I’m a firm believer that most trends never really go out of style; they just go into hibernation. Some trends lay dormant for a few seasons and some for decades. But sure enough, everything comes back around again. Take this season’s “It” shoe, the mule, for example. It’s true that the mule is having a major moment, but this isn’t the first time. The mule was wildly popular back in the ‘90s, and in the ‘70s and ‘50s before that. And that is just what makes shopping vintage so fun…
But before you go digging through racks of ‘70s slip dresses and Mad Men-esque frocks, there are a few tips to keep in mind. Generally speaking, the term “vintage” refers to an item of clothing that is between 20 and 100 years old (anything more than 100 years old is considered antique). So as you can imagine, there is a whole new set of concerns that go along with shopping for a garment older than you are. While a vintage item doesn’t need to be in mint condition to be wearable, you’ll want to make sure it is still worth your hard-earned dollar. Especially since a designer vintage item can cost just as much as couture! Here are a few things to keep in mind…
Check for Stains, Odors, and Rips
If a vintage piece has a noticeable stain or an offensive odor, chances are that it’s been there for years. And once stains and odors are set, your dry cleaner probably won’t be able to remove them. Also watch for rips that aren’t along the fabric’s seam or edge. These are much harder to mend and might not be worth the effort. Plus, vintage fabric is often more delicate, which makes it harder to wash or repair.
Know What Can Be Fixed
Broken zippers, rips along the seam, and damaged clasps on jewelry can all be fixed. But beware of damaged signature hardware, or missing stones or beads. And if a unique looking button is gone, keep in mind that you’ll have to replace them all with another style.
Try it On for Size
Sizing standards were very different 30 and 40 years ago, so never assume a vintage piece will fit without trying it on. Pieces older than 50 or 60 years might not even have a size label at all. But also keep in mind that the right vintage piece might be worth tailoring. With something one-of-a-kind you can expect to need at least a few alterations.
Decorate and Display
In my opinion, a truly beautiful vintage piece is like a work of art. So think outside of the “clothing” box when shopping vintage. If you find a beautiful piece that’s not your size or is too delicate to wear, consider putting it on display in your bedroom or workspace. Lauren always has several vintage items hanging around the Paper Crown offices as decor—from a vintage mannequin dressed up in tulle to a collection of lace slips hanging in the window. You’ve never seen anything so pretty!
Unless you’re a seasoned vintage shopper, you’ll probably have a few questions about when and where the piece came from. Don’t be afraid to ask the sales associate for the whole story. That’s just what makes vintage so special!
If You’re Buying Online…
Sites like Ebay and Etsy have a wealth of pretty vintage pieces, but buying vintage online is tricky. Make sure that the images are clear, all measurements are included, and that the return policy is clearly stated. You don’t want to be stuck with an item that looks much different in person than you imagined.
Do you have any vintage pieces in your wardrobe?
What’s your favorite fashion decade?
I have a soft spot for the ‘60s myself.