PHOTOS: 7 tips for finding the best vintage clothes 

Story Image

A pair of leather Kinney shoes (with a fabric label sewn in) from the 1970s or early 1980s. They are a 1940s style and in very good condition. The author had a shoe repairman replace the heel caps and the elastic on the ankle straps. | Courtesy of Morgana Martin.


Once you buy vintage clothing, knowing how to protect and preserve your investment will give you years of wearing pleasure and safeguard the salability of your items if you want to re-sell. Each specific fabric has its own care requirements, but some basic guidelines are to:

* Store your clothing away from sunlight, excessive heat and humidity. Protect against moths and silverfish.

* Never use wire hangers or store clothes in plastic or vinyl bags.

* Understand that vintage fabrics usually do not behave like the fabrics in modern clothing. Always get advice if you are not sure how to launder, iron or treat a stain.

* Treat any stains ASAP unless you have questions. Understand that set-in stains may be permanent. Aggressive attempts to remove them may produce a hole or bigger stain.

* Cultivate a relationship with a reputable and knowledgeable dry cleaner.

* Keep clothing care guidelines handy. Always follow label directions if they are present.

Article Extras
Story Image

Years ago, vintage or antique clothes were worn by only a few quirky individualists. But more recently, fashion-forward trendsetters have fallen in love with retro-style dressing.

Nearly all fashion designers and clothing companies have incorporated some vintage-style into their lines and more celebrities and regular folks are wearing the real thing: that is, clothing at least 20 years old.

But finding true vintage clothes that are a good value has become more difficult as its popularity has increased. Many beginners are fascinated by the look but not sure how to find the best clothes at the best price. Some manufacturers have imitated the retro look in new clothing, and it can be tough for newbies to know which clothes are the genuinely vintage.

Getting the right information can be tough. That's why Morgana Martin, a vintage-clothing expert with more than 30 years of experience, decided to share her secrets and tips for scouting out stunning vintage finds in her new e-book, How To Find The Best In Vintage Fashion (, $8.97 for Kindle).

"I have always enjoyed hunting for phenomenal vintage clothes," said Martin, "but at first I would get frustrated with my inevitable mistakes and wanted good information and shopping resources. I bought many great books and searched the Internet, but the information I needed was impossible to find in any complete, up-to-date and concise form. This led me finally to develop a resource that could be used by all vintage-clothing lovers."

She says that some of the challenges that vintage hunters encounter are:

-- Some of the best deals are found at charities and private sales, but there, sizing and damage-control are real issues. There may be no good place to try on an item or see it in a mirror. And it may have gotten damaged either before or during the sale. Crowded sale racks and aisles may make it difficult to examine the item.

-- It's easy to mistake a newer item for a vintage one because so many companies are making vintage-style clothing. However, those who rely on retail stores that inspect the merchandise and offer changing rooms will limit their finds and pay more for the.

-- Locating the best outlets is key to success. According to Martin, "It can be difficult to find the best places to find true vintage. In spite of the tons of more well known stores out there, there are probably many more which are not well known."

Even some stores which are classified as vintage clothing stores sell items that are not true vintage or may not carry what a given buyer is looking for. It is very important to compile an up-to-date list of vendors who are experienced and to outline what they sell. Stores offer quick and convenient shopping but sometimes are not the very best place to look nor the least expensive. It all depends on the time you have, your objectives and your pocketbook.

To be a successful vintage shopper, you need to do your homework. Martin suggests that you:

-- Know what you like. Trust your instincts before even stepping foot in a store Then try on the item, preferably near a three-way mirror. Does your heart sing and say "YES!!"? Then it's for you.

-- Shop with a tape measure. Vintage clothing sizes are usually quite small compared to the same number sizes today and often you will find no size label. This will help you to choose things that will work for you.

-- Know something about fashions of different decades. Will the cut of 1930s gown flatter your figure or accentuate its flaws? Is your body a Marilyn Monroe or a flapper girl?

-- Learn to find the bargains that might be right under your nose. Take another look in the basement or attic. Is there a box of old clothes or accessories that you or you family have forgotten about?

-- Learn the best times and days to shop. If you get to know the shop owners, you can find out when a charity has just restocked the shelves or the owner of your favorite store has just made a large purchase.

-- If an item you like is damaged, arming yourself with repair information can help you make the right decision. Having a few conversations ahead of time with a cobbler, tailor or dry cleaner will help.

-- Understand the "etiquette" that will make you a courteous and successful shopper. Courteous behavior and careful treatment of the merchandise (some of which may be fragile) will go a long way toward making store owners and managers happy to help you or to give an extra discount.

"Shopping for vintage clothing is like finding buried treasure," Martin said. "It is so exciting to find something unique and wonderful and it happens all the time. You just have to know how to start."

MORGANA MARTIN is a retired psychologist who splits her time between Illinois, Ontario and Costa Rica. She began shopping for vintage clothing in the 1970s and has developed an extensive collection of clothes and expertise on finding vintage treasures from other eras. How To Find The Best In Vintage Fashion is available for Kindle through; ASIN: B007V7S4C6; $8.97).