How to buy and wear vintage 


How do you make sure that you don’t turn up to a wedding, office Christmas party or  birthday soiree in the same get-up as someone else? Buy vintage of course. If you’ve been day-dreaming about turning up to an event in a beautiful, one-of-a-kind piece, which has people wondering where exactly you managed to find such a showstopper, then former interior designer and ”Vintage King” (aptly dubbed so by British VogueHarper’s Bazaar and The New York Times) William Banks-Blaney is here to help.

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Founder of William Vintage, William Banks-Blaney

Founder of William Vintage, William Banks-Blaney Credit: Tom Hayward

”I have always loved vintage and knew so many women who loved the idea of vintage but were terrified of shopping for it” the vintage connoisseur tells The Telegraph. Banks-Blaney founded William Vintage in 2009 to sell the kinds of clothes he and his friends dreamed about finding; ”fantastic, wearable vintage clothing in perfect condition”.

William Vintage offers an enormous array of vintage  gems; from the perfect work suit or weekend coat, to an exquisite formal gown. Personally responsible for scouring the globe and hand-picking pieces to sell in-store and online (his Eccommerce site launched earlier this year), who better to impart their vintage-buying-and-wearing-wisdom on us than HRH himself? 


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Don’t overthink it

”You should start with a piece that you know how to incorporate into your wardrobe and don’t over think it”, Banks-Blaney tells The Telegraph. ”It may be vintage but you already know how to wear a dress, so the same rules apply”, he continues, suggesting a chic 1960s coat or a knockout LBD as a good starting point. 

Kate Upton in William Vintage at 'The Other Woman' premiere, London 2014

Kate Upton in William Vintage at ‘The Other Woman’ premiere, London 2014 Credit: Rex 

Don’t go OTT

Banks-Blaney recommends always limiting yourself to one vintage piece at a time. ”I love vintage but I don’t like dress-up, so always mix it in with contemporary,” he tells The Telegraph. ”Celebrate all aspects of fashion and find your own language”. There’s nothing you can’t find vintage, so what you buy is down to personal choice. Banks-Blaney says that, while he loves vintage clothes, he prefers contemporary accessories, suggesting that pieces look far more relevant and clean as part of a combined look. 

Great Unknown black trouser suit circa 1970, £345, William vintage ​

Great Unknown black trouser suit circa 1970, £345, William vintage ​

Look after your vintage pieces 

Banks-Blaney suggests that,  just as with contemporary clothing, you think about what you want and expect your vintage clothing to do for you and always bear the fabric in mind. ”If it’s silk, chiffon of velvet it’s going to be more delicate and less hard wearing than wool or cotton, so you will need to find a great dry cleaners, as chemicals kill your clothing no matter how old or new they are”. Banks-Blaney emphasises that if you ”shop well and invest sensibly, you should never need to part with beautiful vintage clothes”.

Global gold dress circa 1962, £475, William Vintage​

Global gold dress circa 1962, £475, William Vintage​

Make minimal alterations

What about when it comes to having vintage pieces tailored? At William Vintage they have a saying ”you never turn a maxi into a mini”. ”For premium vintage pieces like 20th century haute couture it’s important they are not tailored as this will reduce their inherent value, while an inexpensive, fun dress is something you can tailor to improve its fit,” Banks-Blaney tells The Telegraph, also urging that any tailoring work you do have done, is carried out well and with as little impact as possible on the item. 

Thea Porter couture navy heart print dress, £1975, William Vintage​

Thea Porter couture navy heart print dress, £1975, William Vintage

Start slowly

To avoid falling prey to con artists and fakes, Banks-Blaney advises that you always purchase your vintage pieces from a reputable source and that you start slowly and enjoy the sense of discovery that comes with finding a piece of vintage that you love, so that your eye and understanding of vintage improves. ”If you’re considering buying something and the sales executive can’t tell you what you need to know – walk out!” 

Yves Saint Laurent beige coat circa 1972, £825, William Vintage

Yves Saint Laurent beige coat circa 1972, £825, William Vintage

A new four part series on BBC Arts,  looking back at four hero looks in cinema history (including Audrey Hepburn’s infamous black dress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Alicia Silverstone’s yellow tartan skirt suit in Clueless) hosted by William Banks-Blaney, will be available on BBC iPlayer from 18th November 2016.

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