Do you love vintage clothes?
I love vintage clothes.
I love them with a magpie-ish, kid in a candy store fervor that has lead me to buying things that have never and will never fit, that are falling apart, or that I’ll just straight out never wear but I wanted them anyway.
To curb my dragonish hoarding tendencies I’ve developed a five point checklist to ensure I’m buying the right vintage garment, not every vintage garment. It really does help separate the investments from the impulse buys.
So if you have overflowing wardrobes, empty bank accounts and still nothing to wear, this might help! Shop wisely and dress well…
Velvet’s ‘The Right Vintage’ Shopping Checklist
1. Does the garment have any damage?
Vintage garments are generally preloved and made from different fabrics than the hardy synthetics popular today. Holding that dress up to a window or light will show you any holes or patches of thinning fabric. Perspiration is acidic so check under the arms for any discoloration and damage caused by sweat.
2. Are the fastenings intact?
Check the zips, buttons, hooks and eyes, eyelets or pop studs. Are they damaged or missing? Is the fabric tearing or fraying around them? There may be enough spare fabric in a hem to replace a covered button, but don’t buy anything with very damaged fastenings unless you know it can be fixed, or you’re happy to have it replaced with a modern equivalent.
( Check those belt loops and belts for damage while you’re at it. )
3. Does it fit?
Ignore size labels and try it on. Female proportions and sizing have changed a lot through the decades and you’ll find a 1950’s size 14 is around a modern NZ size 8. If you’re buying online make sure you check your measurements carefully.
Circa Vintage Clothing has a handy guide to the alpha sizing system used in some New Zealand and Australian vintage clothing.
4. Can you wear it right away?
Unless you’re a highly motivated seamstress with plenty of free time, damaged items and those needing large alterations will sit in your wardrobe forever. (Trust me, I have a whole drawer of things needing alts or repairs but I never have time!). Some vintage fabrics will be too delicate to withstand alterations and most seamstresses aren’t familiar with the era appropriate sewing techniques.
5. Does it suit you?
This is imperative. Put the garment on and be honest. Does it reflect your personal style? Is it flattering? Does it coordinate with things you already own? If not, it might be best to put it back on the rack.
With a few alterations this checklist can be applied to vintage shoes, accessories and furniture as well as clothing. While leaving that eye catching but not-quite-right piece in the store can be gut wrenching, it’s better to leave it for someone who’ll use it or restore it and keep your valuable space for things that are perfect for you!