Vintage clothing has become extremely popular in recent years because it’s unique, affordable, and sustainable. While there used to be a stigma attached to “old clothes” in the last century, they’ve become the go-to choice for many in this century.

In this article, we’ll look at vintage fashion so you know what to look for, who to buy, and where to find vintage fashion online or at a store near you.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Vintage Meaning

Many people tend to use terms like “retro” and “second-hand” and “vintage” interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. It all boils down to age.

Retro is an imitation of a past style. In other words, it’s modern clothing based on a vintage look.

Second-hand refers to items that were previously owned by someone else. They can be last season or last century.

An item is considered vintage if it is 20-100 years old.

Anything over 100 years old is considered antique.

So while all vintage and antique clothing tends to be second-hand – previously owned by someone else – second-hand clothes are only vintage or antique if they’re 20 or 100 years old, respectively.

What to Look For in Vintage Clothing

Each decade has its own distinct look, and you can find pieces at a variety of price points both online and in local stores, depending on where you live.

Here’s what you need to look for:

Beaded Dress1. Wear and Tear

Inspect seams, buttonholes, hems, pockets, and linings to check for wear and tear. Make sure the buttons button and zippers zip.

2. Stains

Look closely for any stains, especially on collars, cuffs, and underarms. Because if it’s been sitting for 20+ years with a stain on it, it probably won’t come out.

3. Embellishments

The threads holding beads, sequins, feathers, etc., tend to weaken with age. Be gentle and careful if you’re planning on wearing it.

4. Fit

Make sure the garment fits you correctly without any straining or discomfort. Decades-old fabric and seams won’t stretch like modern-day ones do; they’ll just fall apart instead.

In general, you can probably get away with wearing vintage clothing that’s up to 50 or 60 years old if it’s been cared for and properly stored. Anything older than that should only be used for archive or display purposes only. It’s probably too fragile to wear.

Vintage jewelryVintage accessories tend to be sturdier than vintage clothing, particularly things like jewelry, structured handbags, and hair ornaments, and thus have a longer wear life. Always check links, clasps, and embellishments before and after use. You don’t want them falling apart.

Vintage Designers

Just as today’s designer clothes cost more than chain store clothes, so too do vintage designers cost more than regular vintage clothes.

Antique clothes from houses like Worth, Lanvin, and Callot Soeurs command premium prices, as they were among the first couturiers. Many of those early pieces are in museums and private collections.

Charles Frederick Worth, 1882 Callot Soeurs, 1910 Jeanne Lanvin, 1930s
Worth, 1882

Callot Soeurs, 1910

Lanvin, 1930s


Same with clothes from ground-breaking designers like Poiret, Schiaparelli, and Vionnet.

Paul Poiret, 1911 Elsa Schiaparelli 1937 Madeline Vioinnet, 1939
Poiret, 1911
Schiaparelli, 1937
Vionnet, 1939


Designs from houses like Chanel, Dior, Balmain, and Balenciaga also command high prices, particularly those created during the founding designer’s lifetime.

Coco Chanel, c. 1938 Christian Dior, 1953 Pierre Balmain, 1954 Cristobal Balenciaga, 1952
Chanel, c. 1938
V&A Museum
Dior, 1953
V&A Museum
Balmain, 1954
Balenciaga, 1952


Right now, vintage clothing from the 1990s is really popular, which means vintage designs from that decade, including Versace, Prada, and Helmut Lang are also enjoying high resale.

Versace, Fall 1991 Prada Spring 1995 Helmut Lang Fall 1995
Versace, Fall 1991
Prada, Spring 1995
Helmut Lang, Fall 1994


In short, vintage designer clothes can cost as much as current designer clothes – even more, if it’s an important or rare piece. So if your mother or grandmother has some vintage designer pieces hanging in her closet, make a note:  they could be worth some money.

Vintage Inspired / Retro

Stop Staring Willow DressIf you like the look of vintage clothing but don’t want to deal with caring for decades-old clothing, consider going retro instead.  Again, retro clothes are inspired by vintage styles but are made in modern fabrics.

Popular vintage-inspired clothiers include:

Retro Daisy
Stop Staring
Top Vintage
Unique Vintage

Vintage styles made with modern fabrics that are easy to maintain? It’s a great idea!

Vintage Sewing Patterns

Vintage PatternsYou can also get vintage looks by buying vintage sewing patterns and either sewing them yourself or paying a dressmaker to make them for you.

Find vintage sewing patterns online at places like:

Old Patterns
Simplicity Patterns
Vintage Patterns
Vintage Vogue


So how can you wear vintage clothing?

You’re only limited by your imagination.

Use vintage pictures for inspiration:

Vintage Outfits Blue Suit

Shop the look:


Mix current and vintage pieces for a unique look:

Vintage Outfits Coral Dress

Get the look:


Vintage Outfits Black and White

Shop the Look:


Or let the vintage piece be the star of the outfit:

Vintage Outfits Blue Prada

Get the Look:


Vintage Outfits Red EscadaShop the Look:


It’s up to you.

Your goal with vintage outfits is to showcase your personality. If you like to wear vintage clothes a lot, consider making it the signature element of your signature style. People will always remember you for it.

Vintage Clothing Online

So where can you find vintage clothing online?

Lots of places!

Luxury Sites

1stDibs 1920s

Antique and vintage clothing from premier designers

Forty-Five Ten
Ruby Lane

Budget-Friendly Sites

Vintage and past season pieces from a variety of sources

Asos Marketplace
Beyond Retro

Etsy 1950sEbay
Rusty Zipper
The Stellar Boutique
Vintage Vixen

Vintage Clothing Stores Near You

You can also find great pieces at vintage clothing stores near you, depending on where you live.

In general, you’ll have more luck if you live in a big city or near an affluent area – particularly for vintage designer pieces – than if you live in a small town or rural area. Google “vintage clothing stores near me” and check reviews and ratings before you go.

So what’s the bottom line?

Vintage clothing is a great way to get a unique look at an affordable price.  If you like the glamour of clothing and accessories from a bygone era, then considering making vintage pieces a part of your signature look.  You’ll turn heads, start conversations, and be remembered long after you’ve left the room.

Vintage Clothing Guide

Signature Style BlueprintNeed help learning how to do that?  Then check out Signature Style Blueprint.

This fun, step-by-step course shows you how to create a signature look that turns heads, opens doors, and allows you to get dressed quickly because you already know what you’re going to wear.  A signature look is the secret behind Audrey Hepburn’s and Jacqueline Kennedy’s sartorial success, and it’s how Carolina Herrera gets dressed in 10 minutes flat to go run her billion-dollar empire.

Want to know what they know?  Then grab Signature Style Blueprint.


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