Five things you can always find at a vintage store

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

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.

#5 Boots

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...)
5 comments on "Five things you can always find at a vintage store"
  1. Oh finally a new post, thank you thank you! I am sure you are still very busy with the new house so thank you dear, for taking the time updating your blog!

    I love vintage clothes shopping, and like you, I look for items such as leather goods, costume jewelries and coats/blazers. Ebay is also a good source if you are familiar with the sizing. My lovely husband bought me 10+ pairs of Ferragamo boots on ebay and they are wonderful, and only a fraction of the retail cost. And one time I got this real vintage bright red 100% wool coat for $5 at an antique market! Honestly I think lots of vintage clothes, if kept properly, are in great if not better shape than the cheap clothing made nowadays, they were made of great quality materials and they were made in USA.

    I think the sheer fun of searching for diamond in the rough is just thrilling. Even if I don't find anything I am always very happy. Shopping in the chain stories in the mall just can not compare.

    Thank you for the great advises and ideas as always my dear. One day if I am in your area, I want the list of places you go to :)

    Take care!

    1. Echo, thanks for reading and giving your thoughts! I always appreciate it. You are so right about the thrill of the hunt, chain stores cannot compete! And, there's something about finding a unique piece that no one else will be wearing that is extremely satisfying.

      On a more important note, I want to know how you got your husband to shop eBay for you! And find Ferragamo boots for such a steal! (You must have petite feet, Ferragamo has so many beautiful ones that are too small and narrow for mine!)

      Happy to provide my list of Chicago vintage hot spots any time! I feel like I still have more exploring to do, my neighborhood has some excellent spots so it keeps me from venturing out. San Francisco and Oakland have some REALLY good places. My sister is in Alameda, and there's a place in her town that I absolutely LOVE and have found some amazing steals there with my mom :)

    2. Colleen, you are right about the Ferragamo boots size, they even have size 4 and their size 5 are small so I guess not too many people buy them so there isn't much competition on ebay. My hubby loves getting good deals he's proud of that so I don't even need to ask him :-)

      Oh your sister lives in SF bay area! There is this monthly antique fair in Alameda, it's sooooo huge and so fun, there are all kinds of stuff, things you don't even know you need haha... perhaps next time you come visit you can go have a look. Better yet, we might get to meet!!

  2. Yay! You went to school here!! No wonder, as U of I produces only THE BEST. (OK, I admit I'm a little biased. The university touches everyone's life in this small community by offering opportunities we wouldn't have otherwise, and we're appropriately grateful.)

    A quick online search confirmed that Dandelion Vintage is still very much alive - only, the business has moved from its former downtown location to the old train station a couple blocks away. I remember shopping there eons ago but the price points then seemed a bit steep to this new émigré. I remember swooning over an amazing pair of black cowgirl boots with a lower shaft that I still regret not buying. They cost $70. At the time, the price was too much for me, but of course now I realize they were worth every penny. Over the years, I have walked past Dandelion's storefront many times on my way to a favorite used book store (Jane Addams), but either didn't have the time or desire to stop in. Now that you sparked my curiosity, I will make an effort to go soon and see for myself if they're worth your glowing recommendation. :)

    I do agree that jewelry and accessories make excellent buys at vintage shops. The necklace you bought in Prague, for example, is such a timeless piece that will serve you for years to come without going out of style. Vintage shoes can be wonderful. I will never stop beating myself up for leaving behind my husband's aunt's small collection of shoes that she had offered to me shortly before I moved here - all beautiful pumps from the early sixties with graceful shapes, pointy toes, spiky heels, and a classic style that would still be on point today. With quality and craftsmanship on decline these days, what would I give to have them now! Vintage clothing is where you seem to excel but personally, I find it a bit intimidating for fear of looking dated or, worse, costume-y.

    As always, great topic with excellent advice given in a warm and inviting style. You need to write a book!

    1. Hi Ivanka! Thank you for reading and for checking on Dandelion for me! The woman who owns the shop told me she gets the cowboy boots in Oklahoma and somehow that convinced me to hand over a full week of earnings from my bar tending and grill-order-taking shifts at Murphy's Pub for a pair of boots... and Jane Addams is the BEST! Champaign is filled with so many gems. Your aunt's shoe collection sounds amazing and I bet you would have mixed them with your wardrobe of classics with no problem! The fear of looking costumey was one that I used to have but somehow subsided with a few amazing finds that I just had to wear!

      And I really appreciate your compliment on my writing. It's my favorite hobby, and I'd LOVE to write a book someday! Just need the topic ;-)

      Anyway, hope you are having a great week - please let me know if you stop in Dandelion, and what you find!