I love to shop vintage. It’s a great way to reinvigorate your wardrobe and discover pieces that are truly unique. At the same time, though, vintage shopping is an event. It’s something I truly have to be in the mood for, because it requires an open mind and motivation. I go when I’m feeling energetic and creative.
Besides being in the right mood, there are a number of other tips I’ve learned over my years of scouring the racks of retail stores that look like my grandma’s attic. Here’s what I know.
1. Know your size. Sizing guidelines change over time. In general, today’s sizes are a lot larger than they were 40+ years ago. For example, you might be a size 6 now, but in the 1950’s you probably would have been closer a 10. If you’re shopping online, the best way to buy the right size is to know your measurements. Sometimes, sellers and stores will have the actual measurements of an items listed along with the size, or will at least be able to answer questions you have about size measurements. If you’re shopping brick-and-mortar, try things on before making a purchase.
2. Accessorize. Not everyone is into the idea of wearing pre-owned clothing. If you’re one of them, try looking for vintage jewelry and accessories instead. Same style boost, smaller skeeve factor.
3. Look for signs of wear. Most vintage pieces will show some signs of wear or use. But you need to know the difference between normal wear and tear, and something that is more trouble than it’s worth. Stains are often permanent on vintage items, because they’ve been set for years. The same goes for discoloration. And, while leather conditioner can work wonders on small scratches and cracks, it won’t do much for large ones or very dry, brittle leather. Most of the time, you can take care of the vintage “scent” (if you’ve ever bought vintage, you know what I mean) with a good dry cleaning, but if something smells of mildew or has another strong odor, you should probably pass.
Essentially, if a piece you like comes with a list of “conditions” – i.e. “This blouse will be gorgeous if I can get the yellowing fabric back to a pearly shade of white,” move on.
4. Make sure it works with what you already own. Vintage is great, but it’s important not to go overboard with it — stick to one of two pieces per outfit to keep your look modern. That said, you’ll need to mix your vintage pieces in with what you already own, so before you buy something, ask yourself how you’d modernize it and what you’d wear it with. If you can’t think of at least two ways to mix-and-match it, leave it at the store.
5. Go online. If you don’t have access to a great vintage store in your area — or even if you do — try vintage shopping online. Besides vintage e-commerce hubs like eBay and Amazon, specialty sites like RustyZipper.com and PoshGirlVintage.com also carry a great selection. I visit these site when I’m feeling a little on the lazy side, or when I’m looking for something specific on a time crunch.
There you have it – a few quick tips for effective, wardrobe-boosting shopping.