How to bid at auction
Most auction houses will have a monthly theme and are often set into categories such as jewellery, 1940s and ‘50s. Each auction house will always list their catalogue prior to the auction, so if you want that pair of 1940s brogues or a Lilli Ann swing coat, then you can really hone in on your search.
The expectation of rifling through the online rails is not the only pleasure. Keeping track of all the sales and dates can be hard work, which is why The Saleroom, a central auction system, can be a godsend for those that need salvation quickly. The Saleroom holds information on most auction houses throughout the country and you can even create your own wishlist. The best part? If you are not going to be available on the date, then fear not as you can simply enter your maximum auto-bid and The Saleroom will do all the hard work for you.
Pick your key pieces before auction
The same rules apply to buying vintage as to buying new clothes: buy less, buy well and only spend as much as you can afford. While you can set out with a specific item in mind, you can swiftly go down a rabbit hole when searching. There are some key pieces, however, that never fail to complete a classic wardrobe.
For men, tweed jackets, waistcoats, and – for the more outlandish – plus fours, all look great and are built with hard-wearing fabrics. Wind proof, water resistant, and made entirely of natural fibres, tweeds such as Harris Tweed and Donegal are great collectors’ items, and frequently available at auctions and estate sales. Brilliant for a gentle and harmonious day out in the Cotswolds, but just as stylish for a swift ale in a cosy pub.
A Lock and Co hat and a pair of Trickers brogues are always a stylish start to a vintage collection. Occasionally with the desirable West Indian Sea Island Cotton, Turnbull & Asser shirts (‘like land, they ain’t making them any more’) while some New & Lingwood Cufflinks make a great accessory… particularly if you’ve nabbed the cream of Saville Row suits, by Huntsman or Henry Poole.
And when you do get an invite to the races, it has to be a top hat. It must be black, it must be silk and it must be Lock & Co. Casual items such as a Dunhill 1950’s lighter (still so debonair to light up someone else’s cigarette) – and don’t forget your Tommy Nutter braces.
For women, whether it’s the glamorous ‘40s, fabulous ‘50s or swinging ‘60s, a classic cocktail dress never goes amiss. Team Mary Quant with a Hermès handbag, Canali shoes, and Asprey jewellery of the desired era for nods of appreciation.
But if you're puzzling for vintage buy tips, remember that many looks were big on matching. Nineteen-forty’s day suits were often worn with complimenting gloves and shoes while the 1950s celebrated the matching dress and swing coat, bolero or shrug.
Tweeds were also highly popular among women. While it started as fabric worn by aristocracy in the 1820s it soon became accessible, particularly in the 1940s when three-piece suits for women arrived. These incorporated trousers, a jacket and a skirt, so that women could cycle in the trousers then change into a skirt on arrival – with cinched waists and padded shoulders still intact!