Fortunately - or not - for me, UK vintage isn't half as fun as American and European vintage. Translated, that means the truly amazing brands and pieces tend to be found in the US, continental Europe and, strangely enough, Singapore (as shops there source from all over the US). Of course, you can find a piece or two in some of the exorbitantly priced UK vintage stores, but part of the fun is bargain hunting. Some of the - I hope - more valuable pieces I have are a Frank Usher dress and a Jessica McClintock prom dress, both purchased for less than £10 each. I also have a Louis Feraud jacket and dress set which I got for less than £20, but, which, alas, turned out to be too big for me, even after factoring in the differences in sizing. The most amount of money I've spent is about S$400 on a Gunne Sax black velvet and gold skirt prom dress.
Anyway, back to the relatively less fun vintage scene in the UK. My favourite brands, that is, those which I actively look for and would consider buying and aren't priced out of my budget, are Hervé Léger, Azzedine Alaia, Catherine Ogust, Lilly Pulitzer, Tadashi and The Vested Gentress. Of these six, the first two are French and who made it big in the US and the remaining four are based in the US. As a result, these labels tend to be more easily found in the US, either in a thrift shop, an expensive speciality vintage store or eBay. I know eBay transcends all barriers, but buying anything from outside the EU can be rather tricky, as not only is there the potentially costly question of shipping, there is also the thornier issue of customs duties, which can add on another 20% of the cost of your item.
The other part about vintage collecting and investing - the part that isn't as fun - is the cleaning and storing. This site offers some great advice on what needs to be done. And this is just as important as finding the right brand and fit; without this part, your investment - and I do mean investment in every possible sense of the word - will go to waste.
And, yes, we may be in a recession right now, but other than shopping at Primark, going thrifting (aka shopping at thrift stores) and on eBay are other ways to keep your expenses down.
- Vintage Fashion Guild - An international collective founded in 2002 by a group of vintage sellers with a shared passion for vintage clothing.
- Queens of Vintage - QoV calls itself "the first daily vintage glossy" and features vintage tips (from fashion to beauty to interior design), a Make and Mend section for those with far more artistic ability than I possess, and a 100 Vintage Queens feature which, well, pretty much does what it says on the tin. Stores featured in their NYC vintage shopping guide include What Goes Around Comes Around (which is currently having a moving out sale *sob*) and has an outlet in Harvey Nichols. If only this had been published before I went to NY... ah well, I'll just have to make my way there again some day!
- Beacon's Closet - Based in NY. Strictly speaking not a vintage store. More like a clothing exchange store, but with new clothes being brought in all the time, you can count on finding gems there almost every single time you walk in. In the two times I've been there, I found an incredibly gorgeous and comfortable Andy Warhol-inspired hoodie by Paul Frank selling for $12, and a chain-link belt for $6.
- Vintage shops in Singapore include (in ascending order of priciness) Dustbunny Vintage (my personal favourite as owner Pia doesn't do the hard-sell and she picks out other pieces based on what you like), Déjàvu Vintage and Granny's Day Out. Several other shops are featured in these Straits Times articles: Market Sweep and Vintage Vaults.