Of the Vintage Variety

Fashions from the Past – Shopping Vintage

Those who love vintage fashion and style should be down on their hands and knees thanking the good Lord for the invention of the internet. Sure, it’s taken some of the fun out of thrill of the chase, but it’s opened up some amazing doors for buying vintage clothing.

Not only is it creating a whole new set of vintage clothing fans, the availability of more vintage pieces has brought some prices down for the more common threads, but the hot labels of the past can still command some hefty prices.

While shopping online can be oh-so convenient, and save on gas to boot, take some extra steps to make sure you get the most from your online shopping excursions.

Shop sensibly

Use common sense, requests from sellers to send money orders or cash oversees should clue you in that something’s amiss. Use payment methods that give you a level of protection. Credit cards and online payment services like Paypal usually offer consumer protection for buyers when they receive items that are not as described or purchases that aren’t received at all.

Shop knowledgeably

If you don’t have a background in purchasing vintage fashions, then it’s smart to buy from more established and experienced sellers. Reputable sellers are happy to post details of their background and experience on their websites.

If you’re a vintage fashion newbie, take some time to learn a bit about fashions from the past. A good resource for this is the Fashion Era, and even more experienced vintage fashionistas could learn a thing or two from the Vintage Fashion Guild.

Ask questions

There’s a great trick to buying vintage fashions online, ask the seller a question before you make a purchase. Their response is a good measure of their level of customer service. How quickly they respond and the tone of their response can tell you quite a bit about how the rest of your purchase will go.

If something isn’t mentioned in an item’s description, make sure you ask before you buy. Leaving out condition details is a trick that unscrupulous sellers are well known to use. It can be used as a defense for not mentioning damage or wear to a piece of clothing. On the other hand, it could also be that they just accidentally left it out, ask questions before you buy, not after.

Check measurements

Sizes have changed through the years, and international sizes in particular can be confusing. Online sellers of vintage clothing often use measurements of the garment to avoid sizing issues. So now’s a good time to take your own measurements to help you make the perfect online purchase. I know, taking measurements ranks right up there with getting weighed after the holidays. For good measure, also take the measurements of some of your well-fitting pieces of clothing for comparison.

Note that different vintage fashion dealers may measure clothing differently, they often detail how they measure garments somewhere on their site – for example, measurements are taken with items laid flat. If it’s not mentioned, then ask. Sellers want to avoid returns as much as you do.

Check return policies

And speaking of returns, check a seller’s return policies. Often vintage fashion dealers are operating on an extremely slim profit margin, and taking returns can be a real burden on their business. Check their policy before you buy and make sure it’s one you can live with.

Remember that colors may vary online because of monitor settings. Ask for more information if you’re concerned with the exact coloring of an item. The seller will often provide additional comparisons for you.

Check condition and view all photos

Condition plays a major role in the value of vintage fashion. Condition descriptions can be subjective though, like ‘good condition’. While a spot and a run in a shirt might mean good to them, it doesn’t mean the same to you if you plan on wearing it on a date. Ask for more details if need be.

Photographs are an extension of the products description. Make sure you take the time to look at them. Often pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them so you can see more detail. If you notice anything in particular, ask the seller – sometimes the camera causes a white spot or blemish within a photo that may have nothing to do with the garment, so ask questions.

Check shipping costs

With a low markup on vintage fashions, sellers try to beat the competition by offering a lower price on a garment but inflating the shipping cost. If a shipping cost isn’t listed, then ask. Ask about shipping insurance as well – is it included, is it extra? Many sellers will self-insure for items under $50. This means you pay for insurance and if the item is legitimately damaged or lost during shipment, the seller returns your money rather than filing a claim through the post office or carrier.

So where do you go to find the best vintage fashions online? Here are a few of our favorite sites.

Ruby Lane

Ruby Lane is an online antiques and collectible ‘mall’ that offers a vintage fashion section. Their site is made up of hundreds of different individual sellers that have their own ‘shops’ on the site. Ruby Lane sellers are all required to offer returns, but return terms can vary by seller, and it’s become a big part of their popularity to offer this feature, but most sellers ask the buyer to pay return postage and will only refund the cost of the garment.

Since Ruby Lane offers sellers lower fees than many online auction sites, sellers are usually able to offer their products with a lower markup.


Ebay is the granddaddy of the online sales sites. It started by offering items from a multitude of sellers via auctions. Lately it has turned its back on the auction biz, and items are offered in a fixed price format. This has opened up the site to more big businesses and less to smaller, individual sellers. Their rising fees have caused many vintage fashion dealers to leave the site. But quality sellers still remain on Ebay, and there are some great finds in the vintage clothing department there.

Individual dealers

Many vintage fashion retailers are leaving the fold of consolidated selling to make a name for themselves with their own websites. The sites include:

Vintage fashion makes a distinct style statement, and there are plenty of offerings in today’s market. Find your style today by taking a look at yesterday.

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