Marvellously unique and meticulously curated, Velour Clothing Exchange is a long awaited addition to Calgary’s shopping scene. The shop features vintage and vintage-inspired clothing at fair prices in a comfortable, minimalist space on 17th avenue. Myra, the visionary behind the boutique and long-time vintage clothing aficionado collaborated with us to share with you the ins and outs of shopping vintage like a pro. We’ve included pictures of our favourite outfits from a recent vintage hunt we went on at Velour!
What is “vintage” clothing?
Vintage clothing is anything 20 years and older. Currently, that means anything made in or before 1997. Clothing around 100 years old (think 1920s) is considered "antique". At Velour, they focus on 60’s-90’s vintage because it is “wearable vintage” and prevalent enough that they don’t have to charge a lot for each item. Vintage pieces at Velour are chosen based on how easily they could fit into someone’s closet and pieces that fit with current trends.
What are the benefits of shopping vintage?
Shopping vintage usually means repurposing unique, long lasting clothing – ethical shopping at it’s finest! Buying vintage can keep gorgeous, one of a kind pieces out of the landfill. This reduces the environmental impact of the garment industry, while also allowing the buyer to experiment with and refine their personal style.
What are the signs of a high quality vintage item?
Pieces made in the 1950s and earlier are rare, often higher quality and more expensive because after the ‘50s clothes started to be increasingly mass produced. When you find a piece you love, check the stitching, check for stains and see if you can easily remove shoulder pads. Evaluate how extensive alterations may be and if it’s worth it to you or not.
Clothes from the 70’s – 80’s may have a union tag that would indicate the makers of the product made a decent wage in a union shop in Canada or the US. A “Made in Canada” tag is traditionally a clear indicator of a high quality vintage piece. Canadian pieces were usually made in conditions that permitted the makers the time and skill to pay attention to details, tailoring, fabrics and durability,
What vintage items are worth investing in?
Any piece with high quality fabric will be worth the investment. Coats are often a good buy, especially when they are made of pure wool. They can be found in interesting shapes and at incredible bargains.
At Velour, pieces that are easily wearable and accessible are the focus, instead of expensive investment pieces. They want to create a place where an individual can afford to buy a truly vintage piece instead of copy vintage pieces at fast fashion outlets. Real vintage is usually higher quality construction and fabrics than what can be found at a mall.
How do you care for vintage items?
Natural fibers are more prone to having moth damage – especially wool and silk. Protect from moths by putting cedar balls with your wool or silk pieces. These little balls made of cedar repel bugs and are an eco-friendly choice as mothball contains many chemicals and smell terrible. You can find cedar balls at a hardware store near you.
For silks and fur ensure they are dry cleaned at the end of the season because body oils attract moths. High-end fur pieces should be stored in a temperature-regulated room to avoid drying out the fur.
Always check the tags for washing instructions. Wool pieces MUST be hand washed, never put them in the washing machine. Be careful with dry cleaning as well. Delicate or unusual details may be ruined if they are not noticed or properly cared for.
When is a good time of year to look for vintage pieces?
Spring and summer can be a great time to hunt for vintage items because of estate and garage sales. Keep an eye out for Value Village and WINS 50% sales, and church markets usually have a “bag sale” where you can fill up a bag for $1-$2 during the last hour of the sale.
At Velour boxing week and end of season sales make for some prime vintage hunting. Every Thursday new items are brought out in preparation for the weekend.
Is vintage sizing different than present day sizing? How would a buyer adjust to this?
Yes, be prepared for this! Clothing and shoes are typically smaller than one would expect. For example, a “medium” from the 70s could now be an extra small. There is no official explanation for this; it is thought that perhaps we are just generally larger than we used to be. Plus sizes did not exist until relatively recently, so it is more difficult to find items in that size range, but not impossible! Velour is conscious of the need for plus size clothing and actively looking to increase their availability for all body types.
What makes Myra passionate about vintage clothing?
“It’s exciting to see people excited by fabric and style, seeing people have fun in the shop. I want to be inclusive and make sure things are affordable and encourage customers to try things out of their comfort zone. It usually opens their eyes to styles they had never thought of before! At Velour, it is common for someone to find a piece they wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else."
Who is Myra’s fashion inspiration?
- Iris Apfel – Iris encourages people to express their own personal style and not get hung up on “fashion”. She has said “to have style you have to know who you are”. She encourages people to see that fashion doesn’t make you, you make fashion.
- Coco Chanel – Though Myra is not a huge fan of her in every way, she can relate to the way Chanel sees the world through an amalgamation of fabric and patterns. She saw beauty in a fisherman’s t-shirt, she pared things down from fluffy and frilly to a more tailored look. Her sensitivity to fabric and pattern changed the fashion industry.
How is Velour different than a typical consignment store?
Velour is the first store in Calgary to have a buy/sell/exchange model. Velour will either buy from you at 20% of what they will sell your items for or give you 40% credit for the selling price. With this model you do not have to wait for your clothing to sell to get cash back or store credit. Velour also sells men’s vintage, is one of the only stores in Calgary actively buying vintage pieces to bring into the store, sells local art and can be found at local markets such as Market Collective.
Where does the clothing at Velour come from?
50% of the clothing is hand picked by Myra and 50% is from people bringing in their personal vintage collections. Myra buys from estate, garage and church sales as well as from other thrift shops. She also loves Empire Exchange and Renaissance in Montreal. Her goal is to go on a road trip through Northern US and into BC, where small town vintage treasures can be found.
Velour's heart for re-purposing beautiful clothing makes them an ethical fashion star in our eyes! Be sure to hop on over to Calgary's newest vintage clothing shop, we promise you won't be disappointed! In the meantime, check out Velour's Instagram for vintage shopping updates and inspiration!