Have you ever complimented a friend on a killer hat or a stunning scarf only for them to reply, bragging, “Cute, huh? I got it at the market on Sunday for ONLY two euros!” Have you ever noticed that the most gorgeous garment gems are either Via Tornabuoni splurges or flea market finds? Well, I for one have been trained to find the two-euro treasures, and now, lucky reader, I intend on revealing some tricks of the trade to help you find beautiful things at markets, things that people will compliment you on!
So the first and most important rule is to know your own taste. Sounds obvious, but markets are fun because they offer so many different choices; it’s easy to buy things at the markets you never wear, and then find them seasons later in the pile for CARITAS (charity). Well, at least you only paid two euros for them!
The second rule of thumb is that if you’re serious about the market, get there when they get there… even around 7 or 8 in the morning. (You’ll find fashionistas, buyers, and shop-owners getting the first choice articles!)
Third rule: Do not be afraid to get your hands dirty. If you are a germophobe, digging through used clothing is not for you – go back to Via Tornabuoni, where all the clothes are clean and ironed. If you aren’t afraid of the trenches, start digging, be thorough, pull out the pieces that catch your eye for whatever reason, be it colour, print, shape, or fabric. If you see hanging items at markets, they probably cost more than the clothes piled up on the tables. But that’s okay!! Look through the hanging clothes too, which brings us to the fourth rule: Don’t be too cheap when shopping markets for fashion. People always come to markets looking for a good bargain, but it is also easy to lose one’s sense of reality. I know, when everything else costs 5 euros, all of the sudden 70 euros for a coat starts to sound pricey, but let’s put this into perspective, folks. It would be difficult (if not impossible) to find a cute coat at that price ANYWHERE in Florence…and this one is one of a kind!
Fifth rule: Always run a quality check! Look for any stains, holes, moth signs, or discolorations. Next, check the tag. Does it look old? Does it have groovy writing in it? Do you recognise the brand name? In my opinion, the older the garment the better. Then, see if there is any hand stitching on the pieces; hand stitching is sumptuous because it means the garment is handmade, or very old. If the item passes quality control, then it’s time for: Rule number six – try the clothing on! It is tempting to just buy clothes at the market without trying them on. After all, there are no changing rooms and the clothing is so cheap, but I would highly recommend finding a little buco (hole) to try the clothing on, or, if worst comes to worst, try them over your clothes. Don’t be bashful! After all, in clothing, the MOST IMPORTANT THING IS FIT!! (You may have found the most gorgeous vintage Lanvin gown, but if it doesn’t fit well, it will end up in that CARITAS pile next season!)
My favourite thing to shop for at flea markets, however, is accessories. I have found Pucci scarves, amazing vintage leather purses, funky vintage Chanel sunglasses, really fun jewellery, and nice ethnic pieces too. The key with accessories is to create accents. I like dressing in simple, comfy clothes and contrasting them with chunky ethnic or vintage costume jewellery, a huge leather purse or even a stylish tote and a perfect hat or belt. Accessories are easier to find at flea markets, like a swirling vintage silk scarf. To this day, I don’t understand why anyone would ever buy a new scarf.
So now that you know how to shop for fashion at markets, the next step is to know where. The best flea market in Italy is the market in Resina, just outside Naples. It’s on every day, and it’s best to get there early. People say to watch out for pickpockets and rip-offs, but I have never had any problems.
Next I like the Mercato di Senegalia (Saturdays), and the San Donato Market (Sundays), both in Milan – (do watch your pockets at these two, though). And the market that stirs up Bologna every Friday and Saturday is dear to my heart. For everything from vintage Converse to Roberta di Camerino purses, I can always seem to find just what I’m looking for, and it’s just an hour on the train from Florence.
Locally, my favourite market is the one that occurs on the second Sunday of the month in Piazza Santo Spirito. I rarely find serious treasures there anymore, but it’s such a good time, with all the bustle of families, food, dogs, sunbathers, and travellers. Markets, after all, are meant to be fun, but if you’re lucky, they can also be Fashion!