Going to vintage fairs when you’re a student on a tight budget might not sound like the best of ideas – it certainly did not appeal to me at first. I always imagined them to be snobbish and upper class, filled only with designer pieces starting at £100 and older salesladies, who would suspiciously trace your every move when rummaging through their collection.

I realised how wrong I was when I attended my first ever vintage fair.

As soon as I walked through the door of Leicester’s Grand Hotel, where the special event was held, I was mesmerised – I finally felt how Alice in Wonderland must have felt.

I was surrounded by stalls, boxes, trunks and rails, heavy with thousands of unique pieces – painted neckerchiefs, embroidered gowns and sequin bags, as well as thick, comfy jumpers and high waisted jeans. The choices were endless, and each piece – whether it was a just a plain band t-shirt or a flamboyant feather coat – had it’s own untold story.

My eyes were trying to record every detail, but even just with clothing it would have been too vast to see everything – and there were so many other things happening! In one corner, a vintage beauty parlour was giving the ladies makeovers and 50’s hairdos – red lips, winged eye liner and victory rolls was the look of the day, combining the grandeur and the fun vibe of the era. When I looked to the other side, a huge table full of traditional British cakes and warm tea emerged. Served on embellished vintage china, they only made me certain that I was attending the Mad Hatter’s party.

When I finally reached the room with masses of glimmering rings, belts and, above all, gilded cigarette cases, I was so overwhelmed I had to sit down for a while. The reason why it was opened for 5 hours became perfectly clear to me – it was a whole new realm with millions of exciting nooks and crannies to explore.

Spending the day there was like travelling in a time machine. It also changed my perspective completely. Every single person was lovely and helpful and most prices were student friendly, especially if you dug a bit deeper. It was the best experience I could ever imagine.

So if next Saturday a vintage fair comes to your town, give it a chance. Instead of going to Primark a buying a garment that most of people on campus are already wearing, find something unique that will be just yours. Make it a fun alternative to a boring cinema date or bring your friends with you – try on quirky hats, wiggle to rockabilly tunes and search for antique books that have dedications in them. You don’t even need to buy anything – it’s like an old school amusement park, there to simply keep you entertained on a rainy weekend.

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