Shopping Vintage: The Stories Behind Clothes

I was introduced to shopping secondhand as a child. My mom used to go to a basement church sale every Thursday evening and take me along with her. She would always let me look at the outdated evening gowns and accessories so that I could add them to my dress up collection for when I played pretend (which was often). I understood then that shopping secondhand was a way to save money, but I would learn with time that it was also a way to find unique items that no one else had.

For the most part I shop secondhand for anything I need or desire before turning to regular retail. I enjoy it more because of the search and the deal(s) that typically come along with it. I shop at stores that sell used items and I’ve also mastered finding exactly what I want online through eBay, Etsy, Poshmark and more. Each season I clean out my closet and sell my clothes or donate them, and I find that this process of consuming and cleansing is a sustainable and holistic way of approaching the subject of shopping.

My favorite part of shopping secondhand is finding items that no one has. The cover image to this post is me posing with one of my best finds – a black velvet, silk lined, hand embroidered cape from the late 60’s. I found this cape on Etsy and purchased it for $36.00, which is an incredibly inexpensive price for the quality and age of the cape itself.

The best part of this find is the story that comes along with it. When it comes to vintage attire, I’ve always wondered about the person who once wore the item. Maybe it was a dress that someone wore to a birthday party or a wedding. Perhaps a pair of pants were worn on someone’s very first day of college. Whatever the story might be, I’ve always paused and wondered. But for this cape, I didn’t have to wonder because the owner who sold it to me told me.

I received the cape from a woman who lived in Maine. The item was carefully folded and wrapped in tissue paper, and a card gently rested on top. The envelope was addressed to me so I opened it assuming it was a thank you note, which is common to receive when shopping online as sellers are trying to build a clientele. Instead of your simple thank you letter, a hand written paragraph explained that this cape was worn with matching bell bottoms to The Who concert back in 1971. As you can imagine, I was thrilled by this information because it spoke to me as a person and a time that I feel I should have been alive during.

Here are a couple other pictures showing more details of the cape:

If you are new to secondhand shopping, my biggest piece of advice is to not get overwhelmed, but instead to know what you are looking for. Secondhand shopping is a tool and is best used by the person who knows who they are and what they want. Try it out, you might be surprised at what you find!


**More posts to come on navigating online shopping to find exactly what you are looking for without getting taken advantage of**

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