Top Tips for Vintage Shopping

March 19, 2015 Updated: March 18, 2015

It seems there are those girls who know how to shop for vintage, and those who don’t—some end up with a musty sweater that looks like they found it in granny’s attic, while others cause jaws to drop as far to the ground as the hem of the one-of-a-kind sequinned Halston maxi dress they ‘just happened to find’ at ‘this tiny place in the Village.’

Here are our top tips for vintage shopping to ensure you find the most covetable of vintage treasures.

Models Tamara beckwith (left) and Christina Estrad
In this October 8,1996 file photo models showcase two rare Dior dresses to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Christian Dior’s revolutionary New Look. The dresses ‘Soiree’ and ‘Diorama’ which are among his most famous 1947 creations. ( Johnny Eggitt/AFP/Getty Images)

Vintage Shopping Do’s and Don’ts

DO try to drive a bargain. Vintage prices aren’t like other retail prices; generally the shop owner sets them. So if you’re a regular customer or are buying several pieces, or if you find flaws in a piece the shopkeeper wasn’t aware of before, it’s likely you can strike a deal that’s good for both you and the seller.

DON’T forget to look for misspellings if you’re hunting online. There may be loads of competitors bidding for that Balenciaga classic, but not so many going after the Balenciagga one.

DO be careful. There are plenty of fakes out there, and while most of them can be quite obvious due to their questionable quality, stitching, or spelling (Pravda bag, anyone?) just be aware you may not be buying the real deal unless you shop somewhere super reputable.

DON’T get hung up on searching for labels. Look for quality instead.

DON’T expect to bag a bargain. Some rare pieces will be sold as collector’s items, with collector’s prices to match, and sadly, some, like Catherine B’s original Birkin bag, may not be for sale at all.

DO look for classics: Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche pieces will never be out of style, nor will a Chanel 2.55 bag or Louis Vuitton luggage.

DON’T buy anything that was too trendy when it was first on the rack. The 1980s power shoulders will certainly make a quick comeback at some point, but they’re hardly a wardrobe staple.

DO Venture beyond the big name labels. Biba’s platform shoes are a British classic, and Ossie Clarke may not be designing today, but his groovy maxi dresses from the ’70s always look Rolling Stone-girlfriend cool, for example.

DON’T get hung up on searching for labels. Some are cut out when they are donated to vintage shops; others may not have a label you recognize, or even a label at all. Look for quality instead.

DO start your search with a goal: are you after something with a 1950s New Look cut, or a delicate Edwardian piece? As vintage shops tend to be a mishmash of styles and epochs, knowing what you have in mind will help stave off shopping fatigue.

DON’T be afraid to ask for something specific: the shop owner is likely to know exactly where to find what you’re looking for, and may even have something hidden in a back room that you’d never have seen otherwise.

DO have your wardrobe in mind. What could you mix and match with your vintage treasure? Classics like bags go with just about anything, for example—just educate yourself on how to spot a fake.

DON’T forget about care: Is this a delicate piece that requires special cleaning or maintenance? You may want to check before buying.

DO feel free to shop online: no longer do you need to trawl through rack after rack of clothing–many shops such as Ebay, and Liberty of London offer wonderful vintage online. In fact, you can buy any of the looks shown in this article here.

Happy Hunting!

This article was originally published by Eluxe Magazine