The three-day Goodwood Revival celebration each September is the only historic race meeting staged entirely to a period theme in the world. Everything within the Motor Circuit perimeter is transported back to the glamour of Goodwood racing’s halcyon days, from 1948 to 1966. And that, of course, includes the thousands of suitably vintage-dressed guests from all over the world who become part of the spectacle with their fabulous outfits and authentic accessories.
How to buy the best vintage clothes
This year's Revival promises to bigger and better than ever for shopping for that period look with more than 150 retail outlets, including 37 vintage clothing shops to find a little vintage treasure.
But it's the expert vintage buyers’ skills of discovering those one-of-a-kind finds that help make the weekend so memorable. Owner of Vintage Collectable Clothing, Richard Leach shares the intel on what it takes to master the art of vintage buying…
Know where to source
Richard (left photo, standing second from left) finds much of his vintage stock scouring ‘ordinary’ markets and car boot sales. “You can find some lovely pieces among the rubbish!”, he says. Charity shops and browsing on eBay occasionally yields something “but you have to be really lucky” he tells us.
He, like many other traders, prefers to check out his items in person. “Shopping online, you can’t see and feel the quality or really know the sizing.” He now increasingly has items offered to him directly, for example clothing from a deceased person's estate. “If that person was of means and had an interest in fashion, then treasures are likely to emerge”, Richard adds.
Discover the background of the piece
It’s not always possible – but if you can – find out about the history of the piece when buying. Personal information can make an item all the more attractive to sell on. Richard once sold a jacket that had been made in the 1960s for John Lennon (he’s since sold it on to a well-known Britpop icon) and one of the first items he ever sold was a bespoke made-to-measure dinner suit that belonged to actor David Niven. So, it goes to show that having that backstory can be very useful if you’re planning to sell on.
Get to be size-savvy
People were shorter and slimmer in yesteryear so tiny clothing is less likely to find a buyer except perhaps for collectable reasons. The further back in time, the smaller the sizing. “It's difficult to alter a too small item, better to buy something a little larger and tailor it”, advises Richard. Finding bigger sized vintage menswear really is Holy Grail.
Even heads were smaller and it’s almost impossible to find a vintage top hat to fit the modern man. Higher-end vintage can come larger, Richard tells us: “Those pieces belonged to rich people and the rich ate more so were often bigger.”
Know your market
Even in vintage clothing, there are trends. Currently, bootcut flares, vintage Levi jeans, and – among younger shoppers – sportswear and T-shirts from the 1990s (an era which purists do not yet regard as true vintage).
However, the target market for consumers at Goodwood Revival remains as ever classic clothes and accessories dating from the 1940s to 1960s. Best-sellers tend to include tweed jackets (for both sexes), hats, fur or faux fur ladies jackets, cravats and 1940s/50s dresses. “The shoppers at Goodwood are generally very vintage-savvy and are looking for quality authentic items to complete their look,” says Richard. Perhaps even next year’s look!
Have a keen eye for quality
It might seem obvious, but having irreparable or stained pieces of vintage clothing means they’re unlikely to sell. “The main focus for the buyer should always be on the fabric of the garment and its quality. Think of it as a piece of cloth rather than an item of clothing” says Richard. Look out for vintage items with quality fabric that are in good condition and you’ll be on to a winner. What’s more, those quality, durable pieces mean that they are likely to live on. “Ninety nine per cent of modern clothing is disposable and destined for landfill. Vintage clothing was built to last years and is invariably of better quality, better tailored and has stood the test of time,” explains Richard.
Try to keep an open mind when buying
Don’t just buy items that fit in with your own personal style preference if you’re planning to sell on. Instead, keep an open mind as to what will appeal to the wider market. What might not be your cup of tea might be someone else’s dream piece. “However, authentic quality vintage clothing in decent condition remains the basic go-to benchmark when I’m buying”, says Richard.
Check for authenticity
While repro or retro clothing certainly has its place, it's not authentic true vintage, which is what many visitors to Goodwood Revival generally prefer when getting dressed up. A seasoned expert buyer such as Richard can sniff out a real vintage item at a glance: “If you’re in doubt, check the garment for a period label or a tailor or dressmaker's label,” he says. “Many vintage garments were also lovingly handmade.”
A tip for Goodwood Revival goers
"If you have time, check out the vintage outlets at Over the Road", says Richard. "As a buyer, you can find some real gems – interesting and authentic items there".
This year at the Revival, Dandy Wellington will lead the Vintage Style Not Vintage Values series of talks in the Revive and Thrive Village. Book your tickets now for a chance to meet his wonderful community of vintage icons.
The official Goodwood Revival Collection
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