Click-clack, click-clack, click-clack. Although the “clack” is muffled by fabric or the use of plastic hangers, the sound sequence itself is reliable when parsing through racks of clothing. Personally, I have developed a method akin to walking my fingers over the shoulders of each piece, gently pushing the piece into the last with each step. Visualize flipping through folders in a filing cabinet. The most interesting aspect of combing through hundreds of pieces at a time is imagining the story of how the item got there. Every vintage store is a little different, the level of curation and scale of inventory, general theme of the store, and alignment with the shops’ audience and product emphasis. Imagining credible backstories and the history of the item, “Who owned this shirt before,” “Were these pants donated,” “Did they attend the event themselves,” and to be macabre “Did their estate donate this?”
So far I have only discussed in person vintage shopping, but what do you do if there are no good shops near you? Well, to be honest, Goodwill has over 3,300 stores, and independent shops and other donation centers operate everywhere. Physical vintage retail is abundant, the only question is finding the best shops, garage sales, estate sales, and vendors, then rifling through their clothing in search of surprises. This is all well and good, but what about online, the expansive digital frontier. Ehhhh… underwhelming. There is an abundance of sellers on various ecommerce websites/apps, a few vintage reseller companies, consignment marketplaces, and some big-label attempts, but I remain unconvinced. And this comes from someone that just put their favorite Keizo Shimizu designed hat into the ring. Pretty Old will become the one-stop vintage online shop for your viewing and purchasing pleasure, but it requires time and crazy bundles of energy. Vintage clothing, footwear, and accessories as the topic of conversation and center of an active community. I looked and only found it scattered around dissociated corners of the web. A singular home for vintage footwear, clothing, and accessory shopping. The search for pieces that surprise you starts now.
Where to Shop for Vintage Clothing Now
Irreplaceable but time-consuming. Finding old clothes that fit well and rouse your tastes is difficult, worth it, but difficult. Thrifting is also environmentally sustainable, in the sense that you are not participating in the demand for new clothing, clothing that requires new resources to make. Thrift stores and consignment shops can be found all over, and are especially easy to find in large cities. Knowing what to look for in the store is a different equation, finding pieces you want to wear is one step, finding vintage clothes you want to wear is a step above the previous. Thrifting can be an exceptionally fun outing and helps pull clothing from the veritable apparel mountain.
From legendary shops to independent retailers, the curated vintage store is a fashion experience. Each shop in this category holds their own particular flare, vintage leather, vintage designer, vintage streetwear, etc. One word, “expensive.” Extremely cool and sometimes outrageous hard to find pieces are traded in the niche world of luxury/curated vintage shopping, but nothing comes at a discount. Finding quality pieces without losing your shirt requires a little finesse in these shops.
Scattered at best, some third party apps have provided a home for fashion trading with emphasis placed on vintage by popular demand, however in terms of independent websites that feel similar to going to a vintage shop - there are maybe five. The reason for the difficulty is the nature of the product, it is generally one of one and used, used goods are troublesome for the consumer to decide on without seeing them and touching them. Ecommerce is at a disadvantage for vintage shopping. Click-click, click-click, click-click - has never computed vintage clothing well. What needs to change? Product images, lifestyle and model shots of the clothing, product descriptions and measurements, honest commerce policies, and efficiency for starters.
- Are online used clothing sellers finding the pieces or clearing out their closets?
There may be a few sellers that clear out their closets, but doing so is finite. Once they run out of clothes they may transition to reselling and buying vintage to sell for a margin, but this depends on the person, and their aspirations will become obvious when viewing their selling-account/store.
- Can you return used goods that do not fit from online vintage shops?
This is dependent on the individual merchant, whether or not the store accepts returns should be clearly stated in a return policy page or on the product page. At Pretty Old, returns are accepted within 30 days of delivery (customer pays postage). Returns are cumbersome and costly, however for the customer, returns may be fundamental to purchasing.
- Is used clothing that I buy online washed?
No, almost never. As a simple piece of advice, no matter where you buy clothing from, new or old, washing the piece before wearing it is an extraordinarily good idea.
- Examples of the best online vintage stores and trading apps:
Grailed, Ebay, Etsy, Depop, Files London, Wasteland, Thrifted, Treasures of NYC, Beyond Retro, IAMTHATSHOP, and Poshmark. Let me know in the comments if I am missing any. Also, as a disclaimer I have not personally purchased vintage from most of these names.
Garage sales are best found by accident. Every time I pass a garage sale, I scan for a rack or bucket of clothes amongst the panoply of goods for sale. If I see a loud piece hanging in plain sight I will cut through traffic until it's mine.
Estate sales are best found on purpose and by appointment. estatesales.net is a great start for locating and scheduling appointments. Estate sales have their own set of rules and permissions, finding them online or calling first is key to getting in and shopping the selection.
Vintage may spawn from clothing that you hold onto your entire life or be accelerated via searching for and buying old pieces. Regardless, wearing vintage and shopping for vintage, is a welcome alternative to buying new clothes. Enjoy the change of pace and stylish accommodations.