The Hunt is on
The art of buying vintage clothes according to Amelia Dillingham owner of Painted Black.
One thing people ask when you own a Vintage shop is where we source our stuff. We always say the same thing: we have a little black book filled with contacts, our vintage holy grail. Of course this is true, but we also go on buying trips, which are amazing. If I told my six-year-old self what I would be doing when I grew up I would of hugged the crap out of myself.
Buying trips, now these are all based on tip offs by friends and espionage. Our last buying trip was over the New Year when we had eight days off. All we will say it the first part stared 'Up North' and the second part was in Paris! Now I hear you cry this is really cruel and unfair. And yes I would have to agree, but we have to have some perks.
Tips when buying. We never buy based on trends or what Kate Moss is wearing, although she does obviously look beautiful. Once the trend has had its day and they all do, you will be left with lots of dead stock.
So we buy based on would we wear this? And does this rock? So always buy based on your gut reaction to something. This does not mean you have to be conservative in your choices only going for the classic little black dress or fifties cashmere cardigans, you can also be brave and go for seventies cat-suits – Vintage shops are expected to have outlandish clothes.
Be prepared to look through the boxes under the table or the trunk stuffed on the back of a van, and ask questions to the seller, they may help you in finding more treasure and dating a piece, lots of pieces come with a story, and this I think adds something, when you are trying to sell it on. Part of the charm of vintage clothes is the life that the pieces have led so far.
How to date items is something that you learn on the job. We obviously have done our homework, and have a library of Fashion Resource books, which are like porn to us! But you can also tell by little details check the zips are old, look at the stitching, buttons and pattern, manufacturing has changes a lot since the twenties! Also examine the finer points of garments like shoulder pads and cuts. Lastly feel the material and the materials used; silk is typical twenties and printed silk is fifties, where as polyester mix is typical seventies. As time has passed I can tell by touch alone. This is my only cool skill - I can’t even do a cartwheel, and l learnt to ride a bike at fifteen.
Always be prepared to look and look again at stock. Is it stained? Are there buttons missing? Can you source the age appropriate buttons or trim to fix it? Although it may look a little neglected, most things can be brought back to glamorous life with a trip to the drycleaners and a steam - we use lavender oil in our steamer.
It is hard not to be tempted, but do not buy everything that you see - you can become overwhelmed by choice and selection and then go into power buying mode. You have to be careful because unless the pieces are amazing and affordable you may end up with lots of stock and a limited retail space. Also a very important piece of advice is if you buy someone’s whole collection you are buying that one or two size of clothing, which is limiting to your customers.
Finding treasure is what it is all about, and whether it is a beautiful hat or an amazing jacket the key is selection and variety allowing your customers plenty of choice. So we try and have vintage costume jewelry, vintage hats, bags and outfits so the chances are there is something for most.
Have fun on your treasure hunts and we may see you there!