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Charlotte is a vintage shopping expert. Here are her very best insider tips.

At the end of Melbourne’s second lockdown I launched my own online vintage boutique. 

I had been collecting vintage clothing since age 14, and after the pandemic pushed me out of any job security, I decided to take the leap and pursue my true passions - because what did I have to lose? 

Even before I had my own store, I would say that my wardrobe was made up of about 70 per cent true vintage, 20 per cent secondhand, and only 10 per cent of brand new clothing. 

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The reason I had almost always opted to wear vintage above anything else, was that I wanted to be unique, and never fearing walking into a room wearing the same thing as the next person. 

I also found that the structured shapes of the past flattered my hourglass figure, and that the quality of vintage garments was far superior to any modern day piece that was within my price range. 

Image: Tasha Tylee / Hunter & Bloom Photography. 

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Despite me being a vintage devotee, I have noticed that so many of my friends and peers are scared to purchase a piece of clothing with a past.

Reluctant vintage novices express apprehensions such as, "But vintage smells!" or even, "What if someone died in it?!"

Okay, first of all, chances are that most people on their deathbeds aren’t donning a party frock (although I like to think I will be). And in the past, when I’ve been sourcing stock, or more for my own wardrobe, there are occasions where I do come across something with a certain mustiness.  

Rather than get put off, I now liken it to opening an old book, and love that evocative feeling it creates of the past flowing back.

In any case, I have all of my vintage cleaned, repaired, and have stored it all in a pleasantly scented space. 

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So what is vintage, really? 

Technically, it's anything between 30 - 100 years old. Anything dated prior to that is antique, and anything newer is merely secondhand. I think it’s important to stick to this rule in the sense that many sellers these days claim to be selling vintage when their wares are often less than 20 years old. 

But then rules are made to be broken, and even I have a few exceptional secondhand pieces available in my Etsy store.

Psst: Keen to get into op shopping? Listen to our fashion podcast, What Are You Wearing?, where we share pro tips to find the best treasure. Post continues below.

Since the environmental impact of fast fashion has been brought to light, the switch to secondhand and vintage has become prevalent amongst a more discerning consumer. But is the sustainability argument really enough to get the masses to buy?

At the end of the day, fashion needs to be attractive and aspirational, as well as moral. For many new fashion businesses, sustainability is now non-negotiable, and it’s simply no longer enough to single-handedly entice an overwhelmed customer. 

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The fact is that cool people in cool cities have long entwined vintage clothing into their outfits. Ask any stylish New Yorker or Londoner where they got their clothes and chances are that some element of it will be vintage, no matter how contemporary they appear. 

When I lived in London, and got to know the power of vintage clothes first hand, I saw that almost all of my peers, who working with me in fashion PR, were mixing designer with high street with vintage - and looking unique and fabulous as a result (in that way cool Londoners often do). 

We take pride in Australia as being a cool place too, so where is the vintage? There’s certainly a lot of secondhand around, but decent vintage still feels scarce in this country. 

In Australia we have the tendency to take vintage clothing a little too literally. You don’t have to present as an extra from a period film if you want to embrace fashions of the past. 

In my humble opinion there’s absolutely nothing naughty about mixing eras either. Vintage doesn’t have to mean only one thing - it can be a 1940s hat with a 1980s blouse, a 1920s purse with a 1990s dress, a 1960s cocktail coat with a modern pair of jeans.

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The belief that vintage has to be a head-to-toe commitment, or mean you must stick to a certain era, creates a barrier to entry for some people when it shouldn’t.  

Image: Tasha Tylee / Hunter & Bloom Photography.  

I believe that vintage brings variety and scope into a fashion landscape that can often feel mundane.

The reality too, is that almost all current fashions are inspired by designs of the past.

People can feel a little bit bossed about by fashion and trends, putting them off dressing up to begin with. But when you own a vintage piece you’ve fallen in love with it’s bound to make you look and feel special when wearing it. And who really wants to wear the same thing as the person next to them when they could wear something totally individual? 

Image: Tasha Tylee / Hunter & Bloom Photography.  

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Now I know what you may be asking: Where to even start? Well, let me tell you my trade secrets.

Here in Melbourne we have a delicious range of boutiques, Madam Virtue being my favourite. Beyond that there are vintage markets, such as Round She Goes, which is hosted regularly in SA, VIC and NSW (I’ll be selling at the Melbourne one next month). 

Online, Etsy is best as it offers you access to various vintage boutiques based across the globe (I’m on there as Chez Charlotte Vintage).  

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Depop and eBay are often full of hidden treasure too. Don’t forget to scour auction houses either, be it online or in the showroom, for standout pieces - Lawsons, Shapiro Auctioneers and Leonard Joel, to name a few. 

And best of all, shop your gran’s closet, as that’s where the real gems are often hidden!  

Image: Tasha Tylee / Hunter & Bloom Photography.  

So whether you’re an op-shop hunter or enjoy the boutique experience of a highly curated vintage shop, a vintagephobe or a vintageophile, there is a vintage destination out there that’s perfectly suited to you, no matter your budget, era, or personal style. 

The more you engage with it the more there will be as you support these businesses to grow. 

In a party full of monotonous black clothing, why not choose to be the girl in the vintage pink dress?

Charlotte Dallison is a freelance writer and vintage seller based in Melbourne, Australia. She is soon to release her podcast,  Chez Charlotte, all about vintage fashion. For more from Charlotte, follow her on Instagram.

Feature Image: Tasha Tylee / Hunter & Bloom Photography.

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