Tag Archives: vintage clothing

The Price of Vintage Clothing

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

I have received a request from Laurel Carpenter to write about evaluating vintage clothing prices, based on the tendency of some vintage retailers and eBay sellers to overprice their vintage pieces. What is worth it? What should you leave on the rack or the proverbial auction block?

I have found that this becomes a very personal decision, based on your income, the priority of incorporating vintage clothing into your wardrobe, the availability of vintage clothing in your geographic area, how well the garment fits, how much you like the garment, the condition of the garment, the similarity to other vintage items in your wardrobe, the cost of any potential alterations, and occasions to wear a particular garment, among other factors. When I go shopping for vintage clothing I sort of run through a series of questions based on these factors.

When it comes to the price of vintage clothing I look at things on a sliding scale – the garment is more valuable to me if it fits like a dream, it is unique and flattering, and in great condition. And if it’s green, I’ll be willing to pay even more. 🙂 However, just because it is old doesn’t mean that it is worth hundreds of dollars and just because it is vintage doesn’t mean that I’ll open my wallet any wider than I would if I shopped at the mall.

I’ll speak generally about prices, focusing on swing era garments, which are a rarity in your average local vintage store and more plentiful on eBay. Some sellers just want more money for their stuff – they either live in an area where people pay these prices or they think they’ve hit the jackpot at an estate sale and have dollar signs in their eyes. With the advent of eBay, these rarities have become more available to the masses and I have noticed the prices of vintage in my area either going down or staying the same as when I started shopping for vintage clothing, around 1999. It’s become more competitive, which is good for you as the consumer, to have a wider selection at competitive prices.

1920’s clothing, due to its age and fragile nature, tends to cost more because most of the materials in clothing from this era have deteriorated – to find something in excellent condition from the 1920’s is rare. To translate that into cost you have to consider how good the condition is and how fabulous the item – do you pay $1,000 for the beaded 1920’s dress/gown? No, no, don’t do that – would you spend that much on an evening gown? Maybe your wedding dress, but consider how old this garment is, the likelihood that the fine mesh will deteriorate, and what happens if it gets a tear or the beads start coming off? Devastating. Do you pay $200 for it? Maybe. If it fits you like a glove, you can Charleston in it without shedding beads, and you have the perfect occasion to wear it, then consider it a viable option. In a similar fashion, what if you find a 1920’s cotton day dress? How ornate is it? If it’s got wonderful embroidery or tailoring details, you might want to spend that much on a day dress that you could wear more often. Fabulous-ness and wear-ability equate value.

That said, you don’t have to spend $200 on a 1920’s dress. I have found wonderful 1920’s dresses for $80 (at Sweet Lorain in Cleveland, slate gray and cream day dress with about 50 tiny covered buttons up the front, perfect fit), for $40 (eBay, pink day dress with hand embroidered roses, my tailor had to enlarge the arm holes), and for $30 (1920’s maid uniform, black with white lace collar and cuffs, mint condition, possibly never worn).

$200 is my benchmark, I won’t pay more than that for anything vintage and I try to implement that policy here when I write about clothing on Lindy Shopper. It has to be the most fabulous thing I’ve ever seen to get me up to that number and it has to be close to the most fabulous thing I’ve ever seen to get me over $100, or I have to really, really need it for an occasion. Beyond that, it becomes unaffordable and I’ll file it with the Miu Miu and Prada dresses I want, but will never own.

The more you shop for vintage, the more you are aware of what is rare from each era and what constitutes a reasonable price. I have been sorely spoiled here in Durham with Dolly’s Vintage, which hasn’t priced anything I’ve picked up in the store over $35, but then Dolly’s doesn’t have a lot of swing era items. You may pay anywhere from $30 to $80 for a vintage 1940’s or 1950’s day dress – would you pay that much for a dress at, say…Banana Republic? Probably, maybe even more. And if it fits you better than a BR dress and it’s one of a kind, it would be worth it, right?

eBay can be tricky, since you are bidding against other people. I find that placing my maximum bid and just walking away until the auction is over is the best policy for me, which is how I acquired those two 1920’s dresses at such a low price. I can’t rely on eBay to absolutely get me what I want unless I’m willing to wage a bidding war, but you really have to choose your battles on eBay and only wage war for those items that you absolutely must have. You’ll feel it in your gut when that item shows up. There are no guarantees you will win and losing something you’d like to own can hurt, but the odds of getting something amazing are much greater overall because there is a larger selection of items.

