The world of vintage fashion is a large and ungainly one with as many garments to go through as there are days in history. Overwhelming is a word that can describe how it feels to walk into even the smallest vintage shop to begin your hunt. How do you choose in the face of so much fantastic stuff? Where do you even begin looking? We have provided some tips and tricks for your next shopping trip, including what to be on the lookout for and what would be best to avoid.
WILL YOU WEAR IT?
The most important thing to consider when you're buying vintage clothes is the same as any other shopping trip. "Will I actually wear this?" is a question we have to ask ourselves with every item we stock in our personal closets. According to the Closet Maid survey, the average American woman has 103 items of clothing in her closet. I bet that most of those garments go unworn. If you are not going to wear a garment, whats the point in owning it!
WILL IT FIT?
Once you step into the world of vintage, there is so much to experience and enjoy it can be easy to go on closet overload. To keep your wardrobe easy to make coordinate outfits, make sure that what you're bringing home not only fits you in size, but your aesthetic as well. Try to only purchase items in your size, ones that can be altered, and ones that fit your lifestyle. Try to find unique pieces that will complement your existing wardrobe, or pieces that are perfect for special occasions that will stand the test of time!If buying online, its important to know your measurements (this will also help in person). Not sure how to measure yourself? Check our handy guide on vintage clothing sizes and how to measure yourself for vintage clothing. Still unsure, come into our Austin shop for a professional measuring. We will also help you chose silhouettes and eras for your body shape.
Don't be afraid of alterations, as many items can be brought in, let out, or slightly changed to fit your body, ask your vintage specialist or your alterations person what can be done. However, if it needs too much work to fit, pass and find a piece that fits a bit better. Whatever the case may be, know when something isn't just right for you. Don't worry, the right piece will be just around the corner. We promise.
IS IT IN GOOD CONDITION?
The first thing to know when vintage shopping is that vintage clothing is always found in varying states of quality. While the finding of an item "new with tags" in the vintage world isn't unheard of, dead-stock as it's called, is a rarity. And even dead-stock can have damage due to storage (believe us, we once came across a store full of thousands of brand new in box, never worn, pairs of vintage leather shoes that were all dry rotted and unwearable).
Checking common places for wear and tear should be your first stop in examining a garment for your collection.Some issues, such as seam splits or a missing bead are easily repairable, other issues may be almost impossible, such as armpit staining. Areas to check are armpits on jackets and blouses, the linings of pockets and coats, and the crotches on pants, which are the most likely areas for your items to have significant damage. While checking those areas, do a cursory look around for moth holes and dry rot. Dry rot is a result of poor temperature and moisture control and is not repairable, and eventually the textile becomes so weak that it becomes brittle and just crumbles into dust.You can determine dry rot by gently pulling on the fabric to see if it starts to shred or pull apart at seams. Moth holes are usually easy to spot, and while one may be repaired via darning techniques, multiple moth holes endanger the integrity and wear-abilty of the garment. Take extra care when examining beaded and sequin garments as they may be missing a bit of sparkle, and double check for how they are stitched as one loose bead may be a whole line of loose beads if pulled. When checking, always hold the garment up to light and check from the inside of the garment. Often times patterns will disguise stains and holes from the exterior.
Make sure to try on vintage garments whenever possible. It's never fun to try on your new vintage pants and realize they show off your panties too, so this check is key!
ARE THERE STAINS?
Staining is common in vintage garments, from dust, to rust, to everything in between. While some stains are easily removed through washing, other stains may be impossible to correct. The material the stain is on, and type and area of the stain should be considered when thinking about buying stained items for purchase. Silk and wool may be harder to remove stains from without damaging the garment themselves. Cotton and linen, while easily stained, are also easier to clean. The hardest stains to remove generally come from rust, chocolate, red wine, or permanent marker. Stains aren't always a deal breaker! Some stains on printed garments may get lost on the pattern and for those fab things you find that are on a pale colored fabric, dying the garment a darker color could save fabric waste from the landfill and give you a whole new customized garment. Hemming, or alterations can also be a great option for combating stains. A little make-up on the collar of that shirt, cut the collar off. Dirty hem on that 70's maxi skirt? Just bring it up a few inches to turn it into a midi! Don't tell the vintage purists that, but better to up-cycle than to throw a garment away if it isn't repairable!
See our post on the How to Wash Vintage Clothes for more info on how to keep your vintage looking as great as you do.
IS THERE AN ODOR?
Often when we think of vintage, we think of grandma's dresser and the smell of her perfume. Let me tell you that not all vintage smells so good, especially when it's first found out in the wild. Smell is not always a deal breaker as most can be cleaned away, but for those like mildew, mold, and even worse, use caution. It takes time to combat scent. Airing out dirty laundry isn't just "spilling someone's gossip"! Use an outside well ventilated area for best results. For garments that can get wet, soaking them prior to washing them will certainly help, as can spritzing your garment with a fine mist of cheap vodka (save the good stuff to drink) and leaving it in the sun. Make sure to test any cleansers on an inside corner of your fabric first to be sure it's safe! This isn't always an easy or short process as sometimes this process can take days to weeks to remove a smell. If you are wanting something to wear tomorrow, you should count anything odorous out! Note that when you shop at higher end vintage boutiques, such as Bloomers and Frocks, we do most of this work for you, so you can walk out with an item ready to wear!
It may seem daunting to think about all these things as you shop for vintage clothes, but it becomes a simple routine when you get into the habit of it. Just think, that one minute it takes you to examine a garment is perhaps saving a fabulous treasure from decomposing for years in a landfill. According to Green America, the USA throws away more than 16 million tons of fabric waste every year, so with every vintage piece you buy you are helping save our planet. Best of luck on your next shopping trip! Happy Hunting!