How to Shop for Vintage Accessories That Won't Go Out of Style

I took you through my first foray into serious vintage shopping with our editor in chief, Kat Collings, and shortly after that adventure, I was so ready for level 2. Some of the biggest fashion trends I’ve been spotting as of late are straight out of my mom’s late-’90s closet: Think cat-eye sunglasses in tortoiseshell and mini top-handle bags that defy the large shoppers of yesteryore. I wanted an accessory combo that felt of-the-moment, but didn’t want to spend big bucks on anything. I knew Kat could help me find these gems at a fair price on another vintage shopping adventure.

We made the trip over to the bougainvillea-lined streets of Los Feliz on the Eastside of Los Angeles, where she took me to one of her secret vintage spots, Starday Vintage. Aside from the adorable ’50s gems, there was a full case of real vintage glasses (pro tip—you actually have to hunt for real vintage shades; most stores stock glasses that only look vintage) and shelves stacked with mini bags galore. We both got to searching, Kat in her checkered Vans UltraRange sneakers (comfort is key when you have racks to go through) and me in my black pair. Watch the video to see the perfect little combo we found.


What set off this adventure was actually a designer bag I spotted while shopping online that was small, black, late ’90s–inspired, and had a shorter top handle that makes it easy to throw over your shoulder. I was nervous that my proposed criteria was too demanding, but Kat reassured me that we could easily find a similar style. And she was right: “Top-handle bags are one of the easiest styles to find, and thankfully the ladylike look is very in. I also think a vintage wicker bag is always an item to keep an eye out for,” she told me.


I finally got over the admittedly dramatic scenario I had created in my head when we found a black grosgrain top-handle mini bag(!!!). At that point, I was convinced Kat was my vintage fairy godmother, and we pulled the piece off the shelf. “Make sure to check the inside of the purse; used goods are sometimes… quite used,” she told me. The bag in question was in good condition, but if you find one that isn’t, Kat has a tip for you: “Don’t underestimate the power of a good leather or fabric cleaner! If a bag has some scuffs, often they can buff right out.” Game changing.


Next up: finding a pair of sunglasses. We spotted a few more modern styles that didn’t feel vintage enough for me—until Kat spotted a pair hidden in an glass box of accessories amid colorful bangles and earring. It hit every part of my checklist: brown, cat eye, vintage. The only catch? They had a bit of wear and tear.


Luckily there’s an easy solution. Like a scratch on a leather handbag, these sunglasses would actually be pretty easy to repair. “Since sunglasses can be somewhat malleable, for a vintage pair, you want to make sure the frame sits evenly on your face and it’s not bent,” Kat tells me. “If you do fall in love with one that’s a bit wonky, you can always take them to an optician and be fixed.” (Looks like I have an errand in my future.)


I’m pleased with our finds, and it’s safe to say I passed level 2 of my vintage shopping lessons—but I did play it a bit safe in terms of colors. Kat’s advice for my next shopping adventure? “I don’t think there are any hard-and-fast rules for colors to stick to,” she says. “Neutrals will be perpetually in style, but I think vintage is a great opportunity to test out some of the more bold color trends of the season; think slime green, orange, and baby blue.” For now, I’ll stick to neutrals (especially when it looks this good against checkered Vans).

Shop More of Our Favorite Vans Sneakers: