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  • Writer's pictureEmma

10 Tips for Buying Vintage Clothing

Whether you've been wearing vintage for a while or are a total newbie to secondhand shopping, we have curated our top ten tips for buying vintage clothing and making it that little more exciting and a little less daunting...

1. Know Your Measurements

Vintage size labels vary massively. There are several factors that contribute to this and it can become a little confusing and disappointing at first. Sizes have changed over the decades as have our bodies! What was a size 12 in the 1960s is more likely to be a size 8 in 2019. Labels also vary from country to country, and from European to American sizes it cab be hard to know exactly what you are dealing with. At My Vintage, we actually measure every garment and use these measurements to equate to a modern day UK size. We then hang garments on all our rails in size order. This really gives you a head start on your shopping experience but not all vintage shops offer this service.

It's important therefore to know your measurements. Many labels will say "To fit 38" bust" for example, or will display a waist size. Knowing your basic bust, waist and hip measurements will help you greatly in finding vintage clothing that is perfect for you.

2. It Can Be Altered

With all the will in the world, if there is a vintage dress that is 4" smaller on the bust than you, it isn't going to fit. However, something that is 4" too big can almost always be altered. There are some exceptions to this, for example very heavily hand beaded garments can be too difficult to take in. But on the whole, having the bust, hips, waist or length altered is very simple and affordable. You will find tailors, dressmakers and alterations available in most towns and cities, just a quick Google search will give you several options local to you. The expertise and services offered can vary slightly, but you should also be able to have buttons added/replaced, zips repaired and straps and sleeves removed, added or changed. There is also a lot to be said for an item of clothing be tailored to fit you perfectly, it makes such a difference to your outfit and will really enhance your figure too.

3. Mix It Up

There is no rule that says you have to dress head-to-toe in vintage. There are some enthusiasts of particular decades who do live this way, but in the main vintage clothing should certainly be mixed and matched with other pieces to create your own unique looks.

Don't be afraid to experiment mixing original vintage with high street fashion. If you pick up a stylish vintage jumper for example, you can wear this with mom jeans, leggings or a midi skirt. You may find a cute 1970s tunic dress and add a quirky t-shirt or shirt underneath. The possibilities really are endless and just injecting the odd vintage piece into your everyday wardrobe not only makes it more exciting and unique, but also gives you that smug feeling when you are complimented on your outfit and you get to say "oh, it's vintage"...

4. Try It On

I cannot stress this one enough. Shopping for vintage has two major requirements... being open minded (which we will explore in more detail later) and being willing to try things on. There is so much that cannot be seen from an item on a hanger and you really don't know how amazing something can look until you put it on. Speaking from experience as a vintage shop owner, so many times the items that shoppers fall in love with are the ones they discounted, didn't look at or were feeling underwhelmed with. I tend to offer a few suggestions on things I think would suit and it's one of my favourite things when someone is so completely shocked and pleasantly surprised!

If you like the look of a colour or pattern but aren't sure about the shape, try it on! If you think it may be too big, try it on! Not sure about the length? Try it on! I think you see where I am going with this, try as much on as you can and I guarantee you will find a gem you otherwise wouldn't have. You will also find that most independent vintage shop owners like me, are more than happy for you to spend time trying on and will give you as much help and guidance as you need.

5. If In Doubt - Accessorize!

If you really are new to vintage shopping, it may be that you just don't have a clue where to start with clothing. Or like me, there may be a limit on the availability of vintage clothing in your size. Whatever the reason, if clothing isn't floating your boat then you have a whole other world available to you and that is the world of vintage accessories.

There are so many gems out there just waiting to be found. Vintage handbags, vintage scarves, vintage belts, vintage gloves, vintage jewellery and even vintage lingerie and stockings. When it comes to accessories, it pays to dig deep. Many vintage shops will have suitcases or baskets filled with scarves or gloves. Don't be afraid to get right in there and rummage! Whether you want a square or rectangle scarf, silk or wool, bright or neutral; you will find the perfect one with a little perseverance. And who knows, you might even find a vintage Chanel bag if you are super lucky!

