How To, Wardrobe

How to Buy Vintage Clothing Online

So many things which were better in the past have been abandoned for so-called “convenience.”

Metropolitan, dir. Whit Stillman

I wear a lot of vintage clothing for various reasons–because I value the connection I feel with the people who have passed down these pieces to me; because my style leans more vintage than contemporary; because the clothes are better-made, for the most part, than pieces you can buy off-the-rack today.

I’m sure part of my preference for vintage clothing is nostalgia for the past, including a past I wasn’t alive for. Many people feel that way. However, it is a point of fact that mass production and the lack of attention to detail has made the bulk of most new clothing far inferior to the same item from twenty or thirty years ago.

I’m lucky enough to have inherited most of my vintage clothing, but now and then I’ll search out a piece online. While buying online means that you aren’t restricted geographically to stores in your area, it’s much harder to find the right piece if you don’t know your exact size for that brand at that time, and of course you can’t try it on before purchasing. Here are a few things to keep in mind when hunting down vintage clothes.

Check the measurements, not the sizes

As is common today, sizing varies from brand to brand, and sizing even thirty years ago was significantly different than sizing today. Have your own measurements handy, as well as the measurements from clothes that fit you well so that you have an idea of what will fit you. Ask online sellers to provide measurements for clothing so that you know what to expect, and if an item will fit you.

Take careful note of any imperfections

It’s rare you’ll find pristine vintage items. Take careful note of imperfections. Some things–slight stains, fraying, a fallen hem–can easily be mended, and may lower the price. Others–like moth holes–can be mended by reweaving (which is very expensive), but can also bring a moth or carpet beetle infestation into your home, so tread carefully!

Clean immediately upon receiving

All items, of course, should be cleaned immediately upon receiving. Clothes are easy–wash yourself or bring to the dry cleaner–but shoes are a bit trickier. I like dropping (or mailing) my shoes to Leather Spa. Your local cobbler can help too. If you’d prefer to clean your new-old shoes at home, this Reader’s Digest article is actually very helpful.

Use a variety of search terms

After stealing my roommate’s vintage Lilly caftan one too many times, I needed to find my own. I loved the print–and I still don’t know the name!–so that made the search a bit tricky. By using a variety of search terms, like “caftan,” “kaftan,” and “cover-up,” I eventually found the exact item, and it’s still a well-loved and well-worn item every summer.

Save your searches

If you’re looking for something specific, a variety of sites will let you save search terms and email you when there’s a match. I highly recommend this–it will help you to sort through inventory quickly and easily, and will hopefully secure you your desired item before someone else scoops it up!

Where I Shop for Vintage Clothes Online



Vestiaire Collective





Dora Maar




Shrimpton Couture

What other tips would you recommend for buying vintage clothes online?

3 thoughts on “How to Buy Vintage Clothing Online

  1. Love this! My love of vintage fashion started in high school and I agree on the sizing – do not get discouraged if an item is too small even though it’s your “normal” size today. Also what websites do you use to shop for vintage fashion?

    1. Thank you so much! Yes, I completely agree re: sizing! There is so much out there. I use a variety–for higher-end items, TheRealReal and Vestaire Collective are usually great. I also find eBay helpful, and I’ve found great items–including the shoes pictured–on Etsy!

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