Where do you find your vintage? We’re spilling all our secrets
This is one of our most frequently asked questions, and I thought I’d address this to the masses once and for all.
We find our clothing EVERYWHERE.
When we started this business in 2013, we had a physical store where customers and clients donated their pre-loved goodies. We were not a non-profit, but many people chose to donate to us rather than big-box chain thrift stores. After about a year operating in that manner (and donating a portion of our sales to local non-profits), we stopped taking donations and began buying ourselves. The desire for vintage apparel was sky rocketing among our clientele as we began to stray away from the more thrifty pieces we carried. We searched for more unique, vintage clothing items to bring in a more defined audience.
At the time, my only frame of reference to find vintage was at thrift stores. That’s how I would find the pieces I wore, so that’s how I started finding pieces others would. Shopping at thrift stores led to estate sales, estate sales led to personal collections and from there it’s been a whirlwind of searching grandma closets and warehouses full to the brim.
Now we shop and buy from a variety of individuals and places. Here’s a great guide to where we find some of our vintage:
Our goal as a brand is to have a curated collection of pieces that reflect our shopper. Thrift stores are a great place to start shopping for vintage if you can’t access it any where locally. Check out this hand-dandy breakdown of my advice on thrifting in secondhand stores (https://www.vesselvintage.com/single-post/2017/07/09/Thrifting-Survival-Guide-5-secrets-for-secondhand-success). We prefer to shop at local thrift stores (no chains), which in turn gives back to our community.
Warehouses & Wholesale
Much like hunting at a thrift store, warehouses are a little bit more demanding of your time. Sometimes you’re lucky and come across a batch of like-items in one go, other times you can sift through bins for an hour only to discover a fanny pack that catches your eye. Warehouses may have a large quantity, but the quality isn’t always that great. But trust us, the prices are worth it. Wholesale, on the other hand, takes the fun out of hand picking and gives you a batch of unseen items. Sure, you’re given a ballpark of what it may be (90s hats, button downs, etc.), but nothing is guaranteed. Ever.
This is where vintage gold lives. Estate sales are usually the best place to find vintage clothing. Most times you’re dealing with a one-owner situation and that means your vintage will be in the best condition. Since vintage clothing rarely sells for too much at sales, you can always expect to find some pretty stellar pieces for not a lot of money. Estate sales aren’t always ideal for resale, but if you happen on them on the last day, most prices are reduced quite a bit. Estate sales are listed online and in the newspaper (usually).
Apps & Online
If you’re in the market for specific pieces, shop online. When we’re curating a fashion show or shooting a specific look for a photo campaign, we buy online. Since 2015, we've operated using the app Poshmark, but now we've moved to a brick-and-mortar location. We now use Poshmark to host our clearance items for shoppers across the country. There are also some amazing websites that cater to vintage clothing. Also, many wholesalers have single pieces listed (sometimes with resale pricing) with detailed photos available. Other great resources include Instagram, Etsy and Ebay.
I love working with individuals, especially in person. This is where word of mouth comes into play. Once one person knows you buy vintage, they tell their friends and suddenly you’re the go-to person. When we first had our physical store, I found this to happen often (we bought directly at our shop). Many walk-in buys were referred by others, so keep an ear and an eye out.
So, there you have it. You know all our tricks of the trade (well, almost). Whether you’re buying for yourself or stocking up your store, remember to treat every piece as an investment. If you can haggle, go for it. The value of vintage is ever changing and can really be whatever the consumer is willing to pay, sort of like fine art. More unique pieces can have heftier price tags, and for good reason. Generally there’s only one of them, and for anyone looking to stand out, it’s probably a killer piece to add to your collection.