Vintage Shopping with Val

“Val Shops Vintage”


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Vintage Stores. Thrift Stores. Both are shining beacons in Valifornia that may hold the golden key to your fabulous new closet. Have you wondered if you’re cut out to find the gems amidst the rubble?

People are sometime surprised that a lot of what I wear is Vintage. But people are ALWAYS surprised when MOST of what I wear is from a Thrift store! The added bonus of someone complimenting your well put together outfit is when you can toss your scarf aside and say “Oh this old thing? It was 2 dollars at Goodwill….”.

My lessons below apply mostly to Thrift stores rather than Vintage boutiques. But! Since some shops offer both it’s prudent to know the difference. And depending on the item that difference isn’t always huge. Besides, calling something “Vintage” sounds so much fancier, right?

Read on to learn the ropes, kid…. 😉

Lesson #1:

Go Often and Don’t be afraid to DIG!

I really wouldn’t recommend Vintage/Thrift shopping to (or with) anyone that hates shopping. This is literally a treasure hunt. But instead of a pot of gold you’ll probably find a chunky turquoise necklace from the ’70s! Which in my opinion is way more appealing anyway…

Since Thrift stores have so many donations coming in and are usually busier and MUCH larger than Vintage shops I suggest checking in often for new items. You’ll have your work cut out for you. Though if you’re like me it doesn’t feel like work! It feels like searching colorful racks for something special to catch your eye. Will you rummage through mostly hideous things even your crazy Aunt Edna wouldn’t touch? YES. Most of the time.

Lesson #2

Check the Labels

—It’s very important to know your brands. If you’re EXTREMELY lucky (or at a higher end Vintage store that specializes in designer goods) you may find designer brands such as Ferragamo, Dior, Chanel, Pucci and Halston. I have found ALL of these in random Vintage/Thrift stores around the country. Mostly, LA to be fair. In my opinion I hold their vintage shops as the best of the best. Then again maybe I’m biased. I am from “SoCal” after all… 😉

However, it is RARE to find big designer names in thrift stores. Sure it can happen but that is the precise difference between ‘Vintage’ and ‘Thrift’ stores.  In Thrift stores (Goodwill, Salvation Army, Oxfam, Neighborhood Consignment shops) it is important to look out for more modest brands that you can trust when it comes to quality. Brands like JCrew, Chicos, Ralph Lauren, Express etc. are great fool-proof finds you can count on to last a good while in your closet. I’ve found that in certain stores that SHOULD know to charge more for “brand name” items sometimes don’t. Let their mistake be your fortune! I once found a baby pink 100% cashmere JCrew sweater that cost LESS than a simple plaid miniskirt from a brand that was definitely NOT good quality.

Bonus tip: If ANYTHING says 100% cashmere (or close to it)….just buy it. Trust me. You’ve found a gem!

Lesson #3

Can it be repaired?

–Some items you find may have small tears, or faint stains depending on how old or worn it is. Something small on a garment that you feel is WORTH a repair should still be purchased if you can fix it yourself or know someone who can at a reasonable price. If the repair is going to cost a LOT more than the item itself? You may want to think twice.

Any item you consider purchasing should be closely scrutinized…Feel the fabric! Does it feel cheap? Rough or uncomfortable? Hold it up! Will it be too sheer when you have it on? This is why the next tip is SO important…

Lesson #4

Utilize the Dressing Room

I always stress the importance of trying something on before you buy it (buyers remorse doesn’t look good on anyone…) but this is especially true when shopping in Vintage/Thrift stores. Most of their return policies are very limited as the items are already being sold worn. AND! If you find something at such a low price (which is the entire beauty of thrift stores…) you’re less likely to make the trek back to the shop to return it anyway and will simply throw your money away.

Trying on Vintage clothes is crucial. Sizing was different in other eras and you’ll notice this almost immediately. That’s why my advice is to try on a lot of things that catch your eye. If it looks too big you can always have it taken in. Or! Belt it yourself.  Which reminds me to remind YOU that it is a cardinal Fashion sin not to thoroughly browse the accessories section in Vintage stores. I’ve found the BEST cinch belts, scarves and purses there. And don’t get me started on hats and cat-eye glasses. We’ll be here all day….

In Thrift stores you may be the only one with an armload of goodies who actually makes the effort to pile into a dressing room and start a thrifty fashion show….starring YOU. But that’s the fun! This is the best time to check each garment  (while it’s actually on your body) for rips, tears, visible seams, broken zippers/buttons or uneven hemlines. Refer to tip #3 if you find any of these unfortunate mishaps!

Lesson #5

Be Creative

This is the most important lesson I can give you when it comes to shopping in ANY store: Have FUN with it. Get inspired! Websites like Pinterest, blogs like Manrepeller and magazines like Vogue & Harpers Bazaar are FULL of stories & images that should make you WANT to put outfits together on your own. Putting your own twist on each one.

The reason this lesson is particularly important when shopping at thrift stores is because it pushes you to be ORIGINAL. The pieces you’re browsing through are not what all of your friends have seen in the same old chain stores in the mall or on every celebrity in a magazine. Perhaps it was one of a hundred of the same garment on a rack in a store years ago. But NOW it’s fallen by the wayside and is begging to be reinvented by YOU.

What really excites me is re-working a piece that at first glance looks unwearable. Have you found a beautiful blazer from the 80’s? Tear those shoulder pads out. Cut those sleeves off. Voila! A modern twist on a classic. Maybe it’s a skirt you found that can be shortened into a cute mini? Or a scarf that when worn around the neck looks old fashioned but looks fresh when tied onto a purse handle.

The possibilities are endless! Take your time. Look at each item with a creative eye and an open mind.

Now, go forth my young treasure seekers! Stay brave! Remember…it’s only Fashion. 😉

Yours truly,
Vintage Val <3


PS: Thank you #LuckyMag for adding me as a contributor! Proudly sporting the Lucky badge with pride.


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