Meet Thrift Queen Nora, of Nora Finds

‘I experimented with modern fashion but constantly felt like an impostor. Vintage fashion speaks to my individuality and I finally feel like I can express myself.’

NoraFinds is a vintage blog by Nora, a Chinese Indonesian Australian now living in London. Nora is a lover of bygone eras who enjoys thrifting and finding vintage treasures. As a vintage blogger Nora aims to bring the old school elegance to her modern wardrobe and busy life and hopes to inspire others to adopt vintage. NoraFinds vintage blog has been going on since 2011 and has been featured in various worldwide publications, including Vintage Life, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. When Nora isn’t blogging she is busy pipetting for her day job as a molecular biologist.

Welcome to Victory Lamour. What initially prompted your love of vintage?

My love of vintage stems from my original love of reading history. Growing up in a multicultural environment I have always wanted to learn more about cultures and history. I stumbled upon the glamour of the 1950s. Growing up I experienced bullying and hence struggled with body image and self confidence. I experimented with modern fashion but constantly felt like an impostor. Vintage fashion speaks to my individuality and I finally feel like I can express myself.

I love that your blog encourages others to adopt vintage. The discovery of beautiful vintage in op shops and vintage stores is a real pleasure. What do you think the primary obstacles are to people adopting vintage dressing?

I think the primary obstacles are ourselves! We tend to overanalyse – we worry about what other people think and whether we look too different from other people. It’s kind of weird because we all talk about being individuals and being different, but we don’t actually want to be “too different”. Another main obstacle is the fact that adopting vintage can be a lot of effort. Wearing vintage means you are constantly mending, washing, and taking care of these old items. Buying vintage also requires you to go out of your way to find these items. It is simply too much for a lot of us with busy lives. I believe a lot of people would like to start wearing vintage but simply are too overwhelmed by the idea.

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What is the biggest steal you have found so far? Conversely, what vintage item have you spent the most on?

The biggest steal that I have found is a 1940s Corde bag for $10 in a thrift shop. It was hidden amongst second hand bags from the 90s/00s but I somehow spotted this bag – and it was a deadstock! It had its original mirror piece inside, still wrapped in paper!

The vintage item I had spent the most on is a 1940s brown suit with pom poms. It is from a seller in the US and when I saw it online I knew I had to have it. It has a lovely Mandarin collar and is lightweight so it’s perfect for layering all year round.

You have written about comments from strangers that vintage doesn’t ’suit’ non-white women. Do you think the anglo-centric focus of much of the vintage and retro scene has encouraged some people to think this way? How do you normally respond (if you do)?

I do get comments from my Asian readers saying that they wish they could wear vintage but they somehow think it won’t suit them. I think it is because when you research or Google vintage fashion you come up with 95% images depicting white women/men. I encourage these women to specify their searches to “50s Shanghai” or “50s Manila” so they can find images and inspirations that they can relate to. It makes sense that some non-white women feel like they can’t wear vintage because it is simply not part of their history – some Asian vintage cultures aren’t quite suitable for wearing in modern daily life. I have also addressed this issue on my blog to remind people that it is up to us to decide what we should wear. I have never received a negative comment as an Asian vintage lover and I don’t believe that the vintage community is racist or exclusive to white folks.

The vintage and retro scene is sometimes associated – unfairly, I think – with retro politics, as if a housewife dress means a woman wants to be living in the 50s without other options.

A lot of vintage women have been asked whether they would prefer staying at home and being 1950s housewives, but being Asian this stereotype goes further. People often asked me if I would like to live in the 50s and my answer has always been “I experience enough racism and sexism already and this is the 21st century. What makes you think I want to go back to the 1950s?”

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Do you wear vintage every day, or do you have modern or repro pieces in your wardrobe?

I do prefer true vintage looks. My wardrobe is mostly vintage and even when I buy modern or repro pieces I tend to style them with vintage pieces so they still look authentic. I can’t really pull off pin-up or rockabilly looks so that narrows the kind of repro pieces I wear.

What happens to the pieces after you feature them on your blog? Do you have an enormous wardrobe or do you tend to re-sell or give away vintage clothing?

I did have an enormous wardrobe before I moved to London but now I’ve realised that having a small but well-curated wardrobe is more important. I’ve recently started implementing a “one in, one out” policy so wish me luck!! Most of the pieces that leave my wardrobe go to charity. I’m notoriously bad at listing stuff to sell but I might have to start doing it because I want all the lovely pieces to go to another vintage lover.

Thanks for joining us, Nora. 

* All photographs taken by Nora’s husband Justin Lee, with copyright belonging to NoraFinds.

* Words by Tara Moss, AKA Victory.

* Check out Nora’s excellent vintage turban tutorial here.

* For more of Nora, follow her on her blog, Facebook and Instagram.

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