It’s time for another guide, and this time on vintage fashion: clothes, bags, shoes, and accessories! One of my favourite pastimes is to go looking for vintage gems, and today I wanted to share my favourite sites and apps to do just that.
Alongside this list of the best UK-based vintage fashion sites, I’ve also shared my top tips for vintage shopping generally, and why it requires a little more time and energy than second-hand shopping. I’ll explain how I ensure what I buy is legitimate, and other ways to identify high quality, long lasting items that I love wearing over and over again…
The Difference Between Vintage and Second-Hand Shopping (IMO)
I love pre-loved fashion. I’ve written guides on thrifting, and buying second-hand fashion, and hell, I even co-founded The Haulternative Closet clothes swap with my three best friends. I feel like second-hand clothing is a secret way to tap into sustainable fashion easily, cheaply, and with unique and interesting pieces that will make any wardrobe stand out.
That said, I’ve left my guide to vintage fashion until last because it’s slightly more complicated than the rest.
Searching for vintage fashion is different from second-hand or thrift shopping because there’s a story that comes with each piece. Rather than being open to any beautiful pieces you may find along the way, you’re probably looking for a very specific thing. It could be a style of dress from a certain era, or a handbag from an haute couture label. There’s more effort and investment involved when shopping for vintage.
That said, when you find the perfect piece, the payoff is huge. The few vintage pieces that I have invested in are always the focal points of the outfits I put together. I love dressing up a pair of jeans with my Vetements sling-backs, or taking a simple evening dress and amping it up with my LV pochette bag (kindly gifted by Open For Vintage).
So, if you’re ready to dip your toe into the joys of vintage, follow me for some tips, tricks, and the best places to go looking…
Top Tips When Shopping For Vintage Fashion
Find your vintage inspiration. I like to use Instagram, Pinterest, books, and magazines to find styles that I truly love, and trace them back to specific designers or eras. This also helps me to envisage all the ways to wear a certain item or accessory before I commit to buying it.
Look for quality fabrics and craftsmanship. When investing in vintage, make sure to check the composition of the items you’re buying, and how the item was made. Good sellers will often take photos of the tags in clothing, and list out the composition, as well as any after care (such as handwashing). It’s also key to check the item is in an excellent condition – and if not, ask for a discount. Similarly, if you can’t find the information you’re looking for, ask!
Know your measurements. This is a piece of advice for any kind of fashion shopping really, but for vintage especially: make sure to know your size, in both UK, EU, US sizing, and also in inches or cm. Vintage clothing sizes can be a little deceiving (as I learned with my blue wool coat, which is a size 10 on the label, but has to be at least a 12 in today’s sizes).
Take your time. Vintage fashion is not to be rushed. Right now, I’m looking for a pair of knee-high boots in a beautiful tan colour, and I’ve been looking for two months with no luck (except for those that are way out of my price range…) That said, there’s real enjoyment in keeping an eye out and looking for them when I have a little down time. I know they’re out there, and I’m excited for when I finally find them!
Be super picky. Similarly, make sure you know what you’re looking for, and don’t compromise. I could easily buy a pair of knee-high boots in a different shade of brown, but I know I wouldn’t have the same joy in wearing them, and they’d eventually be sold on/swapped/given away.
Politely haggle. If you’ve found your dream item, but it’s a little above your price range, strike up a conversation with the seller. Some sites and apps allow you to make offers, and others require you to message the person first. Be polite, explain what you like, and how much you’re willing to pay. Offers around 80-90% of the ticket price tend to go down well.
Invest in alterations and restorations. Finally, make that piece truly yours! There’s nothing better than wearing a piece of clothing that fits like a glove, so take a little time to invest in alterations, or custom designs to suit you. I use my local dry cleaners for clothing alterations (such as taking up the hem of my blue wool coat) and key cutters for shoe repairs. You may also wish to use services like The Restory who fix, paint, and restore vintage items.
How to Verify Vintage Online
Finally, let’s talk about verifying vintage. If you’re going to invest £££ in vintage, you want to know it’s the real deal. Here’s a few ways to do just that:
Visit official boutique marketplaces. Sites like Open For Vintage* are the best bet when buying vintage: they connect expert vintage boutiques around the world in one online platform, and ensure these boutiques have in-store authenticators, or use third-party authenticators before listing on the site.
Look for third-party authentication. If you’re open to buying vintage from individual sellers rather than boutiques (where they may charge a premium), use a platform that ensures third-party authentication. Sites like Vestiaire Collective and Cudoni do this as standard, and will also ensure the quality of items meet the description the seller provides (and will offer you a discount or the ability to reject the item if not).
Best UK Vintage Fashion Sites & Sellers That I Trust
So, onto the best places to shop! Here are the sites and sellers that I like to peruse and occasionally buy from:
ATIKA: Vintage items and reworked pieces – their Brick Lane store is a secret gem.
Beyond Retro: Vintage clothing and accessories, with stores around the UK too.
Cow: A vintage and re-worked clothes store I inhabited during my student days!
Cudoni: Luxury fashion resale platform, with pick-up service for authentication.
D’Autrefois*: Contemporary handpicked vintage pieces on an independent Etsy store.
Fabulous Miss K*: Catwalk-inspired vintage finds from fashion-forward 60+ Miss K.
Farfetch Pre-owned: Luxury and designer pieces re-sold through the Farfetch site.
Hilda: Clothing and accessories in muted tones with whimsical twists, handpicked by Hilda.
Hill House*: Quality vintage leather goods on Etsy – their crossbody bags and belts are my favourite.
Manifesto: Handpicked second-hand and vintage clothes, shoes, and accessories.
Narrations*: Timeless vintage pieces from 50s onwards, always in beautiful condition.
Open For Vintage*: Vintage boutique marketplace with 100% authenticated pieces.
Oxfam Online*: Vintage finds from Oxfam stores across the UK, with 100% proceeds going to charity.
Paper Dress: East-London vintage boutique and bar, with clothing organised by style and era.
Peep Eyewear: Unique vintage frames restored with brand new lenses – can be sunglasses or glasses!
Quatrieme*: Beautiful vintage accessories and on-trend items from indie Etsy store.
Rebellishment*: Vintage finds that fit today’s minimalist style. Coveting a few pieces from here at the moment…
Retold: Minimalist vintage finds personally handpicked by Clare Lewis.
Rokit: Retro and vintage shop that’s also online! Use code BESMA20 to get 20% off orders over £40.
Vestiaire Collective: App and site for vintage and high end second-hand – I spend far too much time on my wishlist!