Vintage: Affordable alternative or expensive treat?

Vintage has come a long way since it was just a nice word to describe your grandma’s old jumper.

Once the hidden gem in a charity shop, vintage stores are now abundant and ready to equip you with the best and brightest old things on the market. Designer vintage will cost you a fraction of the price of a newer piece, and if you have the budget for it, is well worth the hunt.

Image by Kadie Eve with Blitz London Vintage store

However, budget being the key word here, to build a wardrobe full of beautiful vintage pieces you are going to have to dig deep into your pockets. One thing is for sure, old stuff does not come cheap.

To fully explore the world of vintage we must first define it. In some boutiques you’ll find 10-year-old babies being passed off as vintage, meaning you could find the top you thought was perfect for your school disco on the rail… awkward. However, the term technically covers anything made over 20 years ago.

The most important thing to note is that vintage is not fancy dress, nor is it anything that is made in the style of an era. True authentic vintage was born and worn in the appropriate year, that’s what gives it that unique feel.

Thanks to the massive surge of interest in vintage, prices have skyrocketed in recent years. What would once have cost a few pounds could now put you out over 20, all depending on the quality, brand and rarity. It is undeniable that the biggest reason for increasing prices is the popularity of vintage wear. Supply and demand have meant that people are willing to pay three times as much as they would a few years ago.

So why should you spend £50 on an old, pre-loved dress when you could get a brand new one for less?

Most experts will argue that there is one key factor that makes vintage fashion worth the expense- quality. Back in the olden days clothes were made with much more care and better materials. They were made to last, unlike the fast fashion we see in today’s high street stores.

You only need to hold a piece of clothing made in the 50’s to feel the difference. Materials were heavier, thicker and only see through when that was the intention. Vintage is an investment, a scarf that has survived 40 years will undoubtedly have plenty more life, and fashion potential, left in it.

Image by Kadie Eve Brick Lane Vintage store, London

 In fact, the history behind vintage fashion is part of why fans love it so much. Every old piece in your collection has its own story, just imagine all the places it went before you made it your own. It’s also worth noting that vintage pieces are almost always one of kind. You might pay a little more for it, but you know no one else will show up at the office Christmas party in same thing.

But does vintage clothing have to be expensive, or can you find the look you crave for less? Of course. If you’re headed to specifically vintage focused stores you’re not only paying for the item, you’re paying for any work they’ve done to keep it in good condition. Replacing buttons and dry-cleaning costs, and the buyer is footing the bill. These stores will also spend more time selecting the best pieces for their rails. You won’t have to look so hard for your next fix, but you will have to pay more for it.

However, if you enjoy the hunt then get yourself down to a good charity shop. Perfectly good vintage pieces, especially jewellery, can be found for pennies at charity shops if you’re willing to look. It might take you a little longer, but it’ll save you a fortune.

There is of course always the option of raiding your elder relative’s wardrobes. Some of the best pieces have been hiding in the back of our grandparent’s wardrobes for years, you never know what you might find.

Whether you love vintage, or are just delving into the world of old things, I’ve picked the best stores in London’s Brick Lane for vintage shopping; suitable for small budgets and more generous pockets.


Map by Kadie Eve

Words: Kadie Eve I Subbing: Alina Sirbu

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