The world of vintage fashion fairs



Clerkenwell Vintage Fashion Fair

Vintage Fairs have become the lifeline for thousands of vintage enthusiasts throughout the country. They enable dealers to gather together in one venue, and provide all areas of the country access to quality vintage apparel. Stacey Cosens talks to founder and organiser of the Clerkenwell Vintage Fair, Savitri Coleman, about why these events are so important.

At The Old Finsbury Town Hall in Islington, excited vintage collectors are scanning the rails of over three rooms of vintage clothing. With its 19th century architecture, it feels like the perfect scene to visit decades gone by. Visitors have come from all over the country to add to their vintage collection or simply reminisce.

It’s almost like stepping into a time machine as 1940s jazz plays in each room, while women dressed in elegant dresses and chic hats, scan the rails with men in sharp suits. Vintage fairs have become important social events for fashion lovers.

Savitri Coleman is an award-winning events organiser with 18 years international experience in the fashion, film, advertising and music industry. She is the organiser of the Clerkenwell Vintage Fair that has been running for two years. Savitri set up the fair two years ago when she found herself disappointed with other vintage fairs.

“I traded two years ago at a couple of other fairs and I was really disappointed with the cost of the stall, the size of the stall for the money and the way I was treated at the fair.

“Our fair was born in a recession, when people were very worried about money and how the economy was going to go and I think people feel they’re investing in vintage, people don’t want to be lead by the High Street anymore, they haven’t got the sort of money were they can buy whatever’s in, each season.”

With the recession and its effects still present today, it makes sense that vintage has become more popular than ever, with us adopting the motto of our wartime relatives, as we make do and mend. The thrill of owning something original and timeless appeals to us much more than splurging on the ever expensive high street, only to see it on ten other people.

The appeal of these fairs for vintage enthusiasts is that they have access to vintage dealers from all over the country in one place. There is no hunting around cities for hidden gems, because it’s all in one venue. A vintage lover only has to put a day aside, to add to their collection or search for something they’ve wanted.

“We’ve got 50 dealers here from all over the UK and Europe. We also have a few from Texas, Miami and LA. So we really reach quite a wide audience, from men and women in their early 20s right through to people in their early 70s. We have things that start from £1 for a set of buttons up to £1000 for perhaps a Christian Dior dress, so there’s really something for everyone. And if it doesn’t fit, whether it’s the fabric, cut, shape or there’s something that’s not quite right.”

Coleman has people on hand to make alterations at the fair, and is planning workshops at her next fair so people can earn to make and repair their own garments.

Vintage Fairs Near You.

Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fashion Fair: This travelling vintage fair visits 23 cities in the UK, all over the county. So whether you live near London, Birmingham, Manchester, York, Scotland or Wales, you’re bound to find a date not far from you. The fair provides stalls from all over the country with affordable but quality vintage. There is also a fabulous tea and cake stall to rest your weary feet after all that rummaging.

The Vintage Kilo Sale: With events in Leeds and London, at this fair you pay for your vintage items in weight! At £15 per kilo, you could grab yourself a few bargains! For those who don’t want to pay in weight, items are also sold individually. This is a great way to stock up on vintage items without breaking the bank. Check the website for the next events.

Late Night Vintage at the Shipping Forecast, Liverpool: This fair is perfect for night owls, who have to force themselves to get up early to get the best buys at day fairs. Starting at 5pm and carrying on until late, this fair avoids the hustle and bustle of the high street and allows vintage enthusiasts to browse the stalls for free, on the first Thursday of every month.

The festival of Vintage, York Racecourse: New this year, this event plans to bring the best of the 30s to 60s with over 100 stalls, live retro music and entertainment in a family friendly atmosphere. The event takes place on April 30th.

Frock Me!, London and Brighton: As one of the first vintage fairs in the mid 90s, Frock Me has gone from strength to strength and even inspired a TV show. Holding several events a year at both locations, it boasts the best vintage dealers from throughout the country selling an unrivalled collection of vintage clothing and accessories including hats, shoes, gloves and jewellery alongside modern designer wear.

