6 Rules for Buying a Vintage Party Dress

Jessica Chou

Vintage dealers Joey Grana and Richard Wainwright -- whose A Current Affair vintage marketplace returns to L.A. on Saturday -- share tips for buying old-school formalwear.

Everyone from Chloe Sevigny and Jennifer Aniston to J. Lo and Julia Roberts has sported a vintage gown at one time or another on a red carpet (who can forget Renee Zellweger's stunning yellow chiffon Jean Dresses Oscars gown in 2001 or Demi Moore's navy sequin Norman Norell at the Emmys in 1997?). So it's only fitting that L.A. stylists and costume designers rejoice twice each year, when the semiannual pop-up vintage marketplace A Current Affair sets up shop at downtown L.A.'s Cooper Design Space.

On Saturday from noon to 7 p.m., peruse goods from 30 dealers including market co-founder Richard Wainwright's New/Found shingle (Kelly Wearstler is a fan), Just Say Native (Private Practice assistant director Linde Sayles is a co-founder) and popular Echo Park boutique Tavin (owned by stylist and costumer Erin Tavin). While you're there, expect to bump elbows with members of a host committee that includes filmmaker and vintage collector Liz Goldwyn, actress Sophia Bush, Dita Von Teese and Pret-a-Reporter editor Erin Weinger, not to mention KCRW DJ Marion Hodges, who is set to provide the tunes. 

Although sifting through 1930s sequin boleros, '60s metal clutches and tapestry '80s-era YSL jackets (yes, when the "Y" was still there) can be lots of fun, let's be honest — it's holiday time. And that means that you, too, likely have an office soiree or New Year's bash where only a one-of-a-kind formal piece will do. But buying a vintage dress is no easy feat. So we caught up with Wainwright and market co-founder/owner of L.A.'s Scout boutique Joey Grana to find out just how to buy old-school fancy clothes. Here are their rules. 

1. Don't be afraid of embellishment/sparkle. This is the time of year to dress up, and vintage dresses have all kinds of beautiful handwork that is impossible to create for today's market.

2. Get it tailored. If the dress doesn't fit you perfectly but you love it, bring it to a trusted seamstress who will make it fit like it was made for you.

3. Wear black. The beauty of vintage dresses is that they have all kinds of details and fit features. A vintage black dress is definitely going to get noticed for its details over a contemporary LBD.

4. Accessorize with vintage pieces. If you don't want to wear a vintage dress, you can wear a piece of statement vintage jewelry or an exotic skin clutch. You will get much more bang for your buck if you choose vintage accessories to dress up something you already own. 

5. Avoid era-specific pieces. Just because it's vintage doesn't mean it has to be a costume. 

6. Splurge on a vintage designer piece. If you can, buy a vintage designer piece. That way, it's not just something fun to wear this season but also an investment.

Saturday, December 7. 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., $10. Early noon VIP admission $20. 860 S. Los Angeles St., L.A. itsacurrentaffair.com