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Tips to Buying Vintage Clothes Online

Updated on April 5, 2011

Any vintage connoisseur already knows nothing beats that rush that comes the moment you lock eyes and lay hands on that pristine vintage find in your local thrift store. Can it be real? Surely there's a huge flaw somewhere! After inspecting the label and checking for imperfections you can't help but think you are a brilliant vintage goddess for devoting hours of fruitless rack searches to find this holiest of vintage grails.

Realistically, depending where you live, this may be a rather rare experience. I have lived in small towns that never receive a stitch of quality vintage and also in cities where quality vintage is plentiful, but so is the buying competition, so much so that girls fight as though it's the Filene's Basement's 'running of the brides' sale leaving many banned from shopping at any of the local stores, plus the prices on what you still manage to find are already sky high taking all the fun and thrill out of the hunt and gather of it. Bottom line, the thrift store possibilities for decent vintage clothing finds are either picked through, nonexistent or entering the realm of competition sport.

The solution? Buying vintage clothes online.

Certainly there are pros and cons to taking this approach, but some of it depends on the purpose of your vintage shopping excursion. Determined to find the ultimate peacock print, boho maxi dress to rock the club while jet-setting to St. Tropez or scouring isles in search of quantity vintage to resell? Either way buying vintage clothes online can be favorable, but locating fab finds at a price that allows room for profit from reselling gets a bit trickier. Whatever the desired outcome these tips should help you gain some knowledge to buying vintage clothes online.

First, know your key words. If you are new to browsing vintage clothing this may take a little research, but you'll learn quickly; eBay can be a useful tool. If you don't know the exact vintage terms (such a vintage eyelet babydoll or boho indian print batik sundress) then just use the basic generic terms: “vintage dress”. While this will result in more choices then you can possibly ponder, you will being to notice a pattern in the titles of the style you are looking for. Eventually you will be able to narrow it down to 50's cocktail dress with shelf bust or 70's lace crochet mini dress with scarf hem. If there is a particular color or label you would like to go with that will obviously help your search while searching through vintage clothes online.

Next thing to consider for new or regular vintage shoppers: is this real vintage? The best indicator is the label; even though I like to think I have a well trained eye for the real thing, I have been shocked while in store to grab for something I think is a gem only to find it is a retro knock off from (yikes) some trendy mall retailer. Beginners and old schoolers alike need to get familiar with VFG.

The Vintage Fashion Guild ( is a useful resource for many different labels; this informative site includes a history of the brand as well as images of the labels through the decades to help determine if that delicious Lilly Pulitzer find is from early or late 1960's, or simply a retro look that actually came out last year. Look under the VFG Resources Tab for the A-Z Label Resource; it really doesn't get any easier than this.

Last major tip for successful shopping for vintage clothes online is to take advantage of the many trustworthy sellers available. While using online stores or even sellers through eBay or Etsy the price tag may be higher than you would like if your intention is to resell, but really the tactic is the same as a buyer looking for one item for a special occasion, it just may take more hours of searching to find that remarkable, under-priced, authentic vintage gem. The hunt is worth the reward. There are many established vintage stores online, ( happens to be my favorite) and finding an online store that has been around a few years usually equals a safe bet.

Using channels like eBay or Etsy allows you to only shop with sellers who have high rating approval from previous buyers. Just make sure to read the fine print. Many sellers offer retro looks and openly admit that, but buyers distracted by shiny objects may not bother to read the full description that mentions the item for sale is a hand-sewn version inspired by vintage or a Pucci (looking) print which is a lot different than a Pucci print.

Once you are familiar with maneuvering around the internet searching for specific items you will find this approach almost as rewarding as the hours spent sifting through endless racks of disappointment at the secondhand shops; it still takes knowledge, determination and a keen eye to find those to-die-for, It Girl looks that will surely make you the envy of whatever event or location you wear it to. With experience buying vintage clothes online will come to be even more addictive than scouring the musty, dimly lit thrift stores.

Since writing this Hub, and earning a Hub Nugget award for it, I was inspired to reopen my Etsy shop... feel free to take a look 


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    • Joy At Home profile image

      Joilene Rasmussen 

      7 years ago from United States

      This was an interesting hub for me, which is saying something because I'm not much into fashion. In a backwards way, it has helped me know how to deal with the "finds" I bought with the old house I moved into last year. The old woman who lived in this house (who died in her 90's) never threw *anything* away, and furthermore, appears to have been a clothes horse. She did much of her shopping by mail, or in odd little stores around the country (she travelled a lot). So some of the clothes I came across in the house were extremely nice, the newest of the lot being, apparently, from the 70's. Even after getting rid of what was unfit for wearing, I wound up with boxloads of clothes, some of which still have the tags, and date from the 20's and 30's.

      I live in a rural area, with no easy physical-shopping outlets for vintage clothing. So I've spent the last year trying to familiarize myself with the vintage clothing market online, as well as other selling avenues, and this has helped.

    • Rosie2010 profile image

      Rosie Rose 

      7 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Hiya bari.ann, Congratulations on having this hub on fashion as a Hubnugget Nominee. I love vintage dresses! I enjoyed reading this beautiful hub. A well-deserved nomination. All the best to you.

      Happy Holidays,


    • megmccormick profile image


      7 years ago from Utah

      Really great resources thanks so much. I love vintage clothes. Congrats on your HubNugget nomination

    • bari.ann profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      why thanks you... i feel inspired to get back to writing another fashion related hub now !!!

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 

      7 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      I may say, you're a "breath of fresh air" in fashion here on HubPages. Congrats on your HubNugget nomination!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I enjoyed your article with the great tips. Congratulations for your nomination as a Hubnugget.

    • bari.ann profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      thanks jo!!! its easy to write about what you love & i hope it helps others venturing into vintage clothing.

    • Jo Deslaurier profile image

      Jo Deslaurier 

      7 years ago

      Good article and great picture.


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