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Vintage Hunting Tips

By Anastasiia Vorobeva
On November 3, 2017

Vintage stores are a different world in and of themselves. 
Photo By Romeing

Vintage stores are a different world in and of themselves– along with the items they sell, and the stories they share.

    “All of these things are stray dogs, which somebody once had and loved and cared for. But nobody wants it. And I am here just to find them another good home,” says Gina Puzzuoli, who named her store Stray Dog Antiques to reflect her philosophy.

    Sometimes Puzzuoli tricks people into adopting her “stray puppies,” even if it means a loss for herself. For instance, one time she sold a man a vintage Egyptian cotton shirt for just five dollars—way below its value, hoping to break through the mans prejudice against pre-owned things. The man’s wife came by later to say the trick worked and the shirt was loved.

    “Vintage” is term to define a gray area for things between “modern” and “antique.” For clothing, vintage is anything older than 20 years, too old to be contemporary, but younger than 1920s. Furniture should be older than “just used” but newer than a hundred years old.

    Despite common belief that vintage is a code word for “just old things” your grandma tried to talk you into keeping, it plays a bigger role in the modern world than one might guess. Many designers collect vintage for inspiration; celebrities wear it for the red carpet or perform in it during concerts; TV and Broadway shows are not shy to incorporate the vintage pieces to add uniqueness to an atmosphere.

    Charleston doesn’t sit aside when it comes to appreciating things with stories– there are such places for vintage lovers as South Charleston Antique Mall, Stray Dog Antiques, Collage, and The Purple Moon to name a few. Even though Charleston is a hard audience who is reluctant to open up to the idea that vintage is not just an old thing with a high price tag, but timeless high-quality pieces, there is an audience who “really gets it,” says Puzzuoli.

    “There is not a sect of people who buys vintage, it is all over the place,” says Jamie Miller, artist and an owner of Collage vintage store. There are people who buy vintage because they highly value fashion and having one of a kind things, or older people who come for nostalgia. Some people collect vintage the same way they collect art.

    When it comes to vintage hunting, you can find nice stores in Princeton, Beckley, and Charleston W.Va., just to name a few. The trick is not to be afraid to go through stacks of old clothes looking for a piece you like. In Charleston, several places sell curated selections - Collage has a small collection, but has very interesting and quite luxurious pieces coming in from time to time. Stray Dog Antiques has a wide range of goods starting with clothes and jewelry and mind-blowing pieces of antique furniture. Sometimes even very high-end pieces like Chanel show up. You never know what you can find. “There were some really classy people living here,” says Jamie Miller about Charleston.

    If you are just getting started in exploring vintage, curated collections would make your life easier. The Purple Moon people are highly selective when it comes to mid-century furniture and you don’t have to worry about quality. Jamie Miller always picks fun pieces for her Collage store, even when she travels abroad. Gina Puzzuoli has some influential vintage dealers as friends, who sometimes would sell her interesting pieces.

    Sometimes even celebrities buy vintage in Charleston. Once, Puzzuoli sold several cabins with beautiful Thai fabric she got in New York City to a popular Nashville country band. Actress Chloe Sevigny shopped and bought some vintage items in downtown too.

    There are several recommendations and rules vintage collectors in Charleston give:

    Rule number one: examine. “You gotta look, you gotta take it apart, turn that garment inside out,” passionately explains Puzzuoli on how she trained her intern. “If it is a piece of furniture – get underneath it, open the drawers.” The devil is in the details.

    Buy things you like. Even the buyers try to get only things they wouldn’t mind keeping for themselves if they don’t sell. “I don’t pick things for other people, really. I just pick things that I like, which I am drawn to,” says Miller.

    Educate yourself. “It is like buying art or buying antiques,” says Puzzuoli. She believes you should “read, go to museums, go to the Meta in New York and look at their costume and textile department. Go to a city and go to a high-end vintage and look—probably can’t afford it, but look at it. Touch it.”

    If you are buying vintage clothes online, pay attention to measurements over listed sizes, as they changed over years. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

    Lastly, explore. You can find many interesting things in estate sales. Sometimes you can score something great in thrift stores or garage sales. “If you are looking for vintage, there are a lot of places here [WV] to pick up from,” Andrea Anderson, a seven-year intern in The Stray Dog Antiques.

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