There are also those eBay sellers who have severely overpriced their items (Buy it Now $198.00 for a cotton 1930’s day dress that is fairly unremarkable) and they keep showing up in my searches week after week after week (*cough* VioletvilleVintage *cough*), but there’s a reason the items continue to be re-listed – no one is willing to pay that much for that particular item. If no one is willing to pay that much, then why don’t they lower the price so they can sell it? I have no idea. I’ve been tempted to write to these sellers and let them know what price I would be willing to pay for their wares, but it’s not worth my time because there are so many other dresses out there.

I’d love to hear your experiences with prices, both eBay and retail, and I’d be happy to take any follow-up questions you may have. It was hard to organize my thoughts on this topic because there are so many factors that go into my decision to purchase a particular item of vintage clothing, but price is definitely a big factor.

Beggars and Choosers Sale – 50% Off

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

ATTENTION: This post formerly advertised a sale where if you wear it out of the store, it’s yours for free. I went to Beggars and Choosers today and they were very embarrassed that their printer and local media had mis-advertised the sale – the free sale was only for Thursday and only for clearance items from the basement. So sorry for the confusion! That said, there were still tons of great vintage items on sale for 50% off – my friend George Knott left with a $7 sportcoat and I left with a $15 1930’s hat.

Here are the contents of the old post:

File this under local news for Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill: Beggars and Choosers in Pittsboro, NC is having a sale this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday where if you find an outfit at the store and wear it out of the store, you get the outfit for free! This is the only vintage store conceivably near the Triangle that has actual swing era vintage clothing and a great section of menswear as well – definitely worth the trip to come get a free outfit!

If you are interested, I know their hours have changed since my last blog post on this shop, so call and confirm the hours they will be open. If you are planning on coming to Pittsboro’s Mardi Gras Carnival on Saturday (to dance to the Atomic Rhythm All-Stars! yeah!), consider coming a bit early to catch the sale.

Beggars and Choosers
38 Hillsboro Street
Pittsboro, NC 27312
(919) 542-5884

Vintage Mythbuster: Vintage Clothing is Only for Tiny People

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

I hear a lot of positive remarks about my vintage clothing, but there’s always a BUT when people who don’t own vintage clothing talk about buying it for themselves – “I’d love to have vintage clothing, but…” there’s always something stopping them. I’d like to address some of the myths and concerns that people have because there is a world of wonderful, one of a kind clothing out there and you can own a part of it.

The most common myth I have heard is that vintage clothing only comes in tiny sizes or that people were smaller back then and I can’t find anything to fit me. Yes, a lot of people were smaller back then, didn’t get enough calcium in their bones, and many people didn’t grow to some of the larger proportions we have today; however, that doesn’t mean that people in the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s came in one size: small. Just like today, there were people of all sizes, including YOUR size.

I’ve looked at photographs of my great-grandmother and great-grandfather from the 1930’s and she is bigger than he is. She certainly had clothing to wear every day of her life. While I don’t have any of her clothes, I am certain that she would be considered around a size 14 or 16 by today’s standards. These clothes existed!

So where do you find these not-25-inch-waist sizes? You just have to look for them and be patient. Your average vintage clothing store may not even carry 1930’s and 1940’s, much less 1920’s, clothing; if they do, they will probably only have a few garments or a very small section. They may only have one garment in your size or they may not have any. Out of the many vintage stores I visit every year I may only come up with 2 or 3 garments. If you live near a vintage store, make friends with the owner, tell him/her what you are looking for and give him/her your measurements. If you are traveling to an area with a vintage store you want to check out, call ahead – I’d rather not waste my time if they don’t carry clothes from the swing era or don’t have anything that would come close to fitting me.

As a side note to men: Men wear their clothing out. This is true back then, perhaps even more so than it is today. An exception is formal wear, which I seem to find in abundance. I wish you the best of luck, as it is generally harder for you to find garments than it is for the ladies.

This is a labor of love, if you are looking the old fashioned way; but this is the internet age. Ladies and gentlemen, the secret is eBay.

With eBay, the key to success is knowing your measurements. Items in your size are out there! For the ladies, know your bust, waist, and hip measurements, and maybe rib cage, shoulder, and arm circumference. For gents, the same, plus inseam for pants and chest, maybe a few other measurements depending on the garment (feel free to weigh in, fellow shoppers). Knowing your measurements is power with vintage shopping, as many garments come without size labels or were handmade. Even if they did come with a size label, those sizes are different than the sizes we have today. The tape measure never lies. If the seller does not have the measurements listed on an item you like, simply message the seller for the measurements you need. If you are concerned about not being able to try on the garment, I repeat, the tape measure does not lie. Get more measurements from the seller and ask questions if you have concerns.

