Top Tips for Vintage Shopping by Liselotte Watkins

Top fashion illustrator and resident of Rome, Liselotte Watkins, gives us a crash course in vintage and sustainable shopping. Learn how to save money, the environment and up your style game!

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Vintage dress from Missoni.

She’s Sweden’s top illustrator (you remember her Miu Miu collection right?) and a seriously well-dressed lover of vintage fashion and interiors.

Liselotte Watkins, who lives in Rome with her husband and child,is a true vintage connoisseur. We got Liselotte to share her best kept secrets on how to master a strong vintage game.

“My biggest inspiration in terms of style are old Italian women and men who I see on the street. To be so not-in fashion that you never go out of fashion is the best style you can have! My style is the result of many years of collecting, a lot of which, I’ve not paid that much for at all.”

What  do vintage  clothes  bring  to  your  wardrobe  that  newer pieces don’t?
“I am a flea market hunter and I like the sport of thrift shopping. I never like when there is too much something, even if it’s a good thing Half of the fun is the searching and the enjoyment of finding something really really good. That is also why I have a bit of a problem with vintage stores that are too fancy and organized.”

There´s  vintage  and  then there´s  really  expensive  vintage. Designer  pieces  seldom come  cheap. How do you manage shopping these finds without feeling robbed?
“If you feel like that, then you’ve probably been robbed! Back in the good old days, during the youth of vintage (shopping), you could find really good designer pieces at great prices. Not anymore. The awareness of archive pieces and designer vintage is way too high now. Everybody loves vintage and to mix and match.”

What should you avoid when going for vintage?
“You should try and focus on material and cut. I never ever buy synthetic materials. Cotton, linen, wool and silk are the way to go. And find a really good tailor who can shorten and customize the garments a bit. I never ever look for designer pieces, even in the really junky stores they are too pricey. And don’t buy stuff that smells or is stained.”

How do you avoid that smell that often comes with an item?
“Don’t buy stuff that smells funky. It is really really hard to get rid of unless it is cotton and you can wash it at ninety degrees.”

How do you find the good stuff in a store?
“Like any other sport, you get better at it the more time you put into it. For me nowadays, after thirty years of flea marketing, the clothes and items kind of call my name. I can go into a store and it’s like everything is grey and one thing kind of sparkles. That’s the good piece.”

Is it important to mix vintage with the newer items for a contemporary look?
“Well, some stuff is hard to find vintage, like shoes for example. And if you want to avoid that eclectic flea marketer aura I would say go for new shiny shoes. Some brands channel the vintage feel so well these days – Gucci, Saint Laurent, Prada – so it’s kind of hard to tell.”

 

Is there a vintage period that is better than the rest?
“I am a 70’s kind of gal. I love everything from that era (except the horrible synthetic stuff). I was fortunate enough to live in NYC in the 1990’s and got a bunch of good stuff back then that are still my wardrobe staples. I have lot of vintage Yves Saint Laurent. They still look good after all these years. That kind of quality is really hard to find in new clothes today. No matter how much you pay for them.”

So, we know good vintage stores keep the real golden pieces behind the counter only for a select few to see. Is there a way for anyone to get access to these vintage treasures?
“Well, being nice to people in the store is always good. Show interest and compliment things. People who have vintage stores usually really like vintage and love to talk about it. If you come back like five times they will show you the real treasures. And even if it’s stuff you can’t afford it is usually fun to see it.”

Which items and clothes are best to buy vintage – even if you aren’t going for full-on vintage style?
“Constructed blazers in wool and linen, cotton dresses, skirts from the seventies, ceramics, vases, paintings and then of course jewelry. I am not big on accessories but I have a feeling that there is no reason to buy them new.”

Tell us about your best vintage buy!
“I bought a Hermès Kelly bag for 5 dollars on the Bowery back in 1995. I was sure it was fake so I took it to my friend who had a vintage store. It was very real.”

 

Dress from La Double J.

Dress from La Double J.

Liselotte Watkins’ favorite vintage spots:

EBAY 
“It’s still the best place. You don’t need to go anywhere and there’s TONS of good stuff there. Search for obscure things, not designers like: ‘seventies happy flower long dress maxi”. Something interesting usually comes up.”

CAVALLI E NASTRI
“Super nice staff and beautiful Italian things from the sixties and seventies based in Milan.”

MADAME PAULINE VINTAGE
“A shop in Milan to go to if you are into really nice stuff.”

HUMANA VINTAGE 
“I love Humana Vintage in Milan where everything is dirt cheap. I just bought some leather pants in the softest colors with great leather quality. They were like seven euro a piece.”

LA DOUBLE J
“Then my friend JJ has a wonderful site. If you are into great accessories and jewelry you really need to check her out.”

LISA LARSSON
“In Stockholm I always go to Lisa Larsson. I have been doing so for twenty years and she is such a fabulous person who knows so much about Swedish Vintage.”