Vintage Shopping Tips

photo: miss.libertine

Whether you’re trying to have a more unique wardrobe, can’t get into modern fashion, or just want to look like Joan from Mad Men, Vintage shopping can be an exciting experience. So if you’re new to the world of vintage, here are a few tips to help get you started!


  • Clothing/Jewelry/Accessories from the 1940’s to the 1990’s is vintage, anything older is antique, anything newer is contemporary.

Notable Qualities:

  • Washing instructions on tags did not come about until the 1970’s, which is an easy way to discern whether or not a piece is from the ’60s or the ’70s as some styles were similar in both decades.
  • Clothing from the ’40s and ’50s will most often have a metal zipper, some modern clothing has metal zippers, but older ones are thicker and rougher. Keeping an eye out for the zipper makes it easy to recognize if a piece is true vintage or if it is a reproduction.
  • Many items from the ’40s and ’50s will have buttons instead of zippers. But most pieces almost always have either one. When it comes to buttons, there isn’t any real way to tell. So you have to guess for yourself, or check the tag…
  • Tags from this time period were simple, usually rectangular with only a brand name and sometimes a location (many items were locally made, not mass produced like today).
  • Let the different patterns and prints help you identify what decade the item is from. For example: Light florals, muted colors, polka dots, pin dots and checkered patterns were common in the ’40s and ’50s. Color blocking, bigger, brighter florals, paisley and geometric prints were common for the ’60s and ’70s. Neons, animal prints, geometric prints (again) were common in the 80’s. Darker florals, ditsy florals and plaid were common in the 90’s.
  • For the most part, just study up on the decade you’re most interested in. Sometimes if the tag is obviously not modern, simply looking over the style of the garment is the easiest way to identify when it was made.

Jewelry, Handbags, other Accessories:

Purses and accessories mainly follow the last thing I said, you just have to know the era. A bright leather cross-body bag is most likely ’80s, whereas a small handbag with a clasp is probably ’50s.

Jewelery can be tricky. Vintage style jewelry is popular right now, so many places are going to have vintage reproduction jewelry. It’s usually rather easy to tell though, the quality will be different and the price will be much lower. Your best bet if you are unsure about a piece is to ask the seller, whether it be online or in person. Most of the time they will know, and sometimes they’ll even know where it came from and if there’s an interesting story behind it.

One thing to look for is any kind of marking or name. Not all vintage jewelry will have one, but if it does, looking up the name will help you know for sure.

Don’t think just because it’s vintage it’s going to be high quality and real. One mistake I notice people make is claiming a glamorous piece made with fake stones must be modern and cheap. There was plenty of gorgeous costume jewelry in the ’50s and ’60s and plenty of gaudy plastic jewelry in the ’80s. It doesn’t mean it’s not worth anything today, these pieces are still hard to find and rather valuable.

Some very valuable and hard to find materials are: bakelite, resin, bone, lucite and celluloid.



That’s all I’ve got for now, I hope these tips are helpful!

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