6. Appreciation Is Key

I feel it is very important to be aware and appreciative of a vintage shop. In the majority of cases, they have hand picked all their stock, using their skill, contacts and expertise to find the very best vintage items. They have then laundered and repaired it where necessary, steamed/ironed it, measured, labelled and hung it out in their shop. When you walk in, all this preparation has been done behind the scenes and you are being presented with a personally curated collection of amazing and one-of-a-kind garments. So if a vintage skirt is on sale for £20, it is important to remember that all that hard work has been done for you and you are still getting a great item at a great price. There are occasions where people seem to expect vintage shops to be the same price point as jumble sales or charity shops. This just isn't realistic or fair. We need to keep our independent businesses supported as they are what gives character to our home towns.

7. Learn From The Experts

Vintage sellers are passionate about what they do, and they are very knowledgeable. Not only do they have a wealth of knowledge about different designers, fashion eras, key looks for each decade, hair and beauty for each decade etc; they also know a thing or two about dressing and styling. I can't speak for all vintage sellers, but I know for me that integrity and honestly is key. I would never be rude to anyone, but if something doesn't look or fit properly, I would much rather say that and make alternative suggestions. It's important to me that you walk out of My Vintage with something that you look and feel amazing in. Nobody wants a 'yes man' who will agree with anything for a sale. Most independent sellers know that, and will give you honest unbiased opinions sprinkled with a touch of unique expert outlook that really is priceless.

Going to a themed event? Ask the vintage shop keeper for some advice, tips and tricks to get the perfect look for your chosen era, complete with accessories. You will often find that sellers are happy to give a little discount or barter a little if you are engaged with them any buying several items. Building a rapport is beneficial for you both and some of my customers have now become great friends for life!

8. Know Your Laundry

If you are buying vintage clothing then you are going to be buying a range of very different fabrics. It is important to learn the basic dos and don'ts of washing and drying various materials so that nothing is ruined and you don't have to be afraid of crepe or crimplene!

Cotton is of course the easiest of fabrics and we all know what we are doing there. Polyester and nylon aren't difficult to wash (on a cool setting) and are strong enough to handle various stain removers and detergents; but they do not like heat so steer clear of tumble driers and irons. Wools and silks of course need to be dealt with as delicate and hand-washed, there are also several vintage labels that will specify dry clean only. These are the bare bone basics but if you are in any doubt, simply google the fabric type and you will be able to find a whole host of tips for keeping it in tip top condition.

9. Be Open Minded

I touched on this earlier when I was talking about trying things on, and it is just as important to be open minded when you are shopping for vintage clothing. If you go out looking for a specific item then you are likely to be disappointed. That's the nature of vintage, it's random! My best advice is think more "I would like a party dress" but less "I want a short black dress with a red pattern"

It's also advisable not to discount anything. Play around and experiment with colours and prints that you might not be sure of and you might just stumble on your next favourite outfit. If you like fitted styles and notice something you like but that is loose fit, you can maybe add a jacket or a belt and transform the whole look. If you prefer not to wear something sleeveless, you can always put a t-shirt or shirt under it or add a bolero or cardigan over the top and make it work. An open mind will give you so many more opportunities to find those vintage gems.

10. Enjoy Yourself!

Last but by no means least, it is so important to enjoy the whole process of shopping for vintage clothing. Maybe get friends involved and make a day of it by going for coffee or lunch, and have a giggle in the changing rooms. Enjoy the whole atmosphere of vintage shops and soak it all in. Have fun trying on various outfits, chatting to like minded people and learning more about the styles and the eras that you are most drawn to. Find things that make you feel amazing when you wear them and you won't go far wrong. Shopping shouldn't be a chore, it can really be a whole lot of fun and once you find those styles that fit and flatter you, it can open the door to having even more confidence and give you that spring in your step!

I hope you have found a few of these tips helpful and encouraging. Why not try to buy more vintage clothing in 2020 and create a more unique wardrobe for yourself as well as shopping in a more sustainable way. We would love to welcome you to our vintage shop in the heart of Darwen too! Check the website or Facebook page for the latest opening times and simply pop BB3 1BT into your sat nav to find the best way to get here!

Bye for now! Emma

My Vintage



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