Just before I moved, I met a woman I'll call "Marina" for dinner.
Marina is a petite, slim, glamourous woman in her mid-fifties, divorced, with two young-adult children and a high-profile career in public service. I appreciate her mordant wit, ready opinions and devotion to her family.
|A suit like Marina's by David Dixon|
Marina, who had come from work, wore a fitted, pea-green wool suit with simple, chic tailoring, and pointed-toe black flats: think Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's", but with tumbling auburn hair.
Marina then told me, "I buy all my clothes secondhand". And I thought, of course. She's so smart, in both senses of the word.
Let someone else take the gaspingly high-priced hit on a Celine suit, wear it for a few years, then it's yours for a fourth or fifth of the price. Marina knows what she likes and how to put it together. "I always look around, and think 'I'm the best-dressed woman here'", she said, matter of factly. And she's right.
I've heard many reasons for buying new: I'm too big/tall/short; I don't have time to prowl the racks and (strange to me, but she said it) "Who knows who owned this before me?" I replied that I'd sage the dress to excise any evil vibes.
If you are truly a hard to find size, you can still score bags, scarves, sunglasses. (Shown, vintage Gucci equestrienne bag from Rice and Beans Vintage, $375.)
|YSL tortoise heel|
Look at these vintage YSL navy linen shoes with tortoiseshell heels, in excellent condition, size 6-6.5, for $175 from Rice and Beans!
If time is short, online vintage boutiques (many list on Etsy) often offer more attentive service than bricks and mortar shops; many now offer video clips so you can see clothes from all sides.
Unlike Marina, not much of my (now severely edited) wardrobe is secondhand, but some of my favourites are: a yellow crocodile framed handbag, a French spring coat in burnt orange, a soft grey cashmere tunic.
If I were a more standard size, I'd shop mostly in such places. I like the idea of recycling and the pleasure of owning something well-made for less.
|Courrèges dress, Enoki.com|
I was annoyed to hear a woman complain about the price of high-quality vintage at my favourite Toronto treasure, Thrill of the Find. She expected a mint-condition Courrèges dress to sell for far less than $375, which I consider a great price. Designer vintage/consignment is not thrift; if she can find Courrèges at Value Village, she's incredibly lucky, but if paying someone else to do the picking, she ought not expect it for $75.
I would rather own that secondhand masterpiece than the wobbly-seamed, plastic-buttoned-and-zippered dress on offer most everywhere these days for the same price.
Marina and I strode into the night, saying goodbye at the streetcar. She wore a trench that looked soft and spectacular, and had lived a life before hers. Why not?