I fell dress-over-heels in love with collecting vintage clothing in 2014. I had been living in England for about 18 months and one evening accidentally discovered a Channel 4 TV show called ‘This Old Thing’ hosted by Dawn O’Porter. I was immediately drawn to her infectious personality, passion for vintage and the uniqueness of every vintage piece she found for her guests. My vintage love is not new, just the collecting. I have always been drawn to images of women from the 1940’s and 1950’s who were photographed wearing exquisite dresses and gorgeous gowns, especially from Christian Dior’s New Look era. Perhaps these were the vintage pieces I really wanted in my wardrobe but knew I couldn’t afford. So for a long time I pretty much ignored the idea of owning vintage and the vintage clothing world, except for what I saw on the pages of fashion magazines or books. That is up until 2014 when Dawn’s TV show ignited my passion for collecting and wearing vintage pieces. I religiously watched every episode of the show and even bought her book. And so began my vintage collection journey.
I started with a Geoffrey Beene vintage dress I procured on Etsy. It was a lovely long-sleeve, black and white geometric pattern dress with a blue bow. When the package arrived I eagerly inspected the dress to check the condition and craftsmanship, and couldn’t wait to slip on the dress. Undoing the back zipper I carefully stepped into the dress, inserted my arms into the sleeves and gently pulled the dress over my shoulders. ‘Oh!’ was my first reaction. My all too wide shoulders had other ideas about a perfect fit. Disappointed, I hung the dress up in my closet and every couple of days would obsessively pull out the dress to try on again. Maybe my shoulders had miraculously shrunk during the night? Nope, they hadn’t. One day after trying to zip up the dress for the third or fourth time, frustrated I forcefully stretched my arms forward and heard a loud ripping sound. Yes, ‘this old vintage thing’ was really too small, and now completely ruined. Undeterred, and with my vintage passion in tact, I kept up my search for lovely vintage dresses. My second purchase was a 1970’s dusty pink, apple print vintage dress by Helga. And yes, it fits me perfectly.
Now, I have to tell you I am drawn more to the designer vintage clothing market. I have tried shopping in the local vintage thrift type stores and always ended up walking out after about ten minutes. There is nothing wrong with these stores, they just don’t fit with my style, quality and type of vintage pieces I am looking for. Whilst I cannot afford the outrageously expensive vintage pieces which sell for tens of thousands of dollars like the iconic Christian Dior, there are some great vintage buys in the mid-range designer vintage price point (typically my budget is anywhere between $400 to $1000 USD). My absolute favourite era for purchasing at the moment is the 1970’s and my favourite way for sourcing vintage pieces is online – a tip I learnt from Dawn. A few designers I am drawn to are from the USA, Japan and Europe such as Bill Bass, Lanvin, Yves Saint Laurent, Pauline Trigere, Valentino, Molly Parnis, Hanae Mori and basically any designer who created fabulous 1970’s maxi dresses or skirts. There are plenty of reputable vintage dealers on the internet who also ship internationally and a few of my favourite websites are:
So whether you love thrift store vintage or designer vintage, its definitely a great way to find unique pieces and develop your own sense of style. For me, vintage shopping is also an environmentally friendly way to reduce the mountain of clothing that ends up in land fill each year. After a couple of years of collecting, I now have some lovely vintage pieces which I will continue to style and share with you as I don’t see my vintage love affair ending any time soon. Now I just need to find a place to store my ever expanding collection.