Once you know your measurements, start looking for clothing that you like. Some sellers will try to label things with S, M, L, XL, etc., but these are never accurate – I have purchased dresses labeled M to XXL, so there is no universal set of measurements for these seller labels. Ignore them. They only make you feel bad about yourself. Even if the dress looks too small or too large, click on it. You never know what size the model/mannequin is or if the garment has been pinned to appear fitted.

Once you find an item you like, compare its measurements to yours. If even one of the item’s measurements is smaller than yours, it’s not going to work. A bad idea is trying to squeeze yourself into something vintage – there is no lycra or spandex in these garments. If the item’s measurements are the same or a couple of inches larger than yours (or for ladies if the skirt is full, it won’t matter) then it should work. If the one or some of the measurements are more than a couple of inches larger, you may be able to have a trusted tailor work on the garment to tailor it to your body, or it may arrive and you like the way it fits. I have fallen in love with dresses that were a bit too large and a tuck here and there or a belt made all the difference. Also, some sellers measure circumference and others lay the garment flat to measure it – if the garment is measured flat, make sure to double the flat measurement to compare with your measurements.

This is all fine and dandy, but where are the clothes? I find dresses every day on eBay that are in my size and larger than my size. To give you some perspective, I have a 30 inch waist, which translates to a modern size 8 or 10. I actually think buying vintage clothing is easier than buying modern clothing because with supposedly (but not actually) homogenized sizes, who knows how the garment is going to be cut in the hips, waist, or bust? Measurements take a lot of the guesswork out of fitting clothing. But I digress. I know people get sensitive about sizes being labeled large or plus sized, so I’m treading lightly here, but with the myth the bar is already set so high…if vintage clothing is only for tiny people (modern size 0, 2, or 4 for women, or for men, any chest size 38 or below? Sorry gents, I’m not sure), then any sizes above tiny will bust the myth, right? Let’s go with that. Here are some mythbusting items from eBay:

Blue 1930's Dress

1930's three piece tuxedo

1940's rayon dress with peplum

This 1950's suit is rad

1940's dress - check out the detail at the neckline

How sharp is this 1930's tuxedo?

1940's rayon dress

EBC Vendors: The Vintage Collective

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

EBC attendees are likely in various states of recovery after the immense fun of this past weekend, as am I on this Monday of Mondays. My big contribution to the weekend’s festivities was organizing a vintage trunk sale through my friend Andi Shelton of The Vintage Collective, who set up their wares in the hallway of the hotel from noon to 9 p.m. on Saturday. The ladies of The Vintage Collective set up a truly impressive and beautiful display of jewelry, hats, purses, shoes, and three garment racks of clothing for men and women from the 1920’s through the 1950’s. In between classes, competitions, and the dance that night, EBC-goers browsed the racks, tried things on, and there were many successes.

I’ve mentioned this before, but there is no better vintage experience for me than shopping with other Lindy Hoppers (or in this case, Balboa dancers for the weekend) who share a passion for vintage clothing, or even just dressing well for dancing. It took Kate Hedin about two seconds to find the perfect dress, a 1930’s/40’s navy dress with a swing skirt and white embroidery. Stephanie Simpson found an amazing purple 1940’s dress with a fauxlero and studded detailing. Heidi Rosenau, one of my favorite vintage ladies, left with my favorite dress of the day, a chartreuse 1930’s/40’s day dress with a tropical flower print. I spotted some ladies even wearing their purchases from the day at the Saturday night dance. Lindy Shopper did not leave empty handed, coming away from the sale with a pair of two-tone brown and cream perforated leather heeled oxfords, which Heidi referred to as “The Holy Grail.” After dancing in them in prelims, I can confirm that they are, indeed, magical shoes.

The best part of the sale was having an edited selection of swing era garments and accessories brought to an audience who really appreciates them. Not having to wade through polyester = maximum convenience!

Where are the photographs? I was too stressed out to remember to take any, so my apologies. This should serve as a reminder to me that I need to cut out something next year – being at work at 8 a.m. the Friday of the event instead of taking the day off, DJ’ing, competing, organizing, and singing in the band on Friday night was just a bit much.

Thanks again to Andi Shelton, Claire Villa, and Laura Churchill Pemberton for all their hard work and for making an appearance at EBC as The Vintage Collective!

