I’ve been wearing almost exclusively vintage clothing for about two years now, and usually I thrift for my clothes or shop online. I’ve made quite a few mistakes in the process of finding vintage online, so I’ve put together a little list of tips for all the newbies out there who might not know how to go about it so that you can avoid making the same mistakes I did. Enjoy!
- Always Ask for Measurements
Sizing throughout the decades varies dramatically, so you should never rely on size labels when deciding if a vintage piece you’re browsing online will fit you. For example, I’m a 1950s size 12, a 1980s size 6, and a 2000s size 2. Even within each of those decades, sometimes the sizes can vary across brands, so you should always ask for measurements if they aren’t already provided in the description. Important measurements to ask for are: bust, shoulder, waist, inseam, hip, and thigh.
Sometimes it’s also important to ask not only what the measurements are, but how they were taken. This is because sellers often measure things differently, so there could be a discrepancy between the measurement they got and the one you would get if you measured it yourself based on your own method of measuring things. For example, if I’m buying pants, I always ask if the waist was measured taut or relaxed, because if it was measured relaxed at, say, 26 inches, chances are the waist is actually 27 inches when pulled taut, so they could actually be too big. If they were measured too taut, they might end up being too small, so it’s best to avoid the potential disappointment of receiving a garment that doesn’t actually fit by asking how an item was measured. Of course, always be polite to sellers in making these requests, and if it turns out that an item is not going to work out, just let them know politely, thank them, and move on. It’s better to just tell them you’re no longer interested than it is to ghost them, and there’s no shame in asking a few questions to help you better gauge the sizing of an item even if it ends up not working out in the end.
- Ask About Fabric Content
This is almost as important as asking for measurements because the material of an item will affect how it “sits” on you. For example, I usually avoid pants that are made from synthetic materials like polyester because I feel that they aren’t as “forgiving” on the body as denim or cotton twill, which makes me feel extremely self-conscious. They also don’t breathe as easily as natural fibers and are not very environmentally sustainable, so I always make a point of asking for fabric content when I’m vintage shopping online. Sometimes it’s also important to ask about fabric content because some old fabrics need to be cleaned, taken care of, or stored in special ways. For example, if you’re buying something made of wool, you have to think about whether you’re willing to have it dry-cleaned every once in a while if it’s not fit to be washed in a washing machine. You might also have to think about where and how you will store it when it’s not in use because wool is prone to attracting hungry moths, so maybe you’ll have to consider buying some moth balls for protection, or even storing your item in a bag in the freezer in the summer months. Long story short, ask about fabric content or you’re going to regret it (this message has been sponsored by my moth-eaten wool sweaters).
- Don’t Settle for Knockoffs
I’m very guilty of this one, but don’t skimp on a cheaper version of something when instead you can just save up and buy the thing your heart actually desires, it’s so not worth it. You are going to be inevitably disappointed when you receive the cheaper version, you’re going to continue buying cheaper versions to try to satisfy yourself, and in the end, you’re going to spend as much as or even more than you would have spent on the ideal item you actually wanted from the start. You need to try to quiet your need for instant gratification (I’m talking to myself here as much as I am to you, reader), slowly save up, and invest in the damn thing you really want. Vintage fashion is slow fashion, and you should not be in a rush to build up an entire wardrobe overnight.
If you find an item you’ve been hunting down for a very long time but it’s not within your budget, you can also ask the seller if they offer layaway so that you can make smaller payments over a certain amount of time instead of a single upfront payment. Point is, it’s better and also cheaper in the long run to invest in high-quality items you really love than a handful of lower-priced ones you’re lukewarm about. This does not necessarily mean that the more expensive thing is always the better thing–you can get very lucky sometimes and find some bargain pieces while thrifting–but don’t get your hopes up. I think this is good advice whether you’re a vintage wearer or not.
- Ask about Flaws and Condition
If you’re buying any pre-owned clothing, it’s inevitable that they will have flaws and imperfections. Sometimes these flaws can even be part of their appeal, like sun bleaching on a shirt adding some character to it or a large rip in a pair of jeans that has been patched with a beautiful little quilt. You don’t usually have to worry too much about this if you’re buying 80s-90s items, but if you’re buying 20s-70s items, do your due diligence and ask about flaws if they aren’t already mentioned in the description. These can include staining, pilling, holes, loose seams, missing buttons or zippers, and more. Some items may not have flaws per se but may be in fragile condition, meaning that you might only be able to wear them occasionally in order to preserve them for longer, so it’s best to always ask about condition issues. You surely wouldn’t want to buy a piece only to find out that it might disintegrate if you so much as touch it.
I hope this helps you avoid the many pitfalls of online shopping for vintage. Good luck in your quest, and may the vintage gods bless you with many a bargain.