When you’re getting into vintage, the whole process of acquiring vintage dresses can seem both intimidating and risky. Many vintage purchases are non-returnable, while vintage also tends to be more fluid in terms of how it is measured and described. One seller’s “excellent” condition can be another’s “as is” condition, with prices varying accordingly. So how you do find the good stuff at decent prices? Well, today I’m going to teach you – or at least give you some tips from my own bag of tricks.
Tip #1: Find your tribe.
Vintage clothing is a big world and having a group of friends to navigate it with makes it infinitely easier. Find some buddies, learn each other’s measurements and favorite eras, then go help each other shop! Many of my most favorite purchases were suggested to me or found by other people. This can also be helpful when you’re looking to sell vintage you’re not in love with or that wasn’t measured correctly, etc. These smaller groups can work well when everyone is the same size range or when everyone represents a different size range, so find some vintage loving friends and start hunting!
Tip #2: Make friends with the great vintage sellers out there.
Some of this is down to old fashioned politeness, but it really pays off. Love something you bought? Send them a nice little virtual thank you. Looking for something specific? Let sellers you have a good relationship with know! I frequently buy from sellers who know my sizes and tastes and offer things to me before they hit Etsy or Ebay. Vintage sellers see a ton of vintage, so they can sometimes even point you towards things that they aren’t selling personally.
Tip #3: Get acquainted with the buy/sell/swap communities on Facebook.
There are so many great vintage oriented Facebook communities out there, from small private ones to massive ones like Ooh La La. Most are sorted by era (or eras) and specific whether they deal in true vintage, repro, or both. Don’t forget to check communities that list 1980’s clothing, as many of the “1980’s does 30’s/40’s/50’s” pieces may not be eligible for the true mid-century groups. If you find the pace of some of these overwhelming, you can navigate them more easily with your trusted friends to tag things for you! Most communities also accept “ISO (in search of)” posts, so feel free to get specific with your wants. This is especially great for those looking for novelty prints, brides, vintage coats or just those of us looking for a special occasion piece.
Tip #4: Search early, search often.
Listings on Ebay and Etsy change all the time, which means that if you’re serious about finding that perfect piece you may have to have a regular set of search terms and try them at least once a week. For instance, I regularly search everything from “XL 1940’s dress” to “plus size vintage dress” and everything in between. If you’re interested in knit pieces or boucle pieces, remember that knits with stretch may be listed from size medium up, so you can expand your search and go by the measurements instead. Era is generally more important than a specific size (since vintage sizes and modern sizes are so different) but many 30’s through 50’s dresses will be listed in multiple eras. Clothing styles also overlapped a fair amount, so it may not be easy for the seller to tell which exact year a dress was made.
Tip #5: Reselling vintage is harder than buying vintage, so ask all the questions you need upfront.
While you can sell in swap/sell groups, reselling vintage can be tough. To minimize your risks, don’t be afraid to ask for extra measurements, photos or details before you buy a piece. A good Etsy seller will be happy to provide pictures of the piece, as well as close ups of any and all flaws. Also, remember to add a bit more ease to your measurements than you might in modern clothing so you don’t stress any seams!
What advice would you give to someone who is new to buying vintage? What advice did you wish someone had given you when you started? If you’re new to vintage, what part of it seems the hardest or the most confusing?