Shopping for vintage clothing: the tips

Following on from my previous post about visiting the vintage kilo sale, I thought I’d elaborate further and express how I prefer to go about finding the items suited for me once I step into a thrift environment. It can sometimes be overwhelming entering into the world of vintage clothing, especially if it’s for the first time. There’s just so much choice and often it’s normal to feel like you have no idea where to start. Rummaging through numerous collections from the past isn’t always an easy job but hopefully these tips of mine will be a guide and give you a rough idea of what to aim for when searching (but to disclaim – don’t always take my word for it because everyone is different.)

Have in mind what you’re looking for

Before you tootle off to a vintage fair, a charity shop or even a vintage based high street stop, think about why you’re going there, your intentions and what you have in mind to buy. Are you looking for a quality handbag? A loud print? A stylish piece? A unique day to day dress? You’ll know when a piece strikes out at you but it’s always best to question whether or not you are going to get plenty of wear out of it and whether it’s really worthy of spending money on. There’s no point jumping into a purchase just because you think the piece is a rare kind or would be on trend, you actually have to like it to wear it. If you see something that catches your eye, consider whether they’ll be a real investment. Doing your research and having a strategy when it comes to choosing specific type of clothing and accessories that match your personal style will help you make your decision much quicker. 

Start with a classic

There’s nothing more rewarding than finding a timeless classic that will add something special to your wardrobe. Beginning with a basic piece such as a cardigan, a coat, a little black dress, or even a pair of staple trousers is a great technique to have when thinking about the essentials and it makes things less confusing and complex with the thrill of the hunt still being intact. Once again, you have to study whether what you’ve picked is/are worth shelling out for and reflect on the possibility of losing its charm right away. I think once you’ve found that perfect piece, the rest follows and you can start building your collection. 

Look past the size

I’m sure you’ve heard this many a times but sizes can vary to the extreme in the vintage clothing range, especially if it’s from an older era. Times change, so do the approximate measurements of the size expectations and standards. What may be a size 14 in past tense, would more than likely fit a size 10 in today’s generation (I know purely because this has happened to me a fair few times now). The best way to find out if it is suited to your size and shape is to try it on but understandably, due to time issues and lack of private space in a busy, vintage based venue, this isn’t always possible. To get the most accurate demonstration you can hold it up to yourself or just compare the sizing you see in front of you to your usual wardrobe. Even if the garment appears a little big or small, it’s good to look at the other options. You could wear it oversized, shorter and it could be even be altered with care. However, some items due to the way they’ve been made may be unalterable and a vintage piece is a rare kind which is why it’s important to be aware of body proportions. 

Know your eras 

It’s handy to build up your knowledge on all eras, not just because of the sizing differences as the years go on but because you want to identify the old to the new. The easiest route to take is to follow the closest to now and then move on to past. You can find some real gems in the 80’s and 90’s and even 00’s period and naturally this seems to be the most popular as it fits into the ever changing current styles but this might not always be to your tastes. Experimenting with more contemporary eras allows you to distinguish which era is suited to you and changes up the modern vibe. Being label savvy is also mega helpful when vintage shopping, to know which are true vintage and what value you are actually looking at. You should always check the labels for the good brands and designers as you can find some real bargains!

Check the condition

This may sound a tad odd, but whenever I’m vintage shopping I always have to investigate the condition of the item before I buy. As most garments and accessories are at least 10-20 years old, they are going to have a little wear to them but you want to avoid fragile pieces to prevent future damage. Removing from the rail, straightening the item out and thoroughly having a feel (why this sounds so wrong I do not know) will ensure you will be pleased with your potential purchase. The quality and fabric of an item is necessary to the wear you will get out of it as there’s nothing worse than going home with an item for it then to fall apart after a few uses. Inspecting for flaws; the thinning of material, the colouring and whether it’s faded, any holes, the brittleness/dryness and even the smell is significant. Don’t be afraid to have a sniff of an item. It’s paramount to touch an item and see it it still has life in it but you also don’t want to be buying something with a stale scent which will be hard to get rid of. Gathering all these aspects together will give you a clearer idea when weighing up the costs and effort put in for the price given.

You can find some real gems when hunting down vintage items and that’s the beauty of it. I believe the earlier you attend vintage based events, the better chance you’ll have of finding that key piece which will go on to have a place in your heart (we’ve all been there with an item of clothing, surely?! Maybe it’s just me).

Do you have any other tips to consider? Hope everyone is having a lovely day.

Bridie x

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