10 things to consider when buying vintage fashion

We all love to buy vintage don’t we? You wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t! But, have you like me, bought something fabulous only to get home to find it has a crack in it or a stain on it that you are not sure how to remove? Well let this be a thing of the past with my top 10 things to consider when buying vintage fashion.

1940s fashion as seen on Kate Beavis vintage blog

1. Is it from the era it claims to be from?

First off, and this is a hard one if you are new to vintage, but is the item what it says it is? If it is described as a 1940s dress (and priced this way) it should not be a 1980s copy! But it often is so beware! As there was a 1940s trend in the 1970s, a 1920s and 1950s trend in the 1980s and even a 1970s trend in the 1990s this can make dating vintage tricky. Top tips for fashion are this:

  • Care labels became mandatory in the 1970s but may have been used prior to this. The care symbols that you all recognise were introduced in 1963 by Ginetex.
  • Check the fabric although this can be tricky. Rayon was used up until the 1950s and nylon became popular in the 1960s with polyester in the 1970s. Lycra wasn’t used in clothing (except lingerie) until the 1980s. It became law to state the material content on a care label in 1986.
  • Over locking stitching was used from the late 1960s. Most early pieces will be hand stitched although of course many clothes were bought from a store. However if it is machine over locked then it will be a later vintage piece.
  • Nylon zips were introduced in 1940 but rarely used until the late 1960s (although these can be added to older garments when being repaired). If it has  metal zip I would date this as pre 1960s.
  • Pre 1970s tends to say Made in England, 1970s says Made in Great Britain, post 1970s says Made in the UK or more likely Make in China (this isn’t always right but a good guide)

Vintage 1950s swimwear swimming costumes as featured on Kate Beavis Vintage Blog (from the F&T museum)

2. Is it the right size?

This is important if you buy online, but often we don’t try on vintage garments at fairs either. Firstly, please do try before you buy as vintage clothing sizes are very different from modern day sizes. As a rule, if there is a size on the label, take off two sizes. So a vintage 14 is more like a modern 10. However what you really need to do is measure the clothing against the measurement of a similar modern dress that fits you. Don’t measure your body as you will need room to move once you are wearing the outfit.

3. Does it need cleaning?

Does the item have any odours or stains, especially on the armpits as vintage body odour is a pig to remove? If it does then this should be reflected in the price. Remember if the material is polyester or something similar it can be machine washed (check the care label if it has one) however older fabrics from the early 1960s and before, won’t be able to. Dry clean or gently hand wash but still the stains may not come out. If you are buying from a good shop this shouldn’t happen, but if it does ask their advice as they are the experts.

A good tip for getting body odour out of vintage garments is to spray it liberally both sides with vodka. Sounds funny, but it works! (Use unflavoured vodka in a spray bottle and go for the cheap brands!)

Vintage 1950s cotton day dress and Norris bag worn by Kate Beavis

4. Does it need to be repaired?

Check all over for holes or tears which will need to be repaired. If you are a dab hand with a needle then great, but if you are not, stop and think about how you will repair it. A fallen hem or a split seam is pretty straight forward but a hole on the bodice of a dress will me much harder.

5. Has it already been repaired?

This is one thing we don’t always look for but it is worth noting. Check the garment to see if it has already been repaired. If it has, has it been done proffessionally? Is it likely to happen again? Also check to see if it has been re-worked. If a 1950s dress has become much shorter and if you love it then this is fine, however it will have affected the value of the piece. Ha s it been taken in or out? This may work in your favour if the dress doesn’t fit you properly, but remember if you take it back out there may be sewing holes visible.

1950s vintage blouse by Kate Beavis

6. Is it priced correctly?

This is a biggie and something that links to everything else that I’ve mentioned before, If it is a true 1940s dress then expect to pay £80 upwards (depending on condition) but if it is an early 1970s reproduction I would expect to pay £40, and a 1980s version £30 or less (except if it is a designer piece of course). Some vintage sellers alas, price their garments according to how much they bought it for which is not how they should do it.

7. Does it have it be specially cleaned in the future?

This is a good thing to think about for future expenditure as if you love it and wear it a lot then you will need to continue to pay for specialist cleaning. Also consider that some dry cleaners don’t like cleaning vintage and often charge more!

1950s vintage fashion as featured on Kate Beavis blog

8. Will you wear it?

The all important question is will you actually wear it? I have so many pretty evening vintage frocks that I never wear as I don’t really go out that much! Try and be practical rather than get carried away and choose things you will wear. One great thing I look for are items I can wear to work, especially when I used to work in an office such as blouses and blazers.

9. Will you use it?

If we are talking accessories, ask yourself will you use it. I can’t tell you how many handbags I own versus how many I use!

10. Do you love it?

Finally, the most important question is, do you love it? Because if truth be told, if you love it then it really doesn’t matter if it has been repaired, is totally unpractical and needs dry cleaning! Vintage is about feeling fabulous and unique so if you love it then go for it as they are all one off pieces which you won’t be seeing the again. (Although do try to haggle if you can!)

Kate x

p.s. Still feeling a bit nervous about wearing vintage? Then check out my Vintage Myths blog post.

p.p..s. I have been nominated for an Amara Interior Blog award which is amazing…I am so chuffed! If you like my blog, be a love and pop over and give me a vote! You can find my voting page HERE. It is the last week to vote this week!






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1 Comment

  1. 1 October 2015 / 4:48 am

    this was very helpful!

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