In the years that I have been selling vintage, it has always surprised me that customers, vintage loving people, tend not to buy vintage as gifts for their family and friends. Having grown up with antique dealers as parents, I was lucky enough to receive my fair share of old things wrapped in shiny boxes, and even though as a teenager I wanted my fair share of Delia's t-shirts and Paul Frank underwear, those vintage gifts are the ones that, even then, touched me the most and that I still keep, even 20 years later. And isn't that what we all want to give at Christmas? Things that people will actually remember?
One of the best reasons to go vintage for gifts is that they are one of a kind, imbuing them with a level thoughtfulness that might elude the standard cashmere sweater/colorful scarf/fancy candle/novelty pajamas/new hardcover book combination that we have all come to rely on. And with excellent resources for finding just about any vintage item under the sun now available at our finger tips, from Etsy and eBay and Rubylane to Instagram and DePop, it's almost too easy to find unique vintage substitutes for those gifts, often at a more palatable price than something new. I can understand the fear that your recipient, one uninitiated to the cult of vintage, might think "oh, this is used, so it's not as good" but if you are strategic with your choices, you can find vintage items for everyone on your list that feel as good as (better than) new. Were you planning to buy a Madewell fisherman sweater for your younger sister because, hey, it's on sale for $65 and it's a safe choice for a picky teenager? Why not swap in a vintage real wool version that is just as slouchy, costs even less and will last 10x longer? Looking for a pair of earrings or a bracelet for Mom? Instead of stopping into Nordstrom or the MoMA design store, look for vintage sterling silver and semi-precious stones on Etsy or from your favorite vintage Instashops and you'll be surprised at how reasonably you can find truly exquisite pieces that no one else will have. Planning to buy your dad a pair of flannel PJs? Why not deadstock vintage from the 1960s--he'll get a kick out of it instead of just a thumbs up.
Not only are vintage gifts a bit more personal, they are environmentally friendly. As someone who sources vintage for a living, I can't tell you how often I have thought: there is so much STUFF in this world...why do we need to make more? And since Christmas is truly one of the most wasteful holidays--the gift wrap, the packaging, the boxes, to say nothing of the plastic-laden products we are gifting--it's worthwhile to "re-home" things from the past and give them a new life. As we reflect on our environmental future here in the US, especially this year, it's important to make small and large contributions to the cause of producing less waste.
Here's a quick list of tips for shopping vintage this Christmas:
- For people who might be more hesitant about wearing vintage, look for items that are "duplicates" of things that you think they'd wear from department stores or name brands, after all, those pieces were likely designed after vintage items. Try this for sweaters, Levi's jeans, peasant tops, and t-shirts for easy picking. Extra points for wool coats.
- Vintage bags are a great way to make and impact with less risk and are often easy to find in like-new condition. Bucket bags and basket bags are huge for fall and spring and are copious in the vintage market. Vintage Coach leather with brass hardware are also a universal crowd pleaser for moms, best friends, and younger sisters.
- Vintage jewelry is one place where you can really feel confident about replacing for new for nearly any recipient--oversize earrings, from drops to giant clips are hot right now, as well as chunky minimalist silver.
- Homewares make some of the best gifts, especially for people who you might not be close enough with to buy clothes--we love giving vintage glasses sets with original carriers, wool camp blankets, vintage Paint by Number portraits, Kilim pillows, Dansk enamel cookware, vintage novelty print tea towels and tablecloths.