December 15, 2011

The thrill of finding one of your vintage holy grails (at an amazing price, to boot!)

Day 349 of Vintage 365

We all have them, those elusive vintage items for which scarcity and/or price make them rather hard, if not downright veering on impossible, to track down.

Sometimes we're able to find the general item we're after, but it's not the right size (if I had a dollar for every time this happened to me I'd likely be a millionaire by now!) or the mark-up is so absurd it's laughable (sorry, but there’s no deadstock, non-designer labeled department store dress from the 1950s, no matter how gorgeous it is, that’s worthy of a price tag in the upper hundreds, as I've seen on a few occasions).

Many times there's a certain element to an item that makes it particularly tricky to find. You may, for example, be after a vintage canister set, yet not be able to find one in good condition that fits the colour scheme of your kitchen. Old school shoes really aren't that tricky to come by, however they generally fit those lucky tiny-footed gals (aka, size 6 and under) best, while the rest of us are left daydreaming about authentic swing dance heels in larger sizes.

For most of us there's a budget element involved with our vintage shopping. All but those with the deepest of pockets generally have to keep price in mind when scouring the web and real world haunts for vintage treasures, and this can certainly put some items further out of reach.

I've yet to met a vintage wearing gal who didn't have a long standing wish list of items she was trying to find that matched all of her criteria (correct sizing and colour, as well as over all condition, and of course price). There are certain pieces though, that get bumped up, in my books at least, a little higher than just wish list status.

These are are the proverbial holy grails of our vintage hunts. We type their names into etsy, eBay and Google searches constantly. If a friend is going second hand shopping without us, we let them know to keep their eyes peeled religiously for said items, and these pieces always at the top of our letters to Santa when Christmas rolls around.

Interesting, I've found that sometimes it's an item’s scarcity (and/or the ability to find said piece in my size) that elevates it into the realm of vintage holy grail, more than (just) the price. What makes certain things more sought after than other varies wildly from person to person. I know that for me, many of my most beloved and wished for vintage items are ones that I've been fantasizing about for years, if not decades, of my life.

They sprung from a seed of inspiration somewhere along the line, their roots nestling firmly into my psyche and soul, and so they remain, like the top of Mt.Everest, a distant, almost unachievable feat that I strive towards knowing full well the scoop of the challenge they present.

Fascinatingly however, especially if price is not your biggest deterrent, and you’re willing to put forth a hefty dose of patient (and certainly some elbow grease, when it comes to tracking down your beloved items), one's vintage holy grails can be unearthed. Every once in an extra special while, you can even score one for a rather fantastic deal.

Though, I've found, garage sales and tiny thrift stores (of the sort staffed by sweet grey haired women who love to chat as they ring up your purchase) are the best places to stumble up a dream item at an unbelievable price, despite the mass popularity of vintage clothing and other yesteryear items, paired with the sheer volume of folks who shop online for such things these days, the web can still deliver a knock-out deal on a grail from time-to-time, too.

For years now I've been on the prowl for a black quilted circle skirt in my size that didn't cost the moon. As with most of my grail and top wish list items, I'd allotted a relatively generous budget in my mind for this particular garment, but even that didn't seem to be enough to unearth one that was, in a nod to Goldilocks, neither too small or too big.

A good year or two ago, I'd actually just come to the point where I figured I'd end up making one myself some day when I got a sewing machine and had polished my skills enough to know how to add quilted stitching to a garment. Yet even with that in mind, I continued to periodically dig around the web for a black quilted circle skirt.

That particular item of clothing was on my list because a.) I adore just about all 1950s circle skirts, b.) I've been smitten with quilted circle skirts for as far back as I can remember, and c.) I don't currently have a plain black circle skirt and can really feel the hole that not having one leaves in my vintage wardrobe.

You can imagine my excitement then when, around the end of November, I happened to spy on eBay that was listed in the right size (the skirt’s listing - which I'll tell you right now, I won - said it was the right size, but I've been burned plenty of times before - so all I can do is keep my fingers crossed for now) for an absolute song on eBay.

{The eBay seller's photo of my soon-to-arrive black 1950s circle skirt, an item I'd been daydreaming about adding to my vintage wardrobe for many years.}


I found the auction a couple of days before it wrapped up and tossed my bid into the ring (I later upped that amount, as I really, really wanted to win, though in the end my first price limit was more than enough to ensure the skirt came home with me). To my absolute delight, I ended up winning the skirt for a mere $16.00 plus shipping to Canada (from the States).

As you can imagine, I was over-the-moon elated about this! Here, after several years of fastidiously hunting for one of my vintage holy grails, I found it in the right size (again, hopefully the measurements stated in the listing were accurate), colour, and for one heck of a stellar bargain! I'd have happily paid five or maybe even ten times that amount for this skirt, and couldn't believe how much I lucked out.

It's moments like winning that skirt actually, which help make the countless times you can't find something that fits your criteria easier to put up with. As you click through page after page on etsy of (for example) 1940s sundresses looking for precisely the right one, only to come up empty handed for the twenty-fifth time, it's memories of those highly sought after pieces you've already scored that truly aid in reminding you that just about everything, no matter how rare, can be discovered eventually.

It has been an age and half since I last found any of my grails, let alone one for such a great deal, and chances are it'll be awhile before another one comes along. But that's ok, I'll be floating above the ground on a cloud of happiness over this score for quite a long time to come. Just look up for the redheaded gal wearing the black quilted circle skirt and you'll know it's me. Smile


  1. Brilliant post - we've all been there - searching endlessly sometimes for something we didn't even know we would fall in love with! You will have to post a picture of you wearing this when you get - hopefully it will be a perfect fit.

  2. I hear ya on the level of disappointment when finding the dream item in the wrong size. I always curse my clown feet--no lie, size 11. I can never find adorable vintage shoes! But when I do, I'll dance a jig in them.

    Lovely skirt, so glad you finally found it.

    <3Jackie @Let's Go Thrifting!

  3. I have always been big. Large feet, large hands and on the tall and heavy side. Or as Garfield says 'I'm not overweight just under tall'. So to find anything vintage in my size is always a challenge let alone what the asking price is. Doesn't stop me searching though and once in a while as though it's meant to be I find 'my Holy Grail' whatever that may be at the time. Always a good feeling but tinged with a little sadness because that particular 'chase' has ended. Plenty more thrifting to be done however :o)

  4. Yay! This will be such a staple for years to come. When I was about ten years old, I watched an I Love Lucy episode in which she was wearing a hostess gown that I fell in love with. It was a jumpsuit with an over skirt. The skirt was open just enough in the front to see the slacks when she walked. I coveted that piece for decades, never thinking I would actually find one. Then one day, just randomly looking at vintage things, I found it! When I got it in the mail, I tried it on immediately and danced around my living room. I hope you get that same feeling (including the dancing!) when your item arrives. :)

  5. Perfect!
    Sometimes these things are just meant to be....

  6. That's a great buy, quilted skirts are definitely highly priced this year.