|Source: We Heart It|
There's little I love as much as shopping for vintage in a thrift store. Whether I spend time digging through bins of clothes, shuffling hungrily through racks, or trolling estate sales for the perfect piece, the joy of uncovering a special garment is hard to beat. I truly enjoy the entire experience - chatting with little old ladies about where they found that beaded sweater in their cart; learning about new shipments from store employees; playing peek-a-boo with small children hiding in the racks. And don't even get me started on the high I get when I finally do uncover a vintage piece. A fruitful excursion sends me swooning and thanking the shopping gods for my bounty.
However, I doubt I would enjoy thrifting as much as I do if I had limited time to shop. Considering that the average time I spend in a store stretches to over an hour, feeling rushed would result in nothing but frustration. I believe there are many people who are unable to really enjoy thrifting because of time constraints. It takes real patience, and a generous amount of time, to dig out the perfect garment. In addition, thrift shopping is best accomplished during the day, specifically first thing in the morning when employees put new merchandise on the floor. Because few of us can afford to miss a day of work, we might lose out on landing the best pieces. There are also concerns of allergic reactions to dust and grime, physical discomforts due to extended periods on your feet, and the frustration of not finding what you're looking for even after spending hours hunting (which happens to me all the time, and I'm kind of an expert.)
Thanks to the internet, finding vintage pieces is possible without dealing with long lines, time constraints, and allergy attacks. With the abundance of sellers on Etsy, eBay, and through independent websites, it's possible to locate exactly what you're looking for without ever setting foot in a store. For this week's installment of Thrifting 101, I'm going to examine online shopping for vintage garments.
(Missed any previous posts in my Thrifting 101 series? Up to this point, Thrifting 101 has focused on tips for newbies and those dealing with the squick factor, advice regarding how to shop at a thrift store, thrifting for the clothing snob, recommendations for finding the best thrift and consignment stores, tips for determining what days are the best for thrifting, a post where I explained my love for thrifting, advice regarding thrift store etiquette, tips for cleaning vintage leather, a post of my favorite thrifting and vintage blogs, tips for identifying and cleaning thrifted jewelry, and advice for storing vintage and thrifted garments.)
Before delving into the world of online vintage shopping, it's important to know your keywords. For those new to browsing vintage online this may take a little research. If you don't know the exact vintage terms (such a eyelet high-waisted dress or boho 70's Indian batik sundress) then just use the basic generic terms: “vintage dress”. While this will result in more choices then you can possibly examine, you'll eventually be able to narrow your search down to 50's cocktail dress with shelf bust or 70's crochet mini dress with scarf hem. If you're looking for a particular color or label, using those keywords will greatly narrow your search field while shopping for vintage clothes online.
Once you've found the item you're looking for, here's a list of things to check before placing your online order for vintage clothing and accessories:
- What is the store's return policy? If one is not clearly given, email and ask! A return policy is a must given the tricky nature of vintage clothes sizing (more on that in a bit.) Any reputable seller will graciously accept returns.
- What type of online payments do they accept? If the shop doesn't accept credit cards, find one that does. Credit cards are a good source of protection if you have the unfortunate experience of dealing with someone that is not playing fair. Do they accept Paypal? I prefer to pay through Paypal when purchasing online - it's safe, reliable, and 100% guaranteed against unauthorized payments from your account.
- Check for feedback. Often, online stores will have a feedback or comments page. Reading feedback from previous customers can provide valuable information about the seller and their service.
- How does the shop describe their stock? Many sellers have a rating system by which they specify the condition of their merchandise. Most sellers use the following system: Mint: An item is as perfect and pristine as when it was originally made and shows no sign of wear (mint condition is rare for vintage clothing). Near mint: An item shows only the slightest signs of wear. Excellent: An item shows typical signs of wear due to occasional use. Very good: An item is considered wearable but has some surface flaws (staining or soiling, for example). Good: An item is wearable but cannot be returned to excellent condition even if repairs are made. Be certain to check with the seller for an exact description of the piece you are interested in.
- Is the item from a smoke-free home? Cigarette smoke is one of the most difficult smells to remove, and is often truly impossible to get out (especially from leather - this is important when considering coats and accessories such as handbags.) Do not purchase vintage items from a seller who lives with a smoker, or whose items were acquired from a smoker. If the seller is at all vague about responding to your questions regarding smoke-free garments, move on.
Blouses, Tops, Coats, and Shirts:
- Arm length is measured from shoulder seam to wrist hem.
- Bust/chest measured from underarm, across the chest to the other underarm, then measurement is doubled.
- Length is measured from shoulder to hem, or straight down the back not including collar.
- Waist is measured across where a normal waist would fall and then doubled.
- Back is measured from shoulder seam across to other shoulder seam.
- Dress length is measured from shoulder to hem.
- Waist is measured across where an average waist falls, then doubled.
- Skirt length is measured from waistband to hem.
- Hips are measured across where an average hip falls, then doubled.
- Front waist is measured from the base of the throat to the natural waist. (This helps to determine whether that cute 1950's dress is actually going to sit at your waistline or be above and short-waist you.)
- Inseam is measured from crotch down along inside of leg to hem.
- Waist is measured across natural waist then doubled.
- Rise is measured from the waist, down to the crotch.
Shoes are measured lengthwise across the top of the shoe from the heel to the toe, and the width is measured across the sole at the ball of the foot.
Have you shopped online for vintage? How has the experience differed from purchasing in-store? Do you prefer to shop in-store or online? Got any favorite sellers to recommend? Do you have an online vintage shop? Leave a comment and let us know!