The art of the rummage

by average-eye-con


I’m just as much of a fan of trawling through the rails of my local charity or vintage shop as I am shopping online. I like that items are limited – you’re unlikely to find more than one the same – and also that they have a history. Some of my favourite dresses are 30 year old remnants from my mothers wardrobe. She hung on to them and when I was small I’d play dress up, until my late teens when they fit properly. Then they became my style staples; I was guaranteed that no-one else would have the same.

It’s not the same seeking out these pieces for yourself. Vintage and charity shops – even TKMAXX – have one thing in common: you have to be willing to rummage.

I’ve lost count of the times someone asked me where I bought something but when I’ve told them, they’ve sighed and bemoaned a lack of time that would afford them the opportunity to find such treasures – or – they’ve praised my superhuman knack for finding these gems among heaps of rubbish, wishing they too had this ‘gift’.

It’s all bollocks. While admittedly I love taking my time when I shop, I don’t always have that luxury… as for a talent for finding stuff I like? Hardly! I just know what I like and I have a system for finding it. A system, I’m happy to share.

0. Before you begin.

I know what I like, but I can’t speak for you. Best advice? Have an idea what you’re looking for but keep it simple. I normally have a look – or rather a feeling – I’m going for with an outfit. I often don’t know exactly what I’m after, because being too specific decreases the chances you’ll find something. Far better in my opinion, to have a vague notion of what you want. Trawl through magazines… Of all the looks you like, which fabrics, textures and prints tend to pop up time and time again? Are you after a one piece, or several items to layer? Have a think – and  – when you know what you’re aiming for, you can begin.

1.  Beginning.

Pick a rail, any rail, no matter how crammed full it looks and how impossible sorting through it might seem. If sizes can be easily spotted, find the first item that’s in the smallest size you can wear. If not, skip straight to the next step.

2. Look and feel.

Scan the whole rail – its easier if you check the lengths of the items – for fabrics and textures you like, pulling them out when you see them. Don’t worry about the size initially.

3. Sized up.

Size is not  as important as you first might think. I always start my search at the first item in the smallest size I can wear (UK10) – but – will scan the entire length of the rail. Yup, right through the plus sizes, because depending on the item and how I’d like it to fit, I can potentially size up. Just the other week I found this beautiful navy t-shirt, with a slight trapeze cut. It was a size 20 – it didn’t matter, because the moment I saw it, I knew it would make a perfect loose fit mini dress. I tried it on and bamn, if fit just as I imagined. I couldn’t have anticipated better… but when it came to step 4, I decided not to grab it. Foolish – when I returned the next week, it was gone.

4. Parting.

This one I’m afraid, is down to you. How much are you willing to spend? When I try to reason with myself over my purchases I ask – could I find this cheaper online? If the item is designer or branded, is the price extraordinarily good for the designer/brand? If I’m not sure – how many of the item are available in the size/fit I want – a few? – then I can hold off. Just the one? How hard will I be kicking myself if I come back and it’s gone? … In the end, it comes down to how much you want the item. You know what budget you’re working with. Are you willing to part with cash, or will you bid it farewell to save your purse.

5. Final advice.

If you’re shopping with company, don’t be quick to discount an item just because they don’t like it. Remember, it’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it. If you can clearly see how you’ll style it and are confident it’ll work, then go for it. Stay true to that vision and yourself… Cheesy but worth it. The number of times I’ve bought something that someone else has declared hideous while it was on the rail, only for them to begrudgingly admit it looks really nice when they see it on.  The same works in reserve as well. If you’re unconvinced that something is for you and someone is trying to talk you into getting it, don’t cave. 9/10 times it’ll be a waste of pennies and you’ll only have the trouble of returning it. You know in your gut what works for you, so stick with that.

If you’ve a smart vintage or charity shop find you’d like to share, I’d love to have a look – just #averageeyecon on instagram and twitter so I can find it! Until then, take care… next week I’ll be blogging from Tokyo! ❤