Hi Sandra and Mark! What first sparked your interest in old things?
Sandra: I’d always liked books, so started work in a 2nd hand book shop at 16, which was part of a larger second hand shop. I realised that op shops weren’t just full of recently used old clothes but all sorts of interesting stuff. At 15 I didn’t go into op shops because I didn’t want crusty old lady stuff, but now I realise those old ladies were actually throwing out their 30s - 40s items. I lament the stuff I “could have” gotten.
Mark: I have always been into “old stuff” having been bought up in a family of “collectors”, so I was doomed from the start I suppose. We are probably the only family that apologises at Christmas time, if we give each other something new.
Tell us about your background in vintage clothing and collecting?
Sandra: I started collecting vintage clothes as a way of sourcing costumes. It was cheaper to find interesting items and fabrics in op shops. And it was all original. Rarely did you find a piece that someone else had. And it was all so cheap back in the 90s. Starting a collection was easy. Plus army surplus shops were all over the place. Oh the joy of going thru racks looking for cute army jackets and canvas bags. Plus, the good old John Bull army boots.
Mark: I think for me, it has been a seamless transition from my many years of collecting New Zealand military uniforms. I also collect vintage bicycles (yet another passion Sandra and I share), so felt the “need for some tweed” to ride in at events around the country. It’s been all downhill from there as they say.
What was the first piece you remember buying?
Sandra: I bought and still have a pair of 1960s horned rimmed glasses for about $1 in 1993.I later got the glass replaced with sunglass lens and they were my everyday wear for over 10 years.
Mark: Ummm, that’s a hard one. I still remember buying an old Sex Pistols badge in the early 1980’s at an Antique Bottle show in exotic Taihape for 20 cents. I must have been 9 or 10 at the time – I still have it.
Sandra: Again, you will very rarely find someone who has the same item. I love the hunt, looking thru op shops in ALL the clothes racks. Even finding a piece that won’t fit but knowing it has to come home with you because it’s something very cool. The tailoring in vintage is hardly seen nowadays and it’s stunning. Even in my earlier Edwardian pieces the detail is awesome.
Mark: I love the 20’s – 40’s period. For me, it’s the combination of the period and in a way, it’s like being able to touch history. As well as that, it’s the thrill of the hunt. I love researching, searching and scouring Op Shops for period clothing and all the other “wee” things that go with that piece of clothing to make it all come together as an outfit that has stepped out of the history books and comes alive.
Are there specific items/ eras that you concentrate on collecting?
Sandra: I love the 20s-40s. I have had Victorian in the past but lack storage space so have passed those on. But I love the 30s-40s esp. Why? because you can still buy it cheap. More often than not it is still very wearable, esp. the more utilitarian pieces. And I think it’s better suited to my body shape. I’ve also started looking for more WW2 ladies stuff to go with our bike collection. It’s great turning up in a bike and with clothes of the era. It’s not so much what to wear but what to wear with which bike.
Mark: I have been a collector of NZ Militaria for well over 40 years now, but have a real thing for the 1930’s and 40’s in general. I like the fact that even in times of hardship; the clothes were still extremely well-tailored and made to last. Of late I have been collecting things that relate to the “Home Front” during WWII.
Where is the best place to hunt for vintage bargains?
Sandra: Aha…well that would almost be telling my secrets but it’s a no brainer really. Op shops are still awesome and here in Hamilton we are lucky to have a large variety. I wonder if we have more op shops per capita than any other town? But op shops for sure. Trade Me can be great if you know what you’re looking for.
Mark: As Sandra says, Op Shops are still my main source of new/old garments. You have to have a sharp eye, but there are still some good bargains to be found out there.
Any tips for readers on what to look for when shopping for vintage fashion and accessories?
Sandra: Have a look at the label. It will usually tell you what its age is. Buttons and zips can be replaced and quite often they have too if the piece has been well used. But labels generally will tell you the age of the item. But also the fabric is usually a giveaway. Plus I reckon, if it’s cheap go with your gut feeling. It usually pays out.
Mark: For me it’s as Sandra says, Fabric, buttons and labels. They can tell you a lot about what you’re looking at, but as with collecting anything it comes down to the “three C’s” – Condition, Condition, and Condition. Always buy the best one you can afford... even if it’s a little bit above budget. Remember, they don’t make it anymore – you will never regret it.
Sandra: Shoot um. Usually it’s the most recent item I’ve acquired. Ha ha
Mark: That’s a hard one… Just one? Probably my 1940’s Pinstripe suit. I saw it in an Op Shop for $40.00 and said, “That’s coming home with me!” When I went to pay for it, the lady told me “All suits are $3.00 today…” Fits like a glove.
Sandra: Probably my glomesh bags. I may have more than a few. I noticed one day I had a few so culled some so I didn’t have double ups and then decided I need one of every colour plus matching purses and even key cases. oops.
Mark: I would say my WW1New Zealand Rifle Brigade collection. I have complete uniforms including items bought back by veterans of the unit such as maps and even a trench periscope.
Sandra: My celluloid snake bangle. Definitely paid more for it than I usually would, as I’m so frugal, but it was worth it.
Mark: Hmmm… I have a pair of pimp daddy 1980’s snakeskin boots… enough said I think.
Sandra: A 1930s gold mesh bag that my partner scored for me. He was gifted it for me by an elderly lady whose mother used it in the 30s. She heard I liked/collected that era and so gifted it to him to give to me. Kind of one of those stunned moments really, as we didn’t really know her. But she wanted it to go to someone who would appreciate it. I don’t think I’d use it as it is quite delicate but it’s stunning in its simplicity. It would go great with my 1935 Empire Austerity model pushbike I bought off the original owner. She used to ride it to the dances during the war and “dance with those nice American boys”.
Sandra: My 1960s horned rimmed glasses. I bought them at age 16 for an event that required I dress like a crazy grandma. I still have them.
Mark: Gee, I don’t actually remember. It was way back in the 1970’s… I think it may have been a WWII Battle jacket from a huge army surplus store which used to be in town called Valentines. They had a massive searchlight they used to crank up on a Friday night. It was a place of great wonderment to me in my childhood, I seem to remember spending hours rummaging through huge bins of old army stuff to find treasure!
Sandra: I don’t really have one. Generally if it doesn’t fit then I don’t want to keep it. It’s like being taunted every time you open the wardrobe. I do have some Edwardian stuff that I won’t wear due to its fragility but it fits me. Oh I lie…I have several 20s-30s wedding dresses. They’ll never be worn and one definitely would never fit me but they’re stunning.
Mark: Thing that doesn't fit but you love it anyway. Yeah, I’m the same really, I buy to wear…But I do have this one awesome, original 1950’s Hawaiian shirt made by Fumi’s which I seem to hang on to.
Sandra: Sunglasses. Love them and would have more if I could. I don’t have any 1940s ones yet but have some close enough. I don’t go a day without wearing a pair of sunnies so like to make sure I have a pair to go with whatever outfit from whatever era.
Mark: My late 1940’s Raleigh Club touring bicycle. The perfect sartorial finishing touch - wouldn’t you agree?