Browsing vintage clothing online is easily one of my favorite pastimes—but, like with strangers’ Instagram feeds and true-crime articles on Wikipedia—it’s easy to get sucked in for hours on end.
One reason is that it’s hard to figure out how to narrow down a search—”floral dress” will yield listings in the tens of thousands on eBay, and looking for a leather motorcycle jacket on there could occupy your time for days. Of course, sometimes targeted searches often yield better results, but beyond the usual suspects—Levi’s denim, Chanel handbags—who really knows what to look for? Well, there are a few people who make it their business to do just that. Vintage dealers spend their days researching, hunting for, and curating pieces for their boutiques, so naturally, they have a few favorite labels they snatch up when they can.
We talked to three dealers to tap into their expert knowledge: Emily Hoover, co-owner of Austin’s cool-girl shopping destination Feathers (a.k.a. where Erin Wasson gets her wardrobe); Madeleine Kirsh, the queen of Miami vintage, whose store, C. Madeleines, has been likened to the “Taj Mahal for fashion editors and stylists”; and Kealan Sullivan, proprietor of Toronto’s 69 Vintage, whose expert eye for covetable, wearable pieces makes her store a must-visit for the city’s fashion crowd (I, for one, make sure to stop in every time I’m home).
Read on to find out their favorite discoveries—and make sure to keep them in a note somewhere in your phone next time you’re shopping online or IRL:
Emily Hoover, co-owner of Feathers, Austin, Texas
“I usually let the items I curate for the store speak for themselves, but there are some special labels I’m always happy to see. I really love Indian cotton tops, skirts, and dresses from Adini, Phool, and Anokhi. They are so paper-thin with beautiful silhouettes, floral prints, and even hand-stamped gold paint.
I’m also always on the lookout for great bell-bottoms. I’d say Levi’s 684 bells are at the top for me on that one. I also love the slim pocketless ’70s Dittos Jeans. It’s always a special moment to run across an epic studded Roncelli jacket as well.
Spending a ton of time in Santa Fe, I’ve seen an epic amount of vintage and current leatherwork. I’m always on the lookout for hand-painted leather pieces from Char, East West Leather, and small custom pieces where the artisan has hand-signed the piece. I also am totally obsessed with vintage woven Chimayo jackets, vests, and textiles from Ortega’s, Ganscraft, and Centinela.”
Madeleine Kirsh, owner of C. Madeleine’s, Miami, Florida
“From a retail perspective, Chanel is almost considered a commodity. Popular styles and designers can lose or gain popularity almost overnight, but Chanel is a brand which really holds its value best. We are always on the lookout for iconic vintage designers such as YSL, Ossie Clark, etc. The right designs can be excellent investment pieces and they also should be cherished.
Over the years, I tend to fall in love with specific pieces as opposed to all of the designs from one designer. There are many whom I really think are exceptional. Many of them I had heard of but never really followed them from season to season. Many years ago I met an older lady who used to go to Studio 54 even though she was older than most of the crowd. She would wear a different Giorgio Sant’ Angelo creation every night. Her collection was amazing, and I instantly fell in love with his work. I also think Hanae Mori really has such femininity in her designs.”
Kealan Sullivan, owner of 69 Vintage, Toronto, Ontario
“I am always on the lookout for any labels that have earned respect and have a place in history and the contemporary market. I started collecting just out of high school and I knew nothing about designers, but I was already very attracted to quality fabrics, prints, and well-constructed clothes. I have discovered everything I know through experience, buying, and research.
I don’t collect specific labels, but I do have a few favorites that I’m always on the lookout for for personal wear—Lilli Anne, Biba, Norma Kamali, Levi’s, and Landlubber for denim ‘fashion’ pieces, jumpsuits, rompers, and maxiskirts, and Micheal Hoban for North Beach Leather. Halston, Pucci, YSL, Courreges, Schiaparelli are the labels I research and covet.”