Secondhand Savvy: Vintage Style II

Our vintage style series has finally returned! Now that Dottie has outlined the many excellent reasons cyclists are drawn to vintage style, it’s my turn to share some tips on secondhand shopping. Since I can’t bring you all to my favorite places to shop vintage– America’s Thrift Store in Pell City, my grandmother’s closet (like other bloggers, a place I’ve had great luck with), the local shop Pre- to Post-Modern,–I’ll focus on shopping somewhere I know you all can visit: the Internet.

Vintage dress, vintage bike

Vintage dress, vintage bike

I love browsing through carefully curated vintage shops for style ideas, but when it comes to opening my wallet, the item must be a bargain (hey, it is used after all!). When shopping secondhand, I prefer items that are either timeless, or play off of current trends without being too costume-y. Things, in other words, that don’t necessarily scream “vintage” and can be mixed with modern pieces to add a unique touch.

In addition to being less expensive than new items, secondhand clothing is often higher quality. This late 1970s Dolman sweater looks brand new and always gets compliments (thanks April!). And I swear I saw someone wearing a similar one on an episode of “Freaks & Geeks.”


Me and Mom, 1970s wool dolman sweater, h&m top.

One of my favorite vintage items are these 1980s navy slouch/pirate boots made in Brazil, scored on eBay last fall. They’re a very basic style, but at $14 cost far less than a new pair. Urban Outfitters,

Vintage items help you stand out from the crowd and give you the satisfaction of rescuing something worthwhile from the heaps and heaps of things people are using and disposing of these days.

Vintage white jacket, 1980s, my grandmother's closet

Vintage white jacket, 1980s, my grandmother's closet. Truck skinny jeans, AE flats.

Vintage purchases need not be limited to clothes and shoes. Some of my favorite household items were scored at Goodwill and yard sales or craigslist–including my couch, dining table, TV armoire and most of my glassware/tableware.

Vintage barware and Manhattan fixins

Vintage barware and Manhattan fixins

Buying vintage items online is pretty much like buying anything else online, but here are a few tips:

  • Check the measurements. Whether you’re talking shoes or clothes, sizes have changed over the last 50 years. Know your measurements and look for items that have measurements listed–or ask the seller for them before you bid or buy.
  • Don’t pay more than you could resell the item for. Sometimes this is hard to judge, but it’s my rule of thumb when buying anything over $20 and is especially useful for furniture purchases. Would someone else pay $200 for this couch a year from now? If the answer is yes, you have nothing to lose.
  • Put on your white gloves. Most eBay and Etsy sellers are fair and will describe flaws, but examine photos closely. If you’re shopping on craigslist, go over every inch for snags, tears, scratches, cracks etc., when you go to pick up the item. Furniture should be inspected to make sure it’s sturdy–no wobbly legs or mushy springs unless their existence is factored into the purchase price.

Vintage style blogs
Liebermarlene Vintage–love her style and the gorgeous photographs. She also has an eBay shop.

Violet Folklore–some of their dresses cross from vintage into costume-y, but they often have fun shoes and their photography is beautiful.

Lemondrop Vintage–Love their Pink Saturday feature.

OK, now it’s your turn: I know there are many m0re secondhand bargains to be discovered on the internet. Share your shopping secrets, pretty please?? And do you have a favorite secondhand find?

(Stay tuned for part three of our series, buying a secondhand bicycle–promise not to make you wait three months!)

  • dottie

    I don’t shop vintage online much because eBay can be so overwhelming. But looking at your links here, especially Liebemarlene Vintage, I realize how much I’m missing. I love the concept of sellers having blogs – the selection is finely edited, there are beautiful pictures of the clothes, and I’m much more likely to trust the seller.

    Great tips all around!

  • Mamavee


    Although it hurts my heart to realize that 1980′s is vintage. I remember it so well. It was just yesterday. Aren’t I still 25? I love the 70′s sweater! It looks perfectly at home on you in 2009.

  • donna

    Almost all my furniture was scored via craigslist or secondhand shops. But it got a bit addictive so I’m taking a break from trolling CL for a bit.

    • Trisha

      It is addictive, isn’t it? I go on binges and breaks quite frequently, too.

    • bongobike

      Beware of used furniture, especially upholstered furniture! Bedbugs have become a national problem, and they are hell to get rid of. Don’t ask me how I know this… :-)

      • Trisha

        We don’t have to worry much about that in Nashville yet — but that’s definitely something to be aware of.

      • donna

        Everything I’ve bought or found I’ve ended up having reupholstered anyhow.

        • bongobike


          It wouldn’t hurt to have them sprayed as well. ;-)

  • What Would a Nerd Wear

    this is awesome. i have two vintage bikes, but not too many vintage clothes (although i do have some scarves and belts and brooches from vintage stores).

    i love thrift town, these grocery-store sized thrift stores in the bay area.

  • Lucas

    Wonderful idea to have this post-series.

    Though I don’t own very much “vintage” clothing, most of the furniture and glassware I own is from yard sales. I simply could not relish the idea of spending as much as some of these places like Ikea demanded for items such as desks, tables, and dressers; and more times than not made from MDF or other wood substitute, and “new” quality hardwood furniture is financially prohibitive.

    I try to be a bit handy, so things like slightly damaged finish, small water stains, and the like don’t dissuade me from an otherwise quality piece — I bought a lovely oak and cherry Lane table (circa 1960) for $5… I brought it home, and after a few hours work and about $15 in refinishing supplies, I had a beautiful “new” table!

    I love the idea of breathing life into older items… new is not always “better”, and this constant crush to buy new and trendy items has really gotten out of hand in our culture and has fed the whole issue that too many things are just disposable.

  • Scott

    Trisha, are you aware of any good vintage shops in Chicago that carry a big men’s selection?

    • Trisha

      No, unfortunately I don’t get to thrift shop in Chicago as much as I’d like! But I bet one of the Dotties could comment on this…last time I was up Greg unearthed a couple of great finds.

  • Lovely Bicycle!

    I have not really gone vintage shopping since I was in high school, so cannot contribute any useful links to purchasing sources.

    But what I did start doing at some point, was “reconstructing” my old clothing into new clothing. One of my favourite things to do, is to make skirts out of tattered dresses. Another, is to take apart clothing with an out-dated cut, and use the fabric to put together something new. Even the most basic sewing skills can be sufficient to make something that feels new and cool.

    • Trisha

      That’s a great idea. I can sew on a button and take up a hem but have been itching to try a more ambitious sewing project.

  • BB

    Grandmothers and great aunts are a wonderful source of vintage stuff. The purple hat I wear in the profile picture of my Globe blog was my maternal grandmother’s. My paternal grandmother has brought me some awesome stuff from consignment shops too. Unfortunately, I was too young to appreciate a vintage Valentino sweater dress she bought me once, but at least I kept the tweed coat she got me. Come to think of it, she would’ve held onto that dress for me until I came to my senses. I’ll have to call her and see if she still has it ;)

  • Lorenza

    I love vintage, but I tend to find nice pieces from my mum and my unties’ wardrobes ;) I do love finding great gems in the charity shops, and they are not dear at all, compared to some vintage clothing shops… although even in Manchester if you know where to go you can still find some amazing bargains!! I love to buy second hand clothing, you end up dressing quite unique, have the guts to alter clothing because if it all goes pear-shaped then you probably have wasted only £5 and in the process the money you’ve spent can help many wonderful charity organisations!! a win win situation I say! xxx

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