Uncovering buried treasures: tips for buying vintage

***Rachel Khoo would like to thank all the inspiring people who helped make the Khoollect studio a hive of creativity. Although the Khoollect studio’s doors have now closed, you can keep up with Rachel’s newest adventures on RachelKhoo.com and on Rachel’s Instagram and Facebook pages – and, continue to enjoy the Khoollect website’s stories and recipes, which will remain available.***

The joy of trawling through a charity store or vintage boutique is in finding unexpected treasures — be it pre-loved items you won’t find in a high street chain-store, unique trinkets to adorn your home, or recycled clothing pieces you won’t see someone else wearing.

The Khoollect team has become accustomed to finding inspiration in unlikely places, and are no strangers to a Saturday afternoon spent browsing secondhand wares at our favourite stores.

Here’s how we get the most out of a visit to a vintage shop:

Make a list

Be it a mental list or a written one, it pays to prepare. What are you looking for? Before you leave home, take a peek around the house. Looking for a new shirt? Open the wardrobe and see what you’re likely to pair it with. Looking for a credenza to line your living room? Pull out that tape measure and jot down exactly how much room you’ve got to play with. It’s also a great idea to know your preferred era and style. There’s a lot of vintage out there, so get to know what you love most before you hit the shops. That way, you’re less likely to make rash decisions and more likely to pick something you’ll use and treasure for longer.

Know your strengths

We’ve all been here. Sometimes you’ll stumble across what looks like the perfect dress or piece of furniture — only it has a flaw. Perhaps the dress is a little tight, and you decide you’ll alter it to make it fit. Or, maybe the furniture is a little tattered and you’re hoping to fix it up. In the moment, this might feel like the perfect solution. But, it’s a good idea to take a step back and consider your skills (realistically). Are you a whiz at sanding and painting? Great, get to it! But, if you’re not so clever with a sewing machine, it might be best to leave that piece behind for another treasure hunter to find.

Search far and wide

Although boutique vintage stores will usually be beautifully curated and stock only quality items, often charity shops in central areas have been cleared of all their best goods by savvy vintage shoppers before you’ve even finished your breakfast. Sometimes the best places to try your luck and discover unique finds is in smaller towns, outside of the cities. Not only are these areas meccas for pre-loved fashion pieces and furnishings, but they’re usually more affordable too.

Be kind and patient

Ever been nudged out of the way by an avid vintage shopper who’s lunging across the rack for something they’ve spotted in front of you? You don’t want to be that person, so (even if you’ve spotted something particularly exciting) try to be courteous to your fellow shoppers. And, sometimes haggling is welcome at vintage markets, but it’s important to assess the situation first. If you’re purchasing an item of clothing for next-to-nothing at a charity store, decide before you get to the counter whether you really need to squeeze an extra discount from them. Many charity shops are run by volunteers, who’ve generously donated their time to help serve enthusiastic vintage shoppers, so if you do decide to haggle, do it with a smile and be reasonable.

Take cash

To prevent spending more than you anticipated, set yourself a strict budget and bring only enough cash for what you really want. It’s easy to look at everything in a charity store or vintage boutique as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but if you don’t have the cash to spend (and many charity stores will only accept cash) you’ll be able to limit yourself.

Finally, have fun. Even if you don’t have any luck on your trip, enjoy the thrill of the chase! 

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Sonya Gellert

Sonya Gellert is a contributing writer and associate editor for Khoollect. She lives in Sydney....

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