Where Can I Buy Vintage Fashion

There are a variety of online sites which offer the opportunity to hunt down that unique item that screams the real you.  There are auctions, thrift shops, markets and local clear outs where individuals just want rid of inherited property.

Buy vintage at live or online auction sites -eBay, Etsy or from individuals on Instagram. Charity stores, Markets, house clearance or commission a vintage fashion hunter to source a piece on your behalf.

The advantage of many online sites is that there are usually a variety of pictures and detailed descriptions of each item and therefore you have the surety of making an informed decision about a prospective purchase. 

The Best Online Sites

Some sites such as eBay have sellers who give a complete history of the item which is fascinating in itself and many are estate finds, as they are called in America, and these are usually low cost items because the sellers are often unaware of the true value of their vintage piece.

eBay has a large selection of sellers who are interested in a particular period of fashion history and if you follow them online you will be able to select what you want from that particular era.

Other sellers just love the romance and quality of items from the past, they might sell everything from vintage Mickey Mouse comics to coins and stamps. However, somewhere in between there will be a vintage dress or bag waiting to be snapped up.

The following are some vintage fashion ebay sellers:

  • lucyloveslove_vintage
  • sgh2274 (Victorian, Edwardian and 40s fashion)
  • vintageviking1 (beautiful vintage dresses here)
  • jemierose (a mixture of all eras)
  • onlinevintageshowroom
  • jamiexmas
  • applebyvintage

Etsy is another excellent site which I have found to be very user friendly and the vintage pieces here are usually better photographed than on eBay and a little easier to examine online. 

In the past I have found Etsy to be reasonably priced overall and sellers are happy to communicate and open to buyers approaching them for a better price. As with any other online vendor it is very important to read the reviews and feedback of a seller before you take the plunge.

Key Search Vocabulary

Key search words are important when hunting vintage fashion. Buzz words such as retro will bring up predominantly modern cheap imported copies of original styles.

However, using the key word vintage before the items or the period you are hunting will bring up a vast selection of fine quality finds. For example entering key words such as vintage dress, vintage 1940s dress, or entering for example ‘1940s’ in the search box and refining search to ‘clothing’, not forgetting to launch the search as ‘worldwide’ will open a vast array to browse from.

Online Site Bargains

I have found featured charity shops on eBay to be very fruitful. In fact if you keep a close eye on these sites you can source real bargains.

Communication is important when dealing with these sellers. If you see something that you like, get in touch with the shop. These featured charities are only interested in getting the cash in, there is no emotional investment in the item which is good news for the buyer.

Be decisive and strike early in the listing before other hunters pounce on your find and take you into a bidding war, ramping up the price.

In my experience some sellers that list items are badly informed about the true value of an item and often dream up a price which sounds good to them but is in fact excessive or conversely if you are lucky undervalued.

Then there are the listings of job lots which contain predominately vintage items; these can be quite fruitful when it comes to accessories but when it comes to clothes, it is less successful.

Social Media

Instagram is a great location to source those vintage sellers at home and abroad.

It may well be an advantage to you to make contact with these online entrepreneurs to help them get to know your style so they can keep an eye out for finds tailor made for you; It is like having your own free stylist!

This site is especially popular for sourcing high end designer bags which are always a fantastic investment. If you care for your designer bag properly it can end up earning you a return on your investment. It is well worth scouring online vintage clothing and accessories sites for high end brand names such as Gucci, Vuitton, Dior, Chanel, Hermes as these always hold their value.

Always ensure that you are confident that your purchase is the genuine article. There are many ways of checking that a designer bag is original:

  • serial/date code
  • brand monogram/logo and location on bag
  • logo embossed stamp on leather and printed quality lining
  • metalware quality and branding
  • grain and surface of leather which should feel dry, not oily or slippery
  • immaculate stitching of equal quantity, no back and forth stitches
  • detailed brand catalogues

If you do your research and check customer reviews and an online seller’s reputation, then there is every reason to shop with confidence.

Remember too that when you use PayPal you have extra insurance if the product is not what you were promised.

What to Buy

A Gucci handbag from the early 80s for 50cent, am immaculate Burberry trench coat complete with plaid wool zipped inner lining and silk neck scarf emblazoned with the brand logo, all 12 euro, new Chloe leather T-bar courts a mere 25euro, Temperley silk blouse with tags 1 euro; these are all examples of vintage fashion finds as well as some modern classics from thrift shops.

If you have a good eye, follow your instincts about the piece and do not be afraid to ask questions about the condition if you are buying online. Most sellers are very happy to give further details and you may even find that you build up a rapport which may well lead to an offer of a discount or further vintage finds that the seller wants to show you and has not managed to get round to listing.

On most of the well know popular online auctions the seller will have a quantified feedback, so you can check them out before payment to make you feel more secure about buying from them. 

Choose a secure method of payment such a PayPal which offers insurance on your purchase and postage reimbursement, especially when dealing with new sellers in far flung locations.

Modifying a vintage item

Many items are made from the most beautiful fabrics, too beautiful to throw away but perhaps the design is not quite right for you.  Over the decades fashion has thrown up some very ugly design fads, which many from that era would admit to feeling embarrassed about having ever worn.

Some die hard vintage heroes believe in the integrity of the item and will never alter it, as after all, it is a piece of history.  Others who run immediately to the dressmaker or alteration clinic can be forgiven for feeling it is impossible for them to visualize themselves in mid 70s lapels, flares or 80s jackets adorned with enormous shiny gold buttons and shoulders radiating the type of power usually witnessed on an American football pitch.

However, it is better to make adjustments to a piece and wear it rather than cast it to one side.  I have fallen in love with items that were just to small for me or far too big and have made alterations to them to make them fit. 

Obviously it is a lot easier when the item is a bigger size and the remaining material can be utilized as a trim for another matching accessory.  If the item is far too small then the only option is to make it bigger which is quite possible with vintage pieces as they have a larger seam allowance.

If the item is way too small and you love it too much to live without it then I suggest taking it apart and sourcing a material as close as possible to the original, using it as a template and remaking it in a larger size.  Any quality seamstress would be equal to the task. 

In fact many well known contemporary fashion designers commission vintage fashion hunters to source pieces that they will make a pattern from, rework and tweak ever so slightly and reenter it onto the fashion circuit again.

Green Goddess

One of the benefits of being willing to buy vintage and working with it to make it fit is that you are obviously contributing towards the life of our planet, leaving a fainter carbon footprint, creating an original style that may be admired but would prove almost impossible to replicate or imitate as it is your vision and hunting that has pulled this look together.

Admiring stares, envious glances and head to toe inquisitions, topped off by tactile fabric sampling as you twist and pivot on the imperative: ‘Where; When; How much; How old?’


That is certainly what you will hear by the time your admirers learn the truth behind your high end original; that is if you choose to share and reveal the truth. An air of mystery commands the type of respect matched only by the quality and integrity a vintage item can inspire.

Sharon Cunningham

I enrolled in The Grafton Academy of Fashion and Design and studied there for six years before being taken on by a German fashion house with whom I worked for nine years, eventually leaving to return to university to complete my MA.

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