Cool Ideas

How to Shop Vintage

Vintage shopping is an excellent way to score a one-of-a-kind look, as well as a great deal. But when it comes to buying gently used clothing, shoppers should take a buyer beware approach. Not all vintage and thrift store clothing is created equal, and it’s key that you can tell the difference between a fabulous find and a fashion fail. Arm yourself with these useful tips, and you can hit the vintage stores with confidence.

red coat
  • Verify that it’s vintage: What’s the difference between real vintage and an imposter? Look for a union tag on the inside seam. A union tag is proof that the clothing item was produced by a clothing union, which existed in the U.S. until the early 1980s. They're usually square; red, white, and blue, and state the name of the union. This is a guarantee that you have found a piece at least 20 years old. It is possible that an item without a union tag is vintage, but you should find a way to authenticate it. Find reputable stores and online sellers who are able to prove their merchandise is vintage.
  • Try it on: Sizing has changed considerably over time, so never go by the size on the label. And since most vintage stores sell items “as is,” chances are you won’t be able to return an item that doesn’t fit. If you’re buying online and cannot try the item on, ask the seller for measurements and compare them to your own. Keep in mind oversized clothing can be tailored to fit, but if something is too small it’s best to leave it behind.
  • Examine the garment thoroughly: Obviously vintage clothing has been worn before, so it’s important you check the garment inside and out to make sure it’s in wearable condition. Zippers and seams can be repaired by a tailor, but be weary of stains and holes. While you shouldn’t expect the clothing to be in brand new condition, you want to make sure there are no visible flaws. When ordering online, be sure to talk to the seller and get a good idea of its condition.
  • Make sure it’s something you’ll really wear: The trick to successful vintage shopping is finding items of the past that you can give a modern twist. You don’t want to look like you have stepped out of a period film, so mix up the old with the new. If you feel like you’re wearing a costume, chances are you aren’t going to wear it and your money will go to waste.