A year ago I was seduced by the notion of incorporating choice pieces of vintage clothing into my wardrobe. It seemed like such a chic thing to do, so I set out about the business of acquiring three vintage dresses from various online retailers.
I was not impressed when they arrived a few weeks later. As the strangely proportioned, ill fitting garments hung off my frame, I peered at myself in the mirror with a critical eye and realized that I was wearing ugly old shabby clothes. There was nothing chic about the fibrous pills covering the fabric surface, its threadbare appearance, or the musty moth ball smell wafting up to my nostrils. I looked nothing like the celebrities on the red carpet who mutter smugly “I’m wearing vintage” when asked about the designer they’re supporting. I looked like a little girl who’d done battle in her Grandmothers closet and lost.
I pitched the offending garments into a good will bin, regretting bitterly the wad of cash I’d sunk into this latest endeavor and decided to never speak the word vintage again. No one had to know how low I’d sunk in the name of fashion.
Fast forwards to 2011 and thanks to the economy I find myself cash poor (anyone hiring?) yet still desperately enthusiastic about fashion. Necessity was forcing me to reassess my negative bias towards all things vintage and possibly consider giving it another go. Instead of using my meager savings to purchase old clothes though I decided to try a different tactic: New clothes + vintage accessories. Maybe this enlightened approach would be my ticket to frugal chic-dome.
Vintage Accessory Shopping
I started out by focusing on earrings. I recently had my right earring hole repaired (previously damaged during a childhood mishap) and couldn’t face piercing the poor resuscitated lobe again, so I decided to wear clip on earrings instead. The problem is that cool clip on earrings at the mall are in short supply, but there’s a veritable glut in vintage shops. Lucky me. It felt like a good place to start.
My ears are tiny little things so I can’t sport those clip on plates that some ladies from decades gone by seemed to prefer (see above) . I have to keep my baubles to about 3/4 of an inch in width or smaller since there isn’t much ear for them to clip onto. I also favor more classic tasteful jewelry so I ordered some simple minimalist pieces to start off with. Fool proof choices if you will.
My square shaped face seems to be ideally suited to round clip on earrings, so it was kind of easy to narrow my search to find the right shape. Wading through all the choices to find something I loved was the hard part. There’s a lot out there and not all of it good. There was a real risk of looking misguided and tacky in the end – something I was hoping to avoid. I kept it simple by shopping on Etsy and Ebay and devoting several evenings exclusively to wading through thousands of vintage clip on earrings.
Vintage Treasure Hunt Results
I actually really like my simple vintage earring choices. Yes they’re a bit on the safe side, but I wanted to see if I could embrace the whole vintage thing again before I went crazy. I’m encouraged enough by the quality of the pieces (the black earrings are sterling silver) to branch out next time. I wasn’t sure about how screw back earrings would feel on, but they’re surprisingly comfortable and in great condition.
I also ordered a graduated vintage red bead necklace (see above). It too impressed me; I could hardly believe it was vintage. I wasn’t a fan of the little gold spacer beads that were used in the original design because they had dulled with age and were slightly corroded. Being a jewelry designer though it was an easy thing to fix. I bought the necklace for the immaculate vintage red beads, knowing it had serious potential. I restrung the necklace omitting the spacer beads resulting in a more modern streamlined finish (see below).
If you’re curious about where I got my items, then keep reading! Each piece was from a different online seller. Since the quality was all awesome and the customer service top notch I don’t mind passing on these sellers contact info.
Black faceted sterling silver earrings ($16.oo US): www.etsy.com/shop/KimmsAttic
Red earrings: ($4.50 US ): http://stores.ebay.com/smokingravensvintagejewelry
Red Graduated Bead Necklace ($5.25 US): www.etsy.com/shop/ArtDecoDame
Next up I decided to go for some vintage belts. I am learning what miracles belts can work in a wardrobe so I’ve been broadening my scope and expanding my collection. I love the look of a braided leather belt cinched at the waistline over a dress (see above), so that’s what I decided to look for. I wasn’t having any luck finding this item new at the mall, so I once again I turned to my trusty vintage stores online.
I ordered this beautiful vintage wide leather braided belt. It almost looked too good to be true online, but I couldn’t help but give it a shot. It arrived yesterday and is visually perfect. The belt buckle is a bit tarnished but this was displayed on the online listing, and it’s to be expected since it’s vintage. I don’t mind at all. I’m researching how to possibly remove the blackened metal.
One thing stopped me from giving this belt a thumbs up and recommending the online seller to my readers. (I’m sad about this because the seller was so sweet and shipped my item out to me really quickly.) Unfortunately the belt (and the packaging slightly) reeked of cigarette smoke. I am very sensitive to the smell of cigarettes and find the aroma quite repulsive. Smoke laden clothing and accessories smells dirty and cheap to me (negative conditioning) and I just can’t bear to put it on over my nice clothing.
I’m currently trying to clean it and remove the smell because the belt really is awesome looking. So far I’ve not been successful but I’m going to try to air it out in the sun for a few days to see if this helps. Until the musty aroma is gone I’m not incorporating it into my wardrobe, so sadly this belt gets a very reluctant thumbs down – but I’m not giving up on it yet! If it can loose the stink I’ll embrace it whole heatedly.
Tip: If you’re in the market for a vintage belt I suggest you make sure the item is coming from a smoke free home. I forgot to ask.
(Update: I left this belt outside to hang in the breeze for several days and this has done a lot to lift out the musty cigarette aroma. My mom, who is also very sensitive to cigarette smells, gave it a sniff and has confirmed that the aroma is almost completely gone!)
In conclusion I think my strategy to go for vintage accessories is sound. I think I’ll keep searching for more clip on earrings but anything else I’ll be buying in person so I can give it a sniff test before handing over my cash.
Shameless self promotion…
If you’re curious about the jewellery I design (yes…not “jewelry”. I go for the Canadian/British spelling of the word) then check out my little online boutique.