Ask the Expert: Tips for Thrifting & Vintage Shopping

We’ve all heard about vintage shopping, and I’m sure lots of us would absolutely love to have more vintage pieces. But where do you start? Thankfully, we were able to sit down expert, Naomi Fitzgibbon from Vintage Finds You to get the low-down. Make sure you watch to the end to check out the Maggy Rouff dress – it’s stunning! Watch the video here, or check it out below. 

Quick links to some of the pieces mentioned: Vintage Check Yves Saint Laurent Jacket | 70’s Pussy Brow Dress | Christian Dior Dress | Floral Day Dress With Lace | VINTAGE FINDS YOU

Now that we’ve seen some amazing pieces, we wanted to make sure you were fully prepared to begin you own vintage journey. To that end, we’ve gathered some tips that will have you shopping like a pro in no time.

3 Tips for Thrifting & Vintage Shopping

1. Authenticity

In defining vintage clothing vs second-hand vs retro/thrift there are a few things to look out for. The first is age – vintage clothing is generally see as anything that is 20-75 years old. On the other hand, retro pieces are anything from 1-20 years old. If you manage to stumble across something that is pre-1920’s(ish) years, then you’ve found an antique. And that’s a whole other ball game.

If you’re wondering how do you know the age of the piece, look at the tags and defining features. For example, Levi’s denim jackets from the 1970’s all have a leather label instead of a stamped tag. They also had a structured fit, in comparison to those from the 80’s; which had wide shoulders and a tapered waist.You should also look out for the number and placement of pockets, the red care label, and the big “E” on said label. This is just one example, but lots of brands have their own calling cards so to speak.

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2. Detailing

It’s important to look at the details and how they are made. Is the beadwork glass or plastic. Are any pearls etc. real or artificial? Are any details damaged or lost, and how sparse is it? Is the garment lined, and if it is, is it lined properly? All these indicators will show if the piece is handmade and from what era. But they can also impact upon the price. For example, you wouldn’t expect to see plastics on older pieces. Whereas lots of new clothes often aren’t fully lined, which can be a indicator they’ve been mass-produced.

Be sure to look at any fastenings. In the 1920’s-30’s fasteners where on the side seams and were usually buttons and snaps. In the 1940’s-50’s we see side seams with metal zips. 1960 saw metal zips down the centre of the back, and by 1970 zips were nylon. As they are today.

3. Condition

Most places have 4 or 5 grades when it comes to condition. You may be familiar with these, but it’s important to be aware of them as they can affect the pricing. Particularly when it comes places that are selling actual vintage clothing, as opposed to places selling retro clothing. It’s also good to remember that if you plan on getting the item fixed this will cost you too. Just be sure to factor that in when you see a “bargain”. A pain I know all too well, from a pair of bleached jeans that I *thought* would look cool chopped….but didn’t. So long €70 – €40 for the jeans + €30 for alterations!

  • Mint – garment is flawless and barley worn, also is unaltered
  • Excellent – no obvious faults, may have been worn several times; may be some natural weakening
  • Good – minor stains and/or tearing or abrasion which might be noticeable; may be some natural weakening
  • Fair – obvious stains and/or tearing or abrasion which might be noticeable; can be fixed or may have been repaired before
  • Poor – obvious stains and/or tearing or abrasion which might be noticeable; may not be able to be fixed

Why Vintage And What’s Next?

From this you might think – well why bother? The clothes are old. Maybe a bit past their best. And it seems like a lot of effort. Well it’s simple. When it comes to vintage clothing it’s about standing out. It’s about stumbling across that perfect item that you know nobody else will have. It’s a needle in a haystack. A diamond in the rough. But an absolute gem. If you’re not sure where to start go small. Pick an accessory. A pair of earrings, or a bracelet is a good starting point. Or try one item. A blouse that you can work into your everyday wardrobe. You don’t need to be head-to-toe in vintage clothing to achieve a stunning look.

Fashion is about having fun, and since designers always borrow from the past by wearing vintage you’ll be ahead of the curve. Our top tip for spring 2018 – pile on the sequins! If you’ve a vintage spot you love, or if you’ve any tips for finding that perfect vintage piece let us know in the comments. And be sure to check out Vintage Finds You – we’ve our eye on a few pieces already.

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Aine Mulloy

Co-Founder of GirlCrew. Loves brands, media, books, and music. Can generally be found reading in quiet spaces, or in over-crowded music joints.

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5 comments

  1. These are great tips. I love to thrift shop, I always find great deals on furniture and other stuff. I haven’t had much luck with clothes though. My daughter does though.

  2. I don’t have experience with buying vintage clothes,but I buy other things such as home decor items.These are great tips,and as you said it is always essential to check the condition of the things you buy…

  3. I have done some thrifting but not necessarily for clothes or vintage stuff. These are nice tips to keep in mind for I have been meaning to go vintage-thrift shopping soon.

    xx, Kusum

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