my favourite vintage salt & pepper shakers in the whole world...

Cute huh? But wait for it...



on flea markets and the 'Vintage Glaze'.

The flea market experience differs greatly to the op-shop experience, which incidentally (or not) you can read about in my post here. It's less distilled, in the clothing-for-sale ratio sense. But I'm going to go out on a limb and say I actually prefer markets. Wellllll, you know it's kind of a love/hate relationship because I worked at markets for years (not selling vintage btw) and market stallholder politics can be... er... interesting? Educational? Full of complete nutjobs? But as a customer, finding an awesome market, well hey there's just nothing quite like it.

The best markets are outdoors, preferably on some kind of sports oval to lend a scent of competitive anticipation to the air. Grass is necessary. They start early, the air is fresh and crisp, vicious antique dealers hungrily scan with their torches before daybreak, digging rudely through peoples boxes before they've even unpacked (dealers are never looking for clothes - ha, fools I tells ya!). There's generally a hot shirtless guy selling plants. There's some dodgy dude ready to physically fight anyone, including me, over the authenticity of his $70 Louis Vuitton. The canteen has hotdogs and those bizarre 90s soft drinks like Pasito and Creaming Soda and all the Golden Valley ones - does anyone actually buy those anywhere other than markets and community swimming pools?

Mum and I developed the perfect procedure for market hunting. There's the initial scan - fast-paced, pinpointing the most interesting stalls, mentally categorising the order in which to peruse them (sudden memory: Caboolture markets circa 1996, a lady selling all her pristine clothes for $1 each. Crazed women grabbing at clothes and 'accidentally' scratching each other in the process. Scored wide-leg tencel jeans, white cropped knit Country Road singlet with big wood buttons, crushed velvet green singlet. Might have socked a middle-aged woman in the jaw. Pretty much 90s heaven). Then after honing in on the must-visit locales there's the second round, slower and more in-depth to search for unexpected treasures that can spring from the most unlikely places. A gorgeous faux-fur belted coat for $4, black with a white collar, ruined years later by Woodford Folk Festival mud. Strapless 80s party dress with ladybugs print. Ladybugs! A scrolling leaves goldtone 70s necklace, gifted later to a friend who fell in love with it. 1950s cotton circle skirt with dancing African ladies all around it. And this was years before I had even dreamed of selling vintage. I don't even want to think about the pieces I dismissed back then, when $10 was a lot to pay for a vintage coat. Ah, hindsight. You evil wise bastard.

My favourite piece was this... jacket. Sigh. This beautiful tailored softest chocolate suede blazer with rounded lapels. Solid brass snap buttons. Jewel toffee satin lining. Bought for $25 in 1997 from this gorgeous stylish little old lady who had owned it since the 1960s. It was so perfectly fitted, like it was made for me. She seemed kind of sad yet happy to sell it to me, and I loved it for years. Felt just a little bit Stevie Nicks whenever I wore it. Then my sister borrowed it and left it in a pub, and someone took it. And I hope whoever has it now gets what's coming to them. Ahh, there are many sad stories that begin with 'then my sister borrowed it'.

But my favourite market experience was probably technically not a market, it was more one of those gigantic collectables swap meets that happen every now and then, but it was on a sports oval and had a canteen with Pasito so I'm letting it pass. It was raining like nobodies business, and everyone had huddled to the stalls that were inside the pavilion. These poor stallholders out on the field were braving it with barely a soul in sight. I decided to give it a shot, sludged through the mud in thongs, and was rounding the final aisle when I saw this stall with vintage dresses hanging off it. Only a few though and a bit pricey and early 60s polyester gross. I asked the grumpy stallholder if she had any others, to which she replied, "nothin decent, there's some in the boot, they're not really vintage though but you can go through them if you want". (See that's where old-school vintage sellers and the new generation differ. They don't see 70s and 80s pieces as vintage, just old clothes. I'm currently experiencing that mental struggle with 90s "vintage". 90s clothing is 90% crap and I 90% hate all of it.) Aaaaanywho, within these boxes of 'not really vintage' was the most AMAZING collection of delicate pieces: lace maxis, gorgeous Bali cutwork dresses, embroidered gauze smock tops, beaded purses....

I believe I experienced my first episode of what I later termed the 'Vintage Glaze'. This is when a vintage enthusiast is confronted with such an sudden overwhelming assault of amazing affordable vintage that their eyes literally glaze over and they become incapable of communication beyond quiet whimpers and incomprehensible mutterings. Other symptoms include rapid heart-rate, sweating palms, and violent possessiveness over clothes inanimate objects. This was back when I first started selling vintage, circa 2005, when I had to scrounge op-shops for one or two half-decent 80s dresses, so you can understand it was a particularly severe episode.

$75 later I floated over the mud with my giant bag of goodies, eyes still glazed, feeling like I had saved a litter of puppies from being thrown in a garbage disposal or something. Well, I had saved beautiful clothes from a life of neglect and eventual mould, anyhow. So that is something.

I feel like markets like that don't exist any more. I know they probably do, somewhere, but weekends are now spent actually tending to the rest of my life outside of Damsel, so who has the time? I guess it's all relative. I can't even comprehend the amazing markets my mum went to in the 70s, when she owned a collectibles stall and sold 1920s flapper dresses and Victorian costume jewellery. 1950s clothing was barely considered vintage then. I'll tell you some of her stories another day. But I suppose it's time to accept the reality of the markets of the future, where gems like my 'not really vintage' collection will be a distant memory or like $300 a piece, and the 90s cast-offs I gave to Lifeline in '02 will become hot property for some enterprising young lass. Urgh. Maybe I should get back out and enjoy them while the 'Glaze' is still possible for me.