Why shop vintage? There’s so many reasons to look to the past – sustainability, style. If you follow me on Instagram, you know a lot of the items I wear, I’ve snagged from thrift shop, vintage stores, and antique malls. But finding great vintage items can be challenging, especially for those who haven’t frequently shopped for second-hand. I’ve compiled my Top 5 Tips for shopping vintage:
Material, material, material!
One of most important things I pay attention to when shopping for vintage clothing is material. When it comes to a piece of clothing, material is a direct reflection of the item’s past, present, and future. Quality materials, such as wool and leather, are great purchases because they tend to last. But when buying, it is wise to think about said material’s care regimen. Cheaper materials like cotton and polyester are require less maintenance, but as a result, tend to have a shorter lifespan.
Condition is key.
Building upon the consideration of materials, you also need to carefully inspect condition. This physical examination should be done on all things vintage – clothes, furniture, accessories, etc.
When looking at the item, ask yourself: Are flaws minimal? Could they be easily fixed? Is the item worth fixing? Is the damage intentional? Is the cost worth the repairs?
TRY IT ON.
If I had to give you only one piece of advice on shopping vintage, THIS WOULD BE IT. I do not purchase vintage/thrifted items if I have not tried them on. While shopping for myself, I quickly learned that sizing and fit can differ dramatically depending on brand, style, and era of a piece. If you’re new to thrifting (especially you, ladies), it’s really important that to take your current size and use it as a GUIDE. Don’t be afraid (or discouraged) to go up or down a size to make sure the pieces fit as best as they can. Due to variance in size, I’ve worn any size between a 6 – 12 in dresses, skirts, and pants purely due to the cut and decade of a piece.
To that end, hardly any piece you find – vintage or new – will fit off the rack. Don’t rule out pieces completely if they fit some of your proportions and not others. For example, I’ve purchased pants that fit my thighs (the part of my body that tends to dictates the ‘fit’ of pants) but didn’t fit my waist or height. I loved the pants so much, I bought them and had them altered to fit the other aspects of my figure.
If you love the something, but it needs a few tweaks, I suggest you buy it and take it to a tailor. Unique, quality pieces you love are too rare to pass up! Remember, personal style is an investment, and tailoring can ensure that a garment lasts a lifetime.
If you love the item, but it doesn’t fit you like a glove: I suggest you buy it and take it to a tailor. Unique pieces you love are too rare to pass up! Remember, personal style is an investment, and tailoring can ensure that piece lasts a lifetime.
Ask yourself “Is it unique?”
Finding clothing that 1) is in good condition and 2) fits you is a challenge in itself. But assessing uniqueness of a vintage find is one of my other top considerations when shopping. The “uniqueness” of an item is definitely a biased assessment; but personally, I love pieces that fall in the gray area between current trends and retro renditions. For some, uniqueness is a band tee from the 80s. Sure, you could find it on Amazon, but the novelty is the shirt’s age, origin, era. My criteria for purchasing is bound to be different than yours, but I still encourage you to think about the value the garment brings to your wardrobe.
When you’re shopping vintage, ask yourself: What makes this item unique to me? Could I find this in a mainstream store? Do I own something similar? Have I seen this before?
Lastly, as a practical consumer, I like to assess the versatility of the things I buy…..before I buy them. It made my Top 5 considerations because I tend to stray away from buying items that don’t diversify my wardrobe. If I can’t think of 3 ways to wear a thrift find with my existing closet, chances are it’s not leaving the store with me. Again, this is a personal choice; but as a consumer, especially of vintage pieces, I encourage you to purchase with intention.
Before you buy, ask yourself: Does it work with my wardrobe or is it statement piece? Can I style this three different ways? Is it multifunctional – work to weekend? Do I own something similar?
As a chronic over thinker, shopping vintage can become an exciting challenge. Finding a true gem – when options, sizes, and availability are limited – is a real thrill. I’ve been fortunate to find a handful of quality items, scattered in photos throughout this post, that have fulfilled my Top 5 criteria outlined in this post.
Favorite to date? My “Marching Band Pants” I found at @adaynjune. High quality, great condition. Unique style and cut, versatile to be dressed up OR down. Only potential hiccup: the size. The pants were a little big when I bought them, but I loved them so much, I took them to my tailor, Bushelors of Baltimore. See more of how I styled them HERE.
Until next time, keep thrifting!