Vintage Week: Top Tips For Buying & Styling Vintage

Top Tips for Buying & Styling Vintage
It’s almost the end of Vintage Week at Not Dressed As Lamb (one more post tomorrow) – today I’ve got the most amazing tips for buying and styling vintage courtesy of my sponsor Scarlet Vintage

I did an interview with Debbie, the owner of Scarlet Vintage in Bath, who was responsible for kindly lending me the stunning 1950s silk shirt, 1970s yellow wrap dress and the 1940s patterned dress that I’ve featured on the blog over this last week. If you’re ever in the beautiful city of Bath then I would thoroughly recommend a visit to her shop – she really knows her stuff and she is just the loveliest person! Otherwise have a browse at her collection online, and don’t forget you can buy any of the three pieces I featured (still available at the time of writing) if you contact her via email: enquiries(at) or tweet @scarletvintage.

You can visit Scarlet Vintage online here or visit the store at 5 Queen Street, Bath, BA1 1HE, UK. (That’s the little cobbled street off the famous Milsom Street, which Jane Austen wrote about.)

Without further ado let me introduce you to Debbie, who really knows her onions when it comes to buying vintage…!

Scarlet Vintage - Debbie
Debbie of Scarlet Vintage (I found a VERY similar dress to the gorgeous one Debbie is wearing in the photo – click here to see it!)

Tell me about your shop and how you came to sell vintage clothing:
Scarlet Vintage is a luxury vintage boutique in historic Queen Street, Bath. We work hard to carefully edit all the clothes and accessories that we sell, we judge each piece on its individual merit. Good quality? Check. Wearable now? Check. We stock pieces from the early 80’s, right back to the 1900’s as our customer base is so wide, every person has a different era that they love.

I started wearing vintage because I got fed up wearing the same as everyone else. I lived in London for a while, and getting on the tube meant avoiding eye contact with the three other girls in identical high street jackets and flats. When I visited my first vintage store, I was amazed, you could actually CHOOSE what sort of style to wear, and that could be pretty much anything!

What are the best things about wearing vintage?
Firstly, never seeing anyone else in the same thing. Before my vintage days, I would spend far too much on a dress, bag, shoes etc. for an event and turn up and see my carefully chosen pieces being worn by several other people. No woman wants that!

The other thing is that I have a very loud conscience, I know (especially after having the shop) that there is already more than enough clothing in the world for us ALL to have a constantly changing, elegant, individual wardrobe. No need for this mass production of “new” items (that are generally made to look like the “old” ones anyway)!

What are the most popular items of vintage clothing?
Dresses and bags. Dresses give you a complete look: the 50’s shape is incredibly popular and has been for some time; the 1940’s, that sharp, tailored look, whilst hard to find, can be extremely flattering on the right body shape; the 1920’s are getting a huge boost currently with the advent of The Great Gatsby.

Bags are a perennial, a bag fits everyone and the quality of workmanship on the 40’s and 50’s skin bags, is like nothing I’ve seen yet in this day and age. 

What are your top tips for buying vintage?
Whilst we do the checking for you with every piece in Scarlet Vintage, you cannot guarantee everywhere that sells vintage has the same stringent checks, so my advice if you are thinking of buying a vintage piece elsewhere is:

First, do the moth test – hold it to the light. That gorgeous 40’s crepe dress may look in perfect condition, but look through it and it could reveal a constellation of tiny holes. These are fixable in theory, but will take a lot of patience and skill.

Next: check the armpits. Horrible, but necessary. If there are marks there, it is highly unlikely they will come out. If the piece is a bargain, it may be worth the risk, but if it’s a fortune and the seller is “convinced” they will come out, steer clear.

Next: What age is it really? Have a look at the fastenings, the label; do they look old? I still get fooled myself sometimes (and I know for fact that the so called “experts” do too). There is just so much “vintage style” stuff out there, it’s can be difficult to tell, but that plastic zip and Topshop label are usually a dead giveaway…

Finally, do you love it? Can you afford it? If so, then go for it! Forget what other people are saying (mothers, blokes, girlfriends etc. – they won’t be wearing it, YOU will be!), because with vintage, they are all one offs and if I had a pound for every time someone said, “Do you still have..?” and I had to say, sorry, it’s gone – I’d be rich!