Eastern Balboa Championships

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

I’m writing about the Eastern Balboa Championships early in the week because I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to write later on, living in the host scene for this event and organizing certain tangential events that occur this week; also, the event starts on Thursday and once I am sucked into the vortex of madness that is EBC, I may not return until Monday. 😉

Last year at EBC I organized a vintage shopping trip to a couple of local vintage stores in and around downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. The main conquest was a giant warehouse of a vintage store called Get Dressed. Unfortunately, this past May, Get Dressed closed its doors for good, leaving Raleigh without a source for vintage clothing of the swing era. The remaining store, Father & Son Antiques, has an impressive collection of mid-century furniture, but lacks in the clothing department. I still wanted to have a vintage shopping experience for the EBC attendees, after the success of last year’s shopping outing – 20 people signed up in advance and even more carpooled over to Get Dressed the day of the outing.

I have been in touch with one of the vintage collectors from Get Dressed, Andi Shelton, who also runs an Etsy store called Raleigh Vintage. Andi has been keeping the dream alive of Raleigh having a vintage clothing retail store, looking for a location to have a less sprawling store with a carefully selected stock of good vintage clothing. It seems that North Carolina may need the assistance of The Rent is Too Damn High Party so Andi can find some reasonable retail space; until then, Andi and several other vintage collectors operate under the name The Vintage Collective, making appearances at various local events and offering their wares for sale.

I have arranged for the Vintage Collective to appear at EBC, during the day and into the evening on Saturday – specifically, 12:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Brownstone, the hotel hosting EBC. Andi wrote this about The Vintage Collective:

“The Vintage Collective is collaborative of three vintage clothing enthusiasts who have a passion for collecting and sharing special pieces. Just for the EBC, we’ll be sharing our collections of 1920s-late 1950s clothing for men and women, as well as accessories to complete the look. Offerings include dresses, tops, sweaters, skirts, lingerie, pants, suits, vests, hats, gloves, jewelry, ties, and shoes….a little bit of everything!

We’ll be accepting cash and paypal (if wi-fi is available in the hotel lobby).”

I know the ladies of The Vintage Collective have been saving up their good stuff for EBC, so I’m very excited to see what they will bring. Actual location in the hotel is TBA, until I can get over there and work with Chris & Holly Owens, the organizers of EBC, on the best location for the Collective to set up.

I’m looking forward to some vintage shopping without leaving the venue! I am also looking forward to seeing what Andi pulls out of the vault…we all know they keep the good stuff in the back. 😉 If you are planning on attending EBC and have any questions about the vintage shopping, please post your questions as a comment to this blog entry. Thanks!

Jammin’ on the James

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

This weekend both Lindy Shopper and Lindy Dandy will be heading to Richmond, Virginia for a weekend of workshops and dances at Jammin’ on the James. Aside from the world-class instruction and intimacy of this regional workshop, one of the best things about JOTJ is having the opportunity to shop at Richmond’s excellent vintage stores. I’ll be heading to Halcyon on Saturday for their rummage sale, then to the legendary Bygones to browse their racks of pre-War clothing. I should have time for a full report and photos when I get back. It is also my birthday on Saturday – what better way to spend it than vintage shopping and swing dancing? There will also be cake.

Jazz Age Lawn Party Vendors

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

This past weekend I was transported to a parallel universe, where the Jazz Age met modern day New York under the boughs of ancient trees on an island that felt so far away from the city it could have been a country estate in the middle of…somewhere fabulous. The weather was perfect, the dance floor shaded, and the eye and ear candy plentiful. While the champagne sorbet and Saint Germaine cocktails flowed, strollers could pick out a cloche or fedora to wear that day, just in case they hadn’t brought their own. Need a parasol? No problem, just pick one up the way to your picnic blanket. While the shopping, eating, and drinking were all delightful, the centerpiece of this event was the people – Michael Arenella’s Dreamland Orchestra serenaded the crowd with 1920’s dance favorites, while the raucous Drew Nugent and the Midnight Society egged the dancers on with their high energy tunes and antics. Dancers were on hand for 1920’s-inspired performances, bathing beauties and hat wearers paraded, and all kinds of people joined in for the tug of war.

I only hope I can come back to one of the Jazz Age Lawn Parties next year. I better get started shopping for my outfits now, as the vintage clothing collectors who attended obviously spent a lot of time scouring vintage sources for the perfect ensemble, from shoes to hat to accessories to picnic blankets.

For more information about the Jazz Age Lawn Party, visit the Dreamland Orchestra’s web site. For more photographs of this lovely event, especially those featuring swing dancers, visit the Yehoodi thread for the August 2010 Jazz Age Lawn Party.

