How To Buy Vintage Clothing

How to Buy Vintage Clothing | Shop For Vintage Clothes | Shopping Tips

Some people buy vintage clothing that seems made for them, expensive and unique – and others shop for vintage, bringing back things that reek of dust, stale perfume and moths – Erk!

I love vintage shopping, but I know it’s not as easy as it seems. It’s not a simple case of finding a piece you love the look of and walking out that door with a great new find that you can exclaim, ‘thanks, it’s vintage!’ when people compliment your outfits. Shopping for vintage clothing is about the adventure and the accomplishment you feel when you find a vintage piece that ticks all the boxes in fit, style, colour, condition and price. Today I’m sharing my knowledge with you so your next op-shop rummage is a successful one!

Believe it or not, knowing how to buy vintage clothing is quite different to navigating a store of ready-to-wear clothing in an array of sizes. However, like shopping in a regular store, you still need to go in there with a purpose:


Think of what you need or what would be a good investment and look for it, don’t be tempted by a sequin jumpsuit you’re only in love with for the novelty. You should still go into that store with an idea of what you came in for, this could be what shape or type of clothing you’re looking for or even just a colour that you want more of in your wardrobe.


If you’ve never been shopping for vintage before, there are three main ways to do it. An op-shop, a specialised vintage store or online. If you’re shopping for designer vintage, there are consignment stores specialising in designer wear. It’s hard to buy vintage clothing online that’s good quality unless it’s from a reputable retailer like Way We Wore or The Real Real. If you’d rather do it in person, a store like Blue Spinach in Sydney or your local salvation army will be the best options.

When you go into a physical store and they don’t have the racks sorted into colours or sizes, you should start by searching the racks for basic colours. That’s where you’ll find those timeless gems, search black, white, grey and navy, then move onto solid colours like red, emerald green, royal blue and even yellow if it takes your fancy.

How to Buy Vintage Clothing Header / Racks of clothing


It’s so easy to get swept up with a bright orange fit and flare skirt, but if you have nothing that goes with it, it’s going to end up being one of the most expensive purchases in your wardrobe because you’ll either never wear it, or you’ll have to buy pieces to go with it. Remember what your aim is, that big picture of style when you enter that store.

Knowing how to buy vintage clothing is great, but how about regular sales? 


Some of my clients have been stung with this before, they’d purchase an item and it would get home and break or look dreadful on and the only way to return the item is to donate it. Donating vintage is no big deal if you got it for a bargain, someone else can love it more, but if you forked out a few hundred for a piece you thought would work but hasn’t, it’s likely that the store won’t accept it back or at best, they’ll give you an exchange.

How to Buy Vintage Clothing | Shop For Vintage Clothes | Shopping Tips


We can get so caught up in finding an item that actually fits when we’re in a vintage store that we forget if it’s actually our style and if it’s in our price range. Just because it fits, it doesn’t mean it’s a keeper.

What you’ll pay for vintage will vary from store to store, in a standard thrift store you’ll find the cheapest prices because the clothing you’re looking through has not been curated or valued by someone working there.

In a regular vintage store, you will be looking at prices similar to what you would in a normal clothing store that sells new clothing. This is because someone has spent time finding these pieces for the store and ensuring they’re in good enough condition to sell on.

The last type of pricing tends to be quite expensive, this could be due to the labels own worth, for example, designer vintage is worth more than vintage that isn’t designer. Or, you might find the prices to be quite high because of the age and rarity of the garment. As time goes on, particular items because rarer. You could walk into almost any vintage store today and find items from the 70’s and forward but finding pieces from the ’50s and further back is difficult and when they are found, cost a pretty penny.


Another thing we usually forget is the cost of the alterations, we pick something up and think, oh a little tuck here and a dart there, will fix the problem and while it may do that, it can work out very expensive and override the amount you planned on spending in the first place.


Never buy an expensive item of vintage designer wear without doing some research or at least bringing a designer savvy friend along. Check for authenticity certificates and always search the garment for stains and snags. If it’s watermarked or has permanent pulls or stains, it may not be worth the investment. Also, sometimes items may seem like they’re from a certain period when they’re just revival pieces. An example of this would be finding a pair of flared pants from a collection Fendi did two seasons ago and thinking they’re from the 70s. Look at the fabrics, the care labels and the brand label and do a little research. You’d be surprised at how many vintage resellers don’t realise they’ve put a high price tag on something that’s only a few years old.

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