Vintage Dresses

Vintage dress, circa 1950s

Adding a vintage dress to your wardrobe will help you to express your unique style. Whether you find a vintage dress at a flea market or an online auction, you can pick up dresses to match your personality at a reasonable price. Treat your vintage finds with care and they will last for decades.

Vintage Dresses for Your Wardrobe

Whether you're looking to appear more vivacious and striking or conservative and professional, there's a dress to fit your needs. Purchasing vintage items for your wardrobe does not mean you have to completely change your style-you are tweaking your wardrobe as a whole, adding specific accents that can complement items you already own and wear.

Finding the Perfect Outfit

Shopping for a vintage outfit can be even more frustrating that shopping for a modern one. While there are many pitfalls to look out for, once you find the perfect dress or the to-die-for jacket the entire process becomes worthwhile. Guard against disappointment with a few tips.

Look for Quality

Just because something is vintage does not mean it is worth buying. There were poor quality clothing manufacturers in previous decades just as there are today. Additionally, vintage clothing can deteriorate over time. You don't want to buy a great retro outfit only to find that the zipper is broken and the elastic is brittle.

Use these tips to shop for quality garments:

  • The first thing to do is to look at the tags in the article. Are they from a designer, manufacturer or store that you recognize? The tag can be a helpful tool in evaluating the quality of the clothing.
  • Next, examine the seams carefully for loose stitching, torn seams, or other signs that the outfit is not in the best condition. Gently tug on either side of the seam to see if it is tight. Hold the fabric up to bright light, preferably sunlight, to better see any fabric wear and where the fabric has become thin over time.
  • Check for loose and missing buttons. These are easy to fix but you will want to know about them before you buy.
  • Stains on the fabric may or may not be able to be removed. Keep this in mind before you lay down your hard earned cash.

A Word about Size

Before you purchase vintage clothing, make sure the size fits you. Over the years, size has changed; manufactureres have tagged garments in smaller size numbers to make women feel slender and beautiful. An American Misses size 8 from 1960 may be a size 12 today.

Size also varies by location. Even today, one size produced in Europe sometimes differs from the same size produced in the United States. Size also varies by clothing line and brand, both in modern and vintage vintage clothing. Also, keep in mind that more people made their own clothing in the past, so some dresses might be specifically tailored to one woman's measurements. When you begin shopping for vintage dresses, it is helpful to shop in person so you can try on the garments and make sure they fit.

Where to Shop?

Locating the right dress can be the most daunting part of vintage clothes shopping. Unlike contemporary stores and clothing stores that offer new items only, vintage and secondhand stores display a wide variety of items and styles. This makes the selection process more difficult, but also provides you with more options.

Yard and Estate Sales

Yard and estate sales certainly vary depending on the persons offering items for sale. Estate sales are usually great if you're looking for vintage and antique items, and yard sales offer you the opportunity to haggle with the seller.

Salvation Army, Goodwill, and Specialty Stores

Secondhand stores usually separate items by clothing type and sometimes by size. To find your own blast from the past, you may have to search through a large rack of dresses. Specialty vintage stores often have items separated by type and decade, but their prices are much higher than other secondhand stores.

Flea Markets

Flea markets offer a hodge-podge experience. Depending on the market, price range varies depending on how much competition exists at the market and the location of the market. Remember also that vendors usually pay a table cost and sell at other events and online, so they typically know what their items are worth.

Online Auction Sites

Online auction sites such as eBay are valuable in your search for a vintage dress. Even if you do not find a dress there, you will learn about vintage measurements, the appropriate condition for such items, and most importantly the going rate for the type of dress you want. This is the easiest way to look at a variety of dresses and decide what style would work best for you. Sellers usually provide measurements for clothing items.

Older Relatives

The best price for the right gently used clothing item is of course free! Older relatives often have clothing that they or their adult children wore. They are usually delighted to give away items knowing they will be worn and loved. Think about all of the decades that your parents and grandparents have lived through, as well as the styles those decades represent.

Online Resources and Auction Sites

Even if you can't find what you are looking for locally there is an entire Internet to shop in. Vintage clothing abounds online. Here are some places to check:

Vintage Dress Styles

You definitely do not have to stick to one style of dress, but you will probably want to select a dress (or dresses) to fit one or more needs in your lifestyle. Just like contemporary dresses, vintage counterparts were made for a variety of events. A flapper dress, for example, might be appropriate for a contemporary evening at the theatre. A peasant dress from the Sixties would be perfect for a summer folk festival. In the 1970s, the women's liberation movement created a need for professional style dresses because women wanted to work. Some of these dresses still work in the office today.

Many stores that specialize in vintage dresses and other clothing will also have accessories like hats, shoes, and purses so you can create a complete vintage ensemble.

If you love antiques, romance, and old cars, dressing in vintage style is the perfect way to express your unique look.

Vintage Dresses