Fashion

How to shop for vintage clothes online

How to shop for vintage clothes online

The best tips and websites for shopping for vintage clothes online

Fashion

How to shop for vintage clothes online

Camille Kowalewski, head of communications at eBay Canada, and Dag Larsen, founder and owner of Consign Toronto, taught us the best ways to shop online for vintage.

Vintage shopping is an amazing option whether you're looking to be more sustainable with your fashion choices, aiming to find designer goods at more reasonable prices, or you love pieces that feel uniquely your own. Compared to shopping in-store, online shopping allows us to look beyond our own backyard and gain access to items that we normally wouldn’t come across. It helps that you don’t even have to leave your own home to do it too. But, compared to purchasing something new, it's necessary to take extra precautions when picking up a pre-loved item. Does it have holes? Is there a seam that's unraveling? Are there stains? Because you can't touch or analyze a product prior to purchasing it, shopping online for vintage can be especially risky, even more so because purchasing an item is often final sale.

In order to guarantee you will be happy with your vintage online purchase, we turned to Camille Kowalewski, head of communications at eBay Canada, and Dag Larsen, founder and owner of Consign Toronto, to learn how to shop online for high-quality and authentic designer vintage pieces.

 

1. Research is Your Best Friend

Before you even consider pulling out your credit card, you need to do some research. "Consider the brand you’re looking for—what are their trademarks?” says Kowalewski. “Make sure you understand the era that you're buying from and what the branding looked like then." For example, if you’re considering a vintage Fendi bag, it’s important to know the details of the brand’s iconic double-F logo—its shape, correct positioning and where it’s located on the purse’s hardware (on all zippers, studs, and interior metal plaques). Knowing these features, and when they were introduced, can help you determine the authenticity of the products. It’s also good to have a general idea of what the price might be for the piece you’re looking for. In order to properly evaluate a vintage item, you need to understand contextual elements that will help you digitally examine the piece.

Beyond researching the products themselves, it's worthwhile to look into the legitimacy of the online seller. "The first thing you’ll want to do is check if there’s a physical address for this business—is it a retail or a warehouse space?" says Larsen. "There should always be a "Contact Us" page, with an email, phone number, and perhaps a store address." Kowalewski also underscores utilizing feedback posted by previous buyers. This will give you "a quick sense of who the seller is, what their interactions have been on the site, and how past transactions have gone," she explains. If previous buyers have positive experiences, it will give you an added boost of confidence that you're making a smart purchase.

 

2. Pay Attention to Details

When you can't physically interact with the product before you buy it, you need to leverage all of the product characteristics provided. "We’re not talking fast-fashion, so don’t rush the purchase of buying the item without doing your due diligence," warns Kowalewski. She suggests you "pay attention to the listing details and to the word descriptions," while Larsen stresses the importance of looking for authentication notes. "Authentication notes start with accurate dimensions, where it's made and if it's a brand that comes with a date code [explaining the year/era the piece is from]," he says. Also look out for essential specifications such as fabric composition, measurements (especially if it’s an older vintage piece as standard sizing changes), an explanation of the item's condition and the site's return policy. These notes are there to help you, so use them to your advantage to make an informed purchase.

It's also crucial to inspect the product images with a keen eye. "Be wary," advises Kowalewski. "The products could have weird colours or water spotting." These sorts of details can be easy to miss if you’re scanning photographs quickly instead of spending time zooming in and evaluating them. Larsen agrees, specifying the importance of analyzing the lining when considering a vintage bag. "Sometimes, a vintage bag looks great on the outside, but the inside can be all cracked," he says. Make sure to examine all elements that may show signs of wear or damage to ensure you have no surprises once your package arrives in the mail.

 

3. Ask Questions

Whether vintage sellers are using a marketplace (like eBay or Etsy) or their own website platforms, they are usually limited on how much information they can post. Don't restrict yourself to the information presented in front of you—both Kowalewski and Larsen highlight the importance of asking additional questions. Kowalewski suggests requesting more product pictures or inquiring about things like how the item has been stored or if it’s been refurbished or needed repairs. To Larsen, it's crucial to ask for interior care tags as it's difficult to authenticate vintage clothing without them. "Stores that have the information to back their products will not mind addressing your queries," he adds. "If they become agitated when faced with questions, tread carefully." Ultimately, asking extra questions will only help you feel more secure about your online find.

 

4. Do a Test Purchase, then Stick to Sellers you Trust

Despite being second-hand, vintage pieces can still be pretty pricey—especially designer goods. "Find something priced around $50 or less and take note of how it is delivered to you," Larsen advises. "If they take pride in selling you a small ticket item, odds are the services will only get better as you purchase higher end pieces." Start off by purchasing something cheaper to gauge a seller's legitimacy and avoid a large financial risk and potential disappointment.

What separates a good vintage seller from a great one is their ability to curate a strategic selection of pieces. Once sellers earn your trust based on their level of customer service and quality, you can often continuously rely on them to showcase amazing products. According to Kowalewski, it's worthwhile to look around for sellers that have an aesthetic that resonates with you. When you find a retailer you love, "you can keep checking back because their inventory is always going to be turning over and they're out there hunting for great stuff," she says. Relying on the same talented and trusted online sellers will severely cut down the time you expend scouring the web, and will help you develop a trusted buyer-seller relationship.

 

5. Consider Where You're Buying From

When shopping online, on websites like eBay, "you have access to consumers and vintage boutiques selling from Canada, all the way to Australia, and everywhere in between," explains Kowalewski. While online shopping gives you access to a large breadth and depth of inventory, be mindful of the country the product is coming from. "I find consumers get swept away by pricing," Larsen admits in regard to shopping internationally for vintage. "For example, an item listed at $120 isn’t necessarily $120 if you aren’t purchasing it from your home country.” You have to factor in the currency exchange, shipping and handling and potential duty fees. In order to avoid additional costs, consider shopping within Canada. Other reasons to shop your own country? Larsen adds that it's always a great idea to support your local economy, while Kowalewski reveals that many Canadian sellers on eBay offer free shipping within Canada.