Virtual Vintage

Twiggy by Bert Stern

Twiggy by Bert Stern

Can’t be bothered to rummage through the rails? Smart vintage shoppers are looking online. We pick the best sites on the web.

Juno Says Hello:

Used by vintage style icon and chef Gizzi Erskine, Juno Says Hello boasts a selection of 200 dresses at any one time, shipped in from America and mainland Europe. Owner and creator, Rebecca Rose, says “The attraction of vintage is that you get fashion plus history – as well as the mystery of wondering who wore this dress before you, to what sort of event. Did they dance the night away or end up having a blazing row with their lover? That intrigue is something that appeals to a lot of vintage aficionados.”

The website specialises in luxury vintage, and is a fantastic port of call if you want vintage that is individual and timeless. Perfect if you’re looking for something special.

“We are now recognised as one of the best online vintage boutiques in the UK, which makes me tremendously happy. We have a blog that features our Skype clinic and monthly giveaways (prizes include books, jewellery and clothing).”

Streaking Scarlett Vintage:

On this eBay store there are weekly auctions of chic casual daywear with dresses and jumpsuits modelled by a fantastic range of models. Streaking Scarlett has a dedicated band of shoppers who log on weekly to bid for much coveted items. If you’ve always rooted through vintage fairs and charity shops to find a beautiful vintage item but always come back empty-handed, Streaking Scarlett is bound to have something that captures your heart.

Most of Streaking Scarlett’s stock conjures up images of effortlessly cool art school students, boasting beautiful dresses and jumpsuits on its store weekly. Checking up on their stock can get addictive and you’ll have to be ruthless with your bidding, if the item you want is popular. But you will always walk away with a bargain, items rarely sell for more than £30.

Memoir Vintage:

Struggle to find period pieces in your size? Worry not, Memoir features clothes in all shapes and sizes and holds regular sales and offers. Run by Susie Burne, who gave us her words of wisdom in our vintage dealing feature, Susie gathers her stock from America and Europe, as well as constantly scouring the UK for fantastic items for her customers.

If you’re looking for glamour when you buy your vintage items, Memoir is a great port of call. You’ll find fabulous sequined and beaded items, with beautiful intricate detail. Best of all, the glamour doesn’t come with an A-list price tag, with most items ranging from £10-£50. If you love the style of the 1980s, you’ll find some great dresses as you scan the wealth of stock.

Devoted 2 Vintage:

This website offers one of the widest collections of vintage in the UK. Stocking both men and women’s clothes and accessories, whatever you’re looking for it’s a haven of designer and high street labels. With free shipping to UK customers, and a mix of budget and luxury vintage, daywear and eveningwear, its well worth checking out what they have on offer.

They also now stock a vintage-inspired range of 1940s and 1950s dresses, from the utility dress of the 40s to full circle prom dresses of the 50s. The dresses are made from original patterns and manufactured in limited numbers in London, so you’re still getting something exclusive. For those looking for some post-war glamour, this website is perfect.

Elizabeth’s Vintage Closet:

The truly unique range of dresses, separates and accessories on this website will make you the envy of everyone. Karen Elizabeth searches high and low nationwide to bring her customers luxury high quality vintage womenswear.

Whether you want to channel Edie Sedgwick or Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth’s Vintage Closet is bound to have something beautiful that you will fall in love with. Karen explains on her website “Vintage clothes are unique and a work of art, and clothes like that just don’t go away, do they? They’re like great old paintings-they just move around. Would you simply discard a beautiful old painting just because of a few flaws and some wear and tear; and then buy a replacement modern picture? Well vintage clothing is very similar, and I know which I would choose.”

Although this online store stocks clothes at the slightly higher end of the price spectrum, they are fantastic pieces you will keep and pass on.