If you know me, you probably know how much I love mixing vintage into my wardrobe (I even had the Oh Joy team get glam in vintage)! Shopping vintage used to be about scouring local thrift stores and flea markets to find hidden gems, but now it’s become easier to find great vintage with all the online options out there. Shopping for vintage online allows you to shop from anywhere in the world from anyone’s former closet. And, if you live somewhere where there aren’t great flea markets, you can still access some of the stuff that other cities seem to have more of. Here are my 10 tips to shopping for vintage clothing online…
1. Get specific with your searches. Looking for vintage online can sometimes feel more overwhelming then going to a thrift shop because you can’t just physically search through racks and bins. Start by narrowing down your category to the type of piece you are looking for. If you’re searching for a cool vintage dress, you can type in “vintage dress” but you’ll have to weed through thousands of listings. It’s better to get more specific even if that means a few different searches. Type in specific search terms like, “vintage Hawaiian floral dress”, “pink and green vintage dress”, “floral maxi dress”, and you’re likely to get a better batch of results.
2. Go with your gut in thumbnail view. Don’t spend time obsessing over looking at items unless they immediately catch your eye from the thumbnail view. If it catches your eye from the color, pattern, or cut, then look deeper. This may seem obvious and probably what you do for new items when shopping online, but since there are so many more variances in vintage then new pieces, go with your gut even more here.
3. Know what cuts best flatter your body type. Since you are shopping online and will not get to try these on, know what best flatters your body before beginning your search. It’s easy to be swayed by unique patterns that you know are one-of-a-kind, but if you are firm in knowing what cuts don’t work on you, you’ll save yourself the time (and money) of buying something that isn’t meant to be.
4. Only get items that are your size or larger. Unlike new clothing, you can’t return vintage. And since we’re talking about shopping online, you can’t try it on. So know your size and only buy your size (or larger) because you can always make something shorter or a little smaller with simple alterations. I have made the mistake of buying something that was very close to my size (but not quite) thinking I could make it work, only to not be able to wear it comfortably (ahem when you can only wear something while standing but not sitting ;). Since I couldn’t alter the piece to make it bigger, I had to donate it or give it away to a friend.
5. The better the styling, the more expensive (but better curated) it usually is. When it comes to selling vintage, there are people all over the world with every single kind of taste imaginable selling items. Some people flatten a piece of clothing out from a wrinkled ball and snap a picture on their iPhone and upload that. And some have photoshoots on models or on mannequins that look styled with good lighting and a nice camera. Some people are running vintage shops on the side to make extra money, and some people are doing it as their full-time business. Chances are, if a shop has good styling and nice photos, the shop owner knows what pieces are on-trend and what something is worth and will charge more for it. That’s not saying it’s too expensive, but it means that you’ll get a more curated experience. Once I find a shop I like, I will always turn to them first before a brand new broad search because I like that shop owners taste and collections.
(Images here from Junkyard Vintage and Coast to Coast Vintage)
6. Remember vintage clothes are often sheer. Sometimes you can’t tell from an online photo that the fabric is very sheer. So if you can tell or it’s noted, make sure you would and could wear something underneath. For example, for this jumpsuit, I had to wear a nude bodysuit underneath, otherwise, you would have seen EVERYTHING underneath. This is often the case with vintage dresses or skirts, so make sure you either have (or are willing to buy) a slip to wear underneath those sheer pieces. Otherwise, don’t buy it.
7. Don’t be afraid to alter or modify vintage clothing. As long as the change is simple and won’t cost you a lot, I often buy pieces that with a simple modification can become something better. I posted about altering vintage caftans here, but this is a great example of an unexpected way to take what was a very large, non-flattering caftan and by turning it into a robe, it draped and hung differently and became a more modern take on this piece. It preserved the bold colors and patterns I was drawn to, but the alteration made it more versatile for me.
8. Let the websites suggest for you. Once you start shopping on enough vintage sites or apps, it begins to detect what styles you like. Let those cookies help you find things in the future as you’ll begin to get emails or suggestions when you log on!
9. Buying vintage isn’t about getting a deal, it’s about continuing a story (and sustainability). Yes, sometimes people go to thrift shops for $5 tee shirts or to get gently used clothes for less. But the vintage I’m talking about are those one-of-a-kind pieces from the past that you want to make modern and mix into your wardrobe. I love that every piece has a story and that you’re getting to reuse by buying something that already has had a former life.
10. Have fun! Wearing vintage is about taking risks and wearing pieces that are a little bolder than you might normally. Several years ago, I rarely bought vintage because I didn’t feel brave enough to wear the pieces I was drawn to. But once I started committing to pieces and shopping with intention and purpose, I became much better at finding things that would work and really add a fun depth to my wardrobe.
Oh and P.S. here are a few of my favorite online vintage shops:
Do you have any other online vintage shops you love?