How to shop for vintage (affordably).

I love to shop. Really I do. If I can shop I will shop, but not like other girls my age do. I hate the mall. And going to Urban Outfitters makes me feel un-hip :(
But vintage shopping is a whole other story. It's fabulous. However, sometimes it can be downright expensive. So here are some tips on finding vintage on a budget, it's a long post, but hopefully it will help you find a real gem! I've also added some places I shop for those of you who live in the area.

Antique malls
Antique malls have the potential to hold great and affordable vintage clothing that just involves a little digging and searching. Antique malls rather than shops have a better chance at having a good deal because of the great number of vendors all under one roof, they all have different methods of pricing and merchandise.Pretty much my thoughts on it are, antique shops either have ridiculously high prices, or absurdly low. Antique dealers generally don't deal in vintage clothing, but will pick up items once in a while at estate sales if they can. Since clothing is not their specialty then the value is either over estimated, or if luck is on your side, under priced. Sometimes these things are hidden in drawers or buried in baskets, I find the greatest treasures in the really crowded, undecorated booths.

I shop:

Camas Antiques
Old Town Antique Mall
Monticello Antiques
Stars and Splendid

Vintage Shops:
Vintage shops are of course where you are going to find the largest selection of vintage clothing. This does mean however, that you will come across clothing at its proper price. Vintage dealers and sellers know vintage and do their research, so finding a great deal will take some luck and effort. If there is a sale section you may have good luck there, sometimes something is on sale that simply needs seam reinforcement or a new set of buttons, so this is where being handy with a needle and thread comes in. There are deals to be had though, you just have to look though everything and be patient.
I don't mind a little damage when it comes to clothing, after all, it is very old, and probably wouldn't be sold in a vintage store is the damage was prominent. If an item has damage, such as a moth hole, or broken zipper, and it is not marked "as is" or "as found", then is is ok to point this out politely to the shop owner and ask if a discount can be given. Also sometimes suits or sets of things are sold separately and its perfectly fine to ask if a special price would be granted if you buy those things together.

I shop:

The Urban Eccentric
Hatties vintage

Thrift Shops:
Thrift shops are the toughest places to find vintage, but when you do find it, it can be affordable. "Can be" and not "will" because a lot of second hand shops have gained popularity and raised their prices(especially the big ones, like Goodwill and Salvation Army). They also are realizing the value of vintage, and can price vintage things much higher than contemporary clothing. Usually sticking to local shops can yield good results, and going in more often means a better chance of finding something. I started going to my local thrift shop about a year ago, and I go a couple times a week. The volunteers there now know me and I've let the manager know that I am looking for vintage. Before I talked to her, they were just giving all the vintage clothing away to Goodwill! Now they know to save it because it does have value. So make friends and let them know what you are looking for :)
Buffalo Exchange and The Red Light are great for cheap vintage finds, plus you can trade in clothing for new stuff! A nice vintage dress will cost you about $15-$20.

I shop:

Discovery shop
William Temple Thrift Store
Buffalo Exchange
The Red Light

Estate Sales and Yard Sales:
Now, these do take some work, patience, and a sense of adventure, but the results can be incredible. An estate sale is when a person passes away and their entire estate it open to the public for purchase. This will often include clothing, but be warned: The competition can be brutal. This is the place where dealers get their best items, and if you want the best stuff you'll have to probably get up early, stand in line for an hour or so, and take what you can before anyone else. I love it, but then again I am competitive :)
A yard sale or garage sale is simply when someone is cleaning out their house and sells it in their yard or garage. Sometimes this includes vintage clothing, but you will have the best chance of finding something in older neighborhoods where residents have lived a long time and may be cleaning out their attic.

Check your local paper, craigslist, ask around, or keep an eye out for signs.

Good luck!


AlicePleasance said...

I love this post! ...And I'd love to go to thrift stores, yard and estate sales...unfortunately we don't have them here! Italy is probably the worst place ever for vintage: there are some markets here and there, some fairs a couple times per year and some vintage stores (mostly in the big cities) but the stuff is 90% of the times incredibly overpriced...you have no idea!!
Another of my secret dreams is a summer holiday in Midwest looking for estate sales and markets!

Josephine Frances said...

This is such a great post! Thanks for going into all the detail! The only one I haven't tried is estate sales, because I have no idea how to find out about them in Australia. Shopping is fuuunnn!

Alice said...

Ahhh, thankyou for this post, vintage shopping in the states sounds amazing! I guess we are quite lucky here in England too, there are plenty of places to pick up lovely bits and bobs for next to nothing. I love going to charity shops, (do you have those in the US too?) and also jumble sales, which I suppose are similar to yard sales and so, so cheap. I got a beautiful floral dress the other month for about 30 pence!

Twila Jean said...

ok added to the list of thing I need to drag you along to..
we need to go to the red white and blue in oregon city.
best thrifting ever.

except I know a girl who deals vintage who lives down the road from it.. so she cleans it out regularly..lol.. we will time our trip with the weekends she is in California. hahahaha

Darla: Retro Ways said...

An amazing post as always, from all the stories I have heard about estates sale i am super scared of them.


A said...

Thanks for the info!

ellery said...

c.1450, "harvest of grapes, yield of wine from a vineyard," from Anglo-Fr. vintage (1353), from O.Fr. vendage "yield from a vineyard," from L. vindemia "a gathering of grapes, yield of grapes," from comb. form of vinum "wine" + stem of demere "take off" (from de- "from, away from" + emere "to take;" see exempt). Sense shifted to "age or year of a particular wine" (1746), then to a general sense of "being of an earlier time" (1883). Used of cars since 1928.


Casey said...

Thanks for these tips! I've never been to an estate sale (they usually end up on days of the week that aren't my "free" days... *sigh*), but I'm itching to try a few! :D

Amber Dawn said...

I'm pleased to see a mention of the Urban Eccentric.. Chris is so nice! I haven't been there in too long, but when I lived downtown Vancouver I went there a lot.

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Solanah said...

Thank you so much for adding this post! What a cool site!

Carina said...

I loathe Urban Outfitters... we have a handful of them in london and without exception, all of the staff there are so painfully, desperately trendy it's excruciating, looking down their noses at you unless you're as 'unique' as they are! The brand seems to have no appreciation that unique really does mean that - having your own style, rather than wearing whatever you're told to wear...

I love your blog, it inspires me to be creative!