Timeless Vintage

Terrance Nathaniel Shelton discovers what's old can be so fashionably new

Classified by time, vintage clothing includes garments from the turn of the century to the early 1960s, says Terrance N. Shelton. “But it is constantly expanding. It’s a cyclical market, meaning it’s all been out there before.”

What’s back? Diane von Furstenberg silk-jersey wrap dresses and anything velvet, offers Shelton, an assistant manager and buyer for Stefan’s Vintage Clothing (www.stefans vintage.com) in Atlanta.

A vintage trend can survive for several seasons, and like other fashion trends, grows in popularity after a celebrity endorsement.

As a retail buyer, Shelton, 36, scours thrift shops, rag houses (operations based in warehouses that sell by the pound), estate liquidations, and tradeshows like MAGIC Martketplace in Las Vegas for unique merchandise. He offers the following advice for avid vintage collectors:

Authenticate your antiques. Garment construction has changed over the years. Shelton will sometimes check authenticity with the designer. Chanel once dismissed a garment in question as a knock-off because of loose threading and poor craftsmanship. For garments dating back to the 1940s and 50s Shelton says, “jacket shoulders might be reinforced with horsehair or rope. There may be a hand-sewn stitch, lots of snaps and clasps, and a dress might have weights sewn in the fabric to help its fall. If a garment is as well crafted on the interior as it is on the exterior that is a mark of high quality.” Sears and JCPenney catalogs from the 1950s and collector books that illustrate the evolution of designer’s collections are references commonly used by vintage retailers.

Know the Value. A Guy Laroche silk-velvet sports jacket from the ’60s can cost $125–$500, and a slightly damaged Emelio Pucci cocktail dress could fetch $150–$2,500. Shelton believes vintage resources are drying up due to Hollywood’s consumption of such items for productions, which, in turn, influences trends and the value attached to the garments. The Internet is a viable source for collectors seeking appraisals and new acquisitions. Shelton warns, if you sell vintage via eBay you will fare better by describing as many details as possible, such as whether the dress is bias cut, empire waste, or fishtail. True collectors seek these characteristics. Underestimating the value in a garment’s finer details could be a costly lesson for a seller.

Take care. Unless stained, Shelton dry-cleans his 1960s worsted wool suits no more than twice per year. To freshen your clothes, he suggests using a garment steamer or slightly misting garments that have an odor with vodka.

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