How To Shop Vintage

There are huge benefits to buying vintage fashion over new. Not only are you more likely to grab a gem steeped in history and character, but vintage fashion gives you the freedom to express your unique style.

Alongside this, shopping vintage is inevitably kinder to the planet than buying new; and as consumers become increasingly aware of the environmental impact of fast fashion, vintage seems to be the way forward if you are looking to expand your wardrobe in a more sustainable way. 

But vintage pieces are rarely available in ready-to-wear condition, naturally because of their age, and you may find that they don't fit perfectly, or look out of touch with today's style. But none of these should be reasons to avoid vintage...

We chatted with our good friend Rosanna Falconer to find out why she prefers to shop vintage over new these days, and share with you how we helped to transform two of her beautiful (but ill-fitting) vintage dresses.

floral dress

Hi Rosanna! Where did you purchase your dresses from and how did you make them your own? 

I bought them from one of my favourite vintage emporiums: Retromania in Pimlico. I often pop in on the weekend for a rummage and these both called my name in different ways… The blue maxi was hanging from the ceiling which showcased its voluminous seventies sleeves. The white cotton dress was downstairs on the sale rail… It was a steal for £10. I loved its clever placement print.

As often happens with vintage, the fit wasn’t right. I looked a bit like I had borrowed my mum’s maternity dresses! That’s when I roped in the team at Clothes Doctor. A FaceTime try-on session, using the measuring tape that they sent me in the post, meant we were able to deduce the re-sizing of each dress, and mark exactly where they needed to be taken in with safety pins. Off they went to  the workshop. In what felt like the blink of an eye, back they came through my door, beautifully presented with a lavender storage bag.

In terms of styling, they’re the kind of dresses that speak for themselves in their bold colour and statement prints. I keep the jewellery to my usual yellow gold, particularly layering up chain necklaces, and then modernise them for daytime with cotton plimsolls. Maxi dresses are my go-to on hot summer days. So much more comfortable than jeans or tight dresses!

When did you first become interested in vintage fashion?

Well, it began with our dressing up box. My mother was amazing in the way she cultivated our creativity as children. We had everything from a 'doing shelf' which heaved with paints, ribbons and clay, to our fancy dress box. The box was bursting with vintage finds from my mother and grandmother: I remember an alpaca coat, star print maxi skirt (emerald on violet!) and perfectly-cut brown leather jacket (sadly ruined when worn in the rain for a fancy dress contest at the village fete).

Most weekends resulted in a fashion show with my sisters. For me, these clothes were so much more exciting than the minimalism of the nineties. Then, I’ll never forget the moment my mother took me to Cornucopia on Tachbrook Street (sadly since closed). This was my first introduction to designer clothes ‘up close’. As a student, obsessed with British designer Matthew Williamson, I became an eBay fiend, chasing down key pieces from collections at a fraction of the price.

Where are your favourite places to shop vintage in London?

I know I keep mentioning it but Pimlico! It's where my journey began and I love returning there. Its charity shops are excellent too. For a more curated selection, Rellik and One of a Kind in Notting Hill are sensational, but the prices reflect the care that has gone into the sourcing and merchandising. I also enjoy the ease of online. Open For Vintage, Vestiare.com and Rebelle.com have brilliant selections.

What are the benefits of shopping for vintage over new?

A clear conscience. It’s the most circular way to shop. There’s no denying we sometimes crave that thrill of the ‘new’ but through my research and articles as contributor to Eco-Age, I just can’t justify shopping to the extent I once did. I also find the designs more interesting and you don’t risk twinning with another guest at a wedding!

Do you have any advice for anyone who hasn't shopped vintage before? 

Yes! I have two: first of all, start with accessories. A silk scarf or fabulous statement earring will give you a taste of the thrill of vintage and you can start styling it into your everyday wardrobe. Next: tailor, tailor, tailor! Clothes Doctor is your best friend. Body shapes are completely different now to 50, even 30 years ago. An expert eye to fit your new purchase to your figure will make this unique piece uniquely yours.

You can see more from Rosanna on Instagram at @rosannafalconer

If you've recently purchased a vintage piece, or have one sitting in your wardrobe that needs repairing, reworking or restoring, reach out to us on workshop@clothes-doctor.com. 

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