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The 10 best Canadian websites for shopping vintage clothing

1. eBay Canada

As one of the world's largest and most trusted marketplaces, facilitating thousands of consumer-to-consumer and business-to-consumer sales daily, eBay is a great place to begin your vintage search. Giving you access to a plethora of products from all over the globe (including small boutiques you wouldn't have access to otherwise), eBay has many features that help you navigate the site with ease. For example, you can follow your favourite sellers to see when they post new items or look up past buyer feedback. "We instill a lot of technology and sophisticated tools that we use to help detect any kind of fraudulent activity," explains eBay Canada's head of communications Camille Kowalewski. On top of pre-emptive measures the company takes in order to ensure you receive high quality and accurately described products, they also provide a money-back guarantee—basically, eBay's got your back.

Image by: instagram.com/ebaycanada By: Samara Abells

The 10 best Canadian websites for shopping vintage clothing

2. Consign Toronto

Having a Toronto warehouse, two physical stores, as well as an online website, Consign Toronto is dedicated to providing you with curated vintage products that are all good quality and authenticated. Dag Larsen, the owner and founder of Consign Toronto, reveals that the site also provides many benefits for the user: "a code for your first order, a monthly flash sale or bi-weekly edits". Not editing the colour or condition of the products they post, you can also be sure that what you see is what you'll get. "If there are scuffs and marks on the products, you will see those in the photos," Larsen admits. "It doesn’t make for the most beautiful website, but it does allow for accuracy and total transparency."

Image by: instagram.com/ctconsigntoronto By: Samara Abells

The 10 best Canadian websites for shopping vintage clothing

3. The-Upside

In response to their own frustration with the USD exchange rate and international shipping and duty costs, The-Upside was created in hopes of increasing Canadian access to vintage luxury goods. This Calgary-based company prides itself as Canada's largest online luxury consignment retailer and offers authenticated luxury goods from over 250 designers—everything from clothing to footwear and accessories.

Image by: instagram.com/shoptheupside By: Samara Abells

The 10 best Canadian websites for shopping vintage clothing

4. VSP Consignment

VSP Consignment's e-commerce website reflects the same merchandise available in their downtown Toronto brick and mortar store. The consignment shop offers tons of new arrivals coupled with sale items to accommodate your taste and budget. Something else to consider? Unlike most consignment shops that only offer final sales for their merchandise, if you contact VSP Consignment within 24 hours of receiving your package, they are happy to provide you with store credit for full-price merchandise or to re-consign the product for you.

Image by: instagram.com/vspconsignment By: Samara Abells

The 10 best Canadian websites for shopping vintage clothing

5. Etsy Canada

Similar to eBay, Etsy is a global marketplace connecting millions of buyers and sellers. With a whole section dedicated to vintage products, its Canadian website makes it easy for Canadians to connect with local and international sellers while also listing all prices in Canadian dollars. The vintage pieces range from super affordable finds to pricier designer goods—the options are endless!

Image by: instagram.com/etsyca By: Samara Abells

The 10 best Canadian websites for shopping vintage clothing

6. Shrimpton Couture

Sourcing vintage products from all around the world and bringing them to Canada, Shrimpton Couture gives Canadians access to global vintage finds, without the hefty taxes and shipping costs. The curated site allows you to filter your searches based on designer, era, size, and colour, making it easy to locate finds that specifically speak to you.

Image by: instagram.com/shrimptoncouture By: Samara Abells

The 10 best Canadian websites for shopping vintage clothing

7. Myluxurycloset.com

Based in Montreal, this vintage online retailer sources, inspects, authenticates and guarantees high quality items. In order to provide you with a mix of trendy and classic items, Myluxurycloset.com curates and updates their inventory seasonally. Featuring designers like Gucci, Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton and Chanel, you're sure to find some awesome pieces.

Image by: instagram.com/myluxurycloset_com By: Samara Abells

The 10 best Canadian websites for shopping vintage clothing

8. Turnabout Luxury Resale

Considering itself Western Canada’s largest luxury reseller, Turnabout Luxury Resale has a trusted reputation for selling high-quality vintage clothing and accessories. Focused on decreasing clothing production, this online company (which also operates six physical stores) doesn't believe in fast fashion, and rather devotes its time to showing you ways apparel can take on a second life. Through clothing donations and fundraising initiatives, the company is also committed to supporting non-profit organizations. Think good clothing and good-hearted.

Image by: instagram.com/turnaboutluxuryresale By: Samara Abells

The 10 best Canadian websites for shopping vintage clothing

9. Own The Couture

Promising up to 90% off the original price, Own The Couture is a Montreal-based online consignment shop dedicated to selling pre-loved luxury designer items (such as, Christian Louboutin, Prada, and Yves Saint Laurent) as well as high-quality contemporary goods (think Tory Burch, Kate Spade and Michael Kors). Linking its website and social media, this site lets you easily shop the products featured on its Instagram account.

Image by: instagram.com/ownthecouture By: Samara Abells

The 10 best Canadian websites for shopping vintage clothing

10. Designer Swap

Guaranteeing 100% authenticity for every product, Designer Swap is an online consignment shop and also features a Toronto-based fashion blog. Focusing solely on high-end designer goods, Designer Swap offers free shipping within Canada and the option to return items on a case-by-case basis. The site sells vintage pieces ranging from womenswear to accessories to menswear—you may even score a sale item too!

Image by: instagram.com/designerswap By: Samara Abells

 

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