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8 Essential Vintage Items to Look For on Your Next Hunt

I've been collecting (and shopping) vintage clothing for more than a decade. Here are eight key items that work in any wardrobe.

vintage clothing essentials
Written by
Calin Van Paris
I'm in a serious relationship with
vintage clothing
When it comes to my closet, I consider myself a collector. And for a collector, vintage is king. Clothes from decades past (I tend toward the '70s and early '90s) feature natural fabrics, sturdier craftsmanship, and individualized flair—all at a fraction of the price of contemporary brands. All that's needed is an understanding of your aesthetic and a willingness to treasure hunt, but factors can be perfected with practice.
To help you kick off your
secondhand style
journey, this selection of vintage items provides a universal origin point. So get thrifting! And once you're hooked, feel free to call me for support.

8 Key Vintage Pieces to Add to Your Wardrobe

1. Vintage Levi's

Not to be dramatic, but the high finding the perfect pair of
vintage Levi's
is among my favorite feelings. (I'm only sort of exaggerating.)
Persistence is the most important element of a vintage denim hunt, but once you hone in on your favorite cut and general retro waist size, eyeballing pairs that will work for you becomes something like second nature.
Pro tip: If you're in the market for true vintage, look for an orange tab on the back pocket—those babies are typically from the 1960s.

2. Concert Tee

Skip the contemporary copies and track down a real-deal, worn-in concert tee. A perfectly faded celebration of iconic (or niche) bands is a comfortable and classic means of expanding your t-shirt collection—and honestly, the best ones are nearly threadbare.
Curated vintage shops tend to know the value (and rarity) of an authentic band tee, so prices can get a little steep. Get adventurous and go picking at your local
thrift store
or Goodwill for a more affordable find.

Vegan Apple Leather Tote

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3. Oversize Sweater

Vintage shops are stocked with 100% cotton and wool sweaters that offer a surplus of cozy style minus the modern prices you're used to. Whether paired with jeans, trousers, or tights, a well-made oversize sweater will earn its place in your closet.

4. Denim Jacket

As with jeans and cut-offs, vintage denim jackets are the superior choice. Find one that's fitted, or select a style that leaves room for layered hoodies and crewnecks.
A bonus of hunting for a throwback jean jacket? Patches, sweet fading, and natural wear serve to make your piece personal from purchase.

5. Silk Slip

Find the nightgown rack and go to town! Though a silk slip might cost a pretty penny at your favorite boutique, an overflow of vintage nighties keep prices incredibly low—even for high-quality fabrics.

6. Cowboy Boots

Cowboy boots are back (psst... they never left) and I posit that they go with everything. Dresses! Shorts! Any denim—whether straight-legged and tucked within or flared and providing partial obscuration!
These classics are comfy, and typically able to house a wooly winter sock, making your cold-weather ensembles warmer and sleeker.

7. Leather Jacket

As a contributor to the animal agriculture industry, leather (and my love for it) can be tricky. The solution is finding it vintage. As my friend Morgan of
Aubergine Vintage
says any time she's asked about a thrifted leather: "It's a rescue."
When considering the leather jacket, a moto is likely what springs to mind. But if the moto is a bit too hard-edged for your style (I would argue that it's not, but we can chat one-on-one), leather boasting cleaner lines or tawny color palettes provide an alternative option.

8. Trench

The appeal of a timeless trench comes in its transformative nature. Throw the historic staple over a mini-dress, sweats, bike shorts—it really doesn't matter. The end result will always be chic.