation of middle-class yuppie try hards decided it was cool to look as if you've got no money, and eventually made it crap like everyting else.

      Tip: regional op-shops are usually still worth a look.

      P.S. Yes, I am a grumpy old bugger

      Commenter
      Ag
      Date and time
      May 02, 2014, 1:19PM
    • Lol Stevo take a chill pill. I was just reminiscing. No need to get your over priced vintage knickers in a knot.

      Commenter
      Lyn
      Date and time
      May 02, 2014, 4:14PM
  • I was in a st vincent de paul yesterday and they were trying to sell old zips for $3 when brand new labelled ones are cheaper than that at spotlight or lincraft. Their old dress patterns were $2 when other charity shop prices range from 20-50 cents. Another shopper and I exchanged comments about how far beyond the price to buy they were and walked away from them. The individual advising the charity on pricing must be sitting in a glass house totally unaware of the real state of the economy or the knowledge of their customers.

    Commenter
    georgia
    Location
    melbourne
    Date and time
    May 02, 2014, 9:43AM
    • Yes Saint Vinnies has become the material girl.

      Commenter
      XXX
      Date and time
      May 02, 2014, 10:29AM
    • Exactly. I went to the Second hand clothes shop to get a couple of shirts for working in (dirty work). They wanted $8-$10 for flannys. I went to KMart and bought new ones (flanny) for $7. Whilst at the seconds shop I had a look around. The prices were pretty expensive for junk. I really don't think people know how to shop-around properly.

      Commenter
      TUX
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      May 02, 2014, 12:42PM
    • @georgia

      the people who run these stores are usually volunteers who do the best they know. YES - they sometimes overprice things as they already spend their time manning the shop, not price checking everything, but what you failed to mention is that YES sometimes they UNDER rpice things too! for every bad deal is a great bargain.

      I recently donated 6 bags of good condition clothes to local op shop, got a brand new unworn zip up hoody for $3. i wear it all the time.

      Commenter
      matt
      Location
      melb
      Date and time
      May 02, 2014, 1:06PM
  • I don't shop for vintage, period. The odour emanating from all second hand clothes is enough to make me heave. I figure, if some of them can charge 50 dollars for something that is donated to them for free, the least they can do is clean the item so their stores don't smell like feet. All of these second hand shops, from Salvos to St Vinnies, have only the rent as an overhead. They have volunteer staff and their stock is donated. Would it kill them to clean their stock so their shops don't stink of bygone body odour?

    Commenter
    AnnaM
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    May 02, 2014, 10:01AM

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