Vintage style – Keeping it real

Today’s vintage style is a fusion of high street mixed with authentic pieces found in markets or online. From celebrities striking a pose in vintage coutoure on the red carpet, to the pages of fashion magazines teasing us with vintage pieces and accessories. As much as we all love a bit of vintage in our life, do we actually know how to wear it without looking like a walking jumble sale, or what to look for when buying so that we are investing in treasure and not trash?

On our quest for anything and everything vintage, ChicFantastique caught up with vintage stylist and passioniate collector Jane Lawrenson for her take and tips on glamming it up both out and about and in the home.

Head to toe, or one classic piece?

Either works if done well. As a teen, I rocked the Rockabilly look. Teens especially, look great in head to toe vintage. Personally I think as you get older, it’s wise to invest in quality (in particular, designer) pieces and for me that’s when vintage comes into its own. Either a gorgeous broach on a jacket teamed with tailored trousers, or a floor length dress with a stunning head piece or vintage earrings (glam it up for the party season).

The key is to go to a good dealer who you can get to know so that they will save pieces they know you like. Big tip for Londerners here – The boys at Rellik near Portobello Road will hold pieces for me and they will also buy back when, and if I want to sell.

Who’s your vintage style icon?

I LOVE Anita Pallenberg’s awesome style. You couldn’t beat her in the 60s and 70s, and even know as a grandmother, she can still rock a look! Effortless and chic, Anita Pallenberg’s style inspires today’s vintage fashionistas.

This season you can’t beat a gorgeous felt wide-brimmed hat or a fur cape. Emily Evans from 9 London stocks a range of gorgeous on-trend fur capes which she has reconditioned by re-lining with beautiful and elegant Liberty silk prints.

Visit her store at Sloane Square and Harrods.

Trawling markets or buy online?

Both. I used to run a stall at Camden and Portabello markets in the 80s and totally get thrilled at finding a gem at a market. Times are changing though and if you want something in particular it is much easier to search online and the chances are you’ll find something.

This is an original vivienne Westwood seditionaries T-shirt. An  old punk friend gave me this to wear on a sleepover in the late 80s. I wore it home and probably for the next month solid – a bit cheeky, but I kept it.

There are also some great vintage stores online now and markets can become dated and full of tat! Now that everybody is into vintage, a lot of stuff is labeled as such to sell. I’ve seen early 90s stuff being sold as vintage, and although I suppose it IS old I wouldn’t class that at vintage at all. On the markets we had a rule for buying stock. If it was made in your lifetime, it wasn’t counted as vintage, but retro… and believe me, back then retro didn’t sell!

Vintage in the home? What’s your classic piece?

Ah yes. I Love a bit of vintage in the home, the key here is to mix it up with modern. Again, personally I like to get that old brown furniture that you can pick up for next to nothing at auctions, junk shops, even on the street and use paint and a bit of creativity to make the item come alive. I love the use of vintage throws rugs for my front room.

I have these pieces all over my home and they look totally modern. I would never pay hundreds of pounds for ” vintage style” of a new piece when this way is much more fun AND you have a unique piece. Saying that, really good vintage items are worth the money but only if you really love them. That’s true I think for anything vintage – You’ve got to love it. Vernon Panton style costs a lot but you will only need one or two great bits. Again, less is more! You don’t want to actually go back into a time warp every time you go home, just hint of vintage in the home is cool enough.

This iconic chair was designed by Vernon Panton in 1960. The chair’s design has always made it a bit of a challenge to manufacture, and only recently, with new technologies have they been able to make the chair as it was originally intended — from consistently dyed, tough, fiberglass-reinforced plastic with a matte surface.

Its elegant one piece construction has stood the test of time, and is part of many museum collections around the world, including MOMA in New York.

What to look for when buying vintage to ensure quality and authenticity?

This is a hard one, as there are a lot of good fakes out there. With clothes, a good sign that it’s an original piece is the label. Most good vintage clothes will have a label that’s woven, not printed. Turn it over to see all those lovely strands of cotton on the reverse. Also there probably won’t be other labels at seams. And sometimes there won’t be any label, especially 1940s to the start of the 1950s clothing due to the war effort, rationing, and also the popularity of homemade clothes.

So what’s genuine? Quality fabrics, mostly fully lined with stifferners in collars and waist bands. Individual buttons – take a look at button holes, as they will have a sewed opening rather than just a cut. You don’t want any raw edges anywhere and hems may be rolled not just stitched. Saying that if you find something you love you would still buy it, just don’t pay too much for it.

Another big thing to look out for is moth damage. NEVER bring in fur, silk or wool without checking for moths/larvae.

An infestation of moths is just not worth it because if you bring them home they will eat through everything else. Small silver marks mean larvae is or was present. There is a distinct musty or mothball smell too.

This fox fur was bought in Paris, at a big flea market. I’ve had it 12 years or so, really nice  lining in silk, with brown and pink flowers so  it’s reversible. Team with a jumper underneath – perfect!

Stains are also giveaway. Small food stains or marks on fabric indicate that the item hasn’t been cleaned properly – maybe it was too delicate for dry cleaning – sometimes it’s best to leave these pieces even if you live them.

Be careful of dodgy dealers too. Some will sell moth ridden clothes – if buying online or eBay always try to ask the seller about the origin or how the item is stored. Some won’t be honest either so ask about returns if you suspect anything before you buy. Better to return than have a problem with moths! If you DO love something so much and you have to have it, we’ve all been there, then this is what you can do to kill any. Bear in mind this works, but if you are buying in bulk, or for dealing this could prove tricky. It is best to keep this process for one off pieces.

Before you bring the item to your wardrobe check for telltale signs – holes, stains, smells.

Place item in a sealed plastic bag and pop in the freezer for 24 hrs. One item per bag and folded, not scrunched.

After 24 hours take out and wash on the coolest hand wash programme in your washing machine with one cup of non-bio liquid or woolwash/woolite plus 1/4 cup of household salt.

Take out and shape and then dry flat. Your item should be good to go.

If it can be dry cleaned then do that after the freezer step.

Be careful with delicate fabrics such as silk and wool. They have been known to snap in the freezer!

What’s the last piece you bought/acquired?

I found a gorgeous set of chests in a junk shop…£20 for both.

I have painted them black (they were originally dark oak) and I finished the drawer panels with bright coloured paint. They look amazing and are totally original.

My next investment is a piece by Kelly Swallow who reconditions chairs and sofas using vintage fabric in a patchwork design. A truly bespoke creation for the home.

I also love collecting vintage books and magazines. These look gorgeous displayed on a book shelf. Mix up the display by showing the book spines both horizontally and vertically and place vintage objects on top for as a talking point for house-guests.

ChicFantastic has a collection of pre-loved soft cover Penguine books displayed on a shelf with an old tin of vintage buttons.

ChicFantastique loves…The Parisian leather chair. Inspired by 19th century gentleman’s club chairs, the Parisian Leather Chair brings instant elegance to your wannabe-den.

Imagine sinking into this chair on a cold Sunday afternoon rugged up in a cashmere throw.

For gorgeous vintage jewellery visit online boutique Jewellery By Design – antique and vintage jewellery store. Each item is loving sourced by Louise and selected for its beauty and individuality.

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