Dawn O’ Porter: ‘You Need To Be Braver With Vintage Shopping!’

If you’re busty with a big bum you should look to the 50s. And other genius vintage navigating tips


by Jess Commons |
Published on

The presenter gives us her tips on how to dip your toes in the world of vintage fashion ahead of her new show This Old Thing.

So why did you first get into vintage clothing?

It was just off the back of not really enjoying the high street and not really feeling like I could ever find clothes that represented who I was. I just didn’t find fashion very exciting even though these shops were full of clothes. But when I started going into vintage shops I just thought the clothes were gorgeous and they weren’t what everyone else was wearing. I like finding things that I like rather than things that I thought I should be wearing.

What tips can you give someone unsure how to navigate vintage stores?

I think the first tip is just make sure you’ve got time. Don’t go in thinking you’ve got 15 minutes to find an outfit. Take your time and look along the rail and if there’s anything – a colour or a pattern - that you like make sure that you get it out. Also, you have to be a bit braver than on the high street and try on stuff that you normally wouldn’t because that’s the stuff that people are going to look at you and go, ‘No way!’ You just need to be a bit braver.

How about on eBay? Every time we try and buy stuff it’s the wrong size.

Most things list the sizes. The first thing you’ve got to do when you’re shopping on eBay is measure yourself and once you know your sizes you can just check out what the listing says. People don’t realise that you just need to put that little bit of effort in. Most eBay sellers sell a lot of stuff so they do it pretty well and they list the condition and how big it all is so you just need to make sure you actually bother to read all the descriptions.

And how do you search? Is there one seller you love on eBay?

Not just one seller. I search mostly for designer stuff so I put in my designer and go from there. I just treat it like Google search really.

What’s your favourite piece you own?

An Ossie Clark dress that I found in my aunt’s wardrobe. It’s really unique. One thing we’re doing with the show is getting people that hate the idea of vintage to go into their mum’s or grandma’s wardrobes and they always find something in there that’s worth looking at. It’s still my favourite thing when you find something that’s upstairs the whole time.


There’s a section in the book where you talk about how made do fashion-wise during rationing which was fascinating.

Yes! They would embellish. Beads weren’t affected by rationing so they could embellish their clothes with that kind of thing so they could make their clothes a bit more glitzy. I found so many 40s clothes that had been lined with parachutes and old curtains just to kind of make do and mend which was the motto of the decade and I think the 40s set the imprint for what I’m talking about with British clothes; maintaining and holding onto and not just chucking them away which is what the high street is all about now. Just imagine if instead of going to shops you had to make your own dresses! You’d take such good care of them!

Is there particular decades different shaped women should gravitate to?

If you’re busty with a big bum you should look to the 50s because it was all about the hourglass. I’m really jealous of that shape, it’s just so sexy and gorgeous. For me, I have spent a lifetime trying to hide my belly which is why the 60s works for me. I‘ve got quite skinny legs but a big belly so I can wear really short skirts that are loose around the waist and no-one will know. Tall people can do those long 70s flares and maxi dresses and look awesome. The thing is though women were always all sorts of sizes so there was always something to accommodate all shapes.

How do you go about looking for designer stuff?

I don’t always look for designer stuff. I actuall get a real kick out of standing on red carpet wearing a £10 dress. There’s a list in the book of some really good designers to look out for but to be honest if you don’t know designers then don’t bother looking for designer stuff. The reason I search for designer stuff is because I’m fascinated by their work but if you don’t know about what they did then don’t waste your money. There’s plenty of great vintage dresses out there and you don’t have to spend lots of money unless you’re interested in that stuff.

Does your husband chuckle if you’re wearing something a little ‘out there’?

Oh no never. Perfectly used to it. I think if I walked in in something that wasn’t like that he’d think it was weird!

Dawn O’Porter presents This Old Thing on Channel 4 which starts tonight at 8PM. A tie-in book is also available in hardback and ebook from Hot Key Books.

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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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