Five Rules: Vintage Shopping With Pam Scrima

Turn secondhand shopping into an art with these top expert tips

You might think combing the racks at estate sales and thrift stores is a great way to save a ton of cash on clothes.  And you’d be right.  …But that’s not even the half of it.

Pam Scrima of Parkerhawn Vintage, a “self-proclaimed fashion anthropologist”, believes in secondhand shopping as a form of artistic expression.  “I want women to love who they are and embrace their inner style icon,” the beaming 38-year-old explains.  Her buying expeditions are part treasure hunt, part brainstorming session, as she envisions each piece as part of a personalized wardrobe.  Today, she’ll share a few secrets so we can all shop vintage like a pro.

1.  “Shop like a buyer.”
Pam’s top tip?  “Buy off-season.”  Think ahead to what you’ll need or want 3-6 months down the road and you’re in serious bargain territory.  Think coats in the summer, beachwear in the fall, etc.
2.  “Go for classic fabrics and seasonless pieces.”
Pam recommends The One Hundred by Nina Garcia as a guide to must-have wardrobe essentials.  Choose these items in silk, cashmere and animal prints for year-round wear.

3.  “Befriend a great dry cleaner and an alteration specialist.”
You must have a go-to guy or girl who can take a dress in, hem a pant leg or otherwise alter your latest vintage find.  If you’re not sure where to go, Pam recommends asking a personal shopper at a department store for a referral.

4.  “Know thyself.”
“I look at the trends,” our expert states.  “But I don’t have to follow them.”  Pam believes in embracing your body type and shopping for styles that compliment your curves.  Further, she says knowing your measurements is vital, and that a tape measure is a key part of any shopping kit.  Many vintage stores don’t have fitting areas, and this trick will help you determine if a piece is a keeper.  Don’t trust tags, as vintage sizes will vary.

5.  Vintage “red flags”: 
First of all, perspiration stains are a deal-breaker.  According to Pam, “They’re never coming out!”  Second, never buy too small.  Going up a size or two is okay, but too small can rarely be tailored to fit.  Finally, our expert warns us against shrunken wool.  Pam says none of the wives’ tales about restoring these items are true – and you can definitely take her word for it.

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