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What’s the difference between a vintage shop and an old clothes shop?

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Last week I was celebrating my birthday. Birthdays for me are always low key affairs, I’m not one to organise parties or wear an enormous badge. To be honest I’m not really that much of a fan of getting presents either. Perhaps that sounds ungrateful but as someone who doesn’t really value ‘things’ I can find it very frustrating when I am landed with an unwanted scented candle just because someone felt compelled to buy me a present. If they knew the first thing about me they would know that a) I’m very afraid of fire b) most heavy perfumes make me sneeze and c) I try and live a minimalist lifestyle and so don’t want things for the sake of things.

Birthdays always reveal to me who my true friends are and who knows me the best. My idea of a birthday treat is a good meal with friends, or a trip to the seaside to visit my brother. Which was exactly how I spent last Sunday.

Having a brother in Brighton certainly has its perks. Being a country girl living in the city, there are times when I feel completely overwhelmed by the noise, dirt and bustle of London. It is times like that I like to jump on a train and head down to the coast for some sea air and a change of scene.

Besides, Brighton has HEAPS of vintage shops. Knowing me the longest, if not the best of everyone I know, my brother kindly offered that instead of buying me a birthday present I didn’t want, he would buy me something of my choosing from one of Brighton’s many vintage shops. To me the idea of spending a day wondering the sunny streets searching for vintage treasure is pure heaven and besides, the company wasn’t bad either.

But I as I trawled through racks and racks of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air shirts and 90’s windbreakers I was struck by a thought. I wouldn’t consider any of this stuff vintage.

Am I being a snob? Perhaps, but second hand dungarees and old flannel shirts are not in the same category as 1940’s jackets and 1950’s knitwear, which was what I was looking for. In some shops I saw some great 1960’s psychedelic shift dresses alongside, hoodies from Primark.

For me all second-hand clothes have worth and those Primark hoodies still had a lot of life left in them, but as a vintage lover, I am coming into a vintage shop for vintage clothes. For the prices that are charged in a lot of those shops I expect a level of curation, or heck simply knowledge of what you are selling. Not a mish-mash of second-hand clothes picked up in a job lot.

Yes, there is a huge market for retro-hipster clothes and believe me I’m on board with any trend that means more second-hand clothing is recycled, but I’m still a vintage lover at heart. I want a beautiful vintage shop crammed to the rafters with hidden treasures that an enthusiastic seller has collected over many years in the trade. I want to talk to people who know what they’re talking about so when I ask if they have any 1940’s jackets they can point me in the right direction with pride and show off their finest wares. In short I want a proper vintage shop.

In the end, I managed to find a jacket in good old Beyond Retro. It’s not original 1940’s but it definitely has a 40’s feel to it so I’m satisfied. I had a lovely time in Brighton and will go back to wonder through the rows of old leather jackets and Levi’s on my next visit I’m sure. But I’m anxiously on the lookout for the kind of true vintage shops I dream of.

Any suggestions for places I must visit?

Claude x

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