The Best Vintage Investment Buys For Autumn, From Designer Gems To Op-Shop Treasures

By Dan Ahwa
A vintage Thornton Hall dress from the archives. Photo / Mara Sommer, 2019

When you don’t have time to trawl through everything, we’re here to help.

Investing in pre-loved clothing can often be an arduous task.

When you buy something online, there is the risk it may not fit; it’s a one-off item that’s unable to be exchanged for a different size

When faced with the physical reality of shopping in a vintage boutique or a charity shop for a second-hand gem, it can sometimes feel overwhelming. Although some people relish the thrill of the hunt, spending hours looking at vintage websites and trawling through racks of endless clothes and accessories, for some it can be too much to deal with.

With daylight savings making its presence felt this week, shorter days and cooler temperatures signal a shift in our wardrobes. There is an array of new-season options to shop right now of course, but if you’re on a budget or if you’re looking for something unique to update your autumn and winter wardrobe, we have tips.

Recently we spoke with a stylish coterie of names who offered their sage advice on how to embrace personal style on a budget and how to care for clothes to last the distance (including a helpful vodka hack on laundry day). These vintage aficionados also offer up their assortment of local vintage haunts to shop.

We’re keeping the recommendations below concise: this isn’t just a random hodge-podge of old clothes to shop right now. Because in fashion, what goes around comes around, so we’ve zeroed in on the one-off wonders that at least showcase currency. Things to buy now that you can easily implement into your wardrobe and get plenty of wear all year round; and unique items that feel special.

As vintage beyond the 1980s is becoming increasingly rare, it’s harder to invest in pre-loved clothes that also hold some quality in terms of make and provenance. For every rare 1960s Christian Dior coat on the market, there are now 100 poorly made tops from Shein to wade through, so to help you find something truly worth buying, these are what we would consider to be the very best buys on the market — but be quick. Like anything old, availability is scarce and so too is sizing, so we’ve made an effort here to look at a range of options to consider.

For rainy days

Dull days don’t necessarily equate to a dull outfit. Harness a sunny disposition to tackle the gloom in an assortment of pretty (and highly practical) pieces.

The nautical jacket: If Maggie Marilyn’s lovely ‘Grows You Out Of The Clouds’ is slightly out of your price range, or if you need a windbreaker-type jacket with a bit more waterproof tactility, I love the look and feel of an old-school Nautica jacket. Perfect for unruly windy days, the preppy styling and vibrant yellow colour of this option are on the money. $90 from, Good Ol Vintage.

An ‘it’ bag

The days of “it” bags might have reached their peak during the noughties but for some nostalgia, investing in something once popular now offers a different value proportion — not unlike investing in rare art.

A classic Mulberry ‘Bayswater’ bag: When looking for a decent vintage bag, start with a classic, something that you know will accompany you in multiple situations. As we’ve reported previously, designer handbags can be a good investment if you’re looking for something you can sell later at a profit. The Bayswater bag is part of Mulberry’s heritage designs and comes at a reasonable price. Approx. $705, from Vestiare Collective.

A rare collectors bag: If you too were besotted by designer John Galliano’s mesmerising show earlier this year for Maison Margiela’s Artisanal collection, you will have noticed the parade of top-handle bags stalking down the Pont Alexandre III bridge across the Seine. A definite handbag throwback, there’s something unique about the shape of one that lends itself easily to your wardrobe no matter what your style is; perfect with romantic dresses or just as good slung crossbody with a blazer and jeans. This 90s number is a unique find from the legendary French designer. $950, from Hunters & Collectors.

Something tailored

A sharply tailored garment can redefine an entire look.

A smart jacket: Cropped jackets like a bolero are a great way to rethink the silhouette of an outfit. Teamed with some loose-fitting trousers for example, the formula is an ideal way to give workwear a fresh point of view, and a welcome alternative to tried and true blazers. This reworked blazer from Riel is a great starting point. $159, from Riel.

For fashion nerds

If you have a penchant for iconic brands from the past, these current buys are worth considering for your personal archives.

A Kevin Berkhan jacket: The special-occasions designer is one of our fashion industry’s most important figures, specialising in bridalwear, sumptuous evening gowns and cocktail-wear. If there’s a scant quality in fabrics right now, finding something like this will take you back to when there was an endless supply of really good fabrics. This size 10 jacket is made from red dupion silk and would work best right now with a T-shirt and pair of jeans. $85, from Go Jo Recycled Store.

