How Do I Choose the Best Vintage Designer Clothing?

Emily Pate
Emily Pate
Woman shopping
Woman shopping

The best vintage designer clothing reflects your personal tastes. You may have a particular designer in mind and want to collect from different decades, or perhaps a particular fashion era stands out to you. A basic education in any particular designer or fashion decade can help you to decide which type of clothing appeals to you and flatters your body and face shape. For instance, 1930s styles generally elongated the body with fabrics clinging through the hip, while 1940s fashions featured a boxy, tailored "x" silhouette. If you want a long, lean look, couture from the 1930s will likely be a better fit than the latter.

Like any antique, art, or design market, shopping for vintage designer clothing means having to be wary of fakes. Being able to authenticate your clothing ensures that you're getting a quality garment for your dollar, and it can help date a designer's piece if you're unsure upon first look. Designer vintage clothing should have quality construction, with hand stitching and fine fabric being two staples. Clean, straight stitching around buttonholes and hems are important, and looking carefully for additional labels can ensure that you don't have a contemporary knockoff. Elements like silk lining, organic stuffing for pads, and hand-set hardware or zippers can help you to authenticate the garment's designer status.

If you're purchasing your vintage designer clothing online or from a catalog, knowing the piece's condition is important in assessing value and quality. Mint condition typically means as good as new, which is very rare for vintage clothing. Near mint means that the piece has minimal signs of wear, and an excellent garment was probably used only occasionally. A very good item will have few noticeable stains or spotting, while a good item can be worn but not returned to excellent. Condition is less important for older items or if you're looking to display an item, so long as it's not in terrible condition; however, if you're purchasing the garment to wear, fragile and older materials can tear or rip more easily.

If you're purchasing your vintage designer clothing to wear, basic style guidelines for your body and personal style can help you to make a final decision. For instance, if you're attracted to sophisticated, sleek styles and have a petite figure, you may prefer the pair of 1950s cigarette pants over low-rise bell bottoms. Take inventory of your closet before vintage shopping to get a sense of your personal style, noting prevalent colors, silhouettes, and fabrics. Doing this will give you a stronger sense of what vintage designer clothing makes you feel comfortable and attractive.

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