The Dos and Don’ts of Vintage Dresses

With colder weather come holiday parties, and while you may have a large collection already claiming space in your closet, let’s face it: nothing beats shopping with a legitimate purpose.  However, nobody has the budget for hot-off-the-runway fashion finds, and regardless of how much you justify it, hundreds of dollars per dress can quickly become grounds for a lesson in budgeting.  That’s why we’ve listed the dos and don’ts of vintage dress buying “ so you can stretch your budget and look great while doing it.

DO: Try On

Some people are graced with the ability to head to a store, pick up an item and declare it the perfect fit “ before trying it on.  The rest of us curse those fortune souls and curl up on the change room floor to weep.  Luckily, in the case of vintage dress shopping, we have it right (minus the tears).  Sizes varied drastically between the 50s, 60s and now, so what may be a size six today might mean a size 12 yesteryear.  And since thrifted items are usually non-refundable, you don’t want to be stuck with a dress you can merely put your arm in.

DON’T: Settle

Just because it’s vintage, doesn’t excuse buying something you don’t love.  You may feel like a dress’ uniqueness may justify bad fit, but some of the same rules apply to shopping at a second-hand store as they do to anywhere else.  Some things can be fixed (and we’ll cover that next), but if it’s too tight, smells bad (smells tend to linger), looks awkward or you straight-up feel bad wearing it, no amount of vintage credibility can make it right.

DO: Tailor

Bad fit and lack of love is one thing, rips, tears and slight adjustments are another.  These dresses are old, and because of that, they won’t be the equivalent of a brand new find from your favourite department store.  Tailors exist for a reason.  Shortening, mending and re-buttoning are typical fixes for older clothing, so if a new zipper’s needed or a couple of inches need to be taken up, factor that cost into the price of your dress and you’ll still likely save a bundle.

DON’T: Overpay

A word from the wise: just because something’s in a vintage shop, doesn’t necessarily make it so.  There’s a difference between thrifted and vintage, and while sometimes the phrasing is one in the same, the prices are certainly not.  Sure, the definition of vintage is currently being redefined, but a mini no-name floral dress circa 1994 is not worth the amount you’d pay for 1964 Chanel. Shop wisely.  If you think something’s too expensive, ask about it “ and if you’re dealing with a boutique, you may be able to compromise if you don’t think something’s fair.

DO: Take risks

The thing about shopping vintage is that you get to have fun.  You may not head to your favourite chain store and opt for a full skirt ala Betty Draper, but there’s something about finding an original piece from an over-romanticised decade that serves to justify that buy.  You don’t want to look like you’re playing dress up, but you do want an opportunity to show off your threads “ especially with shows like Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire bringing old back.

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Tags: 60s, buying, designer, dos and don'ts, dresses, Mad Men, old, retro, shopping, thrifting, vintage dresses

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  1. Avatar
    • Anonymous
    • January 1, 1970
    Hi, I like the post, and I’m a fan of vintage clothing, you gave great tips for shopping vintage items, thank you!
  2. Avatar
    • Anonymous
    • January 1, 1970
    Hi, I like the post, and I’m a fan of vintage clothing, you gave great tips for shopping vintage items, thank you!

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