How to Purchase Vintage Clothing
There are many ways to approach buying vintage clothing, and even more things to consider. What vintage clothing should one buy? You can start by identifying what appeals to you the most. Select a type of vintage clothing to focus on, then be prepared to extend when you are ready. Make sure you are well informed of the period you are interested in. If you are going to invest in a collection, it is always helpful to know your area of interest. A focused strategy can help you decide on difficult acquisitions, while a clear vision will make the collecting process much more interesting.
A vintage clothing collection often starts with a specific type of clothing, a certain period of time, or a specific designer. From the 1840s country print dresses to Chanel hats, the possibilities are endless. If you are planning on wearing your vintage clothing, make sure you choose clothes which will not be damaged by average use. Don’t buy frail or irreplaceable items, which you shouldn’t wear. Many collectors limit themselves only to what can be safely cleaned. Even so, it’s a good idea to have a washable layer underneath your vintage items.
When you purchase a retro wear item, remember that size matters. Buy only what fits easily, since straining older textiles could permanently destroy the garment. If you make the purchase in a store, you have the luxury to try the item on. However, if you do your shopping online, you need to take a good look at the measurements listed and compare them with something of a similar cut which fits you very well. Vintage clothing measurements rarely, if ever, coincide with modern sizes, so make sure you pay close attention to this aspect.
If you only intend to collect vintage clothing, and not wear it, then size should make little difference. However, if you want to display pieces manufactured before 1900, you will need extra-small mannequins or dress forms. Additionally, if you are buying with the thought of reselling, it’s better not to have too many small sizes, since larger items are easier to put on display and have extra value if they can be worn.
Another aspect to consider is label. Good labels are definitely a plus, and even a requirement with many collectors. However, bear in mind that a lot of vintage clothing items will not have a label, since labels only started in the 1880s. If you can, do your best to find big name labels, since they are both desirable and worthwhile. Construction clues like boned bodices, flat lining, bound seam allowances, bias-bound edges, handset zippers, hand sewing, piped seams, bound buttonholes, covered buttons or silk linings are all signs of quality of the garment in any era.
Probably the most common color in vintage clothing is black, followed by white/cream in the second place. While these garments may look lovely, few persons are interested in a collection with black and cream items only. So try to diversify it by including colors which please you the most. For instance, prints such as leopard or polka dots can add a lot of impact to your vintage collection, while interesting, beautiful fabrics will always stand the test of time. Make sure you look for linen, silk, wool, and cotton in textures which appeal to you, are in good condition and work perfectly with the cut of the vintage clothing. Among collectors, rayon also has many fans, just like nylon.
Last but not least, condition is of utmost importance. Look only for vintage clothing which still has life in it, which looks good and does not need repairs. You should also aim for clean vintage clothing which smells good and is not worn too heavily. Mint condition is very rare no matter which period of clothing you are interested in. However, if you encounter such an item, be prepared to meet the cost of its rarity.
When you are collecting vintage clothing, you will find fabulous items, big disappointments, and everything which lies in between from every period you can think of. How you decide if your retro wear item is worth buying? Well, as they say, it’s all in the details!
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