How to shop vintage

Posted by Hayley Barraclough on

What is Vintage?

The term vintage fashion is usually applied to clothing from the 1920s-1980s. Clothes from before this time are rarely in circulation, and most not in wearable condition, so are seen as antique.

Today vintage fashion is enjoying a surge of popularity. Despite the growth in fast fashion, vintage has experienced a resurgence from around 2008 onwards, as social media and the internet has allowed for a vintage economy to flourish. With ethical fashion at the front of everyone’s minds and the effect that fast fashion is having on the environment people are slowly becoming more aware of what they are spending their money on.

I love that with vintage fashion you have a true one off, you know that you will be the only person wearing that dress on a night out.

What’s the difference between vintage and retro?

Retro doesn’t necessarily have to be old. It can be brand new but made to look like the style of that time.

And this in no way is a bad thing, there are some great companies out there making retro items such as:

Rocket Originals:

The do an amazing range of both men’s and women’s retro clothing and accessories.

Their retro shoes are amazing. I have a pair of the Nina style and they are lovely and so comfy, I’ve currently got my eye on some of the saddle shoes too.

Vintage shoes can be difficult to buy, I find it a real struggle to get the right sizes and can never trust to buy online so these retro style shoes in modern shoe sizes are perfect.

Vivien Of Holloway:

Vivien of Holloway was established in 2000. where you can find a huge selection of stunning 1940s and 1950s dresses and separates with an authentic vintage charm. 

I’ve bought some amazing jewellery and flower hairclips from here before and am about to order some of the Katharine Trousers.

Tips on shopping for vintage.

My first main tip would just be Don’t Be Afraid!! I have so many people compliment me on a dress and then use the line “I’d look stupid in that” No you won’t! If you like it, try it

The beauty of vintage is that it isn’t aimed at one set of people, there are so many different styles I’m sure you can easily find something that suits you and your body shape.

If you’re nervous, maybe start off with some vintage accessories like bags or jewellery or mix and match old with new. Try a vintage midi skirt with a modern t shirt or shirt. You don’t have to jump in a be head to toe vintage straight away. 

Some other hints and tips include:

Know your size & measurements.

If your new to vintage I would personally start with buying something from a bricks and mortar store or a vintage fair. All fair traders are super helpful and are experts, they can help you, don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Going into a store or a fair give you a chance to try styles on and check sizes properly and feel the fabric. Fabrics and styles were a lot different back then and have changed so much.

Don’t worry about the sizing and don’t pay attention to the size labels on the garment. These probably won’t reflect the sizing of today. Vintage sizing is a product of its time, so you don’t have to feel guilty if you don’t fit something that was made for a body bred on post-war rationing.

If your only option is shopping online, then I would have your measurements to hand. Mainly your chest and waist measurement. Most sellers should list the measurements of the garment if they again don’t be afraid to ask for them.

Always hold garments up to the light

By holding it up to the light you can instantly see any holes, repairs or missing buttons. The light will also shine through any patches where the fabric has become too thin and delicate. With woollen garments, check the elbows to make sure there is not excessive wear.

Always check the armpits

You might not think this is important, but it is; Before the days of deodorant, sweat had a habit of damaging fabric due to the acidic qualities of perspiration. If the armpits have yellow stains the chances of these being removed is very slim. Although if you really love something but it has some unsightly stains consider dying the garment (you need to check the type of fabric etc before) I've done this on a number of dresses and given them a new lease of life. 

Look at the fastenings

Double-check that none of the buttons are missing and the zips are working properly. Key areas to check fastenings are around the neck line where small buttons may be hidden under a collar, and around the cuffs. Whilst you are there, make sure the belt is still attached. If there are belt loops and no belt, it’s OK to ask for a small discount because the garment is no longer complete, I usually lower the price if a belt is missing.

If a normal button is missing its usually quite easy to replace, but if a covered or decorative button is missing this may be trickier and you’ll end up having to replace all the buttons on the garment.

Don't buy anything that needs a lot of repairs

Don’t be tempted by garments that need altering above and beyond a simple strap shortening or a dropped hem. Unless you’re a super sewer and are confident in making alterations, chances are that you’ll probably never get around to it and it will be stuck in your cupboard unworn for years.

I’ve recently completed a dressmaking course and believe me sewing is so much harder than it looks!

The real deal

Make sure your actually buying vintage, some listings can be cheeky and add the word “style” on the end or hidden somewhere in the description.

Also look at for labels that have been cut out, I can never trust that something is truly vintage is the labels have been cut out.

Lastly, have fun, expect the unexpected, treat it as a day out (I do) and shop with an open mind, as you never know what may turn up.


Style Inspiration:

I love Instagram for some style inspiration. Here are some amazing people I currently follow and love!

Greyhound Vintage @greyhoundvintage


Sam Swift @death_by_deco


Natalie Lowe @reddoorfashion

Jenna Isabel @jennabellabat

Some great places to shop:


Me – Plaid and Lace Vintage –

Peony Vintage -

Madame Popoff -

Etsy –

eBay –

Oxfam -

Beyond Retro -

Asos Marketplace -

Kilo Sales

Pre-loved Kilo -


Vintage Fairs:

Lous Lous Vintage Fairs -

Judys Affordable Vintage Fairs -

Pop Up Vintage Fairs -

Frock Me Vintage Fairs -



Mooch Vintage (Sheffield) -

Freshmans (Sheffield) -

Cow Vintage (Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham) -

Pop Boutique (Manchester, Liverpool) -

Retro Rehab (Manchester)

House of Vintage (London) -

Mint Vintage (London) -

Traid (London) -


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