How to Shop for Vintage Clothing

Woman who is wearing a silk vintage blouse
Hollywood hipsters and fashionistas have long understood the appeal of vintage clothing, while subcultures such as hippies, punks, and indie-rock hipsters also embraced thrift-store chic. This trend has grown in popularity in recent years as celebrities such as Chloe Sevigny, Sienna Miller, and Kate Moss have adopted vintage styles.
Because of the diverse styles offered by vintage shops, these clothes often have a timeless appeal that can actually look more classic than trendy. However, if you are considering buying vintage items, it is important to consider the quality, size, and overall effect of each piece. The best approach is to mix great vintage items with more modern clothing.
What is Vintage?
Generally, vintage clothing is any garment from another era that is in limited supply today. Some collectors focus on clothing from a particular century, like Victorian-era dresses, while others might prefer buying items from a particular decade such as legwarmerís from the 1980ís.
Many experts argue that anything produced after 1960 is technically not vintage. However, items from the 70ís and 80ís are consistently popular with both vintage retailers and clothing buyers. Some of the most popular items today include quilted Chanel handbags, bakelite jewelry, and 1970ís Pucci dresses.
Where to Find Vintage Clothing
One great option is to buy vintage clothing directly from the original owners. Garage or estate sales are a great place to find high-quality, rare, and inexpensive vintage clothing. Thrift stores are another excellent option. In both of these cases, you will need to rely on your own selectivity to determine which items are of quality and worth purchasing.
If you prefer to have someone else predetermine a garmentís value, you can purchase genuine vintage clothing from a number of specialty shops, including a large number of online stores. The stores generally charge more, but the items are usually of exceptional quality and appeal.
Choosing Vintage Clothing
Determining which items are genuinely vintage can be difficult, but here are a few clues to help you in your search:
- Plastic zippers didnít appear on clothing until the 1960ís. If you buy an item that was described as pre-1960 but it has a plastic zipper, the seller might be misleading customers or may be mistaken about the items date of production. Another possibility is that the zipper may have been replaced at some point.
- On menís shirts prior to 1960, the buttonholes ran horizontally. If the shirt has vertical buttonholes, it was made after 1960 or has possibly been altered.
- The quality of the garment is another good clue. True vintage clothing is made of high quality fabric and often features intricate detailing and hand stitching.
Choosing the Correct Size
In order to choose garments that fit properly, it is vital that you make accurate measurements of your bust, waist, and hips. Garment sizes have changed considerably over time, but the seller should provide information on the items dimensions. Other useful measurements include the back length, sleeve length, and neck circumference.
Condition and Quality
Before you buy, carefully read the sellerís description of the garment and look at pictures with a critical eye. If you are purchasing the item in a store, inspect it for damage or wear spots. Vintage clothing can come in a variety of conditions, but most sellers try to ensure that their garments are of the best quality possible. Some wear marks are to be expected, however.
Return Policy
Before you buy, be sure to ask about the sellers return policy. Most sellers will offer some sort of guarantee, even if it is just store credit or an exchange for a different garment. If the seller offers no satisfaction guarantee, you should probably look elsewhere.
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