Vintage shopping in Saskatchewan

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Rows of colourful shirts on white plastic hangers are displayed at a thrift store. Pixabay

Tips and tricks on finding diamond in the rough clothing from Saskatchewan based stores Better Off Duds and Victory Vintage Co.

Buying and selling vintage and used clothing is one of the more fabulous ways to express your fashion sense. Thrifting has made a comeback in recent years, with many people travelling to different thrift stores and online shops. 

Nicola Tabb, the owner of Better Off Duds located in Saskatoon, has been slinging vintage for the last nine years. Her business sells high-end vintage clothing and unique pieces from the 60s to 90s era. Finding quirky, individual pieces keeps many customers coming back for more. 

“Everywhere I go, I thrift now; it’s just a way of life,” said Tabb.

Better Off Duds truly embodies the fantastic previous fashion trends. You can find anything from bell-bottom jeans to authentic leather jackets. 

“I love crazy stuff like paisley, jumpsuits, and hot pants,” said Tabb. 

The emergence of online Etsy shops that flip vintage clothes have popped up all over the internet. Rachel Walliser, the owner of Victory Vintage Co., has mastered the art of selling vintage to local and international shoppers. Victory Vintage Co. donates 15 per cent of each sale to Prairie Harm Reduction. 

Walliser’s interest in flipping clothes began in high school, as she garnered business from local women. Her interest in vintage clothing came from the unique pieces she found in her hometown. 

“Clothing back then was made to last, it wasn’t fast-fashion, or to be thrown away after two or three years, it was made to last for years,” explained Walliser. 

Fast-fashion is one of the reasons pollution is so high within the fashion industry. According to Business Insider, 85 per cent of textiles end up back in the landfill each year. The fashion industry is currently responsible for 10 per cent of carbon emissions. While many items are worn beyond repair, there are still many items in mint condition. 

“One of the things that you can do to help reduce your carbon footprint is buying, and thrifting used clothing,” said Walliser. 

Finding the most unique, wacky, and weird pieces can be challenging. Keeping your eyes peeled for hidden gems takes a level of patience and time. After scouring entire racks, you may not find anything at all. Both Tabb and Walliser offer their advice on how to find unique clothes. 

“I once read this tip that said, ‘If it says vintage, it’s not,’” explained Tabb. Her best indications for finding authentic vintage items come from labels. 

“Get to know your tags, get to know your union tags, get to know your care tags, your country of manufacturing like Hong Kong Taiwan. Lots of older stuff is made in Canada, so that’s a good indication, as well as care instruction tags can easily date a piece.” 

Conquering the thrift store can be intimidating. Racks of textiles are often poorly organized and may take extra effort to find what you want. 

“If you are going to the thrift store, go with a plan. Go with a budget and have a few pieces that you are looking for,” said Walliser. 

Walliser also expressed the amount of patience one needs to find wild items. 

“I have found some of the best pieces in the oddest places. I am always scouring garage sales and estate sales, even if they don’t look the most interesting or clean. I found a 1950s wedding dress at a garage sale.” 

While it takes a sharp eye to find unique items, it is important to see beyond the repairable scuffs and damage to see each piece’s value.

“Even if something has a hole in it, or it looks kind of dirty, 99 per cent of the time I have bought something, I can clean it or mend it, and it looks incredible. Definitely have an open eye when looking at stuff,” explained Walliser. 

Sometimes shaving the pilling off a sweater, putting on a fresh coat of shoe polish, or even a trip to the dry cleaners can be enough to revitalize a piece of clothing. 

Tabb takes all of her thrifted items back to the shop, where it automatically hits the washing machines. She examines the clothing closely, looking for loose buttons or seams that need to be mended. The little extra effort can make the piece completely brand new. 

The enjoyment of thrifting is rewarding. Coming across wacky oddities shows the art within textiles. The story that clothing tells is a form of one’s self-expression. One of the most exciting items Tabb has come across was a 1920s green wedding dress. Many sellers tell the unique story from behind the clothing they sell. Perks of the job is seeing happy customers; one of Walliser’s favorite sales includes selling to people on special occasions. 

“One of my first sales was a striped robe. A woman had bought it to get ready for her wedding because it was Beetlejuice themed,” reflected Walliser, “It was one of my first sales, and she was so happy she was beaming in the photos.” 

Tabb expresses her love of dressing people for special occasions: “”I love selling party clothes, but it’s hard because of the pandemic right now. The hardest thing for me right now is that there are no parties or music festivals, no disco dance fundraisers.” 

Both Better Off Duds and Victory Vintage Co. have proven to thrive during the pandemic, but it did not come without its struggles. Tabb explains how, after a brief period of panic, she began adapting by expanding her online shop and selling items over Instagram. 

“You had to learn what worked and what didn’t work. The rules changed fairly quickly after opening back up, in terms of how change rooms work and how quarantining clothing would work.”

Balancing quarantining clothes with running her store and online sales gave Tabb on her toes while avid thrifters bought up many items. Despite the new challenges, Tabb still finds enjoyment in running the store. 

“9 years later, I still love what I do. Weekly, I am giggling or enthralled by a piece. When I think of all the clothing, I’ve seen in the last nine years, I still get goosebumps over stuff,” said Tabb, “I like to give everything that deserves a second chance, a second chance.”

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