1. Know what stores are in your area and what they are known to have.
For example, do they make an effort to have designer names? Things you'd find at Goodwill (any 'ole tshirt, etc.)? Mostly antiques, but some clothes? Know what to expect at these places so you can keep checking in, or know what to find when you're looking for something specific. Also, some stores KNOW what they have (i.e. all vintage stores in New York City). They know that they can sell a vintage Dior dress for hundreds (thousands?) of dollars. The key is to find a place that doesn't quite know what they have. Maybe they don't know Ungaro is a top designer? Or Norman Norell?
2. Be prepared to dig.
Just like shopping at TJ Maxx or Marshalls, you need to be prepared to look through EVERYTHING in the store. The perfect item is bound to be hiding amongst
dozens hundreds of other things. Don't have an agenda that day- You can't have an appointment in an hour, or a meeting in 30 minutes... you need to be able to take your time!
3. Know your decades and designers to avoid buying knockoffs.
Whenever I'm in a [hole in the wall] vintage store (that might not make an effort to authenticate all their items, I google the tag labels. Like, is it okay for a Dior tag to say 'Made in the US', or for a YSL tag to just say Saint Laurent?
Better question, do you care if its a knockoff? Sometimes I don't if its still a really great item... #justbeinghonest
4. Know your body type.
Whether I'm shopping in a store or on Ebay, I know my body will probably not fit in a 60's mod shift dress....
Wrap dresses however- I'm all over it.
5. Know your fabrics.
What does the inside label say? Is it silk or polyester? Cotton, cashmere, or wool? Knowing those things (along with the designer, see #3), will validate the price.
6. Bring cash and know how to negotiate.
The first thing I do when I find an item I like is I thoroughly look at it to find any flaws (snags, stains, armpit stains, tears, etc.). Some of these things can be fixed by just a quick trip to a tailor or dry cleaner (you have to be the judge of whether or not its fixable before purchasing). All flaws, however, will you give you some ammunition to negotiate down their price and you'll come out seeming like an expert.
"Um no, this is NOT worth $100, its torn HERE and has a small stain HERE. But I'll give you $60 cash...."
They may come back with another offer, but that's ok. Bring small bills too so you can lie and say, "Oh, but I only have $50 on me!" (when its priced at $65.) But you can't then hand them three twenty dollar bills to pay $50, doesn't work that way...
You can also bundle- talk down the prices of several items to a nice even number even though they would individually be a lot more.
7. Once purchased, go to a tailor/dry cleaner.
Tailors are miracle workers.
Let me say it again: Tailors are miracle workers.
The odds that something fits perfectly in a store, especially vintage pieces is slim, but its better to buy something a little too big than a little too small. Things can always be hemmed, taken in, shortened, etc. I've also brought in a dozen vintage dresses and had them made in to a skirt. Or an A-line dress made into a peplum top!
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