Hello! My name is Christina DeSmet, and I am the creative voice behind DeSmitten Design Blog. As a fashion designer, I am constantly faced with defining trends, and while this is exciting at times, I love to look to the past. I find that there are beautiful, classic designs that withstand trends and decades. I believe that everything was made better back in the day, so I love to find pieces that are in the same state as they were when originally made. In an effort to sustain better quality apparel, I curate my wardrobe with vintage pieces that fit into the modern-day aesthetic, and I am here today to share my secrets for buying vintage!
ONE / Make a general list
Shopping vintage can be overwhelming at times, so it helps to make a general list of things you are looking for, but I emphasize the word general because making a specific list will only end in heartbreak. This list helps to avoid experiencing the Sample Sale Syndrome when shopping. (Sample Sale Syndrome: thinking that every piece you find is such a great deal that you must buy it now, because if you don't, it will be gone forever). I make my list of items and add a few descriptive words next to each item. This does not define the item specifically, but instead is a general guide to keep me focused while shopping. With that said, you must keep an open mind, because list or not, you never know what treasure you might uncover!
For example, my shopping list for fall...
TWO / Look for signs of wear
I don't know how many times I've come across the most beautiful vintage item, only to realize there are sweat stains under the arms or a hole in the elbow. Before you get too attached to an item, review it with a fine tooth comb. Things to look for:
Stains: Unfortunately, sweat stains are the number one deal breaker, you cannot remove them from apparel, so just put it back on the rack. Be sure to check inside collars, under arms, under bust and back. You'd be surprised where people sweat from. Also look for miscellaneous stains. Most of the time I will refrain from buying an item if it has a noticeable stain, in fear that it won't come out.
Fabric discoloration and pilling: A lot of vintage shops put clothes in the window, which can discolor and damage the material. Carefully look over the garment in natural light, if possible. When buying knits, looks for moth holes, pilling, stretched out rib bands at hems and neckline.
Holes + Threadbare fabrics: Look for holes and threadbare spots around the elbows and knees of garments, as these are areas that are easily worn out. If you see the fabric thinning, or already torn, then do not buy the item. In some vintage apparel, these areas are already repaired or reinforced, so as long as the workmanship is good, it's ok to buy. Most of the time, if there is a hole on the seam, you can have it repaired for a reasonable price at your local dry cleaner.
Smell: If something smells very old or smells of smoke, I try to avoid it. Getting the smell out of leather and wool is much harder than you think, even after dry cleaning.
Online Shopping tip: Read over the description carefully, email the seller with further questions about the condition of the garment and ask for more photos if necessary.
THREE / Try it On
One of the biggest mistakes when buying vintage, is buying things that don't fit properly. While you can get away with sleeves that are too short (simply wear them rolled up at all times), or dresses that are too long (have them hemmed at your local dry cleaner), ill-fitting waists and baggy busts are inexcusable.
Online Shopping tip: Check and double-check the measurements, contact the seller for clarification if you do not understand how they measured the garment.
images via La Garconne, Maria Van Nguyen and my Pinterest @DeSmitten, graphics by me
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