Happy Thanksgiving! This is my favourite holiday of all time. It happens at the perfect time of year (pumpkin spice, anyone?) The leaves are changing, there’s a chill in the air, and the scent of bonfire on the wind is my personal perfume. There’s no gifts to be bought, just gathering with family and friends over good eats.
We have only recently purchased a dining room table, and I wanted to get it all decked out for autumn in time for Thanksgiving. But I gave myself a challenge: could I pull a look together, using only second hand items?
Second Hand Revolution
The times, they are a changing, and old is super stylish right now. My love affair with buying thrift is actually quite new. When I moved to Calgary a year ago, all of my stuff (furniture, household goods, clothing) was held hostage in Halifax for three months. That’s a bit of time to go living out of a suitcase! We scrambled to set up our house in a way that was functional, without buying stuff we didn’t actually need. Luckily we had tons of awesome people who lent us necessary furniture and dishes.
But, it wasn’t everything. I had to supplement our wardrobes fairly quickly, since I packed during a heat wave in Geneva, and that wasn’t going to cut in in Canada’s October. At that point, I discovered the joy of Value Village. I’ll admit I was a snob when I was younger, and would turn my nose up at second hand stores. But I have since become addicted to the rush of a great find. I am more protective of the treasures I’ve unearthed in thrift stores than I’ve ever been with something new.
Living with Vintage
The reasons for buying second hand are threefold: it’s sustainable, economic, and beautiful.
I’m not alone. Over the past few years, thrifting has become huge. I caught up with Sommer Smith and Jess Nixon, the owners of Alice&Irene Vintage. The duo had been friends for 15 years, but it was their shared love of vintage that allowed their friendship to grow into a business.
“In order to stay in touch, we would send pictures of our vintage finds that we found at thrift stores,” Jess says. “Eventually that evolved into an Instagram that really wasn’t all that active for years, and then somebody found it and asked us to be a vendor at a vintage market. Since then it’s really taken a life of its own.”
To Sommer and Jess, they found a vintage soulmate: sharing a love that is automatically appreciated. “Some people really aren’t into used items, but we don’t have to explain the specialness of a piece to each other,” Sommer says.
The love of vintage comes from many inspirations. For Jess and Sommer, both love the aesthetic of the ’60s and ’70s: the fabric, the cut, the patterns. Vintage looks are very in right now, and Alice&Irene’s Instagram is full of fun photo shoots where they recreate looks from super trendy stores, like Anthropologie (as seen below). And you can be sure that the vintage look is going to be more affordable.
Saving the Planet While Saving Some Money
Second hand economy is also getting a huge push recently as younger people are going green. Millennials and Gen Zs are leading the second hand economy, because they are paying a lot more attention to what they use. CBC’s Cost of Living has a great podcast on the push behind vintage, you can listen to that here.
“Especially during Covid, we’ve really seen this emphasis on second hand economy and what we can do with it in terms of repurposing and reusing,” Sommer says. “In clothes and our home, our housewares and how we entertain, we love using all those second hand elements.”
Both women have always lived with vintage, and it’s hereditary. The name Alice&Irene is an homage to their grandmothers, both who were collectors. Their lifestyle became their brand, Jess says. “We replace fast fashion and throw-away culture with these pieces that are timeless and built to last.”
Be sure to check out Alice&Irene Vintage on their Instagram. Some other great online vintage shops to check out are:
If you live in or near Calgary, you can check out upcoming Vintage Redefined Market, where vintage vendors from across Western Canada gather to sell clothing, furniture, household wares … pretty much everything. The market takes place Oct 22&23, click here for more information. in light of the Covid-19 situation in Alberta, Alice&Irene Vintage has decided not to participate this year. I urge everyone to be safe and careful.
As for me, how did I do with my second hand tablescape? Not too bad.
I had a few pieces already, and managed to find nearly everything else at thrift stores! I caved and purchased some fall foliage (the maple leaves and pumpkins) at Michaels. Other than that, though, I think I pulled together an attractive tablescape at a fraction of what it would have cost otherwise. And a smaller cost to our planet.
I’ll be covering more on vintage shops and second hand shopping, so be sure to sign up for the email newsletter which comes out monthly!
To my Canadian friends, enjoy the holiday!