I’ve heard a lot of people say that they’d love to start wearing vintage clothes, but they don’t know how to go about it. I can see why, buying vintage can be very different to buying in a regular fashion store, so here are my top 7 mistakes to avoid when you’re buying vintage. I hope they’re helpful, and if you’ve got any tips of your own please share them!

1. Look at those seams

So many amazing vintage dresses have been ruined by being altered when the original owner gained a few pounds. Look out for extra panels which have been added (badly) at the seams or around the zip area. It’s also worth looking for sleeves which have been added afterwards, although these can be fairly simple to remove. Just remember, if a dress has been badly altered, you’ll need to be very skilled to get it back to its original condition (and it may not be possible at all).

2. Notice the details

This is something I keep forgetting to do, and perhaps by writing it here I’ll pay closer attention when I’m buying. They’re only small details, but check that all the buttons are there (including on any cuffs or pockets), and also that the zip works. It’s also worth holding any garment up to the light to make sure there are no tiny moth holes or thin patches which you haven’t spotted! (especially because vintage shops tend to be quite dark places!)

3. Check the armpits!

I know this sounds a bit icky, but it’s definitely worth doing. If you get home and your beautiful vintage dress has yellowy sweat stains under the armpits no amount of cleaning is going to get rid of those marks!

4. Know your measurements

If you’re lucky enough to have a great vintage store nearby and can try clothes on then that’s fabulous, but if you’re buying online you’ll NEED to know your measurements. Women’s clothing sizes have changed enormously over the decades, so don’t think that your normal clothes size will fit you in a 1950s dress. You’ll need to know your bust, waist and hip measurements. You can see how to take your measurements here.

5. Never buy 1 size too small

It doesn’t matter how gorgeous something is, if it doesn’t fit you it’s just going to end up hanging in your closet making you feel bad about yourself. Try to avoid ‘once I drop a dress size it’ll fit’ impulse buys, and NEVER buy shoes that are too small, no matter how pretty your shoes you’ll still be miserable if your feet hurt!

6. Check the small print

When you’re buying online it’s always worth reading the description of the item very carefully. Some sellers will put “condition: excellent” and then only mention that small rip in the seam much lower down the page.

7. Look where you put your feet!

Take extra care when buying shoes to look carefully at the heels and straps. Leather can go brittle with age and you don’t want to buy a pair of shoes just to have the strap or heel break on you as soon as you wear them. There’s a useful article on buying vintage shoes here.

What are your best tips for buying vintage?