Tips + Tricks for Buying Vintage

It's no secret that I absolutely love vintage stuff, and decorating my apartment with my favorite finds is the best. What I've realized over the last few years is that there are a lot of strategies you can use when finding one of a kind vintage items. So, I thought I'd share my tips and tricks for the best ways to shop and buy vintage decor.

Don't settle.

Don't be afraid to haggle with someone, especially at a flea market, yard sale, or smaller antique store. Often times the price on the tag isn't the lowest they accept, especially if it's later in the day at a flea market or yard sale.

Don't shy away from mainstream.

Antique and vintage stores are definitely incredible, and I've spent whole afternoons wandering through them before. However, by definition, antique stores know what they have and they know the value. Places like Goodwill and Salvation Army are your best friends because they don't care if something is actually a super cool piece from the 50s, they price everything pretty much the same. Sure, there's a ton of junk to sift through, but if you look hard enough, you can find some really great vintage finds for a few bucks.

You win some, you lose some.

Sometimes you go to a thrift store or flea market and you find absolutely... nothing. Other times, you find so much stuff that you can't even carry it all. Understand that it's all, well, a crapshoot. The key is consistency – you have to keep showing up every weekend or you'll never know what treasures you might be missing. It also helps to learn the schedule of when they get new shipments, in the case of places like Goodwill or other thrift stores. That way you can be sure you're getting the first pick.

Do your research.

If you see something you love, do a quick Google search on your phone to make sure you're not paying too much, especially if you think the price is a bit high. And also to make sure it's actually old, or as old as you think it is. I've been sucked in plenty of times by pieces that looked like they were from the 60s or 70s but were actually from the 90s or early 2000s, especially in clothing and accessories. They were still cool, so who cares, but it's a little embarrassing when you brag about this super cool mid-century find that turns out to be from a 2003 Forever 21 spring collection. Oops.

Go wireless.

In this day and age, there are a plethora of sites dedicated to selling vintage or second hand clothing, accessories, and other items, and not all of them are expensive if you know where to look. Sites like Nifty Thrifty, Vinted, Poshmark, and yes, even eBay can have great vintage finds if you're after clothing, shoes, bags, or jewelry. For furniture, check out Craigslist and local auction sites. Oftentimes they will have great finds for really cheap, because people either don't know or don't care what they actually have, or they just want it gone.

Take advantage of travel.

If you know you're going to be in a new place, even if it's only a few towns over, take a moment to do a quick Google search of thrift stores and antique shops in the neighborhood. It's a great chance to visit some places that you wouldn't normally be able to, and you never know what you might find!

Take your time.

Most of the antique stores I've been to have been absolutely massive, huge warehouses full of twisting rooms and paths that you could get lost in. If you really want to find some great pieces, you have to be patient and devote the time to really looking. That may mean you have to go by yourself – unless you have a lot of kindred spirits that love to go antiquing as well. I love to spend rainy Saturday afternoons by myself wandering up and down the aisles of my local antique shops. It's cathartic. But you do you.

What to look for in vintage clothes:

  • Sweat stains – those are nearly impossible to get out.
  • Try on everything and don't pay too much attention to the size on the label. Clothes sizes, especially women's, were a lot different back then, and things could have shrunk over time too. Case in point: I just bought a sweater from the 70s that was marked as large but fits like an extra small.
  • Check for holes, rips and loose seams and assess from there. If you're handy with a needle and thread, go for it. If not, it's best to leave it, because let's be real, you won't ever wear it.
  • Think about how you'll wash it. If it's delicate lace or beading, or just fragile, you're not going to be able to toss it in your washer with your old tees. If you aren't going to take the time or money to dry clean it, is it worth it?

What to look for in vintage furniture:

  • Check for sturdiness, especially in tables and chairs. If it's not structurally sound, you may be able to fix it up, but it's a risk.
  • Check for discoloration, stains, wear, and rips in upholstery. These can be costly and difficult to fix.
  • Make sure it doesn't smell like cigarette smoke – it can be nearly impossible to get that smell out of upholstery or fabric. There are ways, but more often than not, your house is just going to smell unpleasant wherever you put that piece.

What are your favorite vintage finds and tips for scoring great deals?