How to Shop for Vintage Like a Pro

How to Shop for Vintage Like a Pro


Ever walked into a second-hand store only to find that you have absolutely no clue where to begin? Sadly, this is not an uncommon situation experienced by us dedicated lovers of vintage. We spend hours upon hours dreaming of our ideal vintage wardrobe, but so often are stumped on how to get there. The good news? A few simple guidelines make this a much easier task. It’s time to take your vintage dreams from Pinterest lust to real world purchases. Here’s how.

Text by Meagan Dill

Photography by Nicole Danielle


First things first 

Go in with a game plan. Are you looking for clothes, shoes, bags? Will these be incorporated into your existing wardrobe or are you more of a collector? Taking the time to think about these aspects of your shopping trip before you’re standing in the middle of the store, completely clueless, will give you some direction and lessen possible frustrations.

Measure for measure

Fact: throughout the twentieth century, sizing systems for clothing were anything but standardised – so don’t panic if “your size” doesn’t fit. Rather, remember that, in this case, size really is but a number and play it safe by relying on measurements instead of sizes. To this end, it’s a good idea to bring a measuring tape along when shopping for vintage. This will give you a more accurate way of judging sizes without needing to try anything on. Additionally, this tip is even more important when it comes to shopping vintage online – ask for measurements and compare them to your own so that you know what you’re getting.

Great expectations

Like many things in life, thrifting is extremely enjoyable as a marathon event. Instead of just visiting one store and possibly leaving disappointed, make plans to visit several. This way, you’re covering more ground and are more likely to come away with something you really love. 

Free your mind

Rather than visiting the obvious typical second-hand shop, try to think of a few alternatives. While the more popular vintage stores are always worth a visit regardless, don’t be afraid to widen your scope and pop into a local flea market, church fete, yard sale, or charity shop. Your imagination is the limit. Any possible place that tends to stock forgotten bits and pieces is often a prime spot for finding that one-of-a-kind item that would have been snapped up immediately anywhere else.

Catching the worm

That said, even for events that are a little more off the beaten path, it’s still a good idea to arrive early if you’re going to be scouring for vintage. Sometimes what you end up with comes down to luck, so make sure it’s on your side by being the first to check out what’s on offer. 

Money, money, money

While second-hand pieces are often thought of as cheap, sometimes this is not the case. If you find yourself facing a price tag that you find a bit scary, take into consideration why the item might be priced that way. Examine it carefully. Is it a designer brand? If so, is there proof that it is an authentic piece? Does it show any signs of wear and tear? Is it a unique item you’re unlikely to find anywhere else? Or is the seller just trying to rip you off? If you can justify the price to yourself using these criteria (and can afford it), then go for it. More often than not, many vintage pieces are one-time-only opportunities, even if you return to the same store, so if you do decide to pass up the item, make peace with the fact that you may well never see it again.

Girls just wanna have fun

As with many things in life, the guidelines given in this article are just that: guidelines. Pick and choose the ones that suit you so that your experience is tailored to your individual wants and needs. The entire philosophy of vintage is about using old things to create something new. This makes any vintage shopping trip the ideal opportunity to take a fresh approach, be it on thrifting techniques, fashion, or even vintage itself.

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