Retro rules for Naomi

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Naomi Thompson and her daughter Lydia look like they could be modelling for a magazine – but their outfits can’t be found on the high street.

The secret to their look is that all their clothes are secondhand.

Naomi Thompson with her six month old daughter Lydia Taylor-Thompson.''Picture: Sarah Standing (142694-8846)

Naomi Thompson with her six month old daughter Lydia Taylor-Thompson.''Picture: Sarah Standing (142694-8846)

After being inspired by her grandmothers, Naomi, 32, has embarked on a career as a vintage fashion buyer and author. She picked up her dress in France for a couple of pounds.

Everything we have is secondhand’

Despite growing up in Paris and Barcelona as a child and living in East London during her 20s, Naomi says her home town is the best for finding vintage items.

‘Secondhand shopping in Portsmouth is second to none. Everything we have is secondhand, including my daughter’s clothing.

‘What I love about Portsmouth is that there are charity shops everywhere.

‘It’s fun, it’s accessible – it’s like one big treasure hunt.’

She adds: ‘Being a naval town, there are a lot of people that have travelled all over the world and brought things back, so you can find a lot of items from overseas.

‘I can collect a lot of interesting nauticalia and boating pieces that you can’t find elsewhere.’

After graduating with a law degree from the University of Sussex, Naomi changed career path, moving to London to work for an advertising agency.

In 2008 she launched her own online shop and blog called Vintage Secret, which included her shopping trips to Portsmouth.

She says: ‘I bought about 85 complete tea sets from Portsmouth.

‘As a stylist I helped source props, including music video props for an indie band called Ash. I found it all here – things like oversized forks, military hats and big bowls.’

After cutting her teeth on her website, articles for BBC Homes And Antiques magazine and a publishing deal with Pavilion soon followed.

Following the success of her first book Style Me Vintage: Clothes, Naomi has recently finished a sequel on accessories with vintage fashion historian Liz Tregenza which is out on Thursday.

Naomi says: ‘The exciting thing about collecting accessories is that they tend to get overlooked in secondhand shops and that is what we wanted to convey in the book: how to build up a collection that is worth something.

‘It is very hard to find vintage clothing for the price it used to be, so hats, shoes and jewellery are much more exciting to collect.’

Naomi is now back in Portsmouth and has drawn on local artists to help put together the book.

Julia De Klerk, the creator behind jewellery brand You Flaming Brute, makes carved and moulded plastic jewellery including hand-shaped brooches featured in the book.

Portsmouth-based artist, illustrator and designer Ami Lowman has also contributed artwork.

Away from her work life, Naomi has started the next chapter of her life as a mother with her partner Al, 32, who she describes as the ‘calm to my storm’.

‘Portsmouth is like Velcro city, isn’t it – it’s the pull of the sea, you find yourself coming back,’ she says.

‘We love going to car boot sales as a family as it’s a great antidote to the modern-day consumerism that you see.’

‘Lydia has a ’70s pram which cost me £5. When I found it at the Gosport car boot it had three wheels – the other one was inside the pram.

‘We cleaned it up with some elbow grease and now it’s as good as new.

‘I believe in car boot serendipity – I really wanted a pram and then it turned up a few days later.’

Preloved in Palmerston Road and the art deco-inspired Tango Tea in Albert Road are just two of Naomi’s favourite places to shop.

She says: ‘I buy so many baby clothes from the Salvation Army on Albert Road.

‘One of the staff jokingly said my daughter will hate me when she grows up because I have bought her all these smock dresses.’

So will Lydia follow in her mother’s footsteps?

‘I hope so but I won’t be upset if she doesn’t. She will certainly have a lot of interesting things that I will keep for her which will probably increase in price.’

Naomi’s passion for vintage is down to her grandmothers Margaret Chester and Jean Thompson, both from Portsmouth.

‘My grandma Jean has a great collection of furniture. She introduced me to the joys of the Southsea car boot when I was just a little girl,’ says Naomi.

‘My grandma Margaret was an antiques dealer and had a shop on Albert Road called Harmony House in the ’70s. She was a real pioneer when it came to collecting classic clothing. I still run all my purchases past her – if she says it’s good I know it is.’

When asked about her best find, Naomi is at a loss.

‘I have a new best find every week, they keep on out-doing themselves.

‘At the moment I’m finding quite valuable Bakelite jewellery. Some is worth hundreds of pounds and you wouldn’t know it to look at it.

‘I found a cherry amber necklace in Southsea which is worth a few hundred pounds and I bought it for £1.’

Style Me Vintage: Accessories (Pavilion, £14.99) is available online at or at Waterstones from Thursday.

Helping charity

Naomi Thompson uses her knowledge of vintage fashion to benefit the community.

As well as her writing career, Naomi is a buyer for Vintage at 97 in Elm Grove, Southsea. The shop raises funds for The Bivol Trust, a charity which provides social opportunities, skills development and work experience for young people with disabilities aged 10-35.

‘Anything that is cheap enough and has a real value, I buy for them and then advise them on the price,’ says Naomi.

‘I love that I can use my skills to make money for charity.

‘It also means I can satisfy my shopping addiction - I don’t have any more room for stuff in my house.’

When it comes to pricing your finds for sale, Naomi says: ‘Don’t base valuations on shop prices. Most auction houses have an online site and you can see what similar items are selling for.

‘It’s like what my grandmother used to say - “value is only what someone is willing to pay”.’