How to Survive a Vintage Fair

Vintage fairs are arguably one of the most stressful shopping experiences you’ll ever have in your life. Whether it’s the sheer volume of people; the constant shoving and pushing; or the horrific abundance of 80s novelty print knits that only Beverly Goldberg would be proud of (I love them too, I’m not going to lie). I’ve been to countless vintage fairs and picked up a few tips along the way to help you make the experience a bit more bearable and a lot less daunting the next time.

Get Streamlined

One of the best tips I can give when going to a vintage fair is don’t worry about what you wear. The best outfit for vintage hunting I’ve found is just a basic leggings and strappy top combo with a chunky knit on top to keep you cosy and you can whip off easily. Wearing something tight fitting means that you’re free to try on garments at stalls because more often that not there’s no changing rooms and vintage sizes and shapes can be tricky so you’re always best to try before you buy! Some dealers will let you go to the bathroom to try things on, but most aren’t too keen on this in case their stock goes walkabout.

Prepare for Battle

Are you one of these people who can’t stand people standing too close to them or being bumped around at concerts? If so, don’t even bother with most vintage fairs, or to put it plainly, just suck it up. Vintage fairs are normally super busy and everyone is looking for the best bargains and most aren’t afraid to push, pull, shove and bump to get their hands on the best buys which isn’t helped by almost nonexistent space between stalls and clothes rails.

Embrace Your Inner Del Boy

More often that not dealers are more than happy to negotiate prices when you’re buying more than item as long as you’re polite and not too pushy with your approach. Just keep polite and ask if that’s the dealer’s best price for your selection of items, and if you’re lucky they’ll maybe knock a few quid off your total. Keep in mind that at some fairs some prices are set intentionally high to either deceive inexperienced vintage shoppers or to factor in some haggling room.

Make Sure You’re Beady Eyed

As expected, vintage clothing is pre-loved and is likely to have a few inperfections, whether its a few loose threads, a stain or two, or a missing button, you should make sure you’re aware of these before you buy. Check over each garment for any signs of wear or for any evidence of dreaded moth damage (if there is some damage buy these pesky critters, especially in furs, its often best to avoid the purchase altogether). I’ve been caught out far too many times by getting caught up in the moment and not thoroughly checking items, only to get home and realised they’ve sustained irreparable damage.

Lets Get Quizzical

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about an item if you’re not sure about it. You might want to know the age of the item, the fabric composition, or even how to care for it, and a good vintage supplier should be able to advise you on these things and will be happy to do so more often than not. Sometimes it’s difficult to pin an exact decade to an item, particularly if it’s of a style which passed into the next decade, but they should be able to give it a good guess.

Ditch the Plastic

This tip is actually a two-for-one, ditch both your plastic bags and your plastic credit cards. You don’t want to be caught out when your cheap poly bag breaks and you end up carrying all your buys. Also, plastic bags are the worst for cutting into your hands if they’re heavy, so bring a couple of canvas totes along with you and save your hands and new purchases. Secondly, many sellers don’t accept card payments, so always make sure you’ve got plenty of cash with you so you don’t have to rely on crossing your fingers and hoping they’ll take card.

These are my most valued vintage fair tips and the lessons I’ve learnt. Have you got any I’ve missed?

Fashion Management graduate from Aberdeen with a passion for quirky vintage fashion, trying new beauty products, and funky interiors.
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