How I Shop Vintage: fashion writer Deimantė Bulbenkaitė
As someone who’s worked in fashion for more than half of my life, I have definitely had quite an adventurous relationship with second-hand shopping. As a teen with limited resources, I was constantly trying to catch up to my way-better-off friends and their seemingly endless wardrobes. If their parents bought them a nice new jacket for the start of the school year, I would save my lunch money and after a week or two get myself a second-hand one. Luckily for me, that moment in fashion (circa 2006) featured a lot of cheap glittery fabrics and lots of plastic earrings, so most second-hand stores in my small town offered me exactly what I was looking for – even if from the 80s.
When I was about 20 and moved to a bigger city for my studies, I started dealing vintage to make ends meet. I lived right next to a fabulous second-hand store and every month I would wait for the sign “everything under one euro” to appear on their windows. Then I would rush to pick out some gems and sell them online for much, much more. As I was already working in fashion, attending shows, and writing about luxury labels, I knew what looked both trendy and expensive and could sell fast. I also learned how to find high-quality garments, read a lot about different materials, and even fixed some of the clothes myself as my grandmother taught me how to sew.
Now I’m nearing my 30s. My style has become a lot more consistent and minimal (and I don’t have to deal clothes or wear plastic anymore), but sometimes a good piece still catches my eye – be it a cool leather jacket or a crisp white men’s shirt. Even though I don’t shop much, there are some things I only buy second-hand – some for their uniqueness, others for ethical reasons (for example, I refuse to buy new leather or fur garments). So I’m happy to share some of my best tips and tricks to shop vintage and do it both sustainably and in a clever way.
1. Vintage is the best party statement. I know some people who buy a new outfit for every single event/party they attend. Personally, I prefer to have a couple of statement vintage dresses that I can wear for many different occasions, but they must pack a punch. A nice material, a pop of color, an interesting construction is what I’m looking for. The dress also has to look expensive, so I gravitate towards less detailing but better materials. To finish the look, I add a great pair of heels or sandals and a fancy bag.
Fun fact: I bought a classic black floor-length slip dress five years ago for 7 euros and it became my New Year’s Eve staple!
2. Trying to find a perfect suit? Head to the men’s section. A suit can be a bit tricky to pull off, especially if you haven’t worn one on a daily basis, so vintage is a great place to start. I tend to go for men’s suits as they have less unnecessary details and a roomier fit. If needed, be sure to take your vintage suit to a tailor to fix the waistline or the sleeves. My extra tip – always look at the material label and choose wool, it costs a bit more to clean but it can be worn forever.
3. A vintage leather jacket is always better than a new one. A couple of years ago I decided that I would stop buying new leather or fur garments, so if I want a new piece I look for second-hand alternatives. Leather also gets better with time and looks a bit more authentic, develops a certain character. Last year, I selected a cognac-brown biker jacket here at Think Twice and it has become one of the favorite things I own, I wear it nearly every day. People recognize me on the street because of the jacket!
4. How to find high-quality everyday vintage basics. I tend to keep a very small and controlled wardrobe so I care about garment quality a lot. I also still haven’t won the lottery yet, so the price also matters. When new collections come to my favorite second-hand spots, I tend to look at men’s basics first – cashmere sweaters, trench coats, shirts, classic wool blazers. These pieces might be a bit boring, but I wear them every day, so quality and neutral design is what I care about the most. I try not to get seduced by big labels and imagine myself wearing the garment, styling it, really looking into its details. I also ask myself whether I would look at that piece if it cost ten times more and had a cool label. If the answer is yes, I get it.
5. Unique final touches to uplift your look. I am not an accessories person. Since I wore a lot of colorful plastic jewelry in my teens, now I tend to only have a couple of tried and tested pieces that uplift the simplest of looks. In terms of vintage, I love a classic (and classy) silk scarf, also a ladylike medium-sized bag that looks like it belonged to Ms. Kennedy-Onassis. In the evening, I turn to vintage earrings to compliment a suit or a little black dress – what I usually look for is a classic shape, expensive-looking stones (even if they’re plain glass), and an elegant, subtle design.