Dawn O’Porter’s vintage shopping dos and don’ts

The woman behind Channel 4's This Old Thing tells us how to ditch your head-to-toe high street and become a vintage queen...


DO… spend plenty of time: “You want a red dress in your size to wear at the weekend and on the high street there’s one in every size. It’s really easy and takes a lot of the effort out of shopping but it’s not a dress you want to keep for life that’s timeless and you’ll really cherish. If you go into a vintage shop and spend a little bit more time – and it does take time, I’m not going to deny that – you’ll find a dress you absolutely love that you’ll take lots more care of. You’ll take it in and take it out if you need to and get it dry cleaned. You’ll cherish it more and feel really proud of the fact you discovered it.”


DON’T… cast aside clothes that aren’t perfect: “Use your imagination – what can you do? Can you get it taken in? Can you get it taken up? If it’s got big, horrible sleeves, can the sleeves come off? Can you take the collar off? Just use your imagination a bit and chat to the shop owners. Ask them what they think and what you could do with it.”

DON’T… be afraid to dress boldly: “I always notice when someone walks into a room and they’re wearing something that stands out from everybody else. It doesn’t have to be the most bonkers. The effort you put into creating looks and finding dresses means you stand out for the right reasons because you’re confident in what you wear.”


DO… buy less clothes for more money: “I don’t like this throwaway culture of cheaply-made, bad clothes that will probably have fallen apart by the following year. People just chuck them away and buy new clothes every few months. I don’t think it’s a healthy way to spend money and I don’t think it’s good for the planet or individuals either. Your money’s better spent buying less of better clothes that you won’t chuck away and you want to keep forever.” 

DON’T… confuse vintage with charity shop: “Vintage is officially something that’s a minimum of 30 years or older so it’s the eighties and backwards. I count the eighties because I love them. A lot of what’s in charity shops is second hand – anything from five to ten years old – so it’s not particularly exciting. It might even be stuff you saw on the high street when it was new. Vintage shopping is stuff that’s distinctively from eras, the twenties to the eighties, that shaped fashion and that you’re getting from the first time.”

DO… raid your family’s wardrobes: My auntie who brought me up allowed me into her wardrobe – she’d worked in the fashion industry in the sixties in London, I think that’s where my passion comes from. I always knew that these gems were upstairs but it was never the right time and then when I went into her wardrobe I found this Ossie Clark seventies maxi shirt dress which is a total one-of-a-kind print and absolutely amazing. Fitted me like a glove and I wear it all the time. And it had been upstairs in my house the whole time!”

DON’T… dress head-to-toe in high street: “You can have style but you’ll look like a version of everybody else. With the high street, no matter how big a shop feels you’re still very limited by what it sells. With a vintage shop, even if it’s tiny, everything in there is completely unique, taken from all the eras from the past, not dictated to by the fashion industry or what’s currently on trend.”


DO… appreciate the history of your clothing: “I love the sixties – probably around 1966 when everyone was wearing miniskirts at the height of the sexual revolution. Women had the pill, legs were out, everyone was kinky and fashion was more fun than ever. It was all about the future because of space travel and the clothes were space-inspired and still feel modern now, it was so ahead of its time. I just want to walk down Carnaby Street in a short skirt and go-go boots.”

DON’T… be put off by the small sizes: “Sometimes someone will go into one shop and everything is really small and they’ll say vintage is awful and all for tiny people. I’m in a vintage shop almost every day and I see lots of plus size stuff that goes up to all sorts of sizes. If you can’t find what you want in one shop, don’t cancel out vintage.” 

DO… try online for a wider range of sizes: “Online shopping you can find whatever size you want. My favourite vintage shop is eBay. It’s a good place to start because you can look at pictures and imagine yourself in them.”


DO… watch Dawn O’Porter in This Old Thing: the Vintage Clothes Show, tonight at 8:00pm on Channel 4