Style Clinic: Get it right this year - vintage answer to the age-old problem of picking the perfect Christmas gift

As Christmas Day draws near, Stephanie Smith has advice on how to match presents to each recipient and suggests where to find brilliant vintage treasures.

Dear Style Clinic,

I’m really stuck regarding my Christmas gift buying. I quickly need to buy some very special, thoughtful presents for my nearest and dearest, but I can’t spend more than about £15 on each one. What do you suggest?

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The answer lies in vintage, but banish any thoughts you might have of dark, musty-smelling shops bursting with old tat. Modern vintage is totally must-have, highly on-trend and super-cool to give and own, not least because we have all come to realise that we have to think and buy sustainably unless we really do want to drown in landfill.

Vintage jewellery offers the chance to buy a one-off quality piece at a bargain price. This beautiful green and ruby crystal and polished tiger's eye stone brooch is £10 at new vintage, art and craft emporium 53 Bo' Grove in Harrogate. There's a lovely cafe, too.

Technically speaking, something - say, a piece of clothing or jewellery or a vase - is vintage if it is more than 20 years old and less than 100 (after that, it’s antique). Retro is slightly different in that it refers most commonly to a style that consciously imitates trends and fashions of the recent past. Often it’s a style that was once considered old-fashioned but is now in fashion again (like 1970s flares or anything in that bright burnt orange we see everywhere now). Retro style can be newly manufactured, but then again, a 1950s vintage apron could also be described as retro.

Jewellery is a great place to start, actually, especially for your female loved ones. For around £15, you will be able to buy a lovely piece of costume jewellery - the design and sparkle are so much better than something similar but new. Not that you can find something similar that is new because vintage treasures are rare by their very nature. They have already stood the test of time, so the quality is proven.

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When buying vintage jewellery, go for chunky and substantial rather than delicate. Make sure all the gems (or crystals or paste) are in place and secure, check for tarnishing and make sure the clasp, if there is one, works and is also secure. Vintage earrings are often clip-ons, so make sure they feel claspy enough.

Celebrating Bettys centenary earlier this year, with models wearing clothes, accessories and jewellery from Catherine Smith Vintage Fashion in Harrogate. Hair & Make-up: Lauren Rippin. Models: Charlie Cowap and Elisha Ainsley. Location: RHS Garden Harlow Carr in Harrogate. All teatime treats and accessories: Bettys. Picture by Simon Hulme. Styling by Stephanie Smith.

Think about the person you are buying for. Do they wear jewellery, and if so, what? Do they wear jackets a lot? If so, a brooch is a good choice. If they go out and like to dress up, a striking costume jewellery necklace is an option but take care with short and choker styes as these often do not flatter those over 30. A bangle or bracelet is a safe option. Art Deco styles will always be in fashion and also look out for pieces that might reflect their interests - a musical note brooch, perhaps.

So, where to find the best vintage shops? They are all over, with more popping up all the time. In Leeds, try Blue Rinse, Aladdin’s Cave and Retro Boutique, for starters. Sheffield is full of vintage shops, with Miss Samantha’s Vintage and The Front Parlour to name but two. Hull is similarly blessed (try Bowes Vintage and Poorboy). At any time of year, look out for vintage fairs too - a great way of stocking up for Christmas early on. Rose & Brown Vintage holds wonderful fairs regularly in Saltaire and Whitby and at Sunny Bank Mills in Farsley.

But for those in search of a quick gift fix, Harrogate is fast becoming a vintage hotspot, with a new vintage emporium called 53 Bo’ Grove, which opened in October, selling a wonderful mix of home wares including glasses, vases and paperweights, womenswear and accessories, a little menswear, silver pieces, architectural salvage and garden statues, kitchenalia and lots of beautiful jewellery alongside photography, arts and crafts. It’s on Grove Road, off Skipton Road, and there is parking and a lovely cafe.

In Harrogate town centre, Space Vintage & Retro is on The Ginnel off Parliament Street and it’s a fabulous place to find great quality vintage clothing including designer fashion pieces, and some lovely vintage and retro furniture and quirky treasures. It’s got Major Tom’s bar/cafe/diner on the first floor - a lovely place to drop in and spend an hour or three.

Rose Muirhead wears 1970s red disco jumpsuit from Vintage Beau, 1980s necklace, from Rose & Brown Vintage; with skeleton Pelham Puppet from Owen Collectables. At Sunnybank Mills in Farsley, Leeds. Picture by Tony Johnson.

Catherine Smith Vintage Fashion is a fantastic shop on Cold Bath Road in Harrogate. Catherine is an expert collector of vintage clothing and always has some gorgeous pieces - check out 1970s boho maxi dresses, for starters, and there are also lovely bags and jewellery.

Then there is 27 West Park Antiques, a large vintage and antiques supermarket containing many different traders, bringing together decoration, furnishings, art and homewares plus jewellery and some fashion from a variety of periods. It’s near Weeton’s so you can drop in there for a bite and buy some festive deli food and wine too.

On the outskirts, the Harrogate Antiques Centre on Leeds Road at Pannal is another large outlet for vintage, with the benefit of a wonderful cafe and a garden centre attached, which has a great Christmas shop at the moment, filled with decorations and fairy lights.

If you find you like buying vintage, take a look out also for Tennants Auctioneers at Leyburn, North Yorkshire and check out their website for an indication of their upcoming sales, plus what’s hot and the guide prices.