Why I buy vintage and what vintage costs... some thoughts about the Vintage Expo

This year I attended vintage fashion expo in Santa Monica for both the days it was held. The first day my girlfriends and I attended it together and I was very happy to introduce them to "my vintage world" as they both work more with contemporary fashion. I am always so happy to share the world of vintage with my friends and love talking to the booth vendors and sellers. I will admit that buying vintage clothing is much more fun than selling vintage clothing which can be quite problematic when one owns a vintage shop...



As I perused through the racks of 1950s party dresses, squealed over the beaded 1920s flapper gowns, and nearly fainted over Edwardian dresses, I started to wonder why do I buy vintage. Why were these women around me buying vintage? As having been on both ends of the spectrum at these shows I have learned to recognize who is there to buy for their shop and who is their to buy for themselves (and maybe it will end up in their shop someday...that would include me) and who is there simply because they just can't get enough of vintage clothing and everything that encompasses the wearing and the collecting of vintage.



If you're reading my vintage blog chances are you adore vintage. You can relate to that feeling you get inside when "she" catches your eye. That cream colored flapper dress with tiny rosettes at the neck and the smocking along the drop waist with pale pink and blue ribbons cascading down along the hips. She speaks to you in that soft sing-songy voice of hers "I have a story to tell, would you like to hear it?" And you walk in a daze towards this glowy ethereal garment many many years your senior... "ooo yes, do tell!"

But then heartbreak... her story is $595 and the saddest moment of truth comes that you cannot afford her story. Not now anyway.

As I floated around the vintage expo (because when I am at these vintage events I am almost always in a happy daze of oblivion, vintage is my drug y'all!) I came to a sad realization that many, I mean nearly 80% of the clothes at the show were too far out of my price range.

I should point out I don't use credit cards. I'm fairly frugal when it comes to money and have heard one too many horror stories of credit card hell. So I just avoid it like I avoid the snake room at zoos. So, no buying dresses I can't really afford.



We have a quick little dance these vintage dresses and I, and then I must say a tearful goodbye and hope that perhaps our paths will meet again (and perhaps by then I will be many pennies richer).

If you've never been to the Vintage Expo in Santa Monica (and it is held in San Francisco as well) let me share a bit of my knowledge with you...

It is by no means cheap or even "affordable". Now I tend to view my prices as fairly fair for the vintage world. And perhaps you will not agree, but if you shopped for vintage where I shop for vintage, I'd be on the cheaper end of the spectrum.

1920s Dresses START at $180-$220 and the $180 flapper dress was a plain sheer off white linen dress with hardly any embellishments. For a velvet or beaded gorgeous number expect to pay between $295 (not as elaborate) to $2200. Average price for a 1920s dress is around $350.

One woman I spoke to spent SIX MONTHS restoring a STUNNING black velvet number with metallic gold threading and very intricate beading. This was one of those $2200 flapper dresses I was talking about. Can I afford a $2200 dress? Absolutely not. Do I think her labor and love and the dress are worth $2200? Yes, absolutely I do.

Sure you can find dresses for $75-$85 dollars. But I'll be straight up honest, it's dresses you can get on Etsy for about the same and usually less.

Let's move on to hats. Because the vintage expo has many, many gorgeous vintage hats! Hat prices vary. You can get a cute 60s felt hat for $38-$48 or really spend the cash on a stunning sequined cloche from 1920s Paris and spend $595. It goes the same for the jewelry. Most of it is expensive, but you can find the odd whimsical brooch here and there from the 1950s or 1960s for $18-$28.



Going to the vintage expo for me is like living out my vintage fantasies for a little. I always leave so inspired and even more in love with vintage than before I arrived. If you are ever in Los Angeles during the weekends it is held here, I highly recommend on attending even if it's just to browse. I'd bring $500-$1,000 if you're looking to buy and that's on a decent budget. You could get a couple dresses and some accessories with that amount of money.

If you're a vintage buyer looking to supply your shop, this wouldn't be the place for it, unless of course your clients can pay double what you paid for something... *hehe*

Oh...and one last note... the prices reflected are of course only items I looked at which as you can see from my instagrammed photos tend to be dresses from the 1920s, 1930s, and Edwardian dresses. If the 40s, 50s, 60s is more your thing or more new age 80s... prices do vary. A 50s day dress would cost anywhere from $128 (on the low end) to $328 on the higher end with party dresses around $195-$595. And of course some dealers will work with you on prices, but having sold vintage myself, please don't try to negotiate us to 50% off the listed price. It just plain hurts our feelings!

6 comments:

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  2. My idea is that you buy vintage because it's very rare to find that same quality of craftsmanship and inventiveness on anything but couture gowns these days. Back in days gone by the simplest day dress was so beautifully cut and put together and that has lasted. I very much doubt the average High Street Fashion Store outfit will make it beyond a few decades as standards have dropped and everything is expected to be "throwaway" now.

    I think back to the very early 80's and how cheap Vintage was then, I used to pick up the most beautiful flapper dresses and Victorian outfits for literally pennies and wear them in all sorts of strange combinations, No-one wanted vintage back then, in the UK anyhow, and friends used to wrinkle their nose at my choices and say that I was wearing dead women's clothes - I thought they were idiots! Of course the real IDIOT turned out to be me as I gave all those clothes away to charity shops reluctantly when I started working in advertising and was advised I needed to sharpen my image! Sometimes I sob into my pillow at the folly of all that vintage glory I gave away... and gulp when I think of what those same dresses would cost me now!

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    1. Oh my goodness I can't imagine flapper dresses ever being pennies!! I really can understand how you must feel thinking back on all the lovely things you gave away.

      Vintage really hasn't gotten popular until recent years and now it's pretty much a part of mainstream fashion in some form or another.

      Thank you for sharing your story with me!

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  3. I found vintage is fabulous after reading this blog. Catchy dresses. I admire all the efforts taken to make Vintage a brand.

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  4. Back in days gone by the simplest day dress was so beautifully cut and put together and that has lasted. I very much doubt the average High Street Fashion Store outfit will make it beyond a few decades as standards have dropped and everything is expected to be "throwaway" now.

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  5. $125USD is the LOW end for a 1950s day dress? Jesus. Here (in New Zealand) you can grab a 1950s cotton dress in nice enough condition for $35 if you're at a market at the right time. It is veeeeeeeery rare for me to spend over $100 on a 1950s dress, and I have around 150 of the things. Last week I got a sheer yellow and lilac chiffon party dress with an amazing circle skirt and pearl buttons for $40 at a consignment shop, and I once got a 100% wool floral barely-worn Horrockses 1950s day dress for $30, which was on a half-price sale at a vintage shop.

    I always thought of the US as a bit of a vintage haven, but at those prices I'll stay here where nobody knows the value of old junk!

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Thank you for taking the time to leave me a little comment, I do try to respond back as often as I can. Have a lovely day! xoxo - Rodellee

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