Anonymous asked: What would you suggest for someone trying to get into collecting vintage clothing? Any tips or tricks of the trade for building up a nice collection? Thanks dear.
Don’t know how experienced you are in collecting in general, but I’d start by avoiding one of the most common pitfalls…don’t just buy whatever you can afford just because it IS affordable/it fits you. It’s better to save up and buy a few quality pieces rather than simply grabbing everything that is available to you that fits within your budget.
Identify your era (or eras) of interest, and research them as thoroughly as you can - not just though primary and secondary sources on the actual garments, but get a feel for current values, which can fluctuate a lot. 1920s baby mesh and enamel bags, for example, have gone up and down in price and have crashed down from what they were pre-GFC. Good quality pieces are always going to be more expensive, but you’ll still find the market does shift. Go to ebay and monitor a lot of auction prices, look at comparative prices on Etsy, go to online and bricks-and-mortar shops, vintage fairs if you can, and check out the archives for past auctions like Kerry Taylor’s to see what prices are achieved. The more you know, the more you can spot what is and is not a reasonable market price.
Once you know what a good ball-park figure is for what you’re looking for, don’t be tempted to go too far above it unless it is an exceptional piece. I’ve let a lot of pieces go by because I knew something similar was likely to turn up for rather less (e.g. 1910s - 30s leather tooled bags with Art Nouveau or Art Deco motifs). I have paid above “book price” for some pieces that were exceptional if I fell madly in love with them and didn’t think I’d be able to find again in a hurry.
Build your collection gradually - identify the pieces you want and spend time acquiring the accessories etc to complete the look. Develop good relationships with dealers - they’re usually flexible with repayments on layaway if you can’t pay the entire amount up front, and will often notify you if they have something they think you’d like. Dealers are often vintage lovers themselves, so they’ll share your enthusiasm…some offer discounts for repeat customers. It never hurts to ask (particuarly if you’re buying a few pieces) but don’t be unreasonable and offer insultingly little…they’re rarely making huge profits, often operate on a slim margin and they have to go through the trouble of sourcing the items.
Examine each garment in as much detail as possible and factor in damage or flaws in what you’re willing to pay (if buying on line, read the description in great detail and ask questions if necessary!). It helps if you or someone close to you has a background in sewing…my mother is an amazing seamstress and has done incredible work in restoring and conserving the gowns we buy! She automatically oversews armpit seams on any 1920s gown I buy with sleeves, as the cotton is often so fragile a little bit of body heat will just “melt” the stiches - the fabric itself is often strong, it’s just the stiches at the seams that tends to go. She also keeps a close eye on beadwork and, if in doubt, will re-sew it.
Thats just a few things I can think of off hand…you can build an amazing collection on a budget if you have the patience to do it. I have a friend who is on a VERY tight budget, and yet people who see her at vintage events assume she is spending a fortune on high-end pieces. What she does is scour op shops (where she has found fabulous 1920s bags and necklaces), restore damaged gowns or make wonderful repros, and has a network of friends internationally who help her source pieces. She has a lot of patience and a good eye, and always looks fabulous - she easily holds her own with those who have a lot more disposable income.