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Beyond Just Old and Secondhand: Vintage Fashion Expo

Among the items at a previous Vintage Fashion Expo: a collection of bathing suits never-worn in the water that once belonged to movie star Esther Williams. Photo courtesy of VFE.

It would be easy to argue that most of what’s called vintage these days is, in reality, just kinda old or secondhand and either ironically fashionable because of its out-datedness or, in most cases, disappointingly ordinary. But vintage connoisseurs know that treasures from fashion’s past can be found in pristine (or close to it) condition – if you know where to look. This weekend’s Vintage Fashion Expo is one such place.

The semi-annual event returns to San Francisco on Saturday for a two-day run at SoMa’s Concourse Exhibition Center. Why go? Apparel, accessories and textiles from 1850 to 1980 will be on offer from 85 vendors well-schooled in the backgrounds of their merchandise. While the show isn’t known for bargains, you will find a wide swathe of price points, with costume jewelry and small accessories often among the most accessible items for new collectors or those on a budget. If you’re willing to drop a little cash, you could easily walk away with high quality finds from labels such as Chanel, Lanvin, Schiaparelli, Bill Blass and Halston.

As for the when, serious collectors pay extra to hit up the early buying hours ($20, 9-10:30 a.m.) on Saturday. Students with ID can attend for free on Sunday, and anyone can save $2 off the regular admission ($10) either day with this coupon.

Vintage Fashion Expo, March 19-20, Concourse Exhibition Center, 635 8th St., SF.