When I was in my 20’s, I just loved planning Sunday’s clothes huntings at le « Marché aux Puces » (the Flea Market). The cheapest one stood in la Porte de Montreuil, and with my friends, we were able to spend hours searching the golden nuggets among piles of 2nd hand clothes, more and less odorous… At this time we didn’t mind the musty smell of the little treasures we were supposed to dig up ;)
(cover picture: all items from the « vintage » selection of Vestiaire Collective)
The excitement was not only to find a « special » piece at a very good price. It was also about wearing something that already had a life and giving it a second opportunity. Generally, we would transform these pieces: dying in a new color, shortening, cutting, changing the buttons… All the process was really fun and I really loved it!
Today, I’m more demanding and I don’t buy clothes at Les Puces anymore… But I still love buying vintage and second-hand clothes. By the way, what would be the differences between these two categories? Vintage is generally « older » than second-hand but the main difference lies in the special quality required by vintage (at least good vintage): vintage is more special. It stood the test of time and has proven to remain relevant for different reasons as: quality, the timelessness of style or historical references.
There are so many benefits in buying vintage and second-hand clothes! Like
1/ Investing in high brands or high-quality items without becoming heavily indebted.
This Dior Trotter is available here for 265 €
This vintage « Hermes like » leather bag is sold 159€ here
This crocodile one is on Etsy for 170€
2/ Adding a « je ne sais quoi » and a stylish touch to an ordinary wardrobe. Not to mention that you likely won’t spot in the street anyone else wearing the same dress or carrying the same bag…
3/ Finding flattering cuts, fabrics or prints you don’t find anymore
I recently found this incredibly beautiful silk shirt on Etsy for 44 $…
If you got used to buying vintage pieces, you’ll realize that they usually benefit from thicker fabrics, more handwork, more attention to details and was often designed for durability.
4/ Rediscovering nostalgic pieces that we were in love with…
Like this 501 Levis jeans back from the ’80s
In my opinion, it’s also a way to avoid being part of the quest for constant newness and to contribute to a more sustainable fashion.
I am not a committed environmentalist but I’m starting to feel scared by our addiction to cheap, fast fashion and the amount that is produced each year – 100 billion garments, explained The Guardian. In March, it was reported in New York Times that H&M had $4.3bn of unsold clothes! Meanwhile, Amazon is pushing its way into fashion retail… The industry is – thanks to the boom in fast fashion boom that has been growing since the 2000s – one of the most polluting. A recent BBC documentary, Fashion’s Dirty Secret, shows how the public underestimates its environmental impact… All these facts can’t be ignored anymore.
But dressing up vintage doesn’t mean you want to look old, odd, untidy, corny or outdated, right?
So let’s see, what advice I can share with you from my (long) experience.
1/ It’s « vintage » or « second hand » but it’s not up-to-date anymore
You might fall in love with this cute little hat coming from the Golden years or this huge flowery « leg of elephant » pants… Well, it’s OK if you just want to decorate your dressing or having it for a next disguised party… Otherwise, don’t let nostalgia being a bad advisor. The clothes or accessories have to be either timeless or trendy again. Or you won’t wear it, period.
Another advice would be not to be dressed « all in vintage ». This can be a common mistake to look for being dressed all in the same era. A piece or two mixed with more recent ones will avoid the odd feeling to look like a character trying to escape from a historical movie…
2/ It’s vintage or second-hand and it doesn’t really look good on you
If it doesn’t fit properly (but you still like it), sometime it worths to invest a little money to have it tailored for you in having the cuffs shortened or the waist slightly taken in so that it’s not puffy. It can make the difference of looking frumpy to looking like it’s tailor-made. In some cases, the item needs just a slice transformation to be more easily « wearable ». Changing old looking buttons to new ones, shortening the length or adding a new belt…
3/ It’s « vintage » or « second hand » but it doesn’t come in perfect condition
Some attention is required here. In that case, you’ll have to check what is wrong? Is it a stain that will never disappear? Is it located in a place where it’s really annoying? (for instance: in front of a bag vs. at the back where nobody can see it). Will it be possible to replace the damaged part? At what cost? Take your time and examine all the details of the item to check what will be possible to improve or not.
4/ It’s « vintage » or « second hand » and it’s rather expensive
Vintage and second hand is trendy and the sellers are sometimes tempted to ask for prices that are more or less the same as if the item was new! I personally was really surprised to discover average second-hand dresses sold 150 $ when I was in New York in May… In that case, the only question is: would I be able to sell it at this price if I had to? If it’s a high brand item or something rather exceptional or wanted… it could be. If not, forget it. Second hand and vintage should remain a way to make good deals. But if you want to invest in a (still expensive) high brand haute couture piece, take your time and do some researches. Compare the prices, check all details (years, collection, designer), identify the signs that make the item valuable.
5/ It looks « vintage » but in fact it’s not, it’s brand new.
Yes, vintage can be imitated… Well, if the item is still made in good quality fabrics or leather, why not? But just as for other facsimiles, it’s usually not the case.
A final advice would be to trust the brands you already know. They are landmarks that can help you having valuable informations, as: will the size fit me? Is the fabric or leather a good quality one? Will it last for long?
Knowing this Parisian shoe brand, I was absolutely sure when I bought them, that these second-hand Carel heels will be comfortable and made in a very nice leather.
So now, you’d like to know where to find good vintage/ second-hand items?… Vestiaire Collective and Etsy are two that I favored. But there are a lot more to discover. In a next post, I’ll make a review of the best webstores and marketplaces. Stay tuned ;)
Dressing vintage is an important part of the Parisian Dressing Code, I tell you more about how achieving it in this e-book
Meanwhile, I’m sure you have personal stories to share about vintage and second-hand clothing. Please do! The comment section below is all yours ;)