Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Where Do You Find Your Vintage Wares?

This past weekend, I visited downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia with my parents, sister, brother-in-law, my niece, and nephew. The town reminds me of the quaint main streets of years past. Fredericksburg is rich in Civil War history and features many speciality shops ranging from furniture, cat-themed gifts, modern clothing, Vera Bradley, candles, ice cream to vintage clothing and even vintage furniture.

I visited one store that was small, yet cute. Most of the clothing was 70s and early 80s. I did see a couple of vintage 50s straw handbags but they were in fair to poor condition. One bag even had visible mold stains on the inside liner. My mom did find a 50s, yellow rayon sheer blouse for me. I bought it along with two chiffon scarves. Despite my purchases, I felt disappointed with the lack of 40s and 50s goods.

I also visited a huge antique "mall." It had everything from Civil War bullets, artifacts, clothing, hats, bags, belts, jewelry, shoes, records, dolls, furniture, and so on. I could have spent hours in there but my family was waiting for me at the local coffee shop and I quickly bought a wide, red faux leather belt and a three-strand yellow bead and off-white pearl necklace.

Most of the clothing and bags were either not my era or if they were 40s/50s, what I found was in horrible or questionable condition. I know that most finds are discovered after much patient searching. But, I have noticed something. Most of the vintage I have found in brick and mortar shops has been not what I call "good." Further, I have way more success finding good quality, 40s and 50s clothing and accessories online. At antique malls, I may find the occasional moonglow lucite bangle or beaded necklace along with a handbag or two but I have to say that I prefer or websites like

So, what is your experience with brick and mortar versus online shops? What have you had success with? Do you have a preference?


  1. I personally have had much better luck online, but I have friends who live in the California Central Valley who score big all the time! I thought that perhaps since it is a rural farm area, modern fashion is more exciting and popular.

    I know that here in Denver, I've had a hard time finding 40s/50s clothes (except for a few specialty stores, like Boss Vintage). And while there is a lot of furniture from the 40s-60s, there is a large crowd of modernism aficionados who know these items' worth (and charge it).

    I much prefer finding these in person though, so I keep trying, no matter how discouraging it may be. In fact, this coming weekend my husband and I are going to Wyoming to buy fireworks and I've already secured his promise to stop for any store that even remotely looks promising on the way up.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective. It makes me feel like I'm not the only one who has trouble trerasure hunting!

  2. Nicole,

    Thank you for your compliment and comments! After reading them I, too, feel better knowing that my frustrations are shared!

    I agree that online is better when it comes to actually finding vintage clothing. I have had a lot of success finding costume jewelry and accessories like belts and purses at brick and mortar shops but clothing, no. Like I said, what I do find is usually 60s, 70s, and 80s stuff. No, thanks. I will hit up the stores when I visit places but if I need something, I will just browse Etsy.

    Good luck finding vintage goodies in Wyoming! If you know the city where you are going, if you have not done so already, you can google to see if there are any shops. I call it vintage reconnaissance!

  3. I haven't had much luck with vintage stores in quite some time. Not here in Denver anyways. Most people here are more into 80s stuff than 40s and 50s so the re-sale shops dont bother buying it. Boss vintage is good but I know that they keep most of their good stuff in storage until they go to Viva. There are a couple good ones in Boulder that I hit up on occasion and have gotten some good things there. Honestly, most of my stuff I get online. Ebay and Etsy are still my favorites. But I seem to have the best luck when Oscar and I go on shopping trips. We scored big in Kansas City!! Every store we went to had tons of stuff we wanted. So much so that I want to go back!! Long Beach and LA were great for me too, especially for shoes. Albuquerque, my hometown, was great as well. The Buffalo Exchange there is awesome. I used to work there and got a lot of my favorite pieces from there. We're actually going to visit next weekend and I cant wait to shop!

  4. Your comments are very astute, Temperamental Broad! Most vintage stores these days carry items from the 70s and 80s because the kids are into those eras right now. Forever 21, Charlotte Russe, and Urban Outfitters are all going strong with 80s crap. I refuse to wear clothing from my childhood! Once was enough!

    Also, I agree that online shops and Etsy are great. Etsy has been my "home" for a while now and it is has even surpassed eBay.

    I hope you have fun next weekend and find lots of goodies!

  5. I think ebay and etsy- for good or bad has actually changed the market. Vintage stores rely on people who onsell to them. I think a lot of people now who might have sold to a dealer go direct to ebay or etsy to sell now, particularly for clothes. A number of dealers who had bricks and mortar shops or who sold in antique malls have closed and gone online. It is a shame to lose that "hands on shopping"- to be able to try a garment on, touch and feel it before you buy- but for people like me who live in another country ebay and etsy have transformed our worlds- I can get access to American vintage (which is what I prefer as Australia's clothing design in the 50s was much more limited and conservative post war)- I had to rely on what I could source on the occasional oversees trip before that! I also agree with Holly, Dealers need to stock what sells to keep their doors open and 80s and 90s is very hot with young kids who have the greatest disposable income.
    Interesting post- good to hear what others think on the issue :)

  6. There are a few stores here that have lovely selections of 40s-50s clothes. But generally rather expensive (but it's a labour of love for the store owners so I tend not to mind so much). Finding anything in a thrift store, though? No luck.
    -Andi x