I have found a new obsession. Each time I peruse the aisles of one of the local antique mega-shops, I am attracted to the racks of vintage clothes. I love to try on the delicate hats with veils, rifle through the purse bin, and sigh over velvet stilettos and wing-tip shoes.
I think I inherited this love of vintage fashion from my grandmother. She was a Barbizon model in the 40s and, now in her 80s, her closet is a treasure trove of mid-century wonders.
If you’re into vintage fashion, there are a wealth of resources out there, both for seeking out and caring for your vintage finds. Here are some tips I’ve come across in my own research. (p.s. The pics are links to other related blogs and places to shop. Click for sources.)
1. Take stock.
What do you love about vintage fashion? The shoes, the taffeta, the buttons, the colors? When you walk into the thrift store, what are you hoping to find?
Chances are, if you’re interested in vintage fashion at all, you probably have a favorite era. I, for example, am enamored with 20s drop-waist dresses and tooled leather purses from the 70s. When you know you love something, you’ll head straight for the right rack, and you’ll be able to spot a treasure in the midst of a booth filled with stuff.
If you want a broader collection, you might want to organize it by era. Decide which fashions from each decade (or century – 19th century fashions are hard to come by, but worth the chase!) you pine for and your treasure hunting will be geared toward them from the beginning.
For example, if 50s cocktail dresses and shoes are your goal for that decade, you can rule out poodle skirts and saddle shoes right away. If you love 40s aprons, you’ll know to look for sellers that specialize in vintage housewares, and not just in clothing shops.
2. Identify Resources.
Shops and Markets
Buying vintage clothing in person, especially if you plan on wearing it, is the optimum way to start your collection. You have the benefit of seeing the actual item, of course, and you can easily inspect for wear, stains, and fit.
-Antique shops, thrift stores, consignment shops, and flea markets are prime sources. They will have the largest selection and sellers will offer coveted accessories, like ties, jewelry, and shoes, as well as larger clothing items.
-You’ll often be able to talk to the seller and find out some of the history of his/her wares.
-Don’t forget about tag sales and estate sales. The best resources for vintage clothing (and other items, by the way) are personal collections. So, when you pass by a tag sale or estate sale, you may find grandma’s closet is displayed on the lawn and many well cared for finds within.
Etsy and ebay are my favorite places to scout out vintage clothing. Etsy is especially well-curated, of course, and sellers usually include a detailed examination of the item, as well as any history they know. You will pay a little more for etsy items. Because the sellers put so much effort into bringing you the best they can find, they charge more than say, less curated offerings on ebay.
There are other resources online and a quick search for vintage clothing shops will pull up tons of results. Like a shop, you’ll have to peruse each one carefully to determine which best meets your interests.
As I mentioned above, it helps to narrow down your interests. If you’re searching for 50s kitten heels, a search for that specific term will cull the desirable results from a mass of Internet shops.
A few shops I love:
Mod Cloth – specializing in 60s clothing, accessories, and housewares
Timeless Vixen – an etsy shop with clothing from the 1870s to the 1970s, and a massive collection of 50s cocktail attire.
Coral Root – another etsy shop featuring 40s – 60s attire and accessories
LuVintage – again, an etsy shop, with a focus on vintage costume jewelry
Posh Girl Vintage – includes a great wedding section and even kids clothes
Rusty Zipper – fantastic selection organized by era. This site has a great men’s department.
Rice and Beans Vintage – Check out their collection of shoes and bags.
Here are a few tips for after you’ve found the item you desire.
-Check the listing carefully and take note of the following:
*material type (is it cotton, taffeta, lace, etc?)
*Does the item come from a smoke-free home or shop?
*Photos. Examine the photos provided and be sure they show the item from every angle and highlight closely any wear, tears, or stains. If they don’t, contact the seller and ask for better pictures before you commit to buying.
*Take note of how the item has been stored and if the seller doesn’t indicate, ask. If you intend to keep the item collection-worthy (versus wearing it), check that the seller has stored it properly (see below).
Did I miss anything? If you have online buying tips, let me know!
3. Caring for your vintage clothing.
This advice has already been written for me by the Vintage Vixen. She has wonderful tips and tricks for storing, washing, and maintaining vintage clothing. Check out the detailed instructions here: Daily Care for Vintage Clothing.
Hope you found these beginner’s tips helpful. Share any advice you may have in the comments. I’d love to hear it!