Do you have any tips for anyone who wants to buy vintage as an investment?
Go as old as you can afford, they are likely to be worth more sooner. And do some research on storing! We see pieces every day that haven’t been stored well and they are useless. Once fabrics like fur/silk start deteriorating, there is little to do to stop the process. I am unsure if there is any point buying pieces now in the hope they will be vintage in years to come, the fabrics these days are produced in such a colossal amount that there is little likelihood (unless it’s designer) many will be rare enough to be worth vast amounts in the future.

What are your top tips for styling vintage/incorporating vintage items into your wardrobe for vintage newbies?

Start small, a vintage silk scarf tied round your handbag? A vintage brooch on a modern jacket? See how many compliments you get, then see how you feel when you can nonchalantly say, “oh this? Yes, it’s vintage”. Later you can move onto handbags, hats, then jackets, jumpers and dresses. Try to try on lots of styles, vintage pieces look so different on than hanging on a rack. Don’t be afraid to try something different. Always in jeans? Try that 40’s tea dress on! You can always wear it with Converse to add your own twist!

Anything else you wish to add…?
My wish would be that everyone visits a vintage shop (not necessarily mine!), at least once, and tries on at least one thing. For many people there is still a fear from leaving the comfort of the “wear this, don’t wear that” regimented high street/designer way of life, and I think that’s a shame. I hear so often; “oh I’m not the right age” or “I’m not the right size” – RUBBISH!! Vintage is such a vast resource, and there are tailors on every corner of city streets nowadays, that you CAN make that dress/jacket your own. Your blog is a great example of how to wear vintage in a fun, modern way and I hope it inspired people to try something different and show how vintage can be worn. I guarantee you will not regret giving vintage a try, in fact, because you never know what you may find, you may just find it’s the best way to put the excitement back into that shopping trip!


Big thanks to Debbie for both taking the time to answer my questions and of course for lending me the beautiful pieces! If you enjoyed the interview and liked the outfits, I’d really love for you all to take the time to vote for Scarlet Vintage in the National Vintage Awards – it’s very quick and easy! Vote for her here: 

*Thanks guys*


The final post will be tomorrow (I know it makes Vintage Week a bit more than one week 😉 – I’ll be sharing MY tips for buying vintage on eBay, as I know a lot of people are very hesitant or nervous about bidding online (vintage or otherwise). Apart from one, all the the outfits I’m wearing below feature a vintage piece I bought from eBay (the jacket was from a vintage fair):

Not Dressed As Lamb outfits featuring vintage pieces

Top row, L-R:
1980s nautical pleated skirt
1970s patchwork knitting bag
1970s black/mustard polka dot dress
1970s scenic patterned shirt

Bottom row, L-R:
1970s poppy patterned dress (originally a maxi)
1990s Christian Lacroix jacket
1960s faux fur hat
1980s pink polka dot blouse

I’ll be talking more about these pieces and how I buy things from eBay in tomorrow’s post. Do any of you regularly buy vintage? Let me know about that and whether Debbie’s tips for buying vintage have helped! Hope you enjoyed the interview 🙂

Catherine x


  1. 20 May 2013 / 3:30 am

    Great post! I usually don't shop at "vintage" stores, but I love when I come across a vintage piece at the thrift store!!

    knocked up fabulous

  2. 19 May 2013 / 8:50 pm

    Hello my dear!
    Nice post!
    liked the interview…

  3. 19 May 2013 / 6:00 pm

    Great interview, I love Debbie's advice to "wear it if *you* love it." You wear vintage so beautifully, Catherine. xoxo

  4. 19 May 2013 / 3:47 pm

    My wardrobe would be half empty were it not for vintage, it can't be beaten.

  5. 19 May 2013 / 3:20 pm

    I just adore vintage! What gorgeous items you posted. I usually buy vintage in the markets in Rome, I love to look around, just today I went to Porta Portese the most popular market in Rome. I have been following you on GFC, now I am also following you on Bloglovin

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