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Ask Biki? What Are The Best Tips For Vintage Shopping?

Reader Question

I like the looks of retro-inspired celebrities like Dita Von Teese and shows like Mad Men, but I find the idea of vintage shopping very intimidating.  I enter a vintage shop and I feel very overwhelmed because I’m trying to work out the sizes, avoid pieces with stains or smells and the like.

Could you give me a vintage shopping guide?


70s Vintage Dress

MFSL Answer

You came to the right place hon. I’ve been wearing vintage for over ten years, so I know a thing or two about the best ways to buy retro pieces. Whether you go to a jumble sale, vintage shop or second-hand market: vintage shopping is definitely an art form. With this guide you’ll be well on your way to becoming a vintage connoisseur.

Vintage Shopping Guide

  •  Inspect! Inspect! Inspect!!: Hold the piece up to the light, you need to look out for spots, stained armpits, the fastening (zips and buttons need to be intact) and too thin/frayed material.  This sounds like a lot, but the more familiar you become with the process, the quicker it will be. Note that with small problems like a belt loop with no belt, you can ask the sales assistant for a discount.
  • Sizing: Note that size measurements have changed drastically through time, so I would try pieces on if you think they might fit. But here you’ll have to use your judgment, if you are putting a dress over your head or stepping into a dress or pair of trousers and it’s a bit of a struggle, stop immediately. You don’t want to pay for the damages.
  • Repairs: Don’t buy a lot of clothes that need repairs because you probably won’t get round to it. Also from experience, sometimes the repair can cost twice as much as the original outfit which can grate on the nerves.
  • Make nice with the sales assistants: of course you should do this anyway, but a good vintage sales assistant can teach you a lot about the best ways to go retro shopping. Also if you strike a good relationship, he/she can end up saving pieces for you or calling you when your favourite pieces come in.
  • Online: buying vintage pieces online is very tricky indeed. Well for me anyway. I tend to go for blouses that are oversized, so I know they’ll fit either way. I have to say that I have bought skirts online from ASOS Marketplace and I’ve been lucky that they’ve fit for the most part. I only had to return one skirt out of four and I think that’s pretty good. What helps here is if the Seller has lots of pictures up and states the size and height of the model in the picture.
  • Waist cincher belt: Bring this along with you, I find this makes such a difference when I try on particular vintage dresses.
  • Jewellery: for bejewelled pieces, look to see all the stones are still set, the hooks work and the like.
  • Bags: Check the inside lining is not torn, zip fasteners still work and straps are not too worn out.
  • For shoes: Check the soles and heel tops to inspect excessive wear and tear. If it’s leather and too hard, don’t buy it as it’s bound to be too uncomfortable to walk in.

This list is by no way exhaustive, if you can think of any more vintage shopping tips, do leave them in the comment section below.

Till Soon



Coral 70s summer dress: Peekaboo Vintage