How to Shop for Vintage Clothing

Vintage green gown1960’s gown from Wild Honey Pie Vintage

The allure of vintage clothing comes from nostalgic associations with bygone eras, but there are also a number of practical reasons why vintage is so popular.  Vintage clothing was often made out of better materials and was also often better constructed than what you’ll find on the racks today. There is also something remarkable about finding a piece of clothing that feels like it was made for you and knowing that someone else may have worn and loved it. I’ve put together a mini guide on what to look for (and look out for) when shopping for vintage clothes. Hope you enjoy!

rack of vintage dressesvintage dresses via love it a lot

Keep an Eye out for Reproductions

The type of fabric used, and the labels on a garment, are the best indicators of age. Style can sometimes be misleading because certain styles and patterns have come into vogue in multiple decades. If you see care instructions on the label that lists instructions for washing, drying or bleaching etc. you can safely assume that the garment was made post 1970’s. Also, certain synthetic fabrics like polyester, lycra and others weren’t used until the later part of the twentieth century. A plastic zipper means that a garment was made in the 1960’s or later.

red mod dressRed Mod Dress from Dorothea’s Closet

Know your Measurements

A 1950’s size six dress will often be an entirely different size than a current size six. If you can’t try a piece on (if you’re shopping online for example) try and get as detailed measurements from the seller as possible. Using a fabric measuring tape take your own measurements and see how they compare. It’s not a foolproof way to get a perfect fit, but it will certainly help.

20' Flapper Dress1920’s flapper dress from Veronica

Take Care

As many textiles age they become weaker and are more liable to be damaged by cleaning or storing them in the wrong way. Take extra special care with vintage clothing; research how to clean and store each piece.  For extra special or delicate items it may be worth talking to someone who specializes in clothing preservation.

vintage mens wear

Act Quickly

In my experience there is a certain amount of buyer’s remorse when it comes to collecting vintage. There are the pieces you bought because you fell in love with them, but you never quite work up the nerve to wear, and then there are the pieces that you let slip through your fingers and still think of from time to time. My motto when in comes to vintage is ‘if you love it buy it’ because if you don’t, someone else will.

Adore Vintage StudioAdore Vintage Studio via Apartment Therapy

Take Advantage of a Shop Owner’s Expertise

A well curated vintage shop is truly a wonder to behold, with so many eras and styles represented in just one place. Buying from a reputable vintage shop, whether it’s online or brick and mortar, means the shopkeeper is likely to be very knowledgable and passionate about vintage clothing. Feel free to ask questions about a piece you are interested in, and don’t be afraid to ask them to make recommendations; most of the vintage shop keeper’s I’ve met are happy to play dress-up.

vintage shoesimage via Dear Golden


When buying vintage shoes there are a few things to keep in mind, especially if you are buying online. Older women’s styles often have narrower widths than what you might be used to. Take full measurements of your foot and compare to the seller’s measurements. Also, pay special attention to the heels of shoes, as that is where you are most likely to see signs of wear. Replacing the heels on an older pair of shoes may prove more difficult than a newer shoe.

Here’s a little vintage fashion treat for you. Some great examples here of 1930’s fashion styles, and I love the prim and proper voice over.

Happy Friday Everyone!

Posted in Fashion

One Response to How to Shop for Vintage Clothing

  1. Jennygoose says:

    Great post, thanks a lot. I’ve lived in Canada for a long time and vintage store owners in Toronto were always incredibly helpful when I wasn’t sure about anything. I especially agree with your point about vintage shoes, since I’ve had some bad experience with buying them without trying the shoes on properly first, not mentioning that as soon as anything happens to them, it’s virtually impossible to get it fixed for reasonable price.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>