5 things you need to know before you start buying vintage clothes

February 27, 2019
How To Buy Vintage Clothes

Before you start buying vintage clothes, it’s probably a good idea to figure out what vintage is first. A lot of sellers will stamp a vintage label on a toothpaste-stained M&S blouse and mug you off. Some do this because they know nothing of vintage, and some because they’re a bunch of sneaks.

But if you know how to spot a genuine 1920s slip dress, you can probably mug off an oblivious, second-hand shop and haggle the price down for a fiver. Now, who’s the sneak?

When starting out, I’d stick to trusted local and online vintage shops. But if you want to go out alone and start rummaging in your local charity shop, educate yourself with these quick tips and become a vintage expert.

1. Know Your Style

Buying anything that’s vintage is a terrible place to begin. It’s like taking a bath and not caring whether it’s filled with water or baked beans. Not all liquids are going to make you clean, and not all vintage is going to suit you.

If you’re lucky enough to have curves, unfortunately, the 1920s drop-waist is going to make you look like a frankfurter. If you’re broad-shouldered and top-heavy, wearing ’80s shoulder pads will make you like the terminator. Find the style that suits your body shape and work it.

Once you’ve picked your era, you can find out what fabrics, embellishments and patterns were popular at the time. That way, if you find a “vintage” leather catsuit from the 1940s, you’ll know it’s a fake.

The more you learn about one era or trend, the more you’ll be able to spot good finds and the bad deals.

2. Fall In Love With A Designer

While some people collect ’70s hot pants, some choose to collect from a particular designer. Designers usually have their own style and a look that they’re known for. Emilio Pucci loved splattering his geometric prints while Chanel kept it classy in suits.

If you become familiar with a designer’s collections, it would be easier to spot authentic pieces, even if the label has been knocked off. You’ll also come across more affordable high street versions of a designer’s collection which probably was made around the same time. Biba‘s bum-cheek-baring version of Mary Quant’s mini skirt, yes, please!

But if you want to walk down the Haute Couture route, it’s a whole different ballgown game. Most couture pieces are now considered works of art and are more for the collector than for wearing. Before you get disheartened, most haute couture was tailored for a client. So, chances are it probably won’t fit you anyway.

3. Check For Fashion Genital Warts

Naturally, the condition will alter the price a lot. I’m not paying £100 for a vomit-stained kimono, even if Janis Joplin did own it.

Stains are like genital warts, hard to hide and impossible to get rid of. Also look for rips, scortches, mended areas and missing embellishments. They’re all reasons to lower the price. Good, professional online sellers will often point out the damage but always check.

There are also some nice people in this world who try to make our lives easier. They often aren’t landlords. But some sellers list their garments under these standard labels: mint (perfection), near mint (almost perfect) excellent (worn but still loved), very good (has its flaws) and good (will make you look bad). I wish men came with these labels too.

4. Know Your Body

When buying vintage, bear in mind that the sizes have changed drastically. If you’re a 10 and you try on a ’70s size 10 palazzo pant in the changing room, expect to leave the shop with low self-esteem and a new diet.

The best thing to do, to avoid changing room shame, is to know your body. Research what size you would have been in that era and measure everything. Your waist, your sleeves, your hips and even your crotch (you may need that one day). So, if you’re buying online, you can ask the seller for measurements of the clothing, and work out if it will fit you or not.

If it’s too big, you can always have the clothes tailored. It’s always worth spending that extra penny to have the perfect vintage outfit that looks like it was made for you.

5. Loving Your Vintage

Unlike the throwaway fashion of today, vintage clothes can be very delicate. Treat them like you would an old lady, with care.

Rule number one about looing after vintage is never put them in the washing machine or dryer. Steaming or handwashing is usually the best idea but if you’re unsure, ask your local dry cleaners.

Also, be careful when you first store your vintage. You don’t want the whole cast of A Bug’s Life jumping onto your other clothes and having a party. Always clean them before you store them.

Every item should be treated differently though. You wouldn’t treat a lamp how you would treat a sofa. To be sure how to look after your clothes, do your research on fabrics and how they need to be treated.

If you keep all these tips on how to buy vintage clothing in mind, you’ll be on the right path to not getting mugged off. Don’t be sold a 1970s kimono when it’s really from Primark. Begin the path to vintage enlightenment and kick off with number one; picking an era or designer to collect. Which one will you start with?

Besos, Mandy xx

    1 comment

  • K
    February 28, 2019

    Strange that your name pops up on my telly… hope your not too close mandy….

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