How to spot a vintage fashion treasure

02nd September 2021
Jen Barton Packer

We never need an excuse to trawl through our favourite vintage shops, or dress up like we’re ready to spend the night bopping away in a 1950s dance hall. We especially love it when we can immerse ourselves in mid-century everything for a few days, which is why Goodwood Revival is such a diary highlight.

As much as we love getting dressed up for the festivities themselves, the Revival is also the place to pick up some second-hand gems to add to our collections. We chatted to Queen of Thrift, stylist, author and 2021’s Goodwood Revival Style Advisor, Bay Garnett, for her top tips for snapping up the best vintage items.


How do I know if an item is worth buying or good quality?

I think you can tell so much by the fabric and the lining. I also think one needs to be ruthless with oneself and ask: ‘Do I love this?’ I think when you buy it make sure that it is something you are going to love and wear a lot.

What are some of the original features of a vintage item to be on the lookout for?

I love old labels. It gives such an insight into the piece and the decade. The 1940s and 1950s labels are so elegant and chic; often in black ink, styled italics. The ‘60s and ‘70s have brilliant names and wonderful different fonts. This is how I judge the item and give it context. I always look at the label to check out the fabric, too. 

Are there any top designers or brands you recommend buying if you see them?

It’s always great to snap up old Saint Laurent, Guy Laroche, etc., but for me it’s not really about the brands, it’s about what you love. I just happen to love old Saint Laurent. 

Are there any vintage fabrics you especially like buying?

Yes: for me it’s mainly Cotton and silks. I can’t do polyester. It feels horrible and looks cheap and ‘retro’.


How do you gauge whether or not to buy something or to leave it behind? 

For me it’s always been based on emotion. I've never been a dealer so it’s only ever been what I love. And it has to answer the crucial question: ‘Am I going to actually wear it?’

Is there anything you recommend avoiding when buying vintage?

Polyester. Bad, cheap fabrics. I also avoid anything with a stain. I don’t like stains. 

Are any vintage eras set for a big comeback or moment in the coming months?

I think we are going to see a big comeback of the 1960s. It was such a fun decade for clothes. The ‘70s is always in fashion as it was such a timeless era, and one where the classics made their mark (think blazers, blue jeans and shirts).


How much should we expect to pay for an original mid-century item? 

It really depends on whether or not it’s designer. If it’s original YSL or Balanciaga, it could well be hundreds of pounds. But you can find other pieces and brands from this era from £40- £200. That would be my ballpark. 

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.

Photography by Toby Adamson.

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