Do you love the handmade, one-of-a-kind feel of shopping small but can’t handle the price tag, and yet cringe at the affordable fast fashion at big-box stores dripping in sequins and emblazoned with cartoon characters? Just between the two lies a treasure trove you may not have considered for your little one: vintage.
The vintage clothing market for babies through little kids is going through a renaissance, and these beautifully made, often-one-off or never-before-worn pieces can be nabbed for a fraction of the price of new handmade clothes due to their age or style. I don’t know about you, but I can handle a little threadbareness considering my kid will fit into those authentic 1970s toddler bell bottoms for all of, oh, three seconds.
Learn the lingo
There is tons of vintage to be had on Etsy, Instagram, eBay, and on Facebook Buy/Sell/Trade (BST) groups, but trying to decipher a sale posting is like reading Klingon. Here are a few ground rules to get you started:
EVC/VGVC: Excellent vintage condition/Very good vintage condition
Deadstock: The item has never been used or worn
NWT: New (so to speak) with tags
Xposted: The item has been cross-posted on another platform; just because you don’t see any commenters showing interest in it where you’re at, you may want to act faster because there could be more activity surrounding it elsewhere.
Since Etsy lifted their “ban” on anything other than handmade, the vintage market has exploded there. Run a search on “vintage velvet suits size 3-6 months” and prepare to be sucked into a pit of cute.
Hashtags are your friend
Search popular hashtags to find the best vintage stuff super quick. My favorite is the #vintagecommunityforsale hashtag on Instagram because it is specifically geared toward kids clothing and all the best vintage sellers use it to earmark their posts. Don’t say I didn’t warn you- it’s a treasure trove!
Look for pieces with unique elements
Super structured plaid schoolgirl dresses, pussy bows, unique prints, and hand-embroidered pinafores- oh my! The special details on vintage clothes are unparalleled. Once you see something with one of those special touches that tugs on your heartstring, pull the trigger- there definitely aren’t more in stock!
Don’t be afraid to put in a little elbow grease
Some of the best pieces I’ve bought have needed work- reinforcing a seam, patching a wear hole, and replacing shot elastic. There are also lots of little stains (the seller should disclose these as flaws and provide you with pictures to safeguard themselves) that come with the territory of well-loved pieces. Once, I even had to cut open a hem and superglue together a broken hoop skirt for my daughter’s gorgeous taffeta Easter dress. But you know what? It was like $15 and she felt like a princess. #worthit
Buying multiple pieces? Make sure you ask the seller what their bundling policy is! Many list prices with shipping included, and at the very least you can save a few bucks by having them remove the extra shipping cost from one item.
Know your measurements
Vintage clothing sizes are unreliable because there’s a ton of variation and sizing standards were wildly different than they are today. Because of this, sellers will often list item measurements rather than a size. Desired STH (shoulder to hem), PTP (pit to pit), and STS (shoulder to saddle) are all important measurements to know for your child in order to ensure the piece you score will be a good fit.
Found the perfect Christmas coveralls that would fit a four-year-old perfectly, but your son is only two? Chances are the same piece won’t come around again, so it’s tempting to snatch it up even though the payoff is a ways away. You know yourself better than anyone; will you actually remember two Christmases from now to pull it out of storage? Snag it. You have a son but found the most perfect newborn baby girl dress, and who knows- you may have a girl one day? Probably better to pass. Hoarding is an art, but you need to use your head.