Turning vintage into lasting style

01:43, Jan 31 2009
BRIGHT AND BREEZY: This vintage striped Kenzo top, can be paired perfectly with a modern Lime-green bag, and black Trelise Cooper pants.

Some styles are just too good to throw away, and come back again, and again, and buying vintage can pay huge dividends.

It is a great way to give your wardrobe a boost without breaking your bank balance.

Ask someone what makes an item of clothing vintage and they will say anything that's second-hand and dates from before 1980.

MIXING IT UP: This Verge denim jacket, $28, from Lasting Labels is given a new lease of life, layered over a green chemise, $49, from Labels of Late.

Others view vintage as being clothes from the 1920s to 1950s, with the '60s and '70s being labelled the Retro era.

In today's world of fashion, where pretty much anything goes, the period the clothes come from is irrelevant – it's how you feel in them and what you team them with that makes for a great vintage look.

While some shops, such as Tete a Tete in Shands Emporium, specialise in vintage clothing, there are other antique or bric-a-brac shops, including The Painted Room on Colombo Street and Forget Me Not, recently relocated to Woolston Village, where you will find clothes chosen to reflect a style for the home.


At The Painted Room, there's a great selection of brightly coloured, second-hand woollens that have been modernised with floral fabrics and trims to give them a new lease of life.

It's a look that complements the shabby-chic interiors style. If you're looking for a dress for a special occasion, Forget Me Not has some pretty, very girly examples of vintage dresses that are delightful.

A word of warning, though – many of the dresses dating back to the 1920s-1950s era are very small. A 1940s size 10 is probably more like a size eight in today's terms.

Vanessa Hardy, owner of Tete a Tete, stocks predominantly pre-1980s clothes and tends to buy New Zealand made.

She buys the clothes from estate sales and auctions, and also from people bringing items into the shop.

"I loosely follow what's in fashion, then at the same time look for distinctive pieces that stand out. Quality is a big issue – it's important that the new owner will get good wear out of the garment," says Hardy.

For the spring/summer season, she says dresses are very much back in vogue, particularly those with fitted waists and full skirts.

"I'm looking for nicely styled dresses that were fashionable in the 1950s and 1960s. The really feminine pieces, especially in floral prints, are popular at the moment."

Hardy says to always check the underarms of vintage clothes, as this is where they tended to wear out first.

"In pre-deodorant days people used a lot of talcum powder under their arms, which wasn't great for the clothes. Make sure this area is in good condition before you purchase," she says.

Buying vintage is also a great way to include labels that might otherwise be beyond the reach of your purse.

A Marilyn Sainty dress from the 1980s is a stunning example of the former designer's fashions, and given that metallic is back in fashion this year, is a fantastic find.

Lasting Labels in Innes Road, Labels of Late in Merivale and Classy Two Timers in Riccarton Road all sell on behalf of their clients.

It's a case of trawling through the racks to find something that suits, but these shops are well worth visiting.

With new items coming in daily, it's a case of popping in regularly to see what's in store.

Vintage and second-hand shops are good for eveningwear.

A lacy-topped black dress, worn with a black 1960s-style petticoat underneath, is elegant and sophisticated and won't date.

There are few rules when it comes to vintage-clothes shopping – you can either go for the whole vintage look, complete with gloves, glasses and jewellery, or team pieces with more contemporary items.

A stripy '60s-style knit top looks fantastic with a pair of funky, contemporary black pants (also found at a second-hand clothes shop).

Similarly, an early-model satin chemise dress teams well with a modern denim jacket.

Heavy woollen coats take a long time to wear out, which is perhaps why so many turn up in second-hand and vintage clothes shops.

A Jackie-O-style coat from The Painted Room will look stylish for many more years to come.

When it comes to vintage clothes, one woman's fashion mistake might just be another's treasure.

Upstairs at Victoria Black in High Street you'll find The Vintage Room, which sells second-hand designer clothes on behalf of clients.

The money from sales is then credited to the client to spend back downstairs in the main shop – a win/win situation for all.

Neroli Fournasier, who chooses the clothes for The Vintage Room, says the system is very popular.

"We have skirts, pants, jackets, bags and occasionally shoes. Shoes are a bit tricky as it's a bit like Cinderella – you need to find the right foot for the shoe."

The Press