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Design & Style

The Perfect Thrift: Tan France’s 4 Key Tips for Vintage Shopping

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Sep 21, 2020 • 4 min read

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Tan France Teaches Style for Everyone

“I love to shop for vintage or thrift,” says style icon Tan France. Vintage clothing stores can be a goldmine for everything from antique cardigans to leather jackets to handbags to high-end designer pieces—but sometimes it can feel a little overwhelming for first-time thrifters. If you’re headed out to a thrift shop to look for the perfect vintage finds, check out some of Tan’s fashion tips.



Tan France Teaches Style for EveryoneTan France Teaches Style for Everyone

Queer Eye cohost Tan France breaks down the principles of great style, from building a capsule wardrobe to looking pulled together every day.

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A Brief Introduction to Tan France

While some were first introduced to fashion expert Tan France on the Primetime Emmy-nominated Netflix show Queer Eye in 2018, the prolific stylist has been in the fashion and styling business for over 20 years. Before the fashion guru appeared in the hit makeover show reboot along with the rest of “The Fab Five,” co-stars Bobby Berk, Antoni Porowski, Karamo Brown, and Jonathan Van Ness (JVN), he had helped thousands of people find their personal style and find a look that makes them feel like the very best version of themselves. Since the breakout success of Queer Eye, Tan has become one of the most visible, sought-after personal stylists in the world—making history as the first openly gay South Asian man on television. In 2019, he published his memoir, Naturally Tan, which became an instant New York Times bestseller. In 2020, Tan co-hosted the fun and fast-paced 2020 Netflix fashion design competition series, Next in Fashion, with Alexa Chung.

What Is Vintage Clothing?

Vintage clothing is a general term for garments that are over 20 years old. (Antique clothing is over 100 years old.) The word “vintage” simply means “from the past.” Vintage clothing is usually secondhand (previously worn). Items that mimic past trends, whether they're vintage or vintage-inspired, are called “retro.” Unworn clothing—typically found in bulk in warehouses and factories—is known as “deadstock” but is generally not vintage.

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Where Can You Find Vintage Clothing?

You can find vintage pieces in many different places, including vintage stores, charity shops, thrift stores, flea markets, consignment stores, vintage boutiques, and even garage sales. There’s also a growing online vintage fashion market so you can find vintage items from the comfort of your own home.

Tan France’s 4 Tips for Vintage Shopping

Tan France, the trendy fashion guru from the Netflix show Queer Eye, is passionate about vintage fashion. “It gives me the opportunity to find something that nobody else is going to be wearing,” he explains. Vintage shopping is an adventure, and with a few simple skills, you can develop your own unique vintage style. Check out the following shopping tips from fashion expert Tan France before your next outing:

  1. Treat it as exploration. “Vintage shopping isn’t like regular shopping,” Tan explains. “You’re not thinking, ‘I need this pair of jeans in this fit’ or ‘I’m going for that kind of suit in this color.’” Instead, you should look at all of the vintage clothes, from denim to T-shirts, in terms of exploration or discovery—look around at what speaks to you and what looks interesting, beautiful, or full of character. When out at vintage shops, keep in mind: you never know what you’re going to get.
  2. Understand your current wardrobe. You may want to buy something totally wild when vintage shopping, like a loud suede blazer or a piece of bold costume jewelry. Going wild is fine—as long as it works with your current wardrobe. “We are going for something that will work with our wardrobe, not something that goes completely against what our style is,” Tan explains. “Otherwise, you’ll get home and not know what to do with that thing.” In other words, if you have a muted, conservative wardrobe, avoid buying a gaudy vintage sweatshirt, a neon green crop top with tassels, or tie-dye vintage jeans. It can be hard to incorporate these statement pieces into your wardrobe, and you’ll most likely end up not wearing it.
  3. Keep an open mind. The joy of retro clothing is finding things that you may not have thought of including in your wardrobe—but that you love anyway. “Go with a very open mind to find something fun, unique, interesting, and with bags of character,” Tan says. Keep yourself open to the outer boundaries of your style so that you’re willing to consider interesting or surprising possibilities—from vintage dresses to denim jackets—at the store.
  4. Go small, where possible. While you may think that New York City or Los Angeles are the perfect places for secondhand clothing, Tan has other advice. “I would suggest not going vintage shopping in major cities,” he says. “The markup is wild—it’s so, so, so expensive.” Instead, Tan recommends thrifting off the beaten path to find more affordable price points: “If you’re in a smaller town, try and go for vintage shopping there—as opposed to the likes of New York, LA, London, Paris.”


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Want to Learn More About Unleashing Your Inner Fashionista?

Get a MasterClass All-Access Pass and let Tan France be your very own style spirit guide. Queer Eye’s fashion guru spills everything he knows about building a capsule collection, finding a signature look, understanding proportions, and more (including why it’s important to wear underwear to bed)—all in a soothing British accent, no less.