The smart shopper can find amazing clothes at dirt-cheap prices at thrift stores, rummage sales, or even online. The crazy-low prices can make you go, well, crazy. You can end up spending a huge amount of money on clothes that will gather dust in your closet or simply look cheap on you.
Shopping for vintage clothing requires some amount of discernment and savvy. How do you know if this is a really good deal, or junk masquerading as a bargain? Here are some tips.
Know what you really need
Take stock of your wardrobe right now. What are the gaps? ‘I have a lot of jeans, slacks and office clothes, but I don’t have enough dressy stuff for socializing.’ Or, ‘I have a lot of blacks and neutrals but not enough fun patterns and colors.’ You can also check out this list of wardrobe essentials: what items do you need?
Another important step is to figure out your overall style. Are you into Boho chic, rocker glam, classic Americana? Look at fashion magazines and see what styles you naturally gravitate to. Tear out the looks you love and make a mood board. Eventually you’ll see what kind of wardrobe really works for you, and then work your way to creating it.
Scout the stocks with a mission
Once you know what you need, it’s easy to see the difference between ‘Oh my God, I have to have it!’ and ‘It’s cute, but I’ll never wear it.’ And, if you build a good relationship with the store staff, you’ll be able to tell them what you like and give them your number so they can call you if a particular piece arrives: ‘I’m looking for a really fabulous motorcycle jacket.’ This kind of single-minded determination also helps when looking through eBay, too!
Know the prices
It’s good to know the actual retail value of buying something new. If there’s just a small difference between buying this jacket at a rummage sale, or getting one in the store, you might as well buy new—because then you have total control over the size and the color.
Be aware of quality
Part of the keen shopper’s eye is being able to spot good quality on sight. Go to expensive stores and designer outlets so you have a feel of the fabric or the craftsmanship and texture of an authentic leather bag.
Inspect all items
Most stores have a no-return policy, so examine garments before even trying them on—ideally near a window, since natural light reveals flaws that dimmer light won’t. And while some flaws can be fixed (you can adjust length, or sew on a missing button) beware of stains, rips, and threadbare material.
Photo from blissfullydomestic.com