5 Tips for Vintage Clothing Shopping

Vintage clothing shopping is a longtime love of mine, dating all the way back to high school. Some combination of Courtney Love’s vintage baby doll dresses, Audrey Hepburn’s costumes in basically every movie and FX’s The Collectibles Show (I think I was the only one to watch this show!) inspired my interest in vintage clothing. My mom and I spent many weekends hunting antique stores, thrift stores and yard sales in search for vintage clothing. Here are five tips I’ve picked up over the years to help you on your own vintage clothing shopping adventures.

Vintage Clothing Shopping | 5 Tips

1. Check for Stains, Rips, Holes

Look over your potential vintage treasure and check for stains, discoloration, and holes. You don’t want to discover any disappointing surprises after you’ve made a purchase.

Some issues, like ripped seams, are easily and inexpensively repaired. Holes in the middle of a garment, like the one below, are much harder and more expensive to repair. Is the stain in an inconspicuous spot? Or does it look like something you can wash out? Discoloration (like pit stains) is much harder to remove and should be avoided. Evaluate any imperfections and decide if you can live with them.

Vintage Clothing Shopping | Check for Damage

2. Check the Closures (zippers, buttons and hooks)

Next, investigate the the zippers, buttons and hooks. Are any missing or damaged? Make sure zippers slide up and down easily and are still firmly sewn into the garment. You can repair/replace zippers and buttons but that will add to the cost of the garment. Be sure you are invested enough in the garment to take the time and money for repairs/replacements.

This vintage suit’s closures are all present and in great shape.

Vintage Clothing Shopping | Zippers, Buttons, Hooks

3. Check the Insides (linings and facings)

Don’t ignore the inside of your garment! Scrutinize it to see how its internal construction is aging. If it is lined, what’s the condition like? Is it ripped or stained? You might discover that that you’ve found a beautifully constructed garment that outdoes almost anything you can purchase today.

This jacket is fully lined and in great condition! Such nice attention to detail. There is one small place on the armhole (bottom right) where the seam has come undone, but this is easily fixed with a couple of stitches… or more likely ignored!

Vintage Clothing Shopping | Check the Lining

3. Sizing

Vintage clothing presents several issues with sizing. First, you may come across garments that long ago lost their size tags or that were handmade so never had sizing to begin with. Even when properly labeled, sizing in vintage clothing tends to run smaller than what you find in stores today. For example, you might find a vintage dress that is marked size 8, but is closer to a size 2 or 4 today. Whenever possible, try on the garment.

Bring a tape measure with you when shopping at thrift or antique stores that don’t have fitting rooms. Lay the item flat and measure the width of important areas (e.g., bust, waist, hips). Double those numbers to calculate the full measurement. You can compare this with your own measurements to determine if the item of interest will fit. Or you can do what I do, which is hide in the corner and try things on anyway.

Vintage Clothing Shopping | Take Measurements


5. Consider the What You Would Pay For Something New

You may think the price is too high for a “used” piece of clothing, but if it’s in good shape, consider what you would spend buying something at retail. You may also be looking at something that is more unique and possibly better made (it has survived decades!) than what you could buy at the mall. Check out this citron jacket that is similar to my vintage version. With a price tag of $49.99 at Overstock.com, I saved about $15, plus I have a matching skirt (despite it’s small hole!)

Vintage Clothing Shopping | Vintage vs. New

Left. Vintage Jacket & Skirt | $36.00  Right. Spence Cropped Jacket from Overstock.com | $49.99

Happy vintage shopping! Have you purchased any amazing vintage fashion lately?


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