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How to shop for vintage clothing in store

Vintage shopping is a treasure hunt for the perfect pieces building the foundation for your own unique style. Here are some practical tips on how to shop for vintage clothing in a brick and mortar store.

Start with a closet review

A solid starting point if you’re unsure what clothing or accessories you want to look for. Reviewing your existing wardrobe will give you ideas of items you actually need, and how new additions will match your current style. If you have some favorite outfits or pieces of clothing that you constantly return to and love to wear, it is a great idea to even snap some pictures of them with your phone to bring with you on your shopping trip. This way you can easily reference your images to match potential new vintage gems with your wardrobe staples.

Keep an open mind

There are different types of stores selling vintage. Some are highly curated with selected styles making it very easy to find what you’re looking for, others are full-on thrift stores with mountains of clothing and accessories to sift through to find that one dream find.

They have one thing in common though, they are all stocked with one of a kind items, and unlike when shopping for vintage items online, you can’t really filter out specific items. So when vintage shopping in store, try to keep an open mind. A pro tip is using a moodboard defining the style you’re into to find pieces building your dream vintage wardrobe. I use Pinterest to curate my style, find and sort inspiration.

Set a budget (and stick to it!)

Especially if you are planning to visit curated Vintage or Consignment Stores that tend to have a higher price point than thrift stores. Set a limit for what you are willing to spend and make sure you stick to it. Just because the pieces are cheap compared to their initial retail price, you shouldn’t get carried away.

Set a time limit

Its easy to get overwhelmed when shopping for vintage in store, specifically if you’re visiting a large thrift store with miles of clothing racks to flip through to find the hidden gems. Try setting a time limit for your shopping to minimize the risk of vintage shopping fatigue. A good time to start off with is 30 minutes. More seasoned vintage and second hand shoppers could do 1 hour. Keep focused and flip through as many items as you can for the best chance of hitting the jackpot. When the time is up, head for the dressing rooms.

Disregard sizing tags

Since vintage sizes can differ quite drastically from their modern counterparts, and sizing between brands varies a lot, grab every piece you like and try it on. In the past, sizes skewed much smaller, and usage and washing could have changed the fit of the garment.

Experienced vintage and second hand shoppers can usually tell by looking at an item if it will fit them or not, but make sure to try it on if you’re able to as trying items also can highlight any stains or fit defects not visible on the hanger.

Keep an eye out for flaws

Vintage and second hand items often have some sort of flaws. You might not be bothered by minor issues like pilling or easily removed stains, but make sure you’re not being overcharged for an item with severe flaws. Like a bag or jacket with a broken zipper, or a silk item that has started to fray.

Wear a "vintage shopping" outfit

You are going to walk around and get in and out of clothing a lot on your vintage shopping trip, so dress accordingly. Wear comfy shoes and an outfit that isn’t a hassle to get on and off. Wear neutral underwear that works with multiple types of garments.

Think unisex

Keep an open mind about scouring both men’s and women’s sections. A lot of items aren’t gendered to begin with and great clothing pieces are sometimes misplaced in different parts of the store.

Further reading


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