Con’t from my series Tips on Shopping Thrift, Consignment, Vintage and Estate Sales.
Do you love vintage? Are you unsure how to shop for it? I’m telling my secrets and top tips for shopping vintage. Everything you will need to know to shop like a seasoned pro.
One of the best things about vintage clothes is they never go out of style. While trendy wardrobe pieces don’t necessarily work for everyone, vintage silhouettes are flattering on every body type. You can pick and choose among the many unique vintage styles from different eras to find the ones that fit your personality.
What is a vintage store?
Unlike a thrifts stores vintage stores carry truly timeless unique pieces of fashion. Items that have stood the test of time and are unmistakably classic. Sometimes you can be lucky when shopping in a thrift store and stumble across vintage items, but it is far easier to go directly to the source and shop at a vintage store where items have been curated with a discerning eye and knowledge of fashion. You pay for the convenience. Prices are elevated compared to thrift stores.
Why bother buying vintage?
Vintage is a way of standing apart from the crowd and a fiercely individualistic way of dressing. You need never worry someone else will be wearing the same item as you. These are truly one-of-a-kind memorable pieces and you should be prepared to stand out rather than blend in when you wear them.
Buying vintage helps save the planet. Recycling helps to save the environment.
Preserving history. Wearing vintage provides a sense history. You’re not just wearing clothes, you’re wearing memories. This is especially true if the piece comes from a family member.
Quality. Vintage items are generally much higher quality in both fabric, attention to detail and construction than anything mass produced today.
Buying vintage can be an investment with payoff. Pristine designer pieces will, if kept in perfect condition, like a fine wine, increase in value over time should you choose to divest yourself of that piece at a later date.
Where do I find the best vintage stores?
Research online but also ask around. Once you’ve found a great store ask the owner if they know of any others.
Travelling or annual vintage shows and fairs offer the opportunity to visit many different vendors at once. They provide a wonderful opportunity to discover new shops and understand the type of inventory they carry and if it suits your style and budget. If it is a local store you can then choose visit the actual store at a later date.
Etsy online is a wonderful place to buy vintage items (don’t forget to visit Vintage by Suzanne). There are many online platforms specialized in vintage clothing. Gem Search is one of my favourite search engines to locate vintage items online.
How do I avoid looking like I’m wearing a costume?
Dressing entirely in vintage sometimes makes you look like you just walked off a 1950’s movie set. While some people love this (count me in!) other people want to remain current. Simply style one piece of vintage with other current pieces from your closet. The only way people will know that you are wearing vintage will be because they haven’t seen anyone else wearing that same item. A pretty great reason to continue buying vintage if you ask me.
How do I choose vintage pieces for myself?
Knowing your body type is paramount. If you have an hourglass shape items from the 1940’s and 1950’s are ideal. If you are long and lean 1930’s and 1960’s are suited to you. A little bit rounder around the edges? 1950’s or 1920’s if you can find them. Often though you can find suitable pieces from every era to suit every shape. You just have to be willing to look.
Shopping in vintage clothing stores can be a bit intimidating at first. Like you’ve entered another realm of the universe. Here are some things to keep in mind when shopping vintage:
Take a tape measure and don’t pay attention to sizing.
Old sizing does not compute with today’s vanity sizing, instead measure your waist ( the smallest part of your torso, just under your ribcage) and remember that size. All of the vintage shops I’ve visited have their pieces listed by waist size. If you take your tape measure with, you can quickly measure items on the racks to be sure prior to trying them on. This will save you loads of time. Be aware…vintage dresses have zero stretch and were meant to fit very snug (except for the 20’s and 30’s). The bodice can fit tightly, but make sure you can breathe! : )
How much should I pay in vintage stores?
This can vary greatly from the store to the item of interest. If it is a designer gown in pristine condition expect to pay equal to or greater than a similar contemporary piece. Generally, the older and rarer the piece, the more you will need to pay. Collecting quality vintage pieces can become a lifetime hobby and obsession. The great thing is that their value increases with each passing year.
Check over your items carefully.
That means looking well at the seams, buttons, zippers and checking that there aren’t any holes or stains (especially in the armpits). An easy way of detecting holes and stains is to hold the piece up to the light. These are old garments so be aware of areas where the fabric looks frayed or thinned. If you spot a problem be sure to point it out when making your purchase. You may be able to get an additional discount.
Find a good tailor.
Some items might need a bit of TLC or nipping and tucking once you purchase them. Search out a reputable tailor that knows how to treat delicate vintage pieces.
Many of the dresses from the 1950’s were worn with girdles so the waists seem impossibly small. Often these have a bit of extra fabric at the seams so a good tailor can take them out for you. Make sure there is extra seam allowance prior to purchasing if you plan on having it taken out.
Every vintage store I’ve been in has a strict no returns policy. Be aware of shop policies prior to purchasing.
Cash is king.
Sometimes I’m able to make a better deal when purchasing if I pay with cash. Also not all stores will accept credit cards. Be sure to ask prior to browsing so you aren’t disappointed.
You snooze you lose.
Each one of the items in a vintage store are considered one-of-a-kind. If you leave that piece behind don’t expect to see it again and it probably won’t be there a couple of days later should you change your mind.
Get friendly with the store owner.
I’ve met some fantastic and quirky store owners and sales people via vintage shopping. They know their inventory and are passionate about what they do. They are happy to talk to you about the pieces they carry and sometimes even know their provenance. Often times they keep “special” pieces for the right/favourite customer. Very good stores will see the potential of creating a long lasting relationship with you and are willing to do what it takes to keep you satisfied and coming back.
Here are some of my favourite vintage pieces I’ve aquired since I got hooked on vintage.
1960’s reversible cape bought at Cabaret Vintage
1940’s dress bought at Sweet Trash
Same dress styled differently.
All vintage pieces except the hat and belt.
Same blazer styled modern.
1950’s dress, 1940’s hat, 1950’s gloves
My Mom’s confirmation dress
Vintage 1950’s handbag and 1960’s Ferragamo shoes.
Mom’s graduation dress
1940’s vintage bag
Vintage dress 1950’s
Vintage handbag 1950’s
Ferragamo 1960’s shoes
Vintage handbag 1950’s
Vintage 1950’s black handbag
Do you shop vintage? If so, do you have any personal tips you’d care to add?