10 expert tips for finding treasures at vintage fairs
Vintage Fair

Calling all fans of vintage, retro and upcycled fashion, jewellery and furnishings! We’ve got a treat for you. Lou Lou Glover, the mastermind behind the award-winning Lou Lou’s Vintage Fairs, has shared with us her top ten tips for getting the most out of vintage fairs.

With lots of vintage fairs coming to Cardiff soon and many permanent vintage emporiums in town, you’re sure to find this insider info handy!

1. Get there early

Vintage dress

The earlier you get to a vintage fair, the better pick of the goods you have. This isn’t to say that what’s left later in the day won’t be any good as many traders replenish their stock throughout the day. Just remember that traders can’t resist getting their best stock out on a mannequin from the start, and it’s these items on show that are always the first to go.

2. Be ready to rummage

Traders can be limited on space, but they want to get as much of their stock out as possible. You won’t see it all by glancing. Be prepared to sift through rails and rummage in boxes or suitcases to find hidden gems.

3. Have a list

Hairband

If you’re a hoarder like me, you might need a list to stop you straying. Do you really need another pineapple ice bucket, or could you do with a staple winter coat instead? If you’re on a budget, a list is a must as it allows you to focus on getting the essentials you came for.

4. Ignore the size label

Never trust the size label on a vintage garment. They can be way off – in fact, most of the time they differ to your usual sizing. If you like an item, just try it on! It could fit like a glove, or if it’s too big you may be able to have it adjusted for a few pounds at a tailors.

5. Prepare to bare

Shorts

If you’re going to be trying on lots of items, the best tip is to wear an underlay (e.g. a slip for girls or a vest for guys). This will allow you to try things on at stalls and therefore avoid having to queue for ages time and time again to try things on in a changing area. If you’re particular about your hair, bring some spare bobby pins and a hairbrush because taking garments over your head repeatedly will leave your barnet a little bit out of place.

6. Check the condition

You should always check each item is in a condition you’re happy with before you buy it; many goods are sold as seen. The obvious things to check for are rips and moth holes, which you can detect easier by holding the garment up to the light. Many items are priced on their condition so ask the seller if they’re aware of the damage before asking if you can have money off. If they weren’t aware, they’re likely to offer you a small discount. If they were aware , then this item will already have been discounted to reflect the condition. Don’t give up on an item that could easily be repaired. I have fixed many a rip on a beautiful dress and no one would ever tell.

7. Haggle, but be fair

Crop tops

Everyone loves a bargain, and if you haggle respectfully you’re more likely to get a discount on items. Remember that stock doesn’t just land at traders’ feet; they spend hours sourcing, grading, washing, repairing and pricing stock to bring it to you and thus have a lot of hidden overheads. Offering £5 for a £30 dress is going to get you nowhere further than insulting the trader. Asking for a small amount off or a discount on multiple items is a more likely goal.

8. Take cash

Many traders at our events have card machines, but don’t assume that you’ll be fine on plastic alone as some traders only take cash. Bring plenty of money with you so you’re not caught short. We give you a hand stamp so you can nip off to cash machines and return for free, but you run the risk of your dream item being sold to someone else by the time you get back.

9. Have a break

Scones

Many vintage fairs including ours have a lovely little tea party area. Seeing so many items at once can be overwhelming and being hungry can cloud your judgement, so don’t neglect yourself. Take a break for tea and cake, soak up the atmosphere and recharge yourself for another round of shopping.

10. Don’t let The One get away

We’ve all done it: ummed and ahhed about an item only to regret not buying it forever after. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than seeing the dress or shirt you hesitated over leaving the fair in someone else’s bag, or waking up in a cold sweat with buyer’s regret over the belt that would have looked perfect with your shoes. I say ‘buy it rather than regret it’. It’s very unlikely you’ll track down the item elsewhere after a fair, so take advantage of what’s on offer when it’s available.

All images supplied by Lou Lou’s Vintage Fair

Lou Lou’s Vintage Fair comes to Cardiff on Sunday 11th October 2015, stopping at many other UK cities beforehand and afterwards. For more information, visit the Lou Lou’s Vintage Fairs website.

If you’ve got your own tips on shopping for vintage gear, share them with us on Facebook or Twitter.