Basics on a Budget – Where to Find Bargain Accessories

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I could write a post with lots of pictures of cheap belts from High Street stores. But I think you (and your wardrobe) deserve better.

There are things that you really should have a selection of in your wardrobe. You might only have 2 dresses in the whole wide world, but a selection of belts, shoes, scarves and handbags will convince a casual observer that your wardrobe is far more extensive than it actually is.

Different hair, different belt, bag, necklace – same dress.

I do have some cheap plastic belts and bags, but generally they fall apart in 5 minutes. I’ve even bought belts that turn out to be made of cardboard and disintegrate totally. What a waste of £3. I once bought what I thought was a lovely vintage style snakeskin handbag from Primark, the metal clip detached itself from the handle on it’s first outing and unless I fancy having a go with a pretty heavy duty soldering iron it is unfixable, I tried superglue. Suddenly that £5 doesn’t seem like such a bargain.

So, how do you find good quality accessories on a budget. I have a few tips, some may be obvious, some less so, but this is how I get them! Everything apart from the necklaces in the top 2 pictures was bought in one of these ways (1 necklace was £3 at a craft fair, the other was a gift!)

  • Charity Shops & Boot Fairs

Obvious, to me at least, but how many people wander round a charity shop looking at the clothes, proclaim they can never find anything in charity shops and then leave, completely ignoring the huge box of leather belts and silk scarves at the back, all priced at £1?

In the top 2 pictures I got the thin black belt, the brown leather bag and the sunglasses in Charity Shops, for a grand total of £2.50 for the lot and the fan was £1 from a Boot Fair, I also have a really cute vintage hart brooch bought for 50p at a Boot Fair. ALWAYS check the accessories section and keep your eyes peeled at Boot Fairs for accessories hidden on unexpected junk stands.

  • Antique Markets

A lot of people don’t visit Antique Markets as they think they’re full of, well, antiques. It’s a common assumption that Antique=Expensive, but this isn’t always the case.

Antique markets will often have cases full of costume jewellery, sometimes you can get items cheaper because of things like missing stones that might not make a huge difference in wear. Try googling Antique market +your area . They can vary, so just because one is pricey don’t let that put you off visiting others. In Norwich I recommend heading down to Tombland and Magdalen Street where there are a few of these kind of shops. I bought a string of pearls in one for £5 because of some missing stones on the clasp and I’ve also picked up gloves, scarves and hats, all for under £10.

If you find any of these 1937 bags under £5 make sure you pick one up for me! by catchesthelight

  • eBay

Another fairly obvious place to look, but amazing how many people focus on the clothes again. You can limit your searches by price now, meaning that a search like this for vintage hats can be limited to items that cost under £5 and help you find that bargain.

Scroll right to the bottom of the search page and you will see a small orange button labelled RSS. Clicking this means you can bookmark that search using your Google Reader, Mozilla Bookmarks, or however you choose to manage your RSS feeds and check on it often for new items.

Also don’t forget to check out eBay US. Some sellers charge outrageous postage to the UK, but not all of them, and it’s worth looking for the good ones to get some real vintage bargains.

Another tip here. Don’t be afraid of second hand shoes. They’re only feet…..

  • Shop Your Families Wardrobes

Grandparents and parents wardrobes and jewellery boxes are worth raiding. Your Nan might have got rid of all her beautiful 50s frocks, but you might find she has a jewellery box full of vintage jewellery and a top shelf full of good quality leather bags and gloves. These things don’t consume much space so are more likely to be kept. The brooch in the top picture belonged to Mr Chicks Nan, for instance.

While you’re at it, why not shop your own wardrobe. Even the most thrifty girl will often find things like bracelets and handbags stuffed in unexpected places. The bracelet in the top picture, for instance, was bought at River Island in 2001, I forgot about it and found it stuffed in a box full of bits while having a clear out. If you’ve exhausted your own wardrobe then try others. Search for swishing events in your area or try (tip for the Norwich based. Check out my Events page. I know of at least one swish coming up in November)

  • Get Crafty

I’ll be honest. I’m on shaky ground here. I’m not the worlds greatest crafter. I have, in the past, made a scarf from a T Shirt, top from a scarf and a necklace from a Christmas tree ornament, but these are isolated (and pretty easy) incidents. Making stuff doesn’t have to be complex, it might just be being imaginative, using scarves as belts, wearing skirts as dresses, or turning necklaces into bracelets. A step up from this might be replacing buttons with something prettier to revive a top, or if you have actual skills you could try crocheting a 40s style snood or some gloves, or knitting a beret.

by carbonated

  • The High Street

I know, I kind of slagged off buying cheap accessories on the High Street earlier, but the key is to be selective.

Primark, for instance, makes excellent waist cinching elastic belts (the one in the top pic is from there) and they are a bargain at about £3. Poor quality elastic belts can roll and twist but I was really impressed with the Primark ones. New Look also make good shoes, they’re generally not leather (though some are) but if you’re planning on wearing stockings, tights or socks I generally find they are good value for the price, at least as good as some of the £50-60 end of the market.

Leather bags and belts I have a harder time with, and I’ve yet to buy a cheap bag or belt that hasn’t started peeling PVC all over the place or fallen apart, but remember that expensive high street stores do have sales, and whilst it might not be in the under £5 category you could still find a bargain on a good quality bag.

Remember, your wardrobe deserves better than poor quality accessories.

9 Responses
  • Style Eyes
    August 12, 2010

    Thanks for all the great tips. I love accessories and am always looking to build up my collection so that I can accessorise my outfits in different ways.

    I love that dress and your hair looks so lovely!

  • Fi Phillips
    August 12, 2010

    Some great advice there. Having recently gone through my late mum’s jewellery box, I’ve found a hoard of vintage jewellery belonging to my mum and her mum too. Even better (as I like to make jewellery) are the broken bead necklaces and brooches. I just need to recycle them into a new design now.

  • Cate
    August 12, 2010

    Great post I always say it’s the accessories that make the outfit!

  • Joshua Black | The Underdog Millionaire
    August 12, 2010

    Retro Chick,

    Your blog is great. You have some brilliant ideas here and I’m sure you serve your customers well.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  • Lori Smith
    August 12, 2010

    Oh yes, *do not* wear New Look shoes with bare feet. I bought some leather flats from there for Goodwood (as I have no grass-worthy footwear that goes with a dress!), and on the ‘test wear’ they shredded my heels. I spent extra on blister plasters (which they rubbed through), normal plasters, gel heel cushions and, finally, socks. I would have *saved* money if I’d just gone to Clarks in the first place! Am so cross with myself.

    Back to the point though… thanks for the great tips on accessories. I really need to start thinking how I can change outfits with accessories and make the most of what I’ve got.

  • Mim
    August 13, 2010

    I got into knitting because I wanted to make my own vintage-style clothes and didn’t have room for a sewing machine. It’s actually not that difficult if people start with accessories, and it’s so easy to get 1940s-60s knitting patterns still.

    (For people who really can’t/won’t/don’t have time for crafts, sometimes older relatives who like knitting can also be pushed at the right pattern!)

  • lisa
    August 13, 2010

    Great tips! I’ve started stalking Etsy for vintage finds as well. My two big purchases for the summer: a vintage Coach bag that looked like new and a vintage Saks Fifth Avenue black frame handbag with chain handles that dates back to the 1950s.

    August 18, 2010

    I have just como across your blog through IFB and I do love it.