Investing in Antique Fashion: Buying Vintage Clothing

Investing in vintage fashion is a savvy move. Over the past 20 years prices paid for quality vintage clothing have risen hugely and our appetite for originality is huge. from the crowds. Over the past year in the UK Top Shop has invested in a new line by 1970s designer Celia Birtwell and 1960s fashion mecca Biba has reopened its doors in Kensington. Celebrities such as Sarah Jessica Parker and Kate Moss have both embraced the look.

Key looks and working out what suits your shape

1920s – this was the beginning of couture. The flapper dress, beads and fringing, geometrics, Edwardian blouses, corsets and dropped waists. Velvets and furs were in. The flapper look works well if you’re slim and small-breasted.

1930s – Hollywood glamour with Coco Chanel. Bias-cut gowns and costume jewellery. Art deco, sportswear, halter necks and flared sleeves. Skinny suits, hats, gloves and zips. Wear if you love dressing up and wearing accessories. This look is about the detail so buy the best you can afford.

1940s – Post war synthetic fabrics and military style tailoring were key. Dior created a backlash with his luxurious feminine New Look in 1947. Sequins, slacks, couture dress, trench coats and jersey dresses. This look suits all – trench coats and military jackets are classic investments.

1950s – Dior, Balenciaga and Givenchy. The prom dress, oversized detailing, trapeze coats, full skirts and pedal pushers. Ballet shoes and sweater dresses à la Brigitte Bardot. A great look for curvy girls with small waists.

1960s – Yves Saint Laurent, Mary Quant, Pucci, Jean Muir, Ossie Clark and Biba. Jane Fonda’s space suits in Barbarella. Twiggy’s flower power, mini skirts and chain mail. Big sunglasses. This look is always popular – oversized sunglasses will never go out of style! Mini skirts and boots are great for the tall and leggy.

1970s – Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell, Zandra Rhodes, Vivienne Westwood, Missoni. Flowing skirts, parkas and jumpsuits. This is a new age, crafty and colourful look that will bring a smile to your face. Suits all shapes and sizes and is comfortable and easy to wear.

Mark and Cleo Butterfield, owners of C20 Vintage Fashion store suggest the following:

  • See and handle vintage items rather than buying vintage clothing online. Go to specialist fairs and markets to meet dealers and handle different styles.
  • Focus your aim and get to know designers and periods that interest you.
  • Be wary of eBay – the seller is unlikely to be a vintage dealer and you can’t check the item’s condition.
  • Don’t buy a stained garment. Get a description of stains, rust and mildew.
  • Check it for moth holes, tears and missing beadwork.
  • Buy the best you can afford if it’s an investment piece.
  • Get exact measurements – older sizes were 1-2 sizes smaller than today.
  • Familiarise yourself with fabrics and trimming terms.
  • Ask for tips on storing and cleaning the item.
  • Buy colour rather than black and white.

Scour charity shops in wealthy areas for quality finds. Flea markets are good for post 1950s clothing.

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