08/01/2012 01:50 pm ET Updated Oct 03, 2012

Shop Vintage for Fall

Hit vintage stores now for fall-inspired fashion bargains.

Autumn/Winter 2012 promises to be a boom-time for thrift fans, thanks to the classic influences at work. From Dolce & Gabbana's 1950s-inspired evening dresses to Marc Jacobs' Dickensian-waif frock coats, fall's hottest looks can be found via the vintage market. Grab inspiration from fashion stars who rock the forthcoming season's retro styles so well. Think Karen Elson, Anna dello Russo, Emma Stone, Carey Mulligan, Marion Cotillard and Daphne Guinness. By December, the world will be engulfed in The Great Gatsby fever, so get ahead now and snaffle up your own Daisy Buchanan, 1920s ensemble.

During July and August, vintage stores naturally push summery clothes and accessories so this is the perfect time to head to the back of the shop and scout for winter. It could be worth heading to vintage hotspots on a special trip. Connecticut, Virginia, California and South Carolina have great selections of second-hand stores and flea markets. Research your local area and further afield if you can, then grab some friends for a treasure-hunting vacay. Most vintage traders will bargain as long as you offer fair -- not ridiculous prices, particularly if you buy more than one piece.

The very best value comes from buying coats, leather accessories, tailoring and eveningwear. Looking through the new collections, I can see for instance, gorgeous camel coats at Louis Vuitton. Their shapes are super modern, yet wide lapels and big buttons hint at the 1970s. My fall fashion goal is to ferret-out a coat along these lines. I am also looking for dark brown, knee-length leather boots and folksy-inspired embroidered denim. Remember a couple of golden rules: for Fall keep dresses, coats and tailoring shapes as fitted as possible, knits can be shorter and chunky, echoing the 1950s, '60s and '80s.

While serious vintage collectors trade designer one-off pieces for hundreds, don't make designer names your goal. It would be amazing to hone in on a Halston but I love good quality, American department store clothes from the 1980s and further back. Bonwit Teller, Peck & Peck and Sears sold amazing clothes, many guest-designed by the top names in fashion now. Nineteen-seventies and early 1980s Anne Klein was designed by Donna Karan, so you could be buying a genuine classic with an everyday label. The golden rule is to try before you buy and keep in mind what you are looking for. As the glossies publish their Fall previews in forthcoming September issues, stash one aside and circle pieces that you love. Grab a friend and head out on your personal fashion hunt.

Vintage Fall Fashion Checklist :

* 1950s and '60s evening dresses in black velvet or lace inspired by Dolce & Gabbana or pastel pink and pale blue shades a la Oscar de la Renta
* Black cashmere cardigans with pearls or gold/silver embellishments
* Black, pearl and white beaded 1950s costume jewelry
* 1920s or Fin de Siecle drop waists, sheer chiffons and Devore velvet coats and wraps
* Vuitton-esque camel coats and jackets, 1970s style with wide lapels
* Metallic leather pencil skirts, jeans or jackets from the '90s -- Calvin Klein and Belstaff have similar pieces
* Chinese printed silk Suzie Wong dresses, slightly Bottega Veneta
* Men's black wool tailored pieces, a fitted suit jacket or pencil trousers
* Checked tweed 1970s trousers and jackets with big fur collars -- Michael Kors-ish
* Jeans with folksy studded or embroidered designs a la Balmain
* Thierry Mugler-inspired 1980s jackets in grey, beige or white wool fabrics
* Cable knits and heavier wool, short-chunky shaped sweaters from the 1980s
* Dark colored fitted wool coats -- double-breasted or waisted so you can wrap a chunky belt around