How to: A guide to vintage shopping on a budget

Written by Saskia Ashton.

As one of the cheapest, most creative forms of shopping, vintage hunting is a trend favoured by many students.

From pretty dresses and oversized flannel shirts to tacky sports tees, there are vintage styles to suit everyone’s tastes. But, to the thrifting newcomer, hunting for the right pieces – particularly at charity shops, vintage fairs or kilo sales – can seem like a daunting experience.

saskia ashton
Vintage clothing. Photo: Saskia Ashton

Fear not, as here we provide some simple tips to take the pressure out of finding the perfect Grandad jumper.

Set yourself a price limit
Whilst most places now have a card machine, some fairs and charity shops only take cash and this is useful in the sense that you can take out the amount of money you want to spend prior to the event and use this as both your limit and your guider when shopping. That sequin covered blazer may seem suddenly less attractive with only £20 in your pocket and a list of items that will be far more versatile.

Brought nicely onto our second point, it would be wise to make yourself a quick list of the things you most want or need. Going in with an open mind can lead to you chucking things over your arm in the spur of the moment, only to never wear them again. I have learnt this the hard way. If you have a list of the things you particularly need, you can look through just those items to find your favourites, and you won’t end up cluttering up your already limited university wardrobe space with random pieces you’ll look upon and regret.

Consider “potential”
Having said all that about only buying items you really love, if you’re capable of a bit of sewing or crafting, it’s a good idea to look for the potential in an item that can be customised. Example: if you find a pattern and shape of dress you prefer to another but it’s too long, you can either hem it, ask a friend to, or find a cheap local seamstress from the internet. Or, if you love the way a jumper fits you but find it too plain, pop into a craft shop for some fabric glue and buy some decorations to jazz it up. The same goes for cutting jeans into shorts and just rolling them up, bleaching denim, cutting t-shirts into vests, and so on.

Dress appropriately
No, I’m not telling you to get all done up in a vintage style to visit a charity shop. I’m talking about practical dressing in order to be able to try things on. Dressing rooms can get busy at fairs or they might not even be offered and sometimes, sizes on clothing may not be provided, so wearing fitted separates makes throwing pieces on over the top, without having to publicly strip, easier. I personally would recommend leggings and a vest under whatever top you choose to wear, because a vest makes no real difference to the fit of a top and leggings will at least give you a vague idea of how a skirt or a pair of shorts suits you. It’s a good idea to try things on because many vintage or charity shop items aren’t returnable.

Shop around
If you’re going round a few shops looking for one particular item, do as you would for anything from the high street and shop around. If you see something you like in the first shop you go in, ask if the owner could save it for any length of time and look around everywhere else to see if you can find a better or cheaper alternative, and odds are you might do.

Comments are closed.