True Value Vintage, located at the crossroads of Robson and Granville, seems like a hole-in-the-wall at first glance.  However, as I descended the stairs, I was transported into another era, or even world.  The interior of the store has an amazing color scheme with bright oranges and pinks, yet a muted lighting to neutralize the iridescence and a soundtrack that would put that of Juno, Garden State and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist to shame.  New arrivals are neatly categorized in the front.  Near the back, signs with pictures of fashion icons such as Audrey Hepburn and Edie Sedgwick clearly indicate which clothes belong to which era, offering a deeper awareness to the casual vintage fan.  One of my favourite spots is the jewellery counter near the cashier with the gorgeous faux gold and silver animal brooches, uniquely designed necklaces and bracelets of different lengths and a bucket of vintage glasses to choose from.

The store recently threw several huge fill-a-bag sales to clear its stock—don’t say that I didn’t warn you about the mess.  Navigating through it was a mini Grouse Grind—clothes were strewn all over the place.  I actually love the feeling of scavenging for clothes, not really knowing what I am about to unearth.  I suppose that you could say that there is order in disorder.  Although I felt slightly daunted by the prospect of narrowing down what seemed like an endless supply of clothes into a tiny bag, it truly was an adventure.  The stress of deciding between that long gypsy skirt and a plain white blouse was almost too much to bear!  I was fortunate to have there with me my mother, my trusty fashion adviser in the sense that whatever she tells me not to get is something that I will probably end up purchasing.

My friend, Miya, who is very into dreamlike and costume photography, was drooling over the affordably-priced vintage dresses and a gorgeous selection of wedding and seasonal dresses.  Men’s leather jackets, high-waist shorts and pants, skirts, dollies, scarves, bags, shoes and hats are all available at this store.

The main reason that I love flea markets, thrift stores or anything with used or old stuff is that they contain so much history.  Choosing clothing is quite personal; apart from lingerie, our clothes serve as a barrier between the prying eyes of the outside world and our naked bodies.  Fashion truly is art!  The stories that go into how the clothes were made, who wore them and who they were passed down to are so rich in detail.  On the other hand, new clothes smell nicer, but there isn’t much history behind them; they probably don’t have any silverfish, but are too sanitized and clean. I like to get dirty. Oh yeah.

I also had the chance to speak to one of the many quirkily dressed and accommodating sales associates, Jessica and here is an excerpt from the interview:

Q: Tell me more about the philosophy behind your store.
A: We have a really collective philosophy and try to preserve history in its tangible form.  Nowadays, so many people spend their lives online and there is little of a human feel behind that.  We are trying to bring that back to our customers.
Q: Where do most of your pieces come from?
A: A warehouse in Toronto. Also, we get a lot of our items from charity shops, rack yards, vintage seekers and warehouses that supply other shops.
Q: Do you think that vintage is merely a trend or is it here to stay?
A: I am pretty sure that it is here to stay because of the sustainable lifestyle that it helps to maintain and because the clothing is so beautiful.  I feel like a lot of stores targeting teenagers and the young twenties crowd hitchhiked on the vintage trend.  A lot of their clothes are vintage-inspired, without actually being vintage, which defeats the purpose of vintage.

I took away a lot from the question-and-answer that we had.  Vintage serves as a vehicle to express oneself beyond what is easily available in most clothing stores—it requires copious amounts of persistence, dedication and, most importantly, a sense of adventure.  I am someone who enjoys mucking around in thrift stores, outdoor boutiques and the usual international clothing giants, but have only just begun to see the value in vintage.  Vintage is about choice; it is about individuality and expressing oneself; it is about embracing ourselves through our history; it is about recycling clothing to save our resources although I personally feel like bringing the old back; it personifies the person who is wearing it by making her rethink her style and travel through personal and cultural history to create, quite literally, a shared fabric.  It is not only about the aesthetic appeal of the clothes, but the lifestyle that it embodies.  I encourage you to join me on my journey as I discover new vintage stores and stories across Vancouver.

— Kyna Ng