Vintage stores have kept me from dropping out of my challenge to not buy anything new for a year, and it is about time that I wrote an ode to my undying love of everything vintage. Whether you're currently an aficionado of legitimate grandma clothing or not, I guarantee you that spending 25 minutes browsing through the racks of a great vintage shop will lead you to some great discoveries (and soul searching about what's in your closet that would pass the test of time in the same way).
Without further ado, here are my top five things to hunt for on your next vintage shopping spree:
#1 Statement jewelry
Although I wear the same simple gold and silver fine jewelry almost every day, occasionally mixing it up with statement pieces is something that I love to do - and nearly all of my statement jewelry is vintage because it's affordable, unique and timeless. Every time I browse through a display of vintage jewelry, I'm amazed at how the same trends reappear decade after decade.
The key is to look for pieces that are a little offbeat, but still look and feel like a quality item. Avoid plastic pieces and tarnished metals and instead hunt for enamel, Lucite, glass, and natural materials like amber, stone and even bone.
When I was in Prague, I found an amazing carved bone bead necklace for $60 that became the perfect piece to wear with a simple long maxi skirt or spice up a tee shirt and pair of jeans.
#2 Silk scarves
There's a store in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago (called Una Mae's for local readers) that is my secret source of silk scarves: they have a $5 bin that has fed my collection for a few years now and I get more use out of a silk scarf than most things in my closet: I use them for a wide range of purposes including spicing up a basic black crew neck, to tying my hair back, packing statement jewelry into pretty rolls in my suitcase, and tying around my wrist or to my tote to add a little je ne sais quoi!
Key is to look for 100% silk in crisp colors, without fading or stains. Avoid polyester - they don't look nearly as nice when tied, and they snag!
#3 Leather and fur pieces
There is no better source for affordable, sustainable 100% leather and natural fur than your local purveyor of vintage clothing. My absolute favorite leather pencil skirt is vintage, and it is one of the top pieces in my fall and winter wardrobe. (And, it was less than $20.) For years, I've lusted for a shearling fall coat but couldn't bring myself to spend $2,000 on one. This summer, I found the perfect one at my local vintage shop in Logan Square… for $19. That's right, folks, a 100% suede and shearling coat for literally 1% of the cost to buy it new. (OK, and $30 to have it professionally cleaned, if I'm being honest.)
#4 Quality blazers
Nothing irritates me more than a cheap blazer. There is just no need to own a cheap, polyester, ill-fitting and overpriced blazer when there are literally oodles of 100% wool, silk, and linen ones with beautiful pearl and tortoise buttons just waiting to be discovered on the racks of a treasure trove of old used clothing.
My absolute favorite blazer is a black wool and silk blend that surely cost some cute grandma a lot of money back in the day, but with a little spare cash and some tailoring it is like my second skin for work. Definitely competes with my run-of-the-mill collection of Brooks Brothers suit blazers.
My addiction to all things vintage started in college, back at the BEST of the BEST vintage stores in Champaign, IL (shout out to Ivanka and call to action in making sure this place still exists…) called Dandelion Vintage. There, I found the most amazing pair of eel skin cowboy boots that are still my favorite nearly 9 years later and earn me compliments from fashionistas and respect from cowboys everywhere. The fact that I bought them on my college budget says all there needs to be said.
Again, looking for leather and quality construction is the key.
Ok, that's all I have for you this week. Would love to hear about any of your top vintage finds and anything that's missing from this list!
(Special thanks to Becky Howe for these fascinating photos of me perusing old clothing...)