Where to buy vintage fashion in Norfolk
- Credit: Kerry Curl
Many of us are looking to reduce our impact on the planet – and a great way of doing that is by swapping fast fashion for vintage.
If you don’t know where to start, Karen James Welton’s first book Old Clothes New Trends will help you find your own timeless style.
Karen James Welton’s life is a catwalk.
The Norwich-based sustainable and vintage stylist’s inspiring Instagram feed, @fabulousmissk is a joyful celebration of seizing the day – and looking fantastic while doing it.
Karen has worked in fashion for more than a quarter of a century, working for industry icons including Vivienne Westwood and Jean Paul Gaultier and magazines.
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She now runs a styling business in Norwich, encouraging people to shop more sustainably and move away from fast fashion by offering services such as shopping trips and showing people how make the most of what they already own by shopping their own wardrobes.
Fast fashion comes with hidden costs, from the working conditions of the people employed in the textile factories to the environmental impact of the production process and the garments which are thrown away and sent to landfill.
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Karen is an ambassador for Slow Fashion Season, which runs from July to September, where participants commit to a #fashiondetox by not buying any new fashion items for 90 days.
The Slow Fashion Movement highlights that it’s one of the most polluting industries in the world and uses massive amounts of clean water – it takes 2,700 litres of water to make a single T-shirt.
And to help people get into the slow fashion habit, Karen has just published her first book.
Old Clothes New Trends is a guide to how to make vintage modern and wear it as part of your everyday wardrobe.
“Working with clients over the years, many of them say they would like to wear vintage and be more sustainable with how they shop, but they’re not sure how to give it a modern twist and are afraid they will look like an extra from a period drama,” says Karen.
“Shopping second-hand is a fashionable way to shop, so after years of advising people about purchasing this way I thought I would write a book about how I shop and style vintage.
“With the focus moving away from fast fashion, it seemed like the perfect time to put all my advice in one place, making it easy for people to create a more sustainable wardrobe.
“I wanted to put all the advice that I give my clients into one place so anyone can learn how to make vintage part of their everyday wardrobe,” she continues.
“I started writing the book about five years ago, then it went on the back burner, but with Covid-19 I had more time on my hands as I couldn't work with clients face-to-face, so I sat down and finished it.
“I really enjoyed putting all my knowledge and styling skills together,” she says.
Karen has loved vintage fashion since she was young.
“I always loved dressing up and watching my mother get dressed up,” she says.
"We used to sit and watch old movies together, so my passion for fashion grew from that.
“I first started wearing vintage when in my early teens I wanted to buy all the clothes in the fashion editorials in Vogue, but my budget didn't run to designer prices so I found my own versions in vintage and charity shops.”
Her style icons include Chanel – she admits that she has “a thing” for Chanel-style jackets.
“I also love what Alessandro Michele is doing with Gucci,” says Karen.
“I love the classic icons for their timeless style - Jackie O, Grace Kelly and Katherine Hepburn, Bianca Jagger and more modern ones such as Sarah Jessica Parker and [her Sex and the City alter ego] Carrie Bradshaw.”
And favourite pieces in her own collection include the jacket which she is wearing on the front cover of the book, which is part of a suit.
“I have some amazing 1930s and 40s evening dresses that are very special, and a stunning Jean Varon maxi dress that I have just bought is a new favourite.”
As well as the environmental benefits, by buying vintage you can create your own signature style.
“You will get a totally unique look that no-one else will have and also the quality of the garments is so much better than today’s clothing as the fabric and details are of a much higher quality,” says Karen.
If someone wanted to start incorporating vintage into their wardrobe, where would Karen recommend that they start, styling wise?
“Buy my book,” she laughs. “Seriously, start small by adding a few pieces such a scarf or bag and just treat vintage as you would any other piece of clothing.
“Start by mixing it with what you already own.”
When it comes to shopping vintage, one of the best things about it is the thrill of the chase.
You never know what you might find on the rail at your local charity shop.
But, says Karen, there are a few things to look out for.
“Sizing was very different so the best thing is to have your measurements to hand when shopping.
“Hold pieces up to the light that way you can see if the fabric is in good condition and try everything on because it may not have hanger appeal but look amazing on.”
Old Clothes New Trends by Karen James Welton is available now from Amazon.
Karen’s vintage favourites
Karen loves hunting for vintage treasures. Her favourite places include...
Retreat Vintage, 26A Magdalen Street, Norwich
Sue Ryder Vintage, 1 Bridewell Alley, Norwich
Lovering and Co and Taxi Vintage on Norwich Market
Vegas Vintage Norfolk, The Dial House, Market Place, Reepham
Portobello East Coast, 1 Market Place, Halesworth