Vintage Shopping 101

Cameron Silver — the owner of celeb-fave vintage boutique Decades in L.A., and one of Rachel Zoe's best pals, drops some knowledge on shopping, old-school style.

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Why go vintage?

"The irony is that vintage is actually what all of the new stuff in stores is made to look like anyway. In a world where everything's accessible and ubiquitous, vintage is the way to personalize your look. Plus, with vintage, you're pretty much guaranteed that your buy will last. Every decade has something to offer: A little black dress from the '50s or a great jersey oneshoulder disco dress from the '70s are signature looks that will last forever."

What's the best way for someone to wet their feet in vintage shopping?

"Costume jewelry. The nice thing about it is that there's very expensive collectible designer costume jewelry, but some of the cheap pieces are just as fabulous — even if they aren't by famous names. A pair of gorgeous chandelier earrings or a big over-the-top necklace can make something cheap look really cheerful and chic. And a nice, jeweled evening clutch is an affordable vintage must."

Where are the best places to get quality vintage goods?

"Look for estate sales or even yard sales. One of the best places to find vintage is at contemporary designer consignment stores. They don't really specialize in high-end vintage, but pieces can get mixed in that aren't necessarily desirable to the store's typical clientele. So keep your eyes open — you may spot a nice vintage Halston."

What about tailoring? Is it more of a hassle with vintage items?

"A tailor is more important than your shrink! Finding a great one is a necessity for any fashionable woman. As far as alterations go, vintage isn't always more difficult. A vintage couture piece can certainly be tricky, but there are plenty of complicated modern pieces, too. A good tailor can alter any high-quality piece of clothing, whether it's 60 years or six days old."

What's the secret to being a successful vintage shopper?

"You have to take your emotions out of it. If something doesn't fit or if it's really damaged, I don't care how great it makes you feel, you have to leave it. The challenge with vintage is that it's an emotional way to shop because you're buying history. But you have to be realistic. Otherwise, you'll take it home and it'll sit in your closet. Think of it as treasure hunting: You have to explore a bit before you find the gems."

What are your tips for mixing the past with the present?

"I don't like head-to-toe vintage. It looks like a costume! It's easy to gravitate toward the more eccentric pieces, but it's best to limit yourself to one conversation piece at a time. Mix in that one item with your everyday clothing, and you're set. Coco Chanel famously said that you should take one item off before you leave the house. That is exactly how vintage is worn best."

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