Author Jill G. Hall had no idea that discovering a vintage black coat in a consignment shop would change her life. The coat came home and while admiring it she started thinking about who had originally worn the 1920’s velvet jacket. It led to developing a character who’s followed her into the pages of a trilogy. The latest book, the Silver Shoes, was inspired by a vintage pair of heels.  Jill’s embraced second hand style and hunted for bargains from California to Budapest where the markets immersed her in antiques, curios, and the Hungarian culture. She often searches for specific pieces that she can wear for events and speaking engagements. Where I’ve found myself shopping for items that blend with my travel style, she’s searched, for example, for a jacket that matches the silver shoes on the cover of her recent novel.

Jill G. Hall and the black coat that inspired her book series.

Jill G. Hall and the black coat that inspired her book series.

Travel is freeing. When we’re in a new place we can reinvent ourselves and do that with what we wear as well. While I live in yoga clothes for comfort in my California home office, I wouldn’t think of dressing that way on the road, especially outside of the United States. It makes packing a bit harder to coordinate but my second hand style makes it more affordable.

Author Jill G. Hall with her book, The Silver Shoes

Author Jill G. Hall with her book, The Silver Shoes

Some of Jill’s second hand style inspirations include:

  • It’s not important to buy a brand name or designer, but something that fits well.
  • Be comfortable whatever your age and as style changes.
  • When I travel I like to buy scarves because they’re really good keepsakes and travel well. I wear them and remember that place and experience.
Searching out second hand style in a Budapest marketplace.

Searching out second hand style in a Budapest marketplace. Photo: Jill G. Hall

Second hand style high and low

There are many shops, open markets and special sales which focus on vintage, used or designer pieces. Resale and consignment shops tend to curate their offerings. If you’re looking for a name designer you might find a great bargain in a consignment shop compared to list prices but you’ll also spend more than thrift stores. Thrift stores tend to be the least expensive way to develop second hand style. They can also take the most time as you dig through racks, boxes or stacks of items.

Check out my short video about a vintage fashion exhibit at the Maryhill Museum:

Since thrifting is also a past time of mine I wondered if Jill had any other suggestions for making it a success. Here are some of her suggestions:

Strategies for second hand style

  • Examine the style – Is this going to work on your body?
  • Hold it up to the light. Look for snags, balls, and moth holes
  • Look for stains like champagne or tea. Those are impossible to remove in many older fabrics.
  • Does it match something in your closet to wear with it? Go back after you find something that matches.
  • Consider if something in your closet matches it or you might be drawn to something and try out a new style inexpensively.
  • Feel the fabric – if it’s scratchy don’t get it! You won’t wear something that’s uncomfortable.
  • Sniff it –  Can you smell smoke or is it musty? Do you smell mothballs? Those won’t wear well.
  • Try it on whenever possible. Ask for a dressing room or use the restroom.
  • Does it fit a purpose? Work wardrobe? When you see something you really love ask yourself where will you wear it or make a plan to go to the opera.
  • If it doesn’t fit then have it tailored.
  • Is it washable? Do you do a lot of dry-cleaning or can you hand wash?
  • Do a closet edit. Collect a bag full and donate it to the shop.
Second hand travel. Photo by Faith Keay, Flickr

Second hand travel. Photo by Faith Keay, Flickr

Part of the fun is getting the deal. It’s in our DNA, a part of the thrill of the hunt and Jill considers her second hand style as part of her art form. “My wardrobe is a reflection of who I am and what I’m trying to say.” It’s not just aspirational. Express yourself!

More about second hand style:

Here’s more about Flea Shopping around the world in an earlier blog post.
Find out more about Jill, her speaking events, and novels.
Take a deep dive into second hand style reading Vintage Life Magazine.
Second Hand Style Pin with photo by Peter Kurdulija on Flickr


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