Friday, August 19, 2016

Survey: Advice for a beginning vintage buyer

“If you were to give one piece of advice to a beginning vintage buyer, what would it be?”

I asked this question recently in a survey of people who wear vintage, and the responses were really thoughtful. Also, even though it required a written answer, 110 out of 112 survey takers responded, which is a pretty overwhelming rate.

First, because I love a good word cloud:

See that big measurements? This is a very important issue for vintage wearers, with 21% of those surveyed urging a beginner to get accurate measurements both of herself and the clothing she is interested in.
Measure yourself and measure the item! Know how those two sets of measurements relate to each other. 
Measure twice, buy once. Know your own measurements and what that entails in a piece of vintage so you can better locate what you’re after. 

Condition and care were mentioned by 14% of the respondents. They wrote that purchasing something in excellent condition is important and that knowing how to repair and clean is critical. Some don’t consider buying anything with noticeable flaws, suggesting—
Never buy planning to fix.
while some, perhaps because of their own abilities, just suggested—

Make sure you check items over and if they need repairs make sure you can do them and plan a time to do them.  
Gaining knowledge about vintage was the top priority of 8%. What sort of knowledge? Mentioned was learning to tell if an item is truly vintage, learning the best ways to care for items, and learning how vintage is priced. And why should you gain knowledge of vintage?

There are so many resources to help you date clothing, make sure you know what you are buying and what it’s worth to you. Spending more than that on something will rarely make you happy. 
Study the era(s) that you feel drawn towards and really get to know the cultural history, as well as the fashion themselves, from those years. The greater you appreciate and understand the decades that you’re emulating or drawing inspiration from, the more cohesive and inspired your outfits stand to be. 
Slightly more people (11%) gave answers suggesting what and how to choose vintage for the beginner.

Start small, find that one piece that can work with things you already own and build from there with what feels right. 
Try out different eras. Don’t be intimidated. You totally do not have to look like Viva Las Vegas. 
Figure out which silhouettes look best on you, and buy what you like. Ignore labels. Ignore what’s “hot” or “trendy” (yes, there IS trendy in vintage), and go with your gut. Personal style is never based on popular consensus or trends.  
Pay attention to your lifestyle. If you hate to dry clean, go to a lot of black tie gatherings, never dress up, etc., let that be your guide. I have a closet of fancy dresses I have never worn—all purchased for a specific event, and then I didn’t. I do reach for my vintage cashmere coat, vintage blazers, etc. again and again. I am comfortable spending more on those items because they won’t just sit. Also, be mindful on how to care for your items in a way that makes them last and choose fabrics and items based on how much maintenance you are willing to do. 

5% mentioned the quality of an item, paying attention to what the price ought to be for a vintage piece of a certain type, era, and condition; investing in fewer but better things; and spending money wisely.

A few mentioned where to buy. Several stated that patronizing a good, reputable seller is mutually beneficial. Others suggested looking everywhere until you find your favorite haunts, both online and in person.

The largest percentage of respondents (37%) wrote a variation on a couple of intertwined themes.

Essentially, buy what you like, and don’t wait if you like something. Once you have it, wear it. Something like Nike’s Just Do It. 
If you love it, buy it then and there.  
Use the items, otherwise you are just a warehouse.   
Buy what you love so you will wear it!  
If you love it, buy it! Chances are you will never see one again. Buy what makes you feel happy/fun/beautiful etc. If you have to talk yourself into it, leave it.  
I love the enthusiasm that glowed from many of the answers I got to my survey questions. These were not the answers of fence sitters, but of vintage devotees!
Be confident in what you wear! Vintage clothes will make you stand out anywhere (office, party, walking about, etc.), so make sure you are happy in the skin you are in and the clothes you are wearing. Your clothes are just an extension of your persona, so have fun with how you dress! 


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