Being a vintage shop owner/lover of vintage for many, many years now (can you believe I started my shop in 2014? where has the time gone) I thought I’d put together a little guide for you on how I shop for vintage, where to go, what to look out for and what to avoid. I did write a similar blog post years back but I thought I’d do a more updated one and share with you all my tips and tricks on how to find great vintage pieces.
It can be overwhelming when going vintage shopping or buying but there’s nothing better than the thrill of finding that amazing vintage piece no one else has.
Wear suitable clothing when vintage shopping
This one may be an obvious one but it’s something I never seem to learn to do, last time I went vintage buying I wore a silk skirt and it kept snagging on things, disaster. When vintage shopping I always find it better to wear simple outfits you can get in and out of quickly when trying things on-either jeans and a top or a dress and wear easy shoes, there’s nothing worse than spending ages in every changing room trying to wriggle out of a jumpsuit or some tight boots to try things on-this lesson I’ve (nearly) learnt haha.
Do your research/save searches online
Keep an eye out wherever you go-if I go to a new place or country I always research the vintage shops, then the markets, then the thrift/charity shops so I’ve got an idea of where I want to start hunting. Then I check their instagrams and read any reviews so I make sure I cover them all. I always save searches of the vintage items I’m looking for- especially on ebay and Vestaire and I create an alert so anytime anything is added I’m the first to know. Also my vintage saves folder on instagram is a real help on for any online vintage stores I discover because I always end up forgetting the names.
Always check a vintage piece thoroughly
Make sure to be on the look out for any stains/tears/holes-hidden tears in the lining, as a lot of vintage in shops sometimes in the greatest condition. For example, sewing a missing button back on is one thing, but replacing a zip or a million hidden moth holes is another. It’s just not worth it sometimes-especially when it comes to the dreaded moth holes or suspicious looking stains no amount of vanish will get rid of. If there are any noticeable defects etc that you spot and they haven’t been written on ‘sold as seen’, don’t be afraid to ask for a discount.
If you look closely you might see that the vintage dress I’m wearing in the photos has been cut by a previous owner (not very well) and it’s that little bit too short to hem now, but it totally doesn’t bother me (luckily it’s made out of material that won’t fray) as I’m not planning to sell it, ever. I LOVE IT. This is the kind of thing I mean.
Check the labels
This is a fun one ! Always check the labels (and if I’ve not heard of one I always google) to see if it’s rare/designer. I stumbled across an amazing oversized houndstooth check blazer the other day, I loved it anyway, but when I opened it and saw it was vintage Burberry! I also found an amazing YSL cardigan in a flea market that no one else seemed interested in/noticed the label. More often than not vintage shops will have already checked the labels, but if you’re hunting at flea markets/car boots/charity shops this is a great one to double check.
This may sound weird but it’s an important one. Take a sniff of the armpits- as vintage fabrics, like polyester, the smell of a previous owner can linger, and so can stains. The standard musty vintage smell is usually an easy one to wash out/dry clean but anything else usually isn’t-I’ve learnt this through experience especially when it comes to under the arm. If you are desperate to buy it and it doesn’t smell too great in the armpit area-use baking soda as a paste (it almost always works)
Always try things on
Although something may look great on the hanger, it might not on, and vice versa, you honestly don’t know until you try it on. It’s always great to get out of your comfort zone when it comes to trying on different vintage styles and you may try on and fall in love with something you never thought would suit you. Take lots of options in the changing room-esepcially with jeans. Also remember that vintage styles fit a lot differently to todays clothing, so just ignore the size labels and try it on for yourself. It’s fun to take a friend and have a trying on session of vintage clothing you wouldn’t usually go for too.
Now this I do a lot. If you find a vintage piece you love but there’s something not quite right about it, think to yourself: if you buy it, could you customise it to suit you? If you love with a dress but it’s an odd length/too long for you, shorten it! cut the hems of jeans if they fit like a dream but drag on the floor and leave the hem raw, take out shoulder pads of 80s blouses, reworking vintage pieces can bring them a whole new lease of life!
I’m wearing a vintage dress and fringe jacket, Chloe bag, and Bobbies boots (gift)
Shot by Holly on film