Shopping at the Vintage Fashion Expo: Tips for Vintage Fashionistas


vintage fashion expo jewelryvintage fashion expo two dressesvintage fashion expo display case

I had a wonderful time in Santa Monica at the Vintage Fashion Expo this weekend. I flew solo on Saturday but I had the pleasure of Sandra Mendoza-Daly’s company on Sunday. And as I meandered the aisles of this vintage wonderland, I was reminded of a few tips that might be helpful to all the vintage fashionistas who enjoy these types of events:

1. Take advantage of early entry.

Dealers, costume designers, and stylists start lining up before the doors open for the early shopping period, but this perk isn’t reserved for just those in the fashion industry. Anyone willing to cough up a little higher entry fee is able to get first pick of the racks so set your alarm clocks!

2. Be comfortable.

Wear comfy shoes, bring a sweater since the venues can get chilly, and carry a tote or sling bag so your hands are free and your swinging handbag won’t be knocking down merchandise.

3. Bring a tape measure.

Some dealers, like Janet Schwarz of Woodland Farms Vintage, include measurements for each item on their hang tags. That’s so incredibly helpful! But since many dealers don’t do this, having a measuring tape of your own can come in handy. It will save you time since you won’t be trying on items that are way too big or too small, and it will keep you from getting stuck in a too-tight dress. (Hey, it happens!)

4. Dress in form-fitting clothes.

If you don’t want to wait for a dressing room, it’s helpful to dress in form-fitting items. Huan Vu from Vu Vintage helped me drop my trousers and slip into a fabulous LBD right in his booth. So think leggings and tight tees when you’re getting dressed.

5. Bring cash.

Cash is king and some dealers are willing to offer cash discounts. But the venue for the Santa Monica show doesn’t have an ATM on the premises, so shoppers without cash are out of luck.

6. Ask for help.

It’s polite to ask for help before reaching for something on display, before trying to open a handbag or jewelry clasp that you’re not familiar with, or before slipping on a piece that might be too fragile to wear. As Liz Baca pointed out, sometimes it seems like beads can fall off old dresses just by looking at them! And please, make the dealers happy by moving all garments by their hangers, not their sleeves.

7. Ask questions.

The Vintage Fashion Expo and other shows are excellent places to increase your knowledge of vintage clothing and accessories. In fact, the Expo even admits students free on Sunday. It can be a wonderful educational experience to talk with the collectors, vendors, and dealers. Just don’t monopolize anyone’s time if customers are waiting.

8. Learn about your items.

I always like to ask the following question before purchasing an item: “What can you tell me about this piece?” Often you’ll hear a marvelous story about how the dealer acquired the item or tales about the previous owner. Or perhaps the dealer will share information about the designer or the era from which the piece came. It’s wonderful to go home with a fabulous vintage piece and a little extra detail about its history.

9. Have a plan.

Be prepared to be overwhelmed on your first visit to a show. There are so many great items to see that it can make your head spin. So it helps to have a plan and to seek out something special. Maybe you hope to find a great cocktail ring. Or maybe this trip it’s about adding another Ceil Chapman to your collection. Or perhaps you want to find the ultimate LBD. Knowing what you’re looking for in advance will help you zero in on it more easily.

10. Allow for the unexpected.

Sure, it’s great to have a plan but you should also allow for the unexpected. You know, that piece that makes your heart skip a beat. Maybe it’s a bit over budget, maybe you have nowhere to wear it in the near future, but you just have to have it. And I say, go for it! After all we are talking about one-of-a-kind finds that probably will never pass your way again.

If you missed this weekend’s show, you have plenty of time to mark your calendars for the next Santa Monica show on April 24 and 25. And if you can’t wait that long, then plan a trip to San Francisco for the show on March 24 and 25. More information available here.

Happy shopping everyone and I’ll see you at the next show!

Photo Credits: Copyright 2007 Vintage Fashion Expo | All rights reserved | Used with permission

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.

© Mary Kincaid 2006-2009