An Albert Nippon dress: Moody florals are an ideal way to inject a seasonal-driven trend into your wardrobe, and this is the perfect dress to consider for a nod to the 80s without feeling overly passé. Modest sleeves and a free-flowing shape make this a perfect choice for autumn/winter workwear, belted and worn with a pair of flat knee-high leather riding boots. Made from 100 per cent silk. $464, from Waves Vintage.

An El Jay co-ordinated set: Another iconic New Zealand label, designer Gus Fisher’s El Jay label was an anomaly in our local fashion canon, an official licensee for Christian Dior during the 1950s and 60s, giving him the exclusive rights to manufacture and sell Christian Dior originals and Christian Dior prêt a porter in the New Zealand market. This smart skirt suit with its utilitarian styling still feels fresh. $249, from Painted Bird Vintage.

A collectible Dries Van Noten x Len Lye jacket: When we spoke with revered Belgian designer Dries Van Noten in 2021 on the release of this seminal collection inspired by the unique artwork of New Zealand kinetic sculpture artist Len Lye, we loved the collection’s vibrant use of colour and play on light. Now that Dries has announced he will be stepping away from his brand come June, it’s collections like this that will appreciate in time. Approx. $450, from The RealReal.

For cold days

Beat the chill in a range of investment vintage buys that envelope and cocoon the body.

A great coat: The Paris-based Australian fashion designer is a master tailor and has consistently remained a firm favourite at local stalwart Scotties. Investing in a decent coat requires a lot of research, but what makes this one stand out is how this single-breasted car coat remains forever timeless with its wide open lapels. It’s made from 72 per cent virgin wool and 29 per cent mohair and at this reasonable price, it’s a coat to last a lifetime. $640, from Scotties Recycle.

A blanket ‘shacket’: A shirt that serves as a jacket but also looks like something fashioned from a blanket, the cosy appeal of this classic Isabel Marant design also ticks off this year’s obsession with everything Western. Approx. $585, from Sign of the Times.

A cosy patchwork jacket: What’s not to love about patchwork? The retro styling of this casual jacket is a joyful way to add some colour and print into your wardrobe, upcycled from a vintage 1970s quilt top with a boxy fit. $65, from Trade Me.

A shoe of the moment

One quick way to update a look is to invest in a pair of shoes with plenty of personality.

A classic ballet flat: If the shoe fits, then these Chanel slip-on ballet flats are an easy way to upgrade a look; quintessentially chic with its recognisable quilting, this mix of navy and black is the type of shoe you can wear with almost everything — and only a fraction of the retail price. Approx. $1080, from The RealReal.

An irreverent mule: If you’re going to invest in a pair of mules, Prada is synonymous with its mule collection, and this playful pair is a reminder of when the brand had a good sense of humour. $400, from Tatty’s.

For everyday

One failsafe item is a dress for every occasion (preferably one that’s fun).

An everyday dress: A free-lowing print dress offers ample opportunity to play around. Layered underneath a woolly jumper with tights and boots for the weekend or belted with a pair of smart ballet flats for the office, this La DoubleJ frock is ideal. $325, from Scotties.

Another great everyday dress to consider is one close to home from local label Kowtow. An easy throw-on-and-go dress, this XXL is perfect for a range of bodies depending on how loose you like to wear a smock dress. $120, from The Walk In Wardrobe.

Dan Ahwa is Viva’s fashion and creative director and a senior premium lifestyle journalist for the New Zealand Herald, specialising in fashion, luxury, arts and culture. He is also an award-winning stylist with over 17 years of experience, and is a co-author and co-curator of The New Zealand Fashion Museum’s Moana Currents: Dressing Aotearoa Now.

More pre-loved fashion

When you want something thrifted.

Didier Ludot is the man who all but created vintage fashion. Fifty years ago Didier Ludot opened his couture resale boutique in Paris and changed style forever.

Vintage vs second-hand: Why getting the semantics correct matters. There’s a distinction between vintage fashion and second-hand clothes. As mass retailers cotton on to the greenwashing tactics of offering second-hand clothes marketed as vintage treasures, Dan Ahwa offers a simple guide for separating the wheat from the chaff.

The perils and potentials of shopping someone else’s closet. Julia Gessler updates us on the new vanguard of resale vendors to know.

The best places to shop for vintage and pre-loved clothes. Keep your carbon footprint top of mind in your closet with these persistently good treasure troves.

Learn how to care for your vintage garments with these tips from an expert. With her extensive background in film, costuming and vintage clothing, Estelle Stroud knows better than anyone how to breath new life into an old favourite.

Unlock this article and all our Viva Premium content by subscribing to 

Share this article: