Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Wardrobe Wednesday - Tips for Buying Vintage!

Hey y’all, as you know I am crazy for dresses. All dresses. But I have a particular soft spot for vintage dresses. Here is my latest post in my vintage dress series. 

These are my tips for buying vintage dresses!

Thrifting vs Shopping Online
One of the most common questions I get about my dresses, is “where did you find it?!”. Which is awesome, because it makes me happy seeing people get excited about dresses! I get my dresses from three sources, online – generally Etsy, thrift stores, and vintage dress stores.
Here are the pros and cons for each:

Etsy –
Pros: amazing selection, always changing, can buy in your pjs or on your lunch break, can find some great deals, supporting small business, everyone loves getting packages in the mail!
Cons: Need measurements, can’t try them on, have to wait for them to arrive, varied prices.

This lovely number is from Fight for Flight Vintage on Etsy.

Thrifting –
Pros: can look for patterns or colors you like, CHEAP prices, huge selection to choose from, huge range of sizes, dress shopping is fun, thrill of finding a steal!
Cons: selection can be overwhelming, can be hit and miss, need to be in right mood for fossicking through the shelves

I got this sweet turquoise dress in New Zealand at a Salvation Army.

Vintage Stores –
Pros: all the dresses are general gorgeous, as they have already been picked from thrift stores, buying dresses here makes me super happy, instant gratification
Cons: prices are generally a little higher (although some places in Houston are still really well priced), you may want everything (when I used to go to Miss Brown in Perth, Liz and I would literally be spoilt for choice and try a dozen dresses on), may have to explain reasoning for buying 6 dresses at once to your significant other.

This is one of my all time favorites. I bought this at a Vintage Store in Houston.

One thing that I personally love about vintage dresses is the sizing. First of all, it is refreshing to know that at some stage it was deemed “acceptable” by clothing designers for woman to have thighs and a booty. Secondly, I find that with many of the dresses, they are pretty flexible with sizing. I have worn all my dresses when I was smaller than I am now, and when I was a good 25 pounds larger than I am now. I feel like because of the elastic waists and free hips that a lot of them have, that you can be flexible with them. If you are buying online, make sure you have you measurements and know if the store is reporting them double over or just across the chest rather than all the way around.
Something to watch out for in sizing is kind of hidden. Is there a slip or lining built into the dress? Sometimes a dress that would normally fit is made smaller by an inbuilt slip with a tight fabric. If this is the case, can you cut out the lining and wear your own?

I originally bought this for our registry wedding. Now I wear it to work!

I have fallen into the trap of not checking dresses SO many times. Often I get so excited to find something that I grab it without checking to see if there are buttons missing or zips broken. Stains can be easier to see if they are really bad, but sometimes there are smaller ones that are hidden. In light dresses you can get discoloration around the collar or dark dresses may have it under the arms. Is the bottom hem sewn together firmly? Do you have a sewing machine in which this could be fixed? (I currently have four dresses waiting to be re-hemmed because they have fallen apart!)

This dress is in amazing condition, and every time I wear it, it makes me smile!

As I mentioned in the pros and cons above, prices ranges for vintage dresses vary depending on where you buy them.  I have literally bought eight dresses from a thrift store for under $50. Bargain. On the other hand I have bought great bargains from Etsy too. It all depends on how much you want to spend given the dress itself, versus how much you feel you will wear each piece. I have never bought any “collection” items, or rare pieces (that I know of) and the most I have paid for a vintage dress is $70. The least I have paid is $1. Most are within the $5-$60 range. That being said, the average price from a department store or chain like Banana Republic are at least over $50. The more expensive dresses I have bought are normally “vintage styled” dresses, which emulate the style or patterns of a vintage dress but are new. (Post on those coming later!)

This is a new vintage styled dress from Hell Bunny, Modcloth is great for new dresses like this.

How I shop for vintage dresses:
This is kind of my process or check list… Not that I have ever sat there wondering how I shopped before haha

What stands out to me?
I look for dresses based on visual appeal. My first thing I look for is color and pattern. What makes me say “oh! Check that out!”? If I am drawn to a color or a floral or a certain pattern I check it out. Then I look at the  style and cut. Is it short? Long? Tea length? Maxi? Button up? Tight? Is there a zip in the side? Buttons? Collar? Applique?

Yay embroidery! This is from Sunday Millie on Etsy!

Do the zips work? Are all the buttons there? Are there stains – particular around the collar and under the arms. Are there any noticeable stains or holes?

If it is online, what are the measurements, what is the “apparent” modern size? If I am in store, does it look like it might fit me? Could it need a belt to cinch in the waist? Is it an elastic waist? Is there a built in slip that might adjust the space available for your booty to fit inside the dress? Boobs. Will it fit across your boobs. I have said sayonara to so many beautiful dresses because they won’t do up across my boobs, on the bright side, I have said hello and bought many that do.

How much is it? In a thrift store, is it a reasonable price, does the store have a sale on? Is it so cheap you will grab it straight away? Are you not sure whether you want to experiment with a color for that price? Is it so cheap that if you don’t wear it you can give it away without losing face? If it is an Etsy store, is there a discount offered if you like the store on facebook? Is there a sale on? How much is shipping? Can you combine shipping?

A $3 polka dot dress. Thank you thrift stores!

If you are in a store, how does it look? Is it snug? Is it just way too big? Does it need a belt? Is it long enough to wear it without stockings or will you only feel comfortable with stockings? Can you wear it with flats, or will it be a heels only dress? Will it need a blazer? Can you wear a cardigan with it? Do you have things you can wear with it? Where will you wear it? Can you wear it to work and out to dinner? Or is it a brunch friendly and shopping dress? Is it just for the beach and holiday wear?

Oh how I love this dress. It is my new favorite! This is from Ms Tips on Etsy.

For more posts on vintage dress wearing, owning, buying and more, check out my Dresses Page here!



  1. I love this. I was always curious how you made it work. Now I know. ;)

    1. Thanks Loz, I decided to get some words down. Like you said - I should write more : )

    2. Yes. I definitely think you should. Good for the soul. ;)

  2. I absolutely LOVE that first floral frock from Etsy - gorgeous choice!

    1. Thanks Katy! I was so happy with it when it turned up!!
      Sarah xo


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