Karen Elson's Guide To Buying Vintage

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Senior Digital Editor

Last night, I stopped by a cocktail party at NYC's The Jane Hotel to celebrate Vintage Vanguard, a fashion-centric fundraising project launched by supermodel/singer/songwriter Karen Elson and artist/filmmaker Liz Goldwyn, both longtime collectors of past-era clothing and accessories. To help raise money for Dress for Success, an organization that provides women in need with confidence- and career-boosting professional attire, Elson and Goldwyn handed over 20+ pieces from their own personal vintage archives to be reworked by some of the industry's top designers, including Marc Jacobs, Thakoon and Marchesa. The final products were then sold online at Moda Operandi and at auction, with proceeds benefitting the style-focused nonprofit.

Goldwyn, whose love affair with vintage began during her teenage thrifting missions in Los Angeles—"My friends and I were obsessed with swing dancing and '40s prom dresses," she laughed—told me she regularly scours the vintage fairs on both coasts of the country for new treasures to add to her expansive collection. She's amassed some pretty incredible, one-of-a-kind finds over the years–most notably a knit hat that once belonged to Bob Marley and a silver lamé G-string adorned with googly eyes, the latter a gift from a burlesque queen featured in Goldwyn's first film Pretty Things. Her favorite aspect of building a vintage collection? Witnessing the cyclical nature of fashion and trends firsthand. "It's really fun to look at what's coming down the runway and know that you've already got the original in your closet," she said.

Later in the evening, Elson, looking radiant in a silver slip dress and a bold red lip that perfectly matched her now-signature fiery bob, took to the stage to perform a trio of songs in an intimate acoustic set. I caught up with the model/musician afterwards to talk—what else?—all things vintage. After all, this is the woman who once owned her very own vintage shop in Nashville (called Venus and Mars, it sadly closed in 2011). Click through above for Elson's can't-miss tips on finding perfect past-decade pieces, to learn who got her into vintage collecting in the first place and to find out why you should never rule out a secondhand treasure that's in need of a little repair. Plus, I've included a few still-available pieces from the Vintage Vanguard capsule that you can shop right now!

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