Our guest blogger, Jenny Hall, visits our shops in Portishead and Nailsea to explore our love affair with vintage.
We all love to rifle through the racks in a St Peter’s Hospice charity shop in search of ‘The Find’. Imagine then, that those racks are filled exclusively with extraordinary one-of-a-kind vintage pieces, each and every one of which has the potential to be that special garment which we want to wear time and again.
The question is though, what IS vintage? What is it that elevates something out of being simply ‘secondhand’, and earns it the label of ‘vintage’? I asked a few friends to give me their views and it seems that the perception of the term hinges around quality, uniqueness, and a clear sense of a period in history. There seems to be a certain romanticism to the idea of vintage with one friend stating; “Vintage has a story imbued within the object, so you’re buying the story (or fantasy of that story) as well as the object”. Another remarked; “With a vintage item I always want to know the story behind it, and like to imagine the women it has made happy before me”. A lovely idea, and great to think that we are wearing a piece of history, adding our own story to the life of the item each time we put it on.
One word which kept coming up amongst those I chatted to was ‘quality’. So perhaps the rise in popularity of vintage clothing comes as a backlash to today’s idea of fast fashion. Clothes cheaply made, mass produced, and designed to last a few wears before being thrown away. It seems they really don’t make ‘em like they used to.
For others it seems that the exclusivity of vintage shopping is the key to its allure. A good friend hit the nail on the head saying; “There are few things in this world now which are finite. Vintage for me is about things which are not manufactured anymore and that makes them desirable”. That buzz of finding something unique is familiar to all of us who enjoy a good rummage in a charity shop, so it’s no surprise that the vintage departments within St Peter’s Hospice stores are doing so well.
I took a trip across to the Portishead store to visit their Vintage Room and see if I could bag myself a little piece of fashion history at a bargain price. The room sits upstairs, and standing in the doorway I certainly got ‘The Wow’. A veritable Aladdin’s cave of vintage clothing and homewares beautifully displayed, with a little bit of Billie Holiday playing in the background for good measure. The room transports you to a different time and is clearly very much a labour of love for assistant store manager Mandy Lewis. Mandy has always had a strong draw towards secondhand and vintage which is clear in her treatment of the room, both in the way it’s been decorated and in the pieces she chooses to display.
There’s a large womenswear section with a good range of sizes, not just the unnaturally tiny garments you often find in the more exclusive vintage boutiques. The menswear section is of a healthy size and perfect for any budding gent with a good selection of waistcoats and jackets, and I was pleased to see that the homeware section included at least one piece of Charles and Di memorabilia. The prices are great too and it’s possible to buy real quality without paying over the odds as you might at one of the many vintage boutiques which litter the city.
I soon had an armful of pieces to try on including this 70s skirt which fits perfectly with this season’s metallic trend with a delicate silver thread running through it’s bold chevron pattern. (£12)
But this was my find of the day. I feel like such a lady in this skirt, and it came home with me for the princely sum of £10. A bargain price when you consider how much fabric is in this thing. It is SERIOUSLY full and swishes beautifully with every step. I can’t wait to wear it.
For accessories, the Nailsea branch is clearly the place to go with a great selection of bags and jewellery alongside their rails of high quality vintage clothing. I even spotted a turban which wouldn’t have looked out of place on any of the celebs who’ve adopted that trend of late.
I really hope that the shops decide to roll out the vintage departments across more of their stores in the near future. From a purely selfish angle, I’d love to have more branches to visit with a view to browsing the vintage stock, but it also stands to draw in potential customers who might usually visit a boutique or a fair for their vintage fix. It’s heartening to know too that these great quality, preloved items with a backstory are being treated with the respect they deserve and allowed a new lease of life in the hands of today’s shoppers.
New items come into the Portishead vintage room and Nailsea vintage department every single day, so head down to them for a rummage and you never know what you might find! The St Peter’s Hospice shop in Southville also stocks vintage items.
The St Peter’s Hospice Shops Blog is written by Jenny Hall. Jenny, who has lived in Bristol for 12 years, has a love of fashion, vintage clothing and costume. Earlier this year, Jenny won our Bristol Strictly Come Dancing 2016 competition with her dance partner, Cameron Milne