Why Everybody Who's Anybody is Wearing Vintage Clothing (And How You Can Too)

It used to be that vintage clothes were only worn by those folks who couldn't afford to go shopping at the mall. Not anymore! Today, some vintage clothes can carry high price tags that rival those of the hottest designers. At the same time, a lot of clothes hanging in stores at the mall don't look a whole lot different than the ones I sort through in thrift stores! What's going on? First, in fashion today, pretty much anything goes. Sure there will always be "trendy" items that get featured in magazines but more than ever, a confident woman has permission to wear anything and everything that catches her fancy. In fact, mixing high-end designer clothes with thrift store finds is becoming an enviable art. In addition, more and more celebrities are being photographed wearing vintage pieces and America loves to mimic its celebrities. From Julia Roberts' gorgeous Valentino Oscar gown to Sierra Miller's boho look to the Olsen twins' cut-up and otherwise recycled vintage outfits, as we see more celebrities embracing vintage fashion, we start to embrace it, too. The recent popularity of vintage clothing is probably also do to what we're seeing in the latest fashion pages. For example, last spring embroidered tunics were all the rage. Similar embellished blouses were popular in the sixties and seventies and you can be sure that at least some of the ones you saw strutting down the street were vintage pipeces purchased on Ebay or at one of the many internet clothing boutiques. This fall, fur, slouch boots and Victorian looks are popular. All of these are available in vintage pieces that will most often cost less than what you'll pay for a new version at the mall. Just the other day I was asked by a total stranger if my skirt was by Prada. Uhhh nope--it was a no-name vintage piece I picked up for a few dollars. You can experience the same thrill of being complimented on your outfit or handbag and being able to smile politely and say, "Thank you--it's vintage!" So what are you waiting for? If you've never worn vintage before, perhaps now is the time to start. Here's some tips for the Vintage Newbie: 1. START SMALL. Before investing in a vintage Pucci swimsuit, try picking up a smaller, less expensive item--perhaps a scarf, newsboy cap or little clutch. 2. BUY WHAT YOU LOVE. Forget what the magazines say are "in." If you absolutely love the way it looks and feels on you, and you know you'll wear it, BUY IT. 3. BUY IT NOW. Vintage pieces are one-of-kind. I learned the hard way to be decisive. By the time you get home and call the store to ask them to hold that perfect dress, it could be gone and it may be years before you see another one like it. If you're bidding on eBay, consider using an auction snipe service so you don't lose out. 4. CONDITION IS KING. Unless you have fabulous sewing skills or are best buddies wth an excellent seamstress, be sure to factor in the cost of alterations and repairs for any piece you're interested in purchasing. With some vintage clothes, you'll pay a premium for that "lived in" factor. A shiny black leather jacket just doesn't complete the look in some cases...you need one that has been worn outdoors for a few years so it carries that vintage patina. Small problems can be excusable--for example, a small mothhole on the inside seam of a beaded cashmere sweater is insignificant. One on the middle of the chest of that same sweater is not. Check items over carefully before purchasing. 5. GET TO KNOW VINTAGE SELLERS. Ask questions of online sellers and talk to owners of vintage stores you frequent. Let them know what you're looking for and ask them to keep their eyes out for you and contact you when they get something similiar into their shops. 6. BROWSE, BROWSE, BROWSE. Browsing respected internet vintage sites is one of the best ways to acquire an eye for quality vintage pieces. Also know what similiar new items are selling in stores by browsing at the mall and in fashion magazines. Start to learn which designer vintage labels will carry a premium due to their collectibility. Keep track of your favorite eBay sellers and that perfect internet store you stumbled upon so you can go vintage shopping whenever the mood strikes you. One final word of caution: Wearing vintage clothing an be additive. Before long, you'll probably be collecting a particular period, designer or item. I assure you, that will just add to the fun of being a vintage fashionista! Mary Kincaid has been buying, wearing, and collecting vintage clothing for over a decade. Visit her website at www.zuburbia.com to shop in her online vintage clothing boutique and join an online community of vintage clothing lovers. Copyright 2005, Mary Kincaid. May be reprinted in its entirety with full credit given to Mary Kincaid and a link to www.zuburbia.com.