Style is a personal thing. But one common trend that fits in with almost every type of fashion sense is vintage. Whether you go strictly secondhand or mix in pieces with your modern wardrobe, a vintage item can give you that extra something your outfit needs. And the best part? No one will ever show up wearing the same thing as you.
Know Your Vintage
If you’re in the market for real vintage pieces, a little research can go a long way. Searching the Internet is the easiest way to get to know silhouettes, popular styles, materials, and even what labels to look for and what they mean. If you come across a vintage piece and want to know more, look it up! Vintage Fashion Guild is a great online resource filled with tons of fashion history and a pretty comprehensive label research section, complete with images and company histories.
The key to finding great vintage is to figure out what styles and time periods speak to you, and then doing your best to learn what you can about them. Perusing sites like Vintage Fashion and Art and My Vintage Vogue for images and inspiration can be more than just indulging in some fashion eye candy; it can also be a fun way to discover the eras that you’re drawn to so you can shop accordingly. “The Little Guide to Vintage Shopping” by Melody Fortier is another portable resource replete with insider tips and secondhand shopping hints.
Where to Buy
If you don’t have a good local vintage shop or are just looking for more pieces, the Internet can be your best friend. Rule No. 1 for online vintage shopping: Know your measurements! Vintage sizing can be pretty tricky, and since you won’t be able to try things on in person, getting the proper measurements is essential. Most online sellers are more than happy to answer any questions you have about fit and quality, so if you aren’t sure, just ask. Here is a quick list of some of our favorite online shops:
For designer vintage: Byronesque
For antique and high-end pieces: Vera and Victor Vague, Adored Vintage
For antique jewelry: The Way We Were
For the cool ones: Yo Vintage!, Mayflower Supply Co., The Loved One
For denim: Denim Refinery
For new vintage style: ModCloth, Unique Vintage
Tips and Tricks
Hunting for quality pieces can be a whole lot easier if you know what to look for. We’ve put together a little cheat sheet with some quick and dirty tips for your vintage shopping pleasure.
1. What’s on the label? Since 1960, clothing labels have been required to list fabric content with percentages. If it has a retro-looking label with no percentage of fiber content (cotton, polyester, etc.), it may be from before 1960. If there’s a label with instructions on how to care for the garment, that means it probably dates from after 1972.
2. Zippers. If a dress has a metal zipper, that’s a good indication that it might be pre-1960, which is when plastic zippers became more common. Keep in mind that heavier-duty items such as jackets and denim still use metal zippers, but if the piece is more delicate and it has a metal zipper, it’s probably pretty old. Bonus: If it has no zipper at all, and you find hook-and-eye closures up the sides, you may have an antique on your hands. Good for you.
3. Finally, if you really love something, buy it. The best thing about vintage is that it’s typically one of a kind, so even if it may not be exactly true to era, if you feel like you can’t live without it and the price is right, do not let it get away. Trust us, you’ll regret it if you do.
Jennifer Sanchez is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.