Thrifting 101, Part 21: Shopping for vintage on eBay

I am a hunter. I honed my craft early, a result of spending my formative years without funds. I sharpening my teeth under the watchful eye of my elders and peers, imitating their behavior, mannerisms, and language. Years of training have made me appreciate my ability to spend hours on my feet. Thick-skinned after years of conditioning, I am impervious to allergies, and possess eagle-eye vision for my prey. I relish early mornings, when I can scope out my territory against competitors. Long trips don't frighten me. Dirty conditions don't scare me. Long lines don't faze me.

I am a thrifter.

The sweet satisfaction of scoring the perfect vintage find is completely unmatched. While I enjoy the thrill of digging through the racks of thrift stores, it's hard to ignore the fact that eBay is home to thousands of auctions for vintage garments all waiting for your eager bid. I confess that I've put a bid on a vintage treasure more than once, and had great luck scoring a unique garment. If you find yourself scouring the pages of eBay hoping to discover an amazing vintage piece, it's critical to arm yourself with information before bidding.

Corri McFadden, owner of eDrop-Off, knows her way around a vintage auction, and shared her wisdom in a recent post on Refinery 29. Here are her most recommended tips for buying vintage on eBay.

(Missed any previous parts of the 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, advice for storing vintage and thrifted garments, and tips for shopping for vintage online. I also discussed influential periods in fashion - the 1920's through the 1950's; the 1960's; the 1970's; the 1980's; and the 1990's.)

1. Buy from a trusted seller. McFadden instructed vintage shoppers to "check the percentage of positive feedback, and read the feedback messages." Sellers understand the importance of positive ratings, both on future sales and on their reputation as a seller. Don't underestimate the importance of a seller's feedback score. Furthermore, it's worth the effort to thoroughly read the feedback comments from other buyers, even if it was positive.

2. Look for key authenticity points. Detailed images of each item, including date codes, stitching, and any other details are key for authenticity. Do not consider bidding on an auction if images are not available, or if they are indecipherable. If detailed photos aren't present on an auction, request them from the seller. It also doesn't hurt to educate yourself on standards for authenticity regarding vintage clothing before bidding, especially if you are looking for designer items. 

3. Ask about odor. This seems like a no-brainer, but it's often a question bidders neglect to ask. Older items, especially when improperly stored, might develop a musty odor from being stored in a damp place. Cigarette smoke, an especially difficult (if impossible) smell to remove, has ruined many a vintage item. If not clarified in the description, ask the seller if an odor is present, just to be safe.

4. Be sure the original notions are intact.This includes original buttons, zippers, etc. This is especially important when buying garments from couture and high-end designers, such as Chanel, Herm├Ęs, and Louis Vuitton. If you are considering spending a considerable amount of money on an item, message the seller and ask if all fasteners and decorative elements are present.

5. Go by detailed measurements, not listed size. More often than not, vintage items run smaller than the sizing we're accustomed to today. I cannot stress the importance of buying based on measurements as opposed to the size on the label. Not knowing your measurements could not only lead you to win an item that does not fit, but also keep you from bidding on items that might be tailor-made for your figure. In addition, shopping based on measurements will protect you from garments that might have been altered at some point. Measure yourself with a soft tape-measure, or ask a friend to help you.

Have you every bought clothing (vintage or otherwise) on eBay? What was your shopping experience like? Do you have any advice regarding bidding and purchasing on eBay?

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