It’s time for another guide, and this time on vintage fashion! It’s time to discover how to find the best vintage clothes, vintage bags, vintage shoes, and vintage accessories! One of my favourite pastimes is to go looking for second-hand gems from eras gone by, 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 Fashion And Second-Hand (IMO)
I love pre-loved fashion. I’ve written guides on thrifting, and buying second-hand fashion, and hey, 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 your 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 a particular fashion house. There’s more effort and investment involved when shopping for vintage. You also have to carefully gauge authenticity and quality, which can heavily affect the value of an item.
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 a pair of vintage sling-backs, or taking a simple evening dress and amping it up with my 90’s 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…
7 Top Tips When Shopping For Vintage Fashion
Here’s my top seven tips that will help you to find the best vintage gems and truly cherish them!
1. 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.
2. 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. The best sellers will take photos of the tags in clothing, and list out the composition, as well as how to care for the item. It’s also key to check the item is in an excellent condition – and if not, ask for a discount. And if you can’t find the information you’re looking for, ask!
3. 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).
4. 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!
5. Be 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.
6. 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.
7. 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* 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).
17 Of The Best Vintage Fashion Sites For 2024
So, onto the best places to shop! Here are the sites and sellers that I like to peruse and occasionally buy from:
Atijo Store: Exclusively curated vintage, secondhand, and artisan items sold on Instagram.
Bonsergent: Beautifully curated vintage site based in France, ships to the UK.
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.
The Modern Style: Curated collection of minimal vintage pieces wearable today.
Narrations*: Timeless vintage pieces from 50s onwards, always in beautiful condition.
Offbeat Petite: Vintage finds suited to petite bodies, aimed at women under 5’4″.
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!
Retold: Minimalist vintage finds personally handpicked by Clare Lewis with regular new drops.
Thrift+: My favourite place to shop for discounted vintage and designer clothes! Use code BESMA20 for 20% off orders over £15
Vestiaire Collective*: Slick app and site for vintage and high end second-hand, but a bit pricey!
Wolf & Gypsy: My favourite place to shop vintage in Brighton, with an accompanying website.