How to Buy Authentic Vintage Clothes

By Jane Bertin. Updated: January 16, 2017
How to Buy Authentic Vintage Clothes

Vintage clothes have been fashionable for ages - who doesn't dream of finding a truly special piece in a yard sale? However, knowing your way around a thrift shop is not so easy, and hunting for authentic, well-maintained, stylish pieces can be quite difficult. You can find vintage clothes in a thrift shop, but not the other way around. If you want to know the pieces that are worth your time and money, you must know how to tell their condition and authenticity.

Vintage clothes are not being made - that's the point - so they exist in limited numbers. If you can't afford going to certified-vintage auctions, you might walk around thrift and charity shops. Stay with us at OneHowTo to learn how to buy authentic vintage clothes.

Steps to follow:

What are the characteristics of vintage clothes?

As a rule of thumb, vintage clothes tend to be of higher quality,even in the case of high-end designer pieces. This is because people used to pay more attention to detail and durability when they bought clothes less often. Vintage clothes tend to have louder, brighter and more complex patterns than the ones we're used to nowadays.

It is very important to research your favorite styles and decades and the popular designers, shapes and materials from each time. This will help you recognize the real deal when you're shopping for vintage clothes. Learn to value the uniqueness and history of each piece and you might even find collectible items.

Sizes have changed over the years; remember that having clothes altered costs money, but in the case of authentic vintage clothes it's often worth it. You will be able to have too big pieces fitted in, but not out. Some materials are more expensive - or even impossible - to alter, so it's not worth buying the piece if the integrity of the clothes will be at risk. Sometimes the size is right, but they fit oddly. This happens because silhouettes have changed, as has our underwear.

As for the materials, you should always check the fabric by touching it. If it's dry and brittle, don't buy the piece - it might be authentic vintage, but it will fall apart. Fabrics like lace, mesh or chiffon are likely to rip; if you want to wear authentic vintage clothes, go for sturdy materials like silk, wool, linen, cotton or rayon.


How to know if vintage clothes are authentic:

Of course, you should always check each piece with care and patience. Look for blemishes, flaws and rips, and check the smell as well. Do so with the outside of the piece but especially for the inside.

The most important tell-tales of authentic vintage clothing include:

  • Lining: Well-made authentic vintage clothes will have flat linings, often in silk.
  • Labels: Look for designer labels and for pre-1960 blue union labels.
  • Seams: They used to be piped or bound, in noticeable colors.
  • Zippers: They used to be handset, and made of metal instead of plastic.
  • Bodices used to be boned.
  • Hand-sewing is a clear sign that a vintage piece is authentic.

Once you know that a vintage piece is authentic, you should check for possible damage:

  • Insect holes
  • Fading clothes
  • Missing pieces or embellishments

Pay special attention to holes in the wrist openings and the glue and caps of the shoes, even if they look like they haven't been worn very much.

How to Buy Authentic Vintage Clothes - Step 2

How to wear authentic vintage clothes:

Once you have a couple of authentic vintage pieces, you might be interested in keeping a vintage wardrobe and dressing in the best style to make the most out of them. It's very important to know how to wear vintage clothes without looking like a costume, so we recommend you read our articles on:

If you're building a vintage wardrobe, it's better to round up classic pieces that are easier to wear and combine, like sweaters, cardigans, shirts or dressers.

It is very important not to keep authentic vintage clothes in plastic bags.

How to Buy Authentic Vintage Clothes - Step 3

How to buy authentic vintage clothes online:

There are many stores that sell real vintage clothes online of all styles. Many of them are established shops, and they range from classic (Beta Menswear) to indie and whimsical (To Be Determined, Sabrosa) and high-end vintage boutiques (Maeven Vintage, Ritual Vintage).

You can also find Etsy stores and vintage clothes auctions on eBay (check out American Archive or Dane Vintage).

When you buy vintage clothes online it's very important to always read the stores' and the sites' policies, as well as their size charts. You can know your size by measuring a piece that you already own.

We recommend looking for smaller local business rather than big chains and to look for discount codes in their main site - you can find real dream vintage items and make them affordable on top of that!

If you have any tips on how to buy authentic vintage clothes, please tell us in the comments section.

How to Buy Authentic Vintage Clothes - Step 4

If you want to read similar articles to How to Buy Authentic Vintage Clothes, we recommend you visit our Fashion & Style category.

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