Have you ever found yourself in the middle of the thrift store's vintage section-completely amazed by the timeless pieces, the quality of the fabrics, and the intricate details of the perfectly tailored dresses. I've noticed that the items I find in the vintage section exhibit a certain level of chic and they have 'first lady' written all over them. Great silky fabrics, bow tie necklines, and below the knee midi skirts. Did you then double back and stop to wonder what the hell does 'vintage' really mean? Have you ever wondered if thrifting and vintage shopping means the same thing to people from other countries? Do they value it there as much as we do here?
Well I've teamed up with one of my favorite UK bloggers, Franca from OrangesAndApples, to discuss the aspect of 'charity shopping' and exactly what the terms 'vintage' and thrifting mean to her.
Everyone say hello to Franca.
Miss Rockwell (MR): Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Franca (F): I'm Franca. I live in Edinburgh, Scotland, though I'm originally from Luxembourg. I'm a social scientist by day and I'm really into all things crafty and artsy. My blog reflects that: it's basically one part outfit pictures (which are usually very colourful), one part crafty artiness (at the moment I'm into photography, but I'm also a knitter, and a beginner sewist) and one part think pieces on fashion, society and feminism.
MR: Everyone has a different perception of 'vintage shopping'. What is your definition of 'vintage'?
F: I would define vintage as anything older than 20 years. I've seen clothes from 2000 described as vintage and I definitely wouldn't class that as vintage yet. But to be honest, I'm not that bothered at how old something is. I have a few reproduction 1950s dresses from the 1980s, and I love them no less than my 1950s originals. The main thing that matters is whether I like something.
MR: How long have you been a vintage shopper?
F: I've been wearing second hand (as it was called then, the term vintage didn't exist yet) since I was born. I always loved getting hand me downs from my cousins and rediscovering my mum's clothes. Second hand isn't a very widespread thing in Luxembourg, so I didn't do much shopping myself when I was young. But when I moved to Edinburgh for university in 1999, I was like a kid in a candy store with all the charity shops everywhere. For a few years, I went thrifting probably 2-3 times a week, and would get LOTS of stuff. This is how I started learning about vintage, and recognizing different eras and styles. And around this time I discovered the blogosphere too, and made 'friends' with fellow thrifters via the wardrobe remix group on flickr.
MR: What motivated you to begin shopping for vintage items?
I just always loved them. I love the dressing up aspect, the sense of history, that you can get something completely unique. And when I first started thrifting, I was a student, so I didn't have any money. The charity shops allowed me to build an amazing wardrobe at very low cost.
MR: You mention charity shopping alot. What is that?
F: Charity shops are what we call thrift stores in the UK.
MR: What are your top 5 tips for vintage/charity shopping?
* Keep an open mind. You never know what you might come across, and what weird and wonderful thing you'll end up loving. This goes especially when you're starting out. I bought some ludicrous stuff early on in my thrifting career, and lots of it went back to the charity shop after a few wears, but some of it I still have.
* Ignore sizing labels. I'm a UK size 12, but will try on anything from an 8 to a 16. Vintage sizes are sometimes very different, and with the rise of vanity sizing, labels are becoming increasingly meaningless. I've become pretty good at judging whether something will fit me from holding it up. But that skill has taken time to develop, so I'd say just try things on to start off with,
* Educate yourself about fabrics and sewing techniques so you can spot well-made clothes that will last. Getting to know which brands do good quality can be helpful too, but nothing beats actually looking at the clothes.
* Only buy what you love. Related to the last point, don't get sidetracked by designer labels, they don't guarantee quality, or style. YOU need to love the thing and no one else.
* If that last thing is a challenge, I find it helpful to think of how the thing would fit in with the rest of my wardrobe. If I can't think of three outfits it can be incorporated in, I'll leave it for someone else to enjoy.
MR: Tell us about some other vintage bloggers that you like to visit.
I'll recommend some British/Irish ones:
* PennyDreadfulVintage is an amazing vintage etsy seller and blogger
* TheComptesseDeFerveur always shows off great charity shop finds
* VintageVixen has the most luck at car boot sales and is a general thrifty goddess
* RetroChick always shows off great vintage style, often with new (reproduction) clothes, which can be more accessible. I love her hair tutorials.
Now tell me, what's your idea of vintage?
SIDENOTE: I would love to feature your cute little blog on an upcoming 'Word on the Street Wednesday' segment. All you need to do is express your interest in a personal email---> firstname.lastname@example.org