Vintage Shopping Tips and Tricks to Help You Get the Most Out of Your Thrifting Excursion


When someone compliments us on what we’re wearing, it often becomes a knee-jerk reaction to reply, “Thanks, it’s from Marshall’s (or fill in any discount retailer here)!” Although no one asked where we purchased our fashionable finds, we feel compelled to share our discount prowess anyway. The same scenario often happens with anyone sporting vintage pieces. Now, when we hear, “Thanks, it’s vintage,” we like to mess with people and reply, “I’m not familiar with that brand. Vin-taaage? Am I saying that right?”

Mocking aside, it truly is amazing to find vintage pieces that are worthy of praise. There’s an odd sense of accomplishment that can be found in buying a fantastic vintage blazer or dress at a ludicrously low price. However, if you’re not equipped with the right skills, you may receive excessive dry cleaning and tailor bills instead of praise for your vintage fashions. Sammy Davis, vintage curator and stylist for Sammy Davis Vintage, shares some amazing tips to use on your next thrifting trip– so it’s sure to be a success.

1. Get in position
Hang the piece so you can see it from a 360-degree view. Stand back and examine all angles of the piece for stains, tears, snags, and other signs of damage or wear.

Rub all fur against a cotton shirt to test if it will shed. Scratch leather and suede– if it tears, the material will crack and flake off with further wear.

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2. Play from the inside
Turn the piece inside-out and repeat all of the above. Examine the inner linings of all outerwear for damage– including the sleeves, pockets, and the bottom lining (where thread tends to unravel).

Give the inside a whiff. If you catch any scent, besides the aroma of moth balls, dont buy it. Youll have to pay for expensive dry cleaning to try and remove said stench.

Check the pockets of coats and jackets– Davis has found balled up pieces of tissue that have disintegrated and left annoying (and gross!) pill balls.

3. Hit up the hardware
Check zippers to ensure that they arent bent or off track. Check buttons to ensure that they are tight and secure.

Give sequins some serious inspection. Vintage sequins were most likely handsewn in India. While a piece may look great from afar, a critical eye can catch a missing sequin or a fraying thread.

Test all hooks. Vintage clothes are more likely to have extra fasteners– pieces were structured to fit better than your average sweater dress– so many items use fish eyes, snaps, velcro, and other clasps that our 2010 wardrobes probably don’t possess.

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4. Decide if it’s salvageable
Is the piece a bit dirty? If so, dont buy it– chances are, that old grime is there to stay.

With shoes, try to break off the heel. Davis has gone home with amazing cowboy boots only to find that the heel is loose.

5. Find its vintage scorecard
Search for a union card, which would be found attached to the inside seam. A union tag is proof that the piece was produced and supported by a clothing union, which existed in the U.S. before the overseas boom of clothing production began in the mid-80s. Union tags are usually square and about inch by inch; red, white, and blue; and state the name of the union (i.e. The Ladies Garment Workers Union and Made in U.S.A.). If you find a union tag, youve definitely scored a vintage piece– which by definition is at least 20 years old. Its like having a timestamp on your clothing!

Outfit 1 (top): Yellow blazer from Sammy Davis Vintage; Grey t-shirt by Kain; Boyfriend shorts by Old Navy; Leopard print bag by Christian Louboutin; Brown woven wedge by Sam Edelman; Leather bracelets by Delias.

Outfit 2: Black and cream sunglasses by Stella McCartney; Black and beige print jacket from Sammy Davis Vintage; Umbrella by Vista ; Leggings by American Apparel; Ballet flats by Chanel; Cream tote by Chloe

Outfit 3: Cream blazer by Chadwick Bell; Black polka dot dress from Sammy Davis Vintage; Pearl ring by Ariella Collection; Black wallet by Hobo International; Red lipstick by Elizabeth Arden.

Trop Rouge American Apparel