I love the Great British High Street as much as the next girl, but sometimes you crave something a little different. There’s no denying that they offer high fashion at an affordable price but sometimes you need an antidote to disposable trends and that irritating we’re-wearing-the-same-Topshop-dress moment. Normally I combat this by putting my own spin on garments via styling and accessories but even so at times I suffer from High Street fatigue.
Vintage seems to be the perfect cure for mass-produced banality. The allure of an individual piece, imbued with heritage and the imagined histories of the once owner are something the High Street can’t offer. Vintage now means anything from the 20s to the 90s (my birth decade… no comment) so there are plenty of styles to suit all tastes. Fashion’s tendency to reference past eras also means you can be on trend with your seventies midi skirt, but instead of a High Street knock off everyone and their aunt will wear for the next six months before consigning it to the scrap heap, you can be safe in the knowledge yours is the “real deal”.
I love vintage shopping, but there are two things that put me off: the effort and the price. Everyone knows that vintage-hunting can be a bit of a trawl, some of you may be blessed with an eye for charity shop thrifting, but I never seem to have the instinct or the patience. Since vintage has been en vogue, many specialist shops have sprung up. There’s nothing I love better than having a browse in Armstrong’s for instance and I appreciate how the objects have been lovingly collected and displayed. However, on a student budget vintage shops aren’t too realistic as my clothing allowance just won’t stretch that far. Much as I’d love to invest in these pieces I know my own tastes change and it’s a lot to spend on something that the more cynical among you would allege is essentially second hand.
The solution was presented to me today – Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair which visited St Andrews for the afternoon. Founded in 2005 by former Selfridges personal shopper Judy Berger, the fair is the largest of its kind, serving 23 UK cities and dubbed a ‘shopping phenomenon’ by the national press. The brand knows its niche – visiting many student towns and prices checked to ensure they are around 75% less than the High Street, they’re appealing to the younger generation with prices much less than Topshop et al.
There’s a market stall vibe to the fair with different tradesmen showcasing vintage, re-worked and hand made items. All pieces are hand-picked, Judy herself vets the products saying “I make money out of my hobby, what person doesn’t ever want to do that?” The “just here for a day” vibe also added to the exclusive allure and the community of traders offered alternative fashion spanning the decades. What better way to be individual, without breaking the bank?
Having read about the fair and the praise it’s received from press, fashion insiders and celebrities alike, I was excited to see what all the fuss was about. At first I was a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of clothing that had been packed into the Union, a venue that’s more used to vomiting than vintage. However, with a systematic approach (wait for a bit to get money out, don’t buy the first thing you want, try not to lose your friend for that all-important second opinion) I soon got into my stride.
I’m still learning about vintage and what would suit me, so to avoid impulse buys my bank account wouldn’t thank me for, I thought this time I would stick to accessories. I’ll show you them in the next couple of posts as I’m totally besotted with my bargain finds that I can’t wait to share with you all. I’m still regretting not buying some things but as I said, it was a bit overwhelming and also I had to go to work a few hours before the fair ended, so there wasn’t as much time as I’d have liked.
The fair was absolutely perfect for retro accessories, bags and jewellery. I was drawn to the table at the back, crowded with vintage jewels and ladylike bags. As you know I love anything sparkly so spent a great deal of time in this area. I loved the slightly oversized jumpers (my friend was deliberating over four different cream arran jumpers in ever-so-slightly varying shades and weaves), the heavily embellished dresses, velvet tops, leather shorts (great for that worn-in vibe) and floral tea dresses. I wish I’d had time to try things on because there were some real gems I’d have liked to see on, such as a cropped velvet top and floral pleated dress. I urge you if you’re going to the Fair to clear your day and spend time perusing purchases and taking in the atmosphere; these tradesmen are passionate about their wares and can dig you out a hidden gem if you tell them what you’re looking for – whether its the perfect frame bag or a paisley silk scarf. They’ll keep your picks aside for fifteen minutes too, and it’s these personal touches that add to the experience.
In a time where your dress is out of fashion as soon as you’ve put it on, the otherworldly glamour of vintage is the perfect antidote. Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair makes vintage shopping into a whole new experience.