Erin Hagstrom talks vintage shopping.
Courtesy of Calivintage
Vintage shopping can seem overwhelming, with those shelves crammed with decades’ worth of apparel. So, we tapped Oakland’s Erin Hagstrom—a fashion expert who blogs at Calivintage.com and at überhip online retailer ModCloth—to tell us how the seasoned pros shop.
“A good way to get into vintage is to start with accessories: scarves, jewelry, belts. These don’t have to fit; it’ll always be harder to find a well-fitted coat. Accent pieces are a fun way to add interest and dimension.”
Pieces to look for
“Invest in basics. Yes, it’s expensive, but if it’s a piece you could see yourself wearing every day, it’s worth it.” Hagstrom snaps up Equipment and Theory silk blouses, and is currently on the hunt for a brocade coat, ’60s minidresses, and a camel wrap-coat.
Ways to spot quality
Hagstrom recommends having a base knowledge of brands to know if they’re well crafted. “Look for color, quality, and fabrics such as silk, velvet, wool, and cashmere. Spotting vintage becomes easier because the craftsmanship is great, and items are custom-tailored and handmade.”
Incorporate different decades
Hagstrom’s wardrobe is split between new and vintage. “You can incorporate vintage pieces and still look modern. Mix and match; play with pieces and see how different decades complement each other.” Trends and shapes popular in earlier decades crop up later. “You see the ’40s in the ’70s, with all of the glamour, and the ’20s in the ’60s, with the minis and shift silhouettes.”
Be on the lookout for estate sales. “Both Coach and Dooney & Bourke are rereleasing their classic handbags, and people may have these shapes and styles hidden away somewhere.”
Take it or leave it
“An item doesn’t have to be perfect; it’s rare to find something mint. Imperfections add to the charm of the piece. You can get out a small stain or mend a small rip. But if it’s lasted this long, it’s probably good quality.”
“Secondhand clothes can sometimes smell funny. Aside from dry cleaning, you can soak a piece in cool water and baking soda overnight. When in doubt, treat it like a delicate item, and hand wash and lay flat to dry. You can also try hanging a recent score out of direct sunlight in cool air and letting it breathe.”
Don’t get intimidated. Vintage shopping is kind of like bargain hunting: the thrill of the hunt, digging for treasure. There’s no secret; you just have to be willing to dig.