Retro Dee writes about music, fashion and other trends of the 1950s on this site. Check out her blog, Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever here, and her column here every Wednesday.
Hello folks! It’s Retro Dee and I’m here with another swell listicle to make your vintage-living life easier! Today I’ll be listing 10 Tips for Shopping for True Vintage Clothing.
You might think that shopping for vintage clothes is an easy, breezy fun way to pass the time. And while it might be fun, I’ve personally found that it’s certainly not easy:
- Finding the right piece for you that’s also affordable can be a time-consuming and even frustrating task.
- There is a lot out there to choose from which can make it confusing.
- Shopping online always presents the risk of buying something that just doesn’t work out for you.
So! That said… Let’s have a look at:
10 Tips for Shopping for True Vintage Clothes
1. Find Your Fitting:
This tip has to be the first one I post. Why? Because my biggest issue with finding the right vintage garment has been getting the right fit. The first thing I want to tell all of you out there who are in the market for true vintage clothes is THIS: fabric in the 1950’s era did NOT provide stretch! I forget this continually, and many times I’ve ended up with a dress or skirt that just BARELY fits in the waist.
For example, my waist measures 24”, so I’d purchase a dress that measures 24” in the waist. This is based on the assumption that the fabric has give and will accommodate me when I move around. I assume this because it’s what I’m used to in today’s contemporary clothing. But! Clothes made in the 1950’s and 60’s were often times all cotton containing no elastane, and therefore, no stretch!
So remember when you get the measurements of the garment in question, that you’re dealing with fabrics that probably will not stretch. In this case, you’ll want to add an inch or so to the measurements to ensure you can actually wear the thing.
2. Decide What You’re Looking For First:
Before you start shopping, it’s a good idea to have in mind what type of garment you’re looking for. Otherwise, you could be spending hours just browsing items. While browsing can definitely be fun, it can also be overwhelming and confusing. So before you start your search, ask yourself what you’re seeking. A dress? If so, what kind? What fabrics, styles and/or labels are you looking for? Which brings us to Tip #3…
3. Know What’s It’s For:
Ask yourself why you want to buy a garment, before making a purchase. This might sound obvious, but it’s easy to get swept away in how much you love that 1950’s era prom dress or those orange plaid pedal pushers. Will you ever actually wear them? Or will your purchase just be something that hangs in your closet? While you don’t need a special occasion to purchase true vintage, you might want to at least buy something that you can show off. Of course, some clothing collectors are just that: collectors. It’s okay to buy clothes for the simple reason of collecting, but is that what you want? Bottom line: have a purpose for your purchase in mind, or you might end up with buyer’s remorse!
4. Know The Condition:
Another obvious-seeming tip, but this one’s important. Before you make an online vintage clothing purchase, make certain that you know the condition. Most sellers will disclose any major issues with a piece of clothing, and hopefully, they’ll add photos of the flaws. But never assume that an item is in the excellent shape that you might have in mind. Vintage clothing often has wear, but the question is how much wear? Which brings us to Tip #5…
5. Ask Questions:
A good vintage clothing shop will allow you to ask questions about their offerings. They will get back to you in a timely manner, have patience with you and allow you to ask as many questions as you need to ask, regarding the item in question. They will provide additional photos if needed as well. The only exception to this might be if the seller is having an “as is” sale and they don’t have time to go over every detail. They will make this clear and you should honor their policies regarding such a sale. Otherwise, ask away! It’s your money and you don’t want to be disappointed with your purchase.
6. Look for Sales:
True Vintage Clothing is not cheap. Garments from 60 and 70 years ago are technically antiques, and they will have an antiques price tag attached. Unless you are fortunate enough to have unlimited resources, you will want to look for sales! The good news is, vintage clothing shops often have sales. Some only offer 15% off while others offer 25% or 30% off the original listed price. If you keep up with these shops on Instagram, you’ll know when you can nab a bargain. Just as good as a sale, is a layaway plan. Many shops will allow you to reserve your dream item for money down, then pay the rest later. If you don’t know if a shop offers layaway, just ask!
7. Review Shop policies:
All vintage clothing shops are not created equal, so it will serve you to review the policies of each shop before you make a purchase. Most vintage clothing shops will NOT allow returns. This means you have to be extra careful when choosing an item.
8. Tags Tell the Tale:
The only way to truly and accurately date a vintage garment is by its tag. There is quite simply, no other definite way. You can make guesses at things like style and fabric, but without a tag, you could conceivably have a dress from 1955 or 1985 and never be entirely sure. If it’s important to you to have a garment that is truly from a certain time period, you will want to only purchase garments that have either the maker’s label and/or an ILGWU tag. You might not necessarily need an ILGWU tag to tell you when your garment was made, (although it’s ideal). Sometimes just the factory label will indicate when something was made. Look for font styles and label types to give you more clues. Recommended post: Shopping for True Vintage: 10 Ways To Identify A Vintage Dress
9. Learn Through Practice:
The way to get good at shopping for vintage? Practice! Of course this might sound like an excuse to shop… but so what if it is?! Truthfully, the best way to know what you’re doing is to just do it. In the beginning, you will more than likely end up with items that don’t fit, weren’t in the condition you expected and weren’t even from the era you were hoping for. But in the end… that’s okay. It will make you a better shopper for the future. Once you gain experience, what you’re looking for will pop out at you without much effort.
10. Be Patient!
The right garment is out there for you. If the color, style or price aren’t right, don’t be afraid to pass something up. Buying for the sake of buying will just frustrate you more and you’ll end up spending money on something you don’t want. Sooner or later you’ll find that special piece, even if it takes some time.
Thanks for reading! I hope this list will help you on your quest to find some great true vintage items.
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