How to Buy Vintage Clothing

Aside from not buying anything, buying vintage clothing is the greenest option for adding to your wardrobe. Although eco-friendliness is a motivator, and to tell the truth, it does weigh a factor in my head when buying vintage clothing… I did not start out shopping vintage to save the planet.

My love affair with vintage started out in high school, then, it still wasn’t ‘cool’ to shop at Goodwill, but I just couldn’t afford to buy new with my part-time $4.25/hour minimum wage job. My friends and I would hit up Purple Heart Thrift and DAV for these crazy dresses under a dollar. I loved it, but as time passed my taste changed and my reasons for buying vintage changed…

The following questions/tips depict the process I go through when shopping:

1. Does it fit?

Vintage pieces are often a much higher quality than what you will find today. Many pieces are hand stitched using beautiful fabrics. But everything deteriorates. Some older pieces will tear easier than their contemporary counterparts. If something doesn’t fit properly (meaning, when you are breathing normally) it may give you problems.

Up until the 60′s women wore Foundation Garments under their clothes. They were mostly used to hold up stockings and to give an hourglass shape. That’s how they were able to achieve such a silhouette. Go easy on yourself, besides, there is always Spanx.

2. Check zippers, buttons, seams, is everything working? Are there any stains, tears, weird smells?

A broken zipper can be fixed by a tailor, most dry cleaners can do it, or if you are a crafty one, then great. Factor that into the price, the amount of repairs or work that has to be done. As for smells, I’m not good at that, once I bought a cool army jacket, and I didn’t know until I got home that it reaked. Dry cleaning didn’t help, it was like a Seinfeld episode. The jacket had to go.

3. Picking pieces you are going to wear.

Unless you are a collector, buying dresses you’ll never wear is just a waste of money. I know lots of women who wear vintage in a very inconspicuous way. How they do it, is they look for elements that tie in with current trends.

I fell in love with this Borne dress at In Lieu, but I was about to move, and I couldn’t afford it, luckily I came across something at Painted Bird that did the trick…

borne painted bird

For the longest time I’ve been drooling over the great selection of harem pants on Styleserver, and leave it too luck, I find a pair of vintage rayon harem pants at the flea market.

harem pants

It’s undeniable that Balenciaga’s floral patterns have been a huge influencer this year. Looking for elements like patterns and silhouettes is a good start, but details are also a great way to find pieces that inspire you.

balenciaga inpired floral

Most of all, It’s important to find clothes you are happy with. When you’re happy with what you’re wearing, it shows. Developing an eye takes time and practice, have fun, the best part about vintage clothing is that finding your niche and hidden treasures.

jennineHow to Buy Vintage Clothing

Comments 28

  1. Poochie

    Vintage shoes are the same way. Its amazing how well they are made. And when you find a pair that fit, they can fit like a dream. I love vintage. And more than just clothes.


  2. Pretty Face

    I’ve got a couple of great vintage pieces but on the whole, the problem is that the market (in London especially) is so saturated with badly made rubbish that vintage shopping is MUCH harder work than normal shopping.

    It is also more rewarding though!

  3. Kezia

    Great post, Jennine– v. helpful. I love vintage dresses, but lots of them have the dreaded side-zip. Wearing Spanx underneath helps and saves your flesh from being zipped (ouch).

  4. Post

    @poochie…. oh yes… i have a million pairs of vintage shoes, i just love them… 80′s flats are not only better made, but they are also really awesome

    @prettyface…. i know what you mean, i had a difficult time at the london markets too… but i found a great charity shop in the neighborhood where i lived, and stopped in so frequently (it was just past the bus stop) so i was able to snag a lot of great finds.

    @kezia… ouch… i’m still hurting from that one!

    @wendy! Oh my god! I wonder if there is some kind of vintage air-ing service… that mothball smell is lethal!

  5. Sandra

    Ah! You read my mind Jennine. I was just working on a blog post about vintage being the truest green shopping activity.

    Great tips! Couldn’t have said it better myself. I’ll link back to you.


  6. pretty face

    Jennine, really?
    Where is this charity shop?
    I can never find anything in my local and I always marvel at Susie Bubble’s finds since she lives so near yet has so much more luck!

  7. meli

    I love consignment stores always and forever, plus there is a very small chance another doll will be wearing the same outfit.

    and OMG I love Seinfeld, they are just hilarious. Remember too when George hid a blazer so he could buy it on sale, then the guy who he beat to it, later was cooking at some place he was supposed to eat with his new boss… :)

  8. Amber Catch

    Astro-girl, the best way to get rid of smells in garment is hanging them outside (under cover) in slightly damp/cold weather. Works a treat!

  9. Charlotte

    Good post.
    I belive that the best way to dress vintage is dive inside your mother/grandmother closet.
    You never know what you might find!

  10. Post

    hi pretty face… the charity shop was in barnes… right across the river from hammersmith… it was by my old place, so i went often, not that leafy green barnes was any kind fashion mecca.

    meli… i actually subcribe to george’s philosophy of hiding things… hehe

    nasty! YES! i can’t go in that shop without finding some kind of treasure!

    charlotte, oh, when my grandmother moved, i got to take a few of her handmade pieces from the 60s… it was awesome.

  11. susie_bubble

    Another great ‘How to’ Post….here’s a ‘how’ question…how do you post about ‘How to’s without sounding at all condescending… I’m so rubbish at that sort of stuff…

  12. Post

    you know, i don’t know the answer to that, i guess, the best way to do a how to post is just do it in the spirit of being helpful.

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  14. Joanna

    Very helpful post. I love the look of vintage and the cool details too. I’ve actually purchased a few pieces and had little altering to do. I also love the old hollywood glamour of certain pieces. I’ve found some on Ebay and shopgoldyn.com too.

  15. hailey

    I am all about 2nd hand and vintage, but that is also because of finances. I don’t think I’ll be able to wear harem pants, is that weird? I just don’t like them.

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  17. Kevin

    Wow, these vintage clothing looks really great. You know what, you’ve given me a great idea for a gift for my girlfriend. thanks!!

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