Words: Thea Bichard 

We’ve been searching for inspiration for making romantic nights in feel exciting. As well as working our imaginations extra hard to pretend the living-room carpet is a dance floor, we sought out style advice for getting all dolled up to set the mood – indoors or out (we’re all for escapism). That’s where stylist, thrift queen and former editor of Cheap Date magazine Bay Garnett comes in. From 1997 to 2004, she stuffed each issue of the secondhand-style title with cheeky tips, vintage hauls and a cast of iconic collaborators (think Debbie Harry, Karen Elson, Anita Pallenberg and Sophie Dahl). We asked Bay to sift through her own wardrobe of pre-loved pieces and show us how to dress for a series of sustainably styled cheap dates (see what we did there?).


Seeking pre-loved style?

Classic dinner for two

Dust off the candelabra and dig out your most impressive recipe before donning your finery. Table for two at casa you, madame?

“I got [that blouse] when it was [already] really old. It’s stylish – demure with a touch of the puritanical. The red lipstick is an antidote to that puritanical vibe of the Victoriana. I think a cool pair of sexy jeans would be great with it, because then you’ve got the slightly laid-back coolness [of] denim, which juxtaposes the primness [of the blouse]. [Put your] hair up in a loose ponytail or a bun because you’ve got the high neckline – Victoriana can become a bit fussy with the hair down; I like the modern thing of it being up in a messy knot.

”For eating? Definitely not spag bol. Definitely not anything messy. Maybe risotto – dainty little forkfuls.

”[Also,] beautiful lighting is always very important for a dinner date, personally.”


A scavenger hunt

Hide clues around your home for each other (see if they really know your favourite colour), then be militant about finding them all – press-ups for the loser.

“If you’re going on a hunt for anything, go as a warrior…. I love that utilitarian look – [try] an old, battered green boilersuit to look the part. Or a pair of combat trousers with a camo shirt.

”For me, with things like camo, because it’s so rooted in the authentic version of it, it looks much better taken from the actual source, rather than extrapolated into something that’s got slightly more of a ‘fashion twist’. I would suggest going to an army surplus store – that stuff is great second hand and you can absolutely tell by the cotton when it’s the original army wear.

”When I lived in America, I always used to wear a green army cap – it was a bit like G.I. Jane. So, if you wanted to go for the whole look, top it off with a cap.”

Dancing all night

Make a playlist of tunes to get your pulses racing and dress as though you live inside a disco ball.

“That top [pictured] was actually Martin Margiela. Off-the-shoulder just IS sexy, and [that top] zipped, so you could actually unzip yourself and unravel it. It was great. It’s barely there...so simple and so effortless, that off-the-shoulder thing. And with those diamond earrings I think it’s just a really cool juxtaposition: you’ve got the flesh of the shoulders, and then these big diamond earrings and the lipstick. It’s really glamorous. 

This was taken at the first Cheap Date party in New York in ’99 for the first New York edition. It was at this 80s nightclub called Don Hill’s, in the West Village, that was brilliant – dive-y, punk – Debbie Harry used to play there. I danced all night that night.”


A poker night

Your date already knows what you look like on your dressed-down days, but there’s always room for a bit of mystery, right? Put on your poker face before puckering up. 

“[Think] sharp but incognito, kind of anonymous but sending signals: ‘I’m someone to be reckoned with. I’m not dressing to impress, but, if you’re savvy, you’ll get that, actually, I’m not anyone to mess with.’

”Be a bit boyish – borrow from more masculine styles: a black cotton roll-neck with a sharp, double-breasted blazer [and] a pair of trousers or a skirt. A take-no-prisoners kind of vibe.”

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A night of cocktails

Get your best glasses out at home (the bar can wait) and channel your inner mixologist – be as free-spirited with your outfit as you are with pouring the drinks.

“Let your creative style juices flow. A bit of animal print is quite fun for cocktails. I would go for a leopard T-shirt dress with a trilby or a pair of heeled cowboy boots. Or a long-sleeved animal-print tee with a studded belt and a pair of black pants – think Jane Birkin, one of those cool chicks, that 70s spirit. It’s that fine line between not having made an effort and looking cool, but also still looking like yourself, just with tweaks: it’s a belt; it’s the eyeliner; it’s just about [dressing] depending on what your mood is.

”Also, make-up – if I’m going to a cocktail party, I’ll put on eyeliner [and] mascara, get a bit tarted up.

[Which cocktail would Bay serve?] ”Oh my god, I’m so bad at them. A Margarita?”

A cosy TV night in

Dress down, tune in and snuggle up…

“[Choose] a reaaally cosy cashmere, oversized sweater – even if it’s boiling outside. Go to the men’s rail, and, also, for really nice cashmere or wool sweaters, go to charity shops in more expensive neighbourhoods – for example, I’ve got some really nice cashmere from the British Red Cross [shop] in Chelsea because [people] put their old Ralph Lauren [in there]. Make a trip of it.

”[For the rest of the outfit,] I’d go for a pair of leather Moroccan slippers (or a pair of cosy slippers), a monkey clip for the hair and… a bowl of cornflakes. And tracksuit bottoms with big, thick socks – it’s all about the luxe, cosy fabrics. If you can’t feel luxurious when you’re watching a movie, when can you?

”I would watch 12 episodes of Normal People all over again. My sister [Rose Garnett] is Director of Films at the BBC, so she did the casting [and] optioned the book from Sally Rooney. [The series] was great. It’s so sexy, isn’t it? A full day, me and Connell – he just doesn’t know me yet, but he would really like my cashmere sweater.”

A picnic

Right now, roll out the rug in your garden, the patio, even the kitchen floor…. ‘Park life’ can be as simple as the snacks you prepare and the smorgasbord of style you put together.

“Bring out the tweed coats – go English-country-garden style. [I’d wear] some good, practical walking boots, a pair of jeans and my big, tweed, very sharp-shouldered coat I got from Oxfam. [It’s] 1970s Jaeger and I absolutely love it. With an old, battered, 70s trilby you’d look good – a bit Withnail and I: tatty, but stylish.”

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Why the ongoing love affair with vintage?

It’s just in my blood; I was born with it, and I’ll never shake it off – I can’t tell you why. It’s always been there. I love the stories, and I love the independence of it. 


What qualities do you look for in a vintage garment?

I don’t buy anything stained. I look for quality, and I suppose the main question I ask myself is, ‘am I ACTUALLY going to wear this?’ And I look for originality; I look for which decade it is [from]. But, usually, it’s not really to do with thought. It’s so instinctive, and I assess it when I’ve had that instinctive feeling. I’ve had it so many times in my life, and it’s a very personal thing. 


Where did you and your partner [photographer Tom Craig] go for your first date?

We’d met at parties [before], but it was Charlotte Tilbury’s birthday party [where we had] our first date. She had a big dinner party at Il Buco in New York.


Is shopping for vintage a skill, or do you think you just get a sense for certain pieces?

I think, like anything, it’s practice. I’m no more skilled at it than whoever else enjoys it, because you’re choosing things for yourself so there is no right or wrong. I’m quite fast, and I do spot good stuff, but my good stuff might not be your good stuff, so who’s to say? The nice thing is, who’s judging?


I’ve actually stolen this question from Cheap Date…. If you could be reincarnated as a piece of vintage clothing, what would it be?

Marlon Brando’s white T-shirt. Because he’s SO HOOOOOT…. Or, I would be the best pair of blue denim jeans, because I’d be worn a lot so I’d get out. I wouldn’t be stuck in someone’s wardrobe.

Seeking more vintage pieces? Good sense of style essential?
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