Vintage Shopping and Bonding with Your Teen

vintage shopping - tots to teens

The surge in popularity for all things vintage is an opportunity to bond with your teen through second-hand shopping. But there’s some tricks to making it a fun experience for you both, as vintage-lover Lucy McConnell shares.

If your teen has a unique sense of fashion or a fascination with bygone eras, then going vintage shopping together is a great opportunity to bond with them. Vintage stores are full of unique individual pieces of clothing to help your teen express themselves, creating an opportunity for you to show your support of their developing identity and an avenue for open communication with your teen. 

Being more sustainable and creating a better future for our kids is a concern for many of us, including our teenagers, and vintage shopping is a sustainable alternative to fast fashion mall shopping, creating a more circular economy and saving items from going into landfills. 

What even is vintage shopping?

Vintage shopping is different from second-hand shopping or op-shopping. Second-hand stores are more economical, but the items are mostly just old, not vintage. Finding true vintage pieces in second-hand stores is time-consuming because you have to sift through rows and rows of items before finding them. Vintage stores are generally smaller and have a carefully curated collection of vintage pieces, but are more expensive. In smaller, boutique-style stores, the shopkeeper often has a really good idea of the stock and can help you find the style and size you want. 

If you have the means to, vintage shopping is considered more ethical and sustainable than op-shopping. Concerns have been coming up over the gentrification of op-shopping because as it becomes more trendy, prices are pushed up and those who are using op shops as their main source of clothing are unable to buy necessary items. 

‘Vintage’ is an item that is between 20 and 100 years old (anything older is considered antique) and reflects the style of the era it is from. Vintage shopping is when you are specifically shopping for items from this time. Items are statement pieces, and each one can help curate your unique wardrobe. ‘Retro’ is also something we hear a lot in conjunction with the term ‘vintage’, but there is a difference. Retro items are modelled after vintage styles but use modern materials. If you love the item then it really doesn’t matter whether it is vintage or retro!

Top tips for successful vintage shopping 

Before you head out shopping 

  • Choose a location so you can make a day of it 
    Do some research, and find a suburb that you think will cater to your teen’s style. Talk to them about what they are looking for and do some research together. Different areas tend to have different styles because of the people who live in that area. For example, in my experience as an Auckland shopper, centre city vintage stores have quite a bit of Y2K (late 90s and early 2000s) clothes, which are very on-trend at the moment. Vintage shopping takes time; it’s like a treasure hunt and you have to look through quite a bit of trash before you find the treasure. Be prepared to spend a few hours in each store searching for the right items. 
  • Are you looking for something specific?
    Have a conversation with your teen about the items they are looking for: styles, fabrics, textures, or colours they like. You’ll have somewhere to start and won’t get overwhelmed.
  • Be prepared
    We know this sounds like the Girl Guides’ motto, but they were right! Chuck a few of your cutest reusable tote bags into your handbag, as many places don’t have bags anymore and this saves you having to buy bags or dump clothes into the boot of your car. Wear comfy shoes, like sneakers, and neutral, easy-to-take-off clothes (when you’re in tiny changing rooms banging your elbows on the walls, you’ll be glad that you didn’t have to undo a row of buttons!) 

When You’re There

  • Try on everything
    Vintage sizing is weird, and most of the time it runs super-small compared to today’s sizes. Don’t pay too much attention to the sizes, just hold the items up and see if you think they look about right, or ask the shop owner for help. They often know their stock and what items fit modern sizes. When trying stuff on, keep an eye out for any imperfections, broken zippers, stains, loose buttons etcetera. It is up to you to figure out if the imperfection is worth buying the item. 
  • Do a fashion show 
    Once you have a bunch of things, get your teen to try them on and show you. Or if they’re shy, ask them to show you their favourite pieces or outfits. Talk to them honestly but constructively. If they come out twirling with a big smile on their face, don’t say that you think it’s something grandma would wear! Offer constructive feedback, even if the item is not to your taste. To prevent impulse buying, ask your teen (and yourself) to think of three outfits or ways they can wear the piece before buying it. 
  • Have a lunch break
    Vintage shopping is hard work! Make sure to take breaks or propose lunch at a cafe or restaurant nearby. I find that taking a little coffee or tea break after each store can help recharge your batteries before moving onto the next one.

So try on those silly outfits, talk to them and actively listen, make jokes, have fun, and create some memories!

Looking for local vintage stores to kickstart your vintage shopping adventure? Check out our list of vintage spots we are loving in Aotearoa.

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