I don’t think its that much of a long shot to call vintage shopping an art; it takes patience, diligence and a good eye. Walking into a vintage store and seeing rack after rack of one-of-a-kind pieces can certainly be overwhelming. We interviewed the lovely ladies at Stash Collective — who turned their “bad habit” into a business — to share the secrets of a successful vintage shopping venture.
1. Start shopping smart before you even leave your home.
Some of the best vintage shops are – for lack of a better phrase – a hole-in-the-wall, and fitting rooms are often at a premium. As you’ll read in tip No. 3, trying on vintage clothes prior to purchasing is an absolute must, so be prepared to slip that leather pencil skirt over your pants in the aisle. Wearing form-fitting, comfortable clothing in layers, such as leggings or camisoles, is often the best way to prepare for these unexpected wardrobe changes. Don’t forget socks – some vintage stores have not thought of Try On Footies. (Stash is the exception as they seemed to have thought of everything.)
2. Inspect clothing carefully.
I can’t think of more of a shopping trip gone awry than going home with your new treasure to find a hole, stain, or worse, moths, in your new purchase. Inspect every inch of your new garment to make sure you’re getting what you thought. If there’s a zipper, make sure it runs smoothly. Stash is incredibly careful about the clothes they bring into their store, but others are not so cautious.
“It’s a bummer, but there’s some awesome pieces that we had to turn away because there’s a huge gash in the leather or it reeks of mothballs,” Anela Selkowitz, Stash co-owner, explained.
3. Try on everything, and don’t get caught up in sizes.
And we mean everything. Even if the size marked is not what you typically wear, don’t be afraid to give it a try. Vintage clothing (pieces from 20 years ago or more) were made with completely different cuts than what we see in stores today. What is today’s size six, used to be known as a size 14. A number on a label, is just that, simply a number on a label.
“Even if its looks small on the hanger, it’s worth a try,” Jen Merrill, Stash co-owner, said. “There’s about a one-in-a-million chance that you’re going to find that piece again.”
Jessica Flynn, another Stash co-owners agrees. “If you do find something that’s a bit big for you, you can go and support someone local by taking it to a tailor and investing in that piece and making it right for you,” Flynn said.
4. Mix old with new to make it modern.
A question I always find myself asking is how can I make extremely vintage pieces work with my current wardrobe to make it look modern and not “costume-y?” Although it depends on the particular piece, layering and skinny jeans are good starting points. Even the most billowy, gauzy 70s top can look modern with a pair of dark stove pipes.
“Don’t get caught up in how you think you should style an item,” Merrill said. “Just trust your gut. Just because something looks very prim and proper, and 1950s housewife, doesn’t mean you can’t style it in a different, interesting way.”
5. Shop often and familiarize yourself with fabrics, brands and price points.
This is one of my own tips. Stores like Stash get new pieces daily. There’s a constant influx of amazing, unique items. Some shopping trips may end in 10 new items while in others, you may leave empty handed. I believe people underestimate the quality and craftsmanship of vintage clothing. A pair of jeans or a jacket that you bought at the mall may last for a year, but items made in past decades were made to last forever. Quality thread and fabrics were the norm in the past, where now they sadly seem to be a rarity. Just like anything, you will find some vintage stores that are incredibly overpriced. Others, such as Stash, are incredibly affordable. I can shop without feeling guilty about it. Shop smart, and check back often.
Stash Collective is located at 234 North Street in Harrisburg. Stash is open Wednesday-Saturday, 12 – 8 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Stash is co-operated and co-owned by Jessica Flynn, Haley Harned, Jen Merrill and Anela Bence-Selkowitz.