Monday, March 5, 2012

shopping for vintage clothing: a brief guide

    Long before I started my vintage clothing shop bitter root vintage, on Etsy over a year ago, I was, and still am, an avid buyer and wearer of vintage clothing. Buying vintage clothing is an investment: it's a wonderful way to preserve a piece of history; it's environmentally responsible; and it's a terrific way to own something unique and beautiful.  But it can also be a bit overwhelming, so I decided to put together this mini-guide to shopping for vintage clothing in hopes that it might help vintage newbies, and, perhaps, more seasoned buyers as well. While many of my examples will reference shopping for vintage clothing on Etsy, they should be generally applicable, as well.

A gorgeous 1950's dress from SwaneeGrace on Etsy
          Reputable vintage clothing sellers will have a few things in common, and it's important to make sure you're buying from someone who has the following:
A lovely 1940's dress from Custard Heart Vintage on Etsy
1950's silk dress by bitter root vintage on Etsy
  • A shop policy page -  this should include information on shipping time and method, a shop's return policy, and acceptable payment methods. 
  •   Accurate and specific information on sizing, including specific measurements. Quite often, vintage clothing doesn't have a size label, and when it does, it isn't always reflective of contemporary sizing. Take a look at this description from Custard Heart Vintage on Etsy. Notice that an estimated contemporary size is provided as well as specific measurements. Always double check your own measurements with those provided! And don't necessarily dismiss something you really love because it's not an exact fit - most good vintage sellers will be happy to tell you whether or not a particular garment can be easily altered or not. 
  •   An accurate estimate of the age of a garment. In order to sell vintage on Etsy, an item must be at least 20 years old, and reputable sellers do a LOT of research in order to determine, as closely as possible, the age of a garment. We have a number of tools at our disposal to do this (and you can do many of these things, too). If a garment has a maker's label - and they often don't, sometimes a garment has been home sewn, or the label has simply degraded or been removed over the years - one can visit TESS, the Trademark Electronic Search System to find out when a particular company was established. The presence of a metal zipper is often a clue that a garment was made prior to the early 1960s, and certain fabrics and prints can also be tip offs to the age of a garment. However, none of these methods alone will result in a hard and fast date. Experience and research are sometimes the most helpful guides.
  •    Information on the condition of a garment. Take a look at this listing by Adore Vintage on Etsy. Notice that the condition has been designated as "excellent." While one should expect that a vintage garment may appear gently worn, a well-researched seller like Adore Vintage will disclose any notable flaws such as rips, holes, or stains. Adore Vintage has specified that this beautiful red dress is in excellent condition, so it should be free of any major flaws. 
    A stunning 1960's dress by Adore Vintage on Etsy
In addition to inquiries about shop policies, sizing, and age, another question you might have is about the price of garment. Once in a while, I'll receive an offer from a potential customer for a lower price. I don't mind the question at all, but our shop, like most on Etsy, work on a fixed price policy. And most good sellers put as much research into their prices as any other element of their shop. We often consider the age, condition, or designer (if applicable), as well as how unique, well made, and/or fashion relevant an item is. Certainly, we also factor in the price we paid for the garment, as well as the time we lovingly put into cleaning, repairing, styling, photographing, describing, and/or packaging the garment.

Lastly, always ask questions! Every good vintage seller should be happy to answer your questions and will do so promptly. And, we love to hear from you, so ask away!

I hope this has been helpful, and please feel free to comment or add your own suggestions!


Y a d'la joie! said...


AAREN1975c said...

These are fabulous!