Thrifting 101: An introductory guide to deadstock vintage

It happened to me last weekend.

It was Sunday night. I was browsing through the racks of one of my favorite thrift stores. It was getting late, and my mind kept wandering. I wondered what I would make for dinner that night. I considered whether I needed to do a load of laundry, or whether I could put it off until the next day. I thought about my New Year's Eve outfit, debating between a sequined blouse or mini dress. And what about my editorial calendar?

Just as I was about to give up on thrifting, my fingers brushed against something unmistakable - a rectangular merchandise tag dangling from a suede shirt. This was not just any shirt. No, this was a 1960's fringed and beaded black suede shirt, with a little packet of spare beads stapled to the tag. 

I had stumbled upon deadstock.

What is deadstock?

Deadstock is a piece of vintage clothing at least twenty years old with its original tag still attached. Whether it was surplus inventory never put on display, overstock from a retail establishment or fashion brand that went out of business, obsolete inventory deemed unsuitable for sale, or an item from someone's estate, this piece has never been worn and it still, for all intents and purposes, new. 

Traditionally, deadstock is defined as any stock that sits on a distributor's warehouse shelves, usually collecting dust, for a year or more. Retailers refer to deadstock as merchandise that cannot be sold. This type of product has never been worn, used or sold and has been in inventory for an extended period of time.

Deadstock earns its name from the fact that the design is "dead" from its original source. It  might also be referred as NOS, short for "New Old Stock" or "Never Off The Shelf" by vintage dealers.

Why is deadstock so desirable?

As deadstock items are unworn, they serve as excellent specimens of fashion trends throughout time. Whether the deadstock is a 1930's feathered cloche, complete with original tissue paper, tag and hat box, or a southwestern print 1980's sweater with original tags attached, the item is just as it appeared when it originally went on sale.

Where can you find deadstock?

If you're lucky, you might find a piece of deadstock at a thrift store or estate sale. Deadstock vintage can also be found through dealers on eBay and Etsy, using the search terms 'deadstock' or 'NOS vintage'.

What should you do with your deadstock?

Whether you wear it, sell it, or save it, the choice of what to do with your deadstock is up to you! Depending on the piece, deadstock vintage can be much more valuable than the same item without tags. It makes sense to do your research before deciding whether to archive the item, market it to a vintage dealer or sell on Etsy or Ebay, or wear it. 


  1. Sometimes I also assume that along with deadstock, people also donate things they never wear! I never thought about how it may just be never worn, never bought and not currently on the market. Very interesting!

  2. Verrrry interesting! I've never heard of deadstock before. I'll be sure to keep my eye out now!
    Thanks for the tips.
    xx. Jillian //

  3. Excellent post! I recently stumbled upon some deadstock items and they are awesome!


  4. My favorite cowboy boots are Acme deadstock men's boots--probably late 60s, but "new" when I started to wear them. They are quite narrow for men's boots, even vintage ones, which is probably why they never got used.

    What are you going to do with your suede shirt? :-)


  5. Hi Velma! I can't decide what to do with my suede shirt. I was thinking of giving it to a close friend as a gift, or saving it as a piece of fashion iconography, but I may just end up keeping it for myself and wearing it. It's too special to be kept in my closet!

  6. Very well written .... and thank you for broadening my "deadstock" horizons.. :)


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