I'm Getting Away With Something

Written by Melanie Lipsie
Sep 07, 2011


I grew up in a family of thrift shoppers. As a kid I would tag along with my mom and her sisters on frequent thrift store shopping extravaganzas.  They loved their time together digging for treasures and I loved just hanging with my mom and my cool, San Francisco aunts.  But when it came to me, as a child, trying to find items for myself… not so much enjoyment was to be found. While sifting through a myriad of used items wishing to find something name brand and cool, I found myself wondering ‘who would want to buy second hand clothes?’ I wanted new clothing, not the retail equivalent of hand-me-downs.

Fast-forward 18 years and the reluctant adolescent that tolerated this type of shopping has now turned into a hit-the-breaks-and-park! vintage shopping maniac.

Quality Labels, Excellent Prices

I’m not a label snob in the typical sense of the term, but I do seek out higher-end brands whilst second handing.  I tend to hang on to my clothing long term (see how I did that?) so I seek out designer brands because I know that I’m buying a well-made product in excellent fabrications that are constructed to last.

Also, second-hand luxury label pricing just can’t be beat.  Currently, my budget doesn’t allow for the insanely expensive clothing, accessories and furniture that I would love to buy. But also, I don’t have the desire to spend my money on retail prices. Having spent the majority of my career in the fashion industry, and knowing the ins and outs of markups and margins, I will forever have a difficult time paying full price for merchandise.

With that in mind let me show you what treasures I have found during my vintage hunts in the hopes of inspiring you, dear reader, to explore your local vintage shop.

The Goods

Gucci purse circa1980’s:  This gem has an interesting story. I had been envying a blue and white monogram Gucci portfolio that Ms. CBS herself was gifted from a client who had found the item in southern California.  Truth be told, I’m not a purse-with-logos type of gal, but this particular piece piqued my interest. I had dreams of obtaining this wonderful organizer, but knew, realistically, the odds of finding this second hand would be tough to say the least.

However, the hope remained in my mind while shopping at an antiques mall in northern California this past spring. After some time, unbelievably, I dug up a small Gucci purse that was buried in the bottom of a basket filled with knitting supplies. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Now, while I didn’t find the Gucci portfolio I wanted I found the next best thing in the same exact material and colors that I had been envying. Best of all?  It was on sale for 13 bucks.  This purchase was not only a steal but also a weird psychic win for me.

Black bohemian hat circa 1970’s:  After my Gucci find I continued to look into this little old lady's stockpile of goodies within her section of the antique mall.  Admittedly, she had a lot of junk in her area but I kept sifting in the hopes of finding more unexpected treasures.  I actually found more than enough items that I wish I could have bought. In between her cadre of crap she had some great finds including Brooks Brothers jackets (for men) and awesome fedoras in mint condition. After much contemplating I settled on a black felt hat with wide brim. It’s so in style right now, can be worn with so many outfits, is in perfect condition and will be a classic staple in my wardrobe for years to come. It’s a fun accessory and was a steal at $8.00.

Kenneth Cole gold wedge shoes (circa?):  I wouldn’t normally get giggly about this particular brand of shoes or style but, again, another interesting circumstance regarding this purchase. I was on deadline to find shoes in a gold tone, preferably in a wedge shape. I was to be a bridesmaid in a garden wedding; lots of grass equaling sinking heels was to be expected on this day. I perused my favorite consignment shop in La Jolla and after minimal time, found EXACTLY what I needed for the wedding. How often do we really find exactly what we are looking for when shopping during a time crunch??

Not only were these my size, the desired gold color and wedge heel, but they also had some funk to them with the heel being made of Lucite. Best of all yet again? The shoes cost $5.00.  Five dollars! This minor expenditure made the price of the bridesmaid dress feel almost worth it.

Ciner Panther Bracelet:  My latest and greatest find (or shall I say, investment?) was something I picked up while shopping, again, in Northern California this past summer. I loved the look of the bracelet and thought there may be some potential going on in terms of collector value…but mostly I wanted to wear the thing everyday because of it’s sparkly, funky charm. After purchasing, I did research online about the brand and found that the company has been around since 1892.  Ciner is known for their popular costume jewelry, in particular, for their animal/panther head bracelets. While I couldn’t find an exact replica of my bracelet online, I found many that were similar. Going prices?  $295.00 +.  The price I paid for my Ciner? TEN DOLLARS.  I now look at this costume gem in a whole new light!

Your New Hobby

I could GO ON about the other miscellaneous fun finds that I have built into my treasure trove of goodness (DVF silk dress for $18.00, perfectly white Jill Sander blouse for $4.00, tailored French blazer costing $24.00, etc.,) but typing space, and time, does not allow.

Let me end with further words of motivation to get your second hand shop on; you’re recycling, saving money, buying quality (if not luxury) and having fun while doing it.  Don’t get discouraged if you don’t find anything up to par on your first visit. Vintage shopping is a hit or miss game; you won’t find something fabulous every time.  Also, do some research on haute couture and luxury brands if you are unfamiliar. It’s best to have some fashion knowledge in your head while examining the product you have in your hand.

Everyone loves a scavenger hunt, right? Go on and give it a try at your local vintage shop and see what treasures you can score. I think you’ll find that a new hobby has been discovered.

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Photograph by Melanie Lipsie (Copyright 2011 Melanie Lipsie)