I think your qualms about secondhand stuff is common. The thing to remember about vintage stuff is that it’s all about making it yours, and the initial care process is part of that. Often i find an item that has a small defect (missing button, hemline too long, small stain or worn heel) that i love anyways, and taking it home and breathing new life into it (or finding someone else who can) is part of the joy of owning vintage, at least for me. Yes, some stuff can be musty (if it’s been sitting in a box for a while, say) but that’s very fixable by a trip to the drycleaner, or even a hand-wash at home. Even many small stains can be improved or even erased with a little product. As for shoes, well i’ve never had a problem with smell, but if the idea grosses you out maybe try a disinfecting cleaner (hopefully non-aerosol).
In the end, it’s really all about how much you love the item, and whether you think that a little history and wear is enough to turn you off it. If you’re not keen on walking into a local thrift store (and it IS a bit scary the first few times), try going to a local vintage shop that seems well-edited; their stuff will probably be in great shape, and it’s likely that they’ve cared for each garment before it hits the floor. Here’s a little run-down of things to keep in mind when considering an item:
1. Look for marks and stains, then evaluate whether they are removable or forgiveable, if they are located in an obscured spot.
2. Check the buttons to see if any are missing. Would you be able to find a matching one? Does it matter?
3. Check the seams, especially in the underarm area and around fastenings. These are the trickiest to fix – other spots (like hems) are easily done by hand
4. Check the heel cap and sole of both shoes. Are they worn down? Are the soles made of leather, pressed board or rubber/plastic? This will determine if you can wear them in wet weather or not. You can tell it’s leather if there is stitching along the edge of the sole, and it’s usually very smooth.
5. Check the inside of the shoe – is the insole loose? Is the leather flaking? Sometimes this happens with really old leather shoes. It’s also very fixable with a damp cloth and a light scrub brush to remove it.
6. Check the tip of the shoe where the sole meets the upper – is it still securely glued? If not, a little ShooGoo works well.
7. Also keep in mind that seamstresses and cobblers are usually very skilled – if you like a dress but there’s one detail throwing you off, is it something that could be altered? Cobblers can also stretch out leather shoes for you, so keep that in mind if you’d like to wear thick socks with your new boots.
i hope that helps – yes there is a little maintenance, but with time you’ll know what to look for when buying vintage. And they payoff (both financial and style-wise) is huge! good luck!
foxhuntvintage, very helpful post!
i’ve never owned second hand shoes, but have purchased vintage before. i would definitely wash it before wearing. some pieces require dry cleaning, i would use this at home dry clean kit – dryel wool lite, works very well.
thank you! i realized as i was writing how much more i had to say, but tried to keep it brief. there’s just such a thrill when you find your first amazing perfect piece, and realize that youandonlyyou now possess it – everyone should be able to have that!posted over 6 years ago
I’m also quite a germaholic so when I go out on a thrifting spree, I choose clothes that I am sure fits me so that I don’t have to fit it in the store when it’s still dirty and itchy.posted about 6 years ago
Good answer foxhuntvintage!!
I love wearing vintage/second hand. The only thing you need is washing washing and reapairing little imperfections!!
Good tips for shoes (i’ve never dared to buy shoes… but sure I’ll do soon with your advice!)
xxposted about 6 years ago
My mom wants a cool vintage dress for me wedding this june. The theme is “breakfast at tiffanys” shes about an 8, any suggestions?posted about 6 years ago
Actually Forever 21 sells a lot of vintage type clothing. If you don’t live near one you can always shop online. And they have really cute oxford shoes now. I’ve had my eyes on some floral print ones for a while now. Another place is bluebirdvintage.com .I have never purchased anything from there myself, but I have heard great reviews and I have seen it in Lucky magazine several times. Good Luck!posted over 3 years ago