Expert Tips: How To Score Big Shopping Vintage Fashion

No matter what your personal style is – whether you’re cool, classic, lady-like, preppy, or anything in-between – shopping vintage is an excellent way to update your wardrobe. And as someone who is in the business of shopping and updating the wardrobes for both myself and my clients, I always hit the secondhand stores. Here are my tips on shopping vintage fashion to help you score big.

shopping vintage fashion fountainof30

Why You Should Consider Shopping Vintage Fashion

  •  Quality

They don’t make clothes the way they used to. The fabric and design details have gone downhill as the industry cuts every corner to keep costs low. What’s frustrating is that you may still end up spending a pretty penny on a new designer piece, but when you go in for a closer look you’ll notice the quality isn’t there. With vintage clothes you have more options for higher quality pieces at more affordable prices. It’s a win-win in my book!


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  • Quantity

When you buy something at Zara or Madewell – you’re one of the hundreds (thousands?) of people buying that piece. This means the possibility of walking down the street and seeing someone else in your hot pink, double breasted menswear inspired blazer is likely! When you find your item at a vintage shop, you’ll probably be the only one who has that garment with those specific details. And for someone who prides herself on having a one-of-a-kind style, this is huge!

  • Sustainablity

Let’s face it, sustainability and shopping don’t always go hand in hand. Especially when you look at how most clothing is produced these days. But if you want to do a small part in saving the environment, hit the second hand stores! By buying a gently worn/previous loved item, you’re keeping the garment alive and out of the landfill. 

3 Steps To Shopping Vintage Fashion

So to help you score big on your next vintage trip, here are 3 steps to shop vintage.

1. Go Prepared

Before hitting the store, go through your wardrobe and decide what’s missing. Figure out exactly what you’re looking for and create a list. This will keep you focused. When you’re in the store, go directly to the section of garments that are on your list. This doesn’t mean you have to ignore everything else, and therefore cancel out the possibility of stumbling upon a rare gem that catches your eye. But if you keep your focus on what you’re looking for, you’re less likely to waste time or feel scattered and overwhelmed.

Side note: If you do see a rare gem that wasn’t on your list and it’s a must buy, follow the steps below to ensure it’s aligned with your style and belongs in your wardrobe. 

2. Quality Control

I’m not gonna lie – it takes a trained eye to spot the big scores in vintage. You may want to give yourself some leeway by going to a well curated store rather than a free-for-all Good Will/Salvation Army style thrift shop that takes everything. 

Once you’re in the right section, and you see a possible contender as your big score, laser in on the finer details. First, what’s the brand? This is a great way to give context to the garment. Next, what’s the fabrication?  (Always know what types of fabrics you like to wear so you can avoid those you don’t.) I don’t do polyester anymore. Even if I see a silver studded turtleneck top that has my name all over it … if it’s 100% poly, I must move on. 

vintage black sequin turtleneck fountainof30

Lastly, take any garment you’re considering under the bright light to make sure there’s no holes, stains or discoloration. 

3. Try On

After you’ve done your quality control to make sure the item is on par with what you’re looking for, bring it into the fitting room. Try it on to ensure it not only fits well, but feels amazing. (Don’t forget to check all angles and make sure there’s no strange puckering or bunching.)

try on vintage dress fountainof30

You want to feel excited by the garment so you can’t wait to wear it. It also must suit your body in color and silhouette. And it has to work well with the rest of your wardrobe. Think about how you’ll wear it, and what you’ll pair it with.

If the item checks all the boxes – meaning you love how you look and feel in it, and you know how you’ll wear it, then congratulations you’ve just scored big in vintage.


If you’re in a style conscious city like NYC, vintage shopping can be like a competitive sport. So watch out for the Snatchers and Rack Mashers

The Snatchers will swoop in and pull something from right under your nose. They’re fast and fearless. To keep them at bay, pick up any item you have the slightest interest in and carry it around. This claims the item as yours for the time being.

The Rack Mashers will come up close to where you’re standing and aggressively flip through the hangers. They’re digging for their big score, and are relentless in their pursuit. They’ll smash their “No’s” into your area which makes it more crowded and physically challenging for you to shop. Stand tall and hold your space. You deserve that big score you’re about to find. 

Do you already shop for vintage fashion or would you like to give it a try? I hope you found these tips to be helpful.

– Elysha Lenkin

Elysha Lenkin is a personal fashion stylist who helps women look current, feel confident and stay true to themselves. For over 20 years she’s worked on commercial shoots in NYC, and has styled hundreds of women in all shapes, ages and sizes including Carrie Underwood, Tina Fey and Serena Williams. Learn how to make your next shopping trip a success by reading her post here:

Elysha and Lauren also host a weekly Clubhouse series on midlife fashion in the Midlife Matters club every Wednesday at 12:30pm EST.

You may like to read more styling posts like How I Never Pay Full Price for Fashion and Quick Fashion And Beauty Game Changers For Women Over 40.

Are you following Fountain Of 30 on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest? We’ve got lots going on, so join in on the fun! Subscribe to our newsletter here.  You don’t want to miss a post and promise not to bug you to death. We also started a Facebook Group called Growing Younger for women to discuss everything good and bad about being over 40. Additionally Lauren now hosts a podcast called Beauty is a Bitch! and a weekly Instagram Live series called “Growing Younger Gabfest with Lauren.”

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1 thought on “Expert Tips: How To Score Big Shopping Vintage Fashion”

  1. Great article and yes those are definite true-to-live-by hints for shopping! Especially the “check in bright lighting for flaws” you will be very disappointed when you arrive home with your super find and it isn’t all you thought it was….hence one of my became a material scrap for future sewing one time. Lesson learned!


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