I’ve been looking for a good vintage suede coat for some years now. I’m very fussy. It needs to be a good colour – not brown or black, but something more unusual. It has to be suede as vintage leather can look plasticky and brittle. It has to have some shape; I have a fairly boyish figure so a nicely tailored coat makes me feel more feminine. And lastly the collar needs to look vintage and have structure. Not too much to ask, right?
Well you’d think so. Vintage clothing is so popular these days, whether its a highly specialised vintage boutique, a curated vintage market or just a plain old high street charity shop, shoppers everywhere are hunting down unique pieces that offer an escape from the homogenised look that we’re seeing on the high street. Don’t get me wrong, I love H&M and Zara as much as the next person, but I don’t feel good about buying fast fashion. Its great to see many of the big high street brands wising up to this and offering more environmentally friendly ranges (H&M have just launched the seventh collection for their Conscious range) but vintage clothing offers an individuality and one of a kind aesthetic that the high street never will.
Don’t get me wrong, I love H&M and Zara as much as the next person, but I don’t feel good about buying fast fashion.
Pre 1960s the concept of second hand clothing was really for those unfortunate individuals who couldn’t afford to buy new item. The rationing and restricted consumerism during war years led to a desire for new and shiny. I remember my grandmother being horrified at the amount of vintage I wore during my university days. It was an easy way to look different, particularly on a student budget and my university town was packed with second hand shops. But to her I was simply wearing someone else’s clothes.
It was during the mid 60s that the mod and hippy movements developed an interest in clothes from previous eras, particularly Edwardian and Victorian dresses and military wear, and vintage became a fashion choice. Today we see celebrities and fashion stylists donning rare designer labels from the last six decades, knowing that they’re unlikely to be twinning with another celebrity.
One of my biggest style crushes is the character Frances in Divorce, played by Sarah Jessica Parker. Her entire wardrobe is based on vintage style, assembled by costume designer Arjun Bhasin.
“A lot of the dresses that we used were vintage … because we wanted to create that sense of history and nostalgia by pulling out old pieces. I’d fallen in love with things at vintage fairs and on eBay and on Etsy, and then we’d dismantle them and put them back together. Many of the dresses were bigger sizes and some had weird sleeve lengths or peplums, and we didn’t want it to be like she was a vintage girl who had all this vintage stuff. We wanted to modernize the pieces but make them sophisticated and simple. So we changed necklines, sleeve lengths, and hemlines—we treated them like they were just pieces of fabric, and we redesigned and recreated them.” Arjun Bhasin
This really resonates with me as I love blending in vintage with high street and the odd designer piece. It creates such a unique look and adds personality to an outfit.
So back to my fashion quest….The hunt for my perfect vintage coat really brought out the cavewoman in me! We’re all so used to being able to source and buy items with next day delivery, it drove me mad that my perfect coat simply did not seem to exist. After months of popping into shops and fairs, I spent a day at a vintage fair and still didn’t find anything. That evening I was on a mission and trawled through Etsy. Funnily enough two turned up at the same time (in different stores), so I spent a couple of hours comparing the two and thinking through their versatility. Both were emerald green. One was £49, the other £120. One was double breasted and knee length, the other single breasted and mid calf. One was 1960s, the other 1970s.
I contacted the sellers and they were both prepared for me to return the coats if they didn’t fit. This is really important as I’ve been caught out before with items that don’t fit properly and lots of sellers won’t accept returns. So if you’re looking for a vintage item online, make sure the seller agrees to a return if it doesn’t fit! I also asked one of the sellers to provide me with further images which she did also immediately (on a Sunday evening!). I would have been happy with either coat but eventually I settled on the 1960s coat, mainly as it was a smaller size and I prefer a slimmer looking silhouette.
Its beautiful quality with some sharp tailoring and gorgeous details – I mean, a soft suede coat in such an unusual colour for £49… just look at the way the belt attaches to the buttons. Its amazing! The closest I’ve seen is a Diane Von Furstenberg suede trench for £1,200…. My vintage treasure has a few marks on it and is obviously vintage. It also has that musty vintage smell that apparently goes if you pop the item in a sealed bag with some baking soda. I’m absolutely delighted with it and love that it works with jeans or a dress. I think its going to be a long standing item in my wardrobe which is fantastic considering it must already be about 50 years old!
I think its going to be a long standing item in my wardrobe which is fantastic considering it must already be about 50 years old!