A Guide to Vintage Shopping

The process, the uncertainty, and ultimately, the discovery-all reasons I shop vintage. I remember the first time I walked into a vintage store, overwhelmed first by the scent (inevitable) and then by how different the clothes were. This was before I studied fashion, before I knew about the ways shopping vintage, especially locally, was ethically responsible, and before I had any idea that embroidered suede vests are usually always a no for me. I was and continue to be drawn to the unique, quirky details that are lost in the mass manufactured clothing of today. Simplicity has it place, but there’s nothing like the magic of that perfect, one-of-a-kind vintage find.

That being said, vintage shopping can feel intimidating. I totally get it! The sizes are different, the material can feel itchy, and what is with all the decades listed on the tags? Here are the two ideas that have guided my success in the world of vintage:

1. Get inspired

Do your homework! Take the time to search your favorite French film star on Pinterest, read the latest issue of Porter, or watch that Hitchcock film you’ve been putting off. Sartorial inspiration is everywhere. I usually have a list in my notebook of pieces I’m looking for every season-inspired by notes from street style, my friends' outfits, and the films I'm watching. This spring, the list reads:

Peasant style, white blouse  (Emmylou Harris inspired)

Mid length, floral, long sleeve dress (Know what silhouettes work for you)

Cropped, navy striped shirt (I'm 24/7 on the hunt for good stripes)

2. Allow yourself to be surprised

Read as: throw all your ideas out the window. But really, part of what makes vintage shopping so fun is the delight of the process. You never know when the perfect black embroidered set or navy graphic tee with an ambiguous message in the perfect 1970s font is waiting for you. And not all finds are final-adding a monogram or making simple alterations via a tailor is a great way to make a piece entirely your own. Vintage shopping takes time, so bring a friend and wear clothes that are easy to slip on and off for trying on. Also, don’t forget to check the men’s, kid’s, and women’s sections. Treasures are out there. And treasures don't adhere to gendered categories. 

Over time, I've created a sort of "always check" list for vintage. I keep an eye out for these, no matter what I’m in the store for. They are a great thing to check out if you're short on time and just doing a quick sweep of a store.  

Leather woven belts (Men’s section, for sure)

70s caftans (to be shortened or worn over a swimsuit)

Out of print books or art books (for your coffee table)

Basket bags (a la Birkin, great for the beach)

Silk scarves (around the neck, on your bag, Little Edie style)

And of course, the best vintage in Des Moines is at Funky Finds Vintage and Retro. The store is perfectly curated with a great selection of furniture and books as well. It makes the perfect afternoon drop in after breakfast at La Mie and a walk in the East Village. Tell Suzie I say hi! xx