Tips for vintage shopping online

Vintage shopping is a rich culture devoted to finding high-quality pieces that have stood the test of time.

Instead of rummaging through old suitcases and roller racks stacked with clothes, accessories and more, online sellers are making the discovery process a whole lot easier. These sellers are curating their own catalogues, buying up from garage sales, markets and auctions to create vibrant online stores with particular eras or designers in mind. But how do you find what you’re after? And how do you navigate that online ecosystem without getting ripped off?

Let’s take a look at some of the things to know when shopping vintage online.

The online vintage marketplace

There are thousands of vintage stores operating online, so the best place to start is with Vintage Shops Australia, a directory of reputable vintage stores and services around the country. Vintage Shops Australia categorises the shops by what they sell, the eras they stock, and their location (most of which operate online). It’s a comprehensive listing, including individual sellers on Etsy and eBay, and has a neat, user-friendly website to help you find what it is you’re looking for.

If you’re after something a little more informal, or wanting to sell any of your own vintage goods, you’re better off checking out the range of Facebook groups devoted to it. Many groups that can be found through social media have rich communities of people from all over the world who come together to sell their own finds, offer tips and advice for vintage shopping, and help you find that special something.

Check the reviews

As any good shopper knows, research is essential. Research helps you to get the best brands, at the best price, with the fastest and safest delivery. When you’re starting out, it’s a good idea to look up the reputation of a shop on review services or blogs, and to have a look at the range of brands they’re selling. Positive reviews from genuine reviewers, and stocking from well-known vintage brands are indicators of reliability.

Forget sizes, know measurements

When it comes to vintage clothes, jewellery and linen, sizing is rarely consistent. Times have changed, as have industry standards, so running off the size of an item doesn’t give you a firm picture of what it is you’re actually buying. You’re better off measuring yourself (if clothes, remember to add an inch or two to account for movement) or your space, depending on what you’re buying, and requesting measurements for the goods you’re looking at.

Stick to the classics

There’s a thin line between retro-chic and ‘old-fashioned’. That said, certain shapes and looks never go out of style. Think of A-line dresses, Glomesh purses, pearl earrings, mahogany furniture or leather couches. These things can always be styled well and create an effortlessly chic vibe all year round compared to, say, shoulder pads and neon, which go in and out of fashion faster than you can put them on.

Vintage shopping is rarely seasonal shopping. It’s about buying staple pieces that stand the test of time.

Watch out for fakes

Any vintage shopper knows the risk of fake labels or designer labels sewn onto off-brand clothes. This is easier to check in person and can be a bit of a turn-off for vintage shoppers thinking of trying online, but it’s by no means impossible. It all goes back to research. Know who you’re buying from, and their reputation, or, if buying from an independent seller off Etsy, eBay, or Facebook, research the era of the item, what it looks like, and ask for a close up of the label. In the case of jewellery and other items, ask if they still have the certificate of authenticity.

Know your country’s customs

Customs and quarantine are a serious consideration. Familiarise yourself with what items can and cannot be brought in, particularly if you’re looking at furniture and homewares, and also know what the item is being sent in. For instance, did you know that items packed in egg cartons, wooden boxes, old fruit boxes and with straw are prohibited? Familiarising yourself with these will save you a lot of strife in the long run!

If in doubt, ask

Not sure about sizing? The lighting in the picture looks a little funny? Is that a stain, shadow or scuff mark on that chair leg? Online sellers are there to sell, and most are happy to have conversations and provide extra measurements or photos for an item as requested, so don’t be afraid to ask.