Thursday, June 9, 2011

Vintage vs. Thrift

The question has been asked 100 times in my shop.  People ask me all the time.  I guess its because lately, the real definition of vintage has been clouded by this new term that has come onto the scene, "Thrifting".  I think that as of the last few years, the two terms have been confused with each other and have blurred the lines that define them both.  So, below I will express MY opinion of them both.  By no means is this pointing fingers at anyone who thinks any differently, it is just how I define the two.

THRIFT Stores:
(Haltom Thrift in Dallas-Fort Worth)
 Thrift stores are often massive, with endless racks and include an enormous variety of items.  Its often overwhelming!  Everything from clothing & accessories to housewares and electronics.  The clothes are often donated by local people, which also means they are not cleaned, mended and are sold "as is".  Thrift stores are a good place to find name brand modern clothing (meaning current) at a fraction of the price you would pay in the designer/department stores.  Is there vintage here?  Sometimes.  But, I will touch on that below.  

(Vintage Collections in NYC)

Vintage Clothing Stores are usually small, sometimes a bit cramped, and most of the time packed full.  But sometimes, you find one thats small, but carefully curated with hand selected vintage items.  They often carry clothes from every era, in several sizes.  The clothing you will find here is most likely washed and/or dry cleaned, mended and unique in that you will have a hard time finding another piece like it, anywhere!  The clothing is often received from auction, estate sales, private sales or sometimes (but rarely) by thrifting.  (see below on vintage clothing found out thrift stores!)

(shes tired of searching for vintage)

Now, for the part you've been waiting for.  Can you find these amazing vintage pieces at thrift stores?  YES!  YOU CAN!  But...... its not going to be in abundance.  Nor is it going to be at every thrift store, in every town, in every state.  Finding vintage at thrift stores is like panning for gold in Nevada.  Youll look and look and look...maybe thats vintage!?! - Nope, just a Forever 21 knockoff.  Get the idea?  In my younger years, yes - vintage could be found at your local Goodwill and Salvation Army in abundance.  It was easy to spot out and it was super cheap.  But with the recent trends in vintage, places like Goodwill and SA have already gotten wind of the trend - and have hired "spotters" that pull vintage before it hits the racks, in the back when sorting through the clothes and sell it on websites like "" or send it off to bigger cities to get more money for the pieces.  Now, not EVERY Goodwill or SA has spotters, and sometimes a few vintage pieces slip through the cracks, but its rare.  (This IS true, people.  I have my sources ;)

And now, the line blurring.  Recently, a lot of vintage "experts" have been telling the public that vintage can be found in your local thrift store, for practically pennies!  This saddens me as a vintage dealer because it cheapens what I do.  It makes people in my profession out to be garbage pickers who get cheap stuff and sell it to you, the consumer, for pennies on the dollar.  I stress to you - THIS IS NOT TRUE (at least in my case).  Now, you probably ask, "Well, even if you got it for free, why am I paying you so much money for it?!" - As vintage dealers, we seek out the stuff that you are searching for, clean it, mend it and bring it to a platform.  That platform is either an e-Commerce website (like Etsy or Ebay) OR to a Brick & Mortar shop.  In each platform, we have expenses and overhead.  So this is the premium you pay.  Vintage dealers save you the time, gas, mileage and perhaps that endless search for that one-of-a-kind item that you have been looking for!
And what do you get out of thrifting?  Perhaps some designer jeans for $10.  A cool wool sweater for $7.  And the list goes on.  If you were to search for vintage to sell, ONLY at thrift shops, you would spend your entire career doing just that - searching.  

I hope this clears up any confusion that there may be out there - and also, sets the record straight.  :)