If you live in a smaller city such as myself, you may have noticed that your vintage shopping options are pretty limited. So where else do you turn to find amazing vintage besides the three stores you have to drive an hour to, THE INTERNET! The online sphere has become a shoppers paradise but it can get a little complicated when you want to hunt for real vintage so today I thought I’d share some tips and tricks for shopping for vintage online. If you’d like to see my shopping tips for actual stores, go here.
Know your measurements
First and foremost, measure yourself as best you can and write down your measurements. As long as you know your bust, waist, hip and height, you should be able to navigate most online vintage stores with ease. As every site will grade items by size differently (I have been small in some online stores and a large in others) so it always pays to check the sizing chart. Have your measurements stored in your phone and on your computer so they are easily accessed (it’s also handy having your measurements in inches and centimetres so you don’t waste time converting).
Have an idea of what you want to look for
You don’t really want to just type “vintage” into the search bar and click ‘GO’ because you will be flooded with results and not all of them helpful (there’s a lot of junk out there and many companies use the word ‘vintage’ to help boost the appearance of their products on your search). Once you found your shopping platform, eg. Etsy or eBay, by searching key terms you can scope in on what you really are looking for.
Be as specific as you can
In continuation from the above point, be as specific as you can whilst searching. Don’t just type in “vintage dress”, perhaps search “true vintage 1950’s day summer cotton dress floral” to get a better search result. Sometimes I search for specific colours, dress styles or fabrics to help narrow the results. If you’re not used to scouring the online world for vintage, it could get really overwhelming. Whilst browsing, you want to give yourself plenty of time as before you know it, half the day could be gone.
Get comfortable, you’ll be here a while
Yep, there’s a lot out there so make sure you’re ready for the adventure. If you’re wanting to ‘just browse’ still try to narrow your search ie “vintage 50 jumpers”, or “1940s style long pants” or else you could die of old age before you find your goal. If you have nothing planned then go on down that rabbit hole and enjoy yourself! Make sure you screenshot anything you like because it’s easy to forget where things were or how to find items again.
If it’s too good to be true, leave it.
What’s that? A 1950’s vintage ball gown in the absolutely perfect condition and colour for $20? Sure… sounds legit.
Yes, you absolutely can find a bargain online, even when it comes to vintage but ask yourself if it’s too good to be true. If you’re not sure, look at the site you’re on; small, independent online stores are generally safe, sites such as Etsy host small retailers and are very strict on the items they sell and do not allow items to be mislabeled. If you are on a site such as eBay, Amazon, Aliexpress or Wish, you’re probably not going to get what you pay for. These sites allow multiple listings that aren’t legitimate or use true photos and send out cheap knockoffs. They aren’t really worth it and generally come to a far cry from what you expected; trust me, I know first hand. It may also be worth reading reviews if you’re not sure of the seller but be aware that reviews can e purchased. You can also reverse search the image to see if it is being used elsewhere and if it is, don’t get it.
Know your budget
Does anyone else go online shopping, fill up their cart with everything they would love to have, look at the total, laugh, cry and then shut off the tab? Surely I’m not the only one. Vintage isn’t cheap and if it’s too cheap, you may not be getting what you hope for. Have a strict and set budget limit if you’re looking for something. This will stop you overspending or getting duped into spending too much. Some online stores are so hellishly expensive it should be a crime whilst others are absolutely fairly priced. Sniff out the good ones and don’t get tempted. In saying this, it’s totally ok to splash out every now and again if you can afford it, not judging.
Read the description really well
Once you found the perfect item, please please please read the description. If the store is good and honest, they will tell you if there are any faults with the garment, any stains or if it’s been modified previously. Most stores will give you an indication of the quality or if it needs any repairs. It’s always worth reading the description so when it arrives on your doorstep, you’re not surprised it has slight damages or is dirty. In the description, it should also state the measurements so read the whole thing. If a seller has no description, please read my next point.
It’s ok to ask questions and for more pictures
Sometimes a seller will only post one or two images of the item and the description will be something vague like “vintage dress, wearable condition”. But what does that actually mean? It’s totally ok to politely ask for more details, photos and information about the item. You may be sensitive if it’s come from a pet-free home, if it’s known to be worn or if it needs a bit of TLC. Most sellers should be happy to provide you with more images; you have a right to know what you’re buying.
Understand the risk
Many online stores really understand lighting and product placement so when your item arrives, it may not be as bright as it looked in the image. It’s really unfortunate when that happens as of course computer monitors are all set to different brightness levels so there is always some sort of risk when it comes to online shopping.
Also, sometimes you may receive an absolute dud or, the worse outcome, it just doesn’t fit. This has happened to me; I bought a gorgeous dress and because it had a side zip that didn’t go all the way to the top, my shoulders got completely stuck in it and I felt like I was going to be trapped inside for days. It happens, it’s unfortunate but you can always contact the store and see if you can get a refund.
Return to online stores you love frequently
It’s always a good idea to take note of online stores that you really enjoyed visiting. It could be because of the quality of items, the price or type of items they have that made you really enjoy visiting so make sure you return. It’s a good idea to have a list of links on your phone you can check into whenever you remember.
follow certain hashtags or sellers
The good thing about Etsy and Instagram is you can set notifications on your phone for when things are posted. This is a great feature to have if you are hunting something. I know some Etsy sellers will post teasers to their Instagram and will let people know when items will land in the store. If you have all your notifications going, you can be in the running to nab your dream item!
Patience little one, patience
If you’re hunting a unicorn, it can take a very long time before you find one and when you do finally glimpse one, it may be taken away from you either by other vintage hunters, or it could be the wrong size. Don’t lose hope and don’t rush looking around. I’ve waited several years before I finally found my unicorn in my size and oh what a glorious day that was (read about it here).
Where to shop for Vintage Online
-One of the main places to shop online is Etsy. Hosting hundreds of vintage stores, you have a great chance of finding a wonderful item. You also get to go through individual stores and once you start ‘hearting’ and following stores, the algorithm starts knowing what you like and can recommend some great items. You can also easily keep track of your favourite stores and be notified when they post.
Many stores will have an Instagram page, so by following good online vintage stores via their social media, you can be kept up to date with their stock and also cast your net into a high-quality pond.
Individual online stores; there are loads of good quality true vintage stores out there so go for a wander. To be honest, I have found most of my favourites through Instagram!
Avoid marketplace sites such as Wish, Amazon and Aliexpress. You’re not going to find real vintage, you’ll be flooded with junk and you’ll only get reproductions. Best to avoid.
Ebay is an interesting one; you can totally find some great legitimate vintage but you have to be willing to put up with all the trash as well. You may be tempted by some of the cheaper items but make sure you know exactly what you’re buying. Proceed with caution.
Note: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions and thoughts expressed are solely my own and not influenced in any way.