Finding Vintage Clothing at the Thrift Store

howtofindvintageI love to add touches of vintage to my outfits. Be it a garment or accessory, there is something magical about vintage pieces. They have a story and a history and they can be down right fun. When I discuss vintage clothing with friends, they often ask where I find my pieces, and how I know they are vintage. Today, I’m answering those questions by sharing some of my favorite tips and resources for finding vintage clothing at the thrift shop!

Thrift shopping is like treasure hunting- you never know what you will find. Sometimes I have great luck with finding vintage, and other times not as much. This leads me to my first tip:

1. Go to your local thrift shops regularly.

Find out what thrift shops are in your area ( is great for this!) and go often! I tend to thrift about once a month, but know thrifters who go once a week! Thrift shops are constantly receiving donations that make their way into the store, so the more you go, the better chance you have of finding vintage pieces!

So now that you know where your local thrift shops are, how do you know if a piece is vintage or not? Bring on the next point!

2. Learn about silhouettes from the past 100 years!

This might seem a little daunting, but trust me, it’s simple! Just do some Google searches to find the most popular silhouettes from the various decades. This will give you a better idea of what to look for. For example: after you learn that dresses in the 1950s often had fitted bodices, tiny waists, and very full skirt, when you find a dress that matches that description, you will know to examine it further.

3. It’s all about the label! (and the zipper.)

When I first started to hunt for vintage, the first tip I ever received was to look at the label. Why? To see how it was attached. Today and in recent years, labels are generally sewn in with neat sewing machine stitches across the top of the label. However, in the 1960s and before, labels were neatly tacked in at the four corners with small hand done stitches! This little tip helped me find my first ever vintage piece- a 1940s era cardigan! After you’ve found a hand sewn label, jump on over to the label resource at the Vintage Fashion Guild! This super helpful site will help you date popular vintage brands by the label! I use it all the time!

One other good way to date a piece of clothing is to look at the zipper. After the 1970s, plastic zippers were the norm. From the 1930s-1970s, however, metal zippers were common. You will know a vintage metal zipper when you see one. They are much thicker and sturdier than what we are accustomed to today. One more thing- if the gorgeous dress you found fastens with little hooks and eyes, then it could be your lucky day! Garments that fasten in this method typically pre-date the 1930s!

4. Keep it real.

The bottom line is, as much as we all want to find a flawless 1920s flapper dress in the corner of Goodwill for $5, that probably won’t happen. Vintage clothing is becoming more difficult to find, but there are still some treasures out there! Do it for the love of the pieces and the past! With this mentality, even your smallest finds can become beloved treasures.


4 thoughts on “Finding Vintage Clothing at the Thrift Store

  1. What great tips! A few of our favorite thrift stores have sections dedicated to “vintage” clothes, but it can be hard to tell sometimes if things are genuine or not. I’m pretty familiar with the different styles, but I had not heard about the zippers and labels before. That is something I will definitely keep an eye out for!

  2. Great tips and great links!! I just used the label resource on Vintage Fashion Guild and found out that a Sears brand gingham shirt I bought for $2.99 at Salvation Army is from the 1960s!

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