As promised, I scouted out the vendors at the lawn party and managed to take a few pictures of their wares. While you can’t wear anything from the food vendors, two of them are definitely worth mentioning: first, Wine Cellar Sorbet out of Brooklyn, N.Y. had a delicious assortment of flavors, such as sangria, mimosa, pinot noir, and other varietals; second, a cocktail made with St. Germain Elderflower liqueur kept everyone refreshed on a warm summer’s day. I picked up a little cocktail book from the St. Germain table and hope to make use of it soon, as I did not get to try one of these cocktails (but certainly heard a lot about them from others).

My favorite vendor of the weekend was The Village Scandal, which had a delightful array of jazz era millinery for men and women. Boaters and straw fedora style hats were popular, and I saw a number of gals sporting their straw cloches and a beautiful fascinator made of lightweight straw material and feathers curled into a divine confection. My friend Rachel Hundley models her fascinator, pictured to the right. The Village Scandal has a retail location in New York at 19 E. 7th Street, but I understand from the shopkeepers that the website is being revamped and will be more friendly to shoppers soon. These were truly wonderful hats and the cloches are to die for.

There were some odds and ends vendors, selling less expensive goods like these parasols. If you weren’t in the shade, you definitely needed one of these!

Finally, Odd Twin out of Brooklyn, NY was on hand with vintage clothing and accessories. While most of the clothing at their tent was not of the Jazz Age, they had tables spread out with some solid older accessories, like purses and ties, and some fun bloomers on the racks.

In all a wonderful weekend – if you’ve been on the fence about going, I’m here to say solidly that the grass is greener on Governor’s Island!

Update on Beggars and Choosers

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

Beggars and Choosers
in Pittsboro, NC will now be open on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.! This delightful vintage and antique store with an extensive clothing inventory had closed its doors following a robbery in the fall, but, by some miracle, the owner has been convinced to open her doors to the public yet again. Let’s hope that one day a week turns into a few more open days…

I’m planning on heading there this Saturday – excited!

Beggars and Choosers Antiques
38 Hillsboro Street
Pittsboro, NC 27312
(919) 542-5884

Field trip: Beggars and Choosers, Pittsboro, NC

(WordPress is being uncooperative with my photos and I don’t have time to figure out the problem right now, but I wanted to get this post up in case any locals wanted to go check out the shop, as they are only open this weekend! I’ll work on the pics soon…)

Yesterday was actually the first time I had been to Beggars and Choosers in Pittsboro, NC, even though I have been to Pittsboro many times. People have been telling me to go for years and I can see why – this shop is full of thoughtful and adorable pieces of furniture, antiques, knick-knacks, a second floor full of vintage clothes and accessories at reasonable prices, and a basement full of furniture and clothes at thrift shop prices.

The shop is only open for this coming weekend, after being closed for some time following a robbery at the store. To kick off the store’s limited weekend opening, Beggars and Choosers had a “preview” night on Thursday, April 29 and for $10 admission you get first dibs on the store’s new inventory, hors d’ouvres, and live music while you shop. The store’s owner, Pam Smith, was a delight and danced around the store, meeting and greeting people, new friends and old friends, with a warm welcome.

I hope that Beggars and Choosers will remain open, if not with regular business hours, with these sort of limited open weekends, because there were some really great swing era items and a lovely selection of vintage faux pearl jewelry. My friend Natasha El-Sergany came along and picked up a pearl necklace for her wedding. Notable items included a great selection of men’s footwear, lots of dead stock items for men and women, a pair of black spats, a 1930’s embroidered debutante/wedding gown with matching embroidered shoes, tons of sundresses from the 1950’s through the 1970’s, tons of men’s and women’s hats, at least 6 pairs of 1940’s heels that make me wish my foot was AAAA width, Art Deco era Bulova watches, a wonderful straw cloche, bakelite bangles, lots of pearl jewelry, a lovely brown evening gown that was promptly snatched from the display, some sassy 1940’s dresses with peplums and draping, and the biggest collection of 1950’s rooster ties I’ve ever seen.

If you are local to NC, the store will be open Friday and Saturday (April 30 and May 1) from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday, May 2 from 1 to 5 p.m. It’s worth the trip!

The center of the store is this magnificent dress!

Some really old captoes.

Spats!

Whimsical dress...

There was a whole shelf of dead stock men's shirts.

Lovely brown evening gown with gold detail on the neck and pockets - yup, pockets in an evening gown! Awesome!

A straw cloche for a very small head.

These red shoes were adorable.

There was a whole box of these little men's accessories bits and pieces, brand new in box.

Some of the bits had initials on them...

...and other bits had 1950's men's names on them. 🙂

Most of those white/cream jackets are dinner jackets.

Rooster ties!

Adorable flowered dress with peplum...too small for me, but maybe not for you?

Cool men's vest.

Who doesn't want a Mr. Tap 'n' Go?