How to shop vintage (& score!) like a pro

I love a new pair of shoes and a brand new straight off-the-rack dress as much as the next chica, but sometimes it's those old and rare pieces that really pull together an outfit. That's why I love vintage shopping, because it's such a great way to find one-of-a-kind pieces that are high quality but still budget friendly.

There's nothing like rocking a piece you know no one else will find! You can find vintage fashions many times for 50 or even 80 percent off what they originally retailed for. But I must warn you: vintage shopping can definitely be a challenge. It takes time, energy, and a whole lot of patience. It's all about knowing what you're looking for and where to go. Check out a few of my tips below to help you successfully shop vintage and save yourself a couple of bucks!


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1. Know where to go: First, you have to know where to look. Most neighborhoods have vintage boutiques, but because vintage shopping is so "in" these days, some of these stores will try to sell their pieces for more than they're even worth. Want to score some good bargains? Look out for thrift stores, Salvation Army, and Goodwill locations. You'd be surprised the kind of amazing things you could snag there. There's also eBay where there are a ton of sellers willing to sell their goods at relatively low prices.

2. Carefully examine: Most vintage boutiques have a strict no return policy. So you want to make sure you carefully inspect your garments before making a purchase. If you notice a few flaws but still want to buy it, show it to the store owner and see if they're willing to sell it to you at a cheaper price. I do this all the time and most of the time they do budge!

3. Find out the store policy: Some vintage shops allow you to also sell and trade. Make sure to do your research and call ahead because you might be able to bring some of your oldies in exchange for either cash or store credit. Buffalo Exchange is pretty good at this and they have a number of locations across the country.

4. Be frugal:  Remember to take into consideration the cost of dry cleaning and alterations before you decide to buy. A used dress might retail at only $60, but if you still have to clean it and alter it, it might not be worth the cost. Take into consideration the style, designer, and condition of the piece.

5. Don't worry about trying it on: Being the germaphobe that I am, I usually won't try on a vintage piece before sending it to the dry cleaners. The great thing about vintage is if the piece is more than 20 years old, chances are it won't be hard to alter. Clothing back then was made of much better fabric and better craftsmanship (like wider seams), making it easier to customize. In general, go with something slightly bigger, because it's easier to take in or remove fabric rather than add on.

6. Would you wear it? It's very easy to get carried away and purchase a glamorous, one-of-a-kind statement piece. But think about what you would pair it with at home before making the purchase. You might realize afterwards that it doesn't go with anything you have.

7. Consider bags: I love buying vintage bags. I'd honestly trade a unique vintage bag over any trendy, of-the-moment purse any day. Why? Bags that date back 20 years or more were manufactured better and made of much better quality than the ones we see in the stores today. That goes for designer ones as well. Not only will it cost you less, but definitely set you apart.

8. Can it be fixed? If the piece has minor damage that can easily be fixed by taking it to the dry cleansers, it might be worth it. But if it's missing things like signature hardware or if the leather on a pair of boots or purse is damaged, you might want to pass.

9. Have patience: Vintage shopping is an adventure, so make sure you have the time and the patience before you decide to hit the stores. I usually set aside a Sunday where I don't have much else to do. With the amount of stuff you'll be looking through, you can easily kill a few hours. But it can also be a lot of fun!

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Topics: clothing  fashion  shopping  savvy shopper  smart shopping  cheap/affordable