As a fashion editor/stylist, I was a latecomer to the vintage/thrift idea. Then, in 2002 on a photo shoot in Los Angeles, I stumbled across Decades, a thrift shop filled with “pre-loved” designer clothing, and American Rag Cie, a store packed with vintage Levi’s. After scoring a ’90s-era Calvin Klein one-shoulder gown and perfectly aged 501s, I was hooked. “Vintage” is now considered anything 20 years old or older; pre-owned/thrift/consignment is less than 20 years, but sites often mix the terms. Whatever you call it, used clothing is hot as we become more eco-conscious. But not everything is worth it. Here’s what is … and what’s not:
(Note: Vintage can sell fast … some items pictured may be gone already!)
1. Status bags you’ve coveted forever
Expensive items such as a Chanel bag or a Louis Vuitton tote are on the bucket list of many fashionable 50-plus women. But why buy new when resale sites including The RealReal, ReBag, eBay and Vestiaire Collective offer discounted prices? Some styles are not produced anymore, so you may get a one-of-a-kind piece. I encourage clients to avoid splurging thousands on the most pristine, costly and “commercial” styles and search the good-to-very-good range. Sure, the Vintage Chanel Double Flap 25 Quilted CC Logo Lambskin Chain Shoulder Bag ($1,120, eBay.com) is alluring, but the Gucci GG Canvas Nailhead Jackie Bardot Bag ($445, therealreal.com), Louis Vuitton Speedy Cloth Handbag ($559, vestiarecollective.com) and the Stella McCartney Falabella Shoulder Bag in Black Vegetarian Suede ($475, therealreal.com) offer snob appeal for less.
2. Off-season name brand items
Daily wear clothing prices are rising, and “pre-owned” is not just about luxury. Sites such as ThredUp, eBay and Saks Off 5th offer a wide range of used clothes from popular contemporary designs by Zara, H&M, Theory, J.Crew and Diane von Furstenberg plus mass brands Ann Taylor and Banana Republic. One of the best strategies is to shop for opposite seasons instead of in-season. Summer is ideal for finding leather boots, tailored work clothes and sweaters; winter is the time to stock up on breezy dresses, jumpsuits, blouses and ¾-sleeve tops, mules and sandals. Glowing with the patina of a history (just like us!), they power up a basic wardrobe fast.