Friday, 22 November 2019

Vix's Tips - How to Find Fabulous Vintage Clothing on eBay



Hooray for eBay! I bought this amazing Rabari mirrorwork and embroidered Indian cotton maxi skirt from my friend Katy's shop last week (link HERE). Although the three year old chazza-shopped black top I wore on Sunday was fine with it, I felt I could do better so I typed "blue bodysuit with sleeves, UK Size 8" into eBay and this once- worn, crushed velvet number popped up. I clicked Buy It Now and two days later Izzy the postman handed it over to me.


I doubt if the body suit was particularly expensive to start with but even so, £6, was a steal and I much prefer to buy my clothes secondhand rather than f*ck up the planet further by buying new.


It's a shame the weather's too hideous to show it off in daylight, the joys of living in Northern Europe. I'll just have to pose in front of my me-made patchwork curtains instead. Check out my new-to-me cushion cover, it's Suzani, a tribal textile originating in central Asia. God knows how it ended up in the 50p bin in a Black Country charity shop.


  Isn't my pendant incredible? It's made by Alison, an IG friend, using an antique knife and some vintage embroidery silk, recycling at it's most glamorous! Visit her wonderful Etsy shop HERE.

A few weeks ago the ever fabulous Suzanne Carillo published a blog post entitled How To Successfully Shop Secondhand Online (link HERE) and, as trawling eBay for vintage clothes is a passion of mine, I left a long & involved comment. As I'm often asked how I manage to find so much good - and reasonably priced - stuff on eBay I thought I'd share a few of my secrets. 



In addition to today's crushed velvet bodysuit, these two 1970s Indian-made dresses were this week's eBay buys. As you saw on my last post, I've already worn the embroidered velvet maxi. 


Without further ado, here's how I search for fabulous vintage clothing on eBay.
1. When trawling for something specific, rather than choosing the Vintage Clothing & Accessories option, I enter the description into the "Shop by Category" box at the top of the page and select "All Categories" from the drop-down menu. This means I often find vintage clothes listed in incorrect categories which are less visible to fellow vintage enthusiasts.
2. I try and think of alternative ways to describe the item I'm looking for. For instance, if I wanted a vintage Welsh Wool cape I'd first start searching using that description and then I'd look for Made in Wales Cape, Mod Cape,1970s/1960s Cape, Tapestry Cape, Tweed Cape and Retro Cape. 

Yes, it takes ages but finding the perfect vintage piece generally does - this ain't fast fashion.

3. I always select “UK Only” in the Item Location category on the left hand side of the screen (thus keeping postage costs to a minimum and avoiding any nasty customs charges) and "Used" in the Condition category (filtering out all the nasty imported Chinese sweatshop tat registered at a UK address).




4. I never search items listed as Ending Soonest. It's easy to get carried away in the dying seconds of an auction, not read the description clearly and end up disappointed when you failed to notice that the seller mentioned that there was an obvious fault or that the item needed serious cleaning in your rush to bag a bargain. If you've got a question for the seller, last minute auctions it don't allow adequate time for them to answer. By searching Newly Listed items you've got a week or more to ask yourself if you really need it (I'll often change my mind when I've had the time to carefully consider) and it gives you plenty of time to ask the seller any questions you might have.


5. I don't leave anything to chance. If there's no mention of the type of fabric in the listing - I ask. 
Same with a vague description like "In fair condition, remember that this item is 50 years old and won't be like new". You've only got yourself to blame if the gauzy cotton frock you planned to wear on a tropical holiday ends up to be 100% nylon or that a zip needs replacing and the armpits are hideously stained. No response to your questions from the seller? Step away from the item! 
6. I’m very dubious of vintage sellers who don’t include a photograph of the garment label (if there is one) in their listing. I’ll always message and ask for a photo and failing that, a photograph of the zip and the inner side seams, if they fail to reciprocate it makes me suspect they’re selling modern stuff and trying to pass it off as vintage which sadly happens a lot. 
7. Remember that vintage dress sizes are much smaller than their contemporary counterparts. If an item is listed as a UK size 12 but there's measurements in the listing, ask the seller for clarification before bidding. A vintage UK Size 12 has a 24" waist measurement (the equivalent of a modern UK Size 6) whereas a contemporary UK Size 12 has a 29.5" waist - a big difference!


1970s clothing sizes bear no resemblance to today's!

8. If a listing catches your eye there's a possibility that the seller has similar tastes to you so it's a good idea to check out any other items they have available and if so, message them to ask if they can combine postage before you bid. 


9. Use a sniping tool. This is an application that will place a bid on your behalf in the dying seconds of an auction, ideal for auctions that finish at odd times and/or when you haven't got access to the internet 24/7 (like non-smart phone owning me!) While there's no guarantee you'll win the auction if your bid isn't high enough it'll stop you getting into a bidding war and paying over the odds for something. Many auction snipers are free, others take a tiny percentage from the winning price (I use AuctionSniper which charges 1% of the final fee.) Sharing because I like them - not 'cos I'm getting a kickback.
10. When you're searching eBay and find something gorgeous listed as a Buy-It-Now with a wildly optimistic asking price don't scroll past outraged, watch it anyway. Occasionally you'll get an email from eBay letting you know that the seller has slashed the price and you can snaffle said item without bankrupting yourself. The kaftan below was originally listed for £90, needless to say I didn't pay that much!



Hope this helps and, if you're an eBay virgin, you feel a bit more confident about buying on line.

Happy bidding!

45 comments:

  1. These are great tips from a pro! Thanks for sharing your experienced advice.

    That kaftan is gorgeous! As is your new-to-you top and maxi.

    I do find that many Ebay sellers can be lazy when it comes to listing measurements and fabric contents, two things I'm pretty picky about. Like you I often ask questions and drop the seller if they can't be bothered to get back to me.

    I do have a bad habit of buying items from the auctions ending soonest though. I've struck some vintage gold a few times like that. It can be a bit like gambling though, addictive and risky.

    Can I ask what you're looking for on the side seams? Not finished with a serger?

    I only include a photo of the zipper (if there is one) or label if there is one and it's from the 70's or earlier. Most 80's labels aren't very cool and the zippers are mostly nylon. I abide by Etsy's rules of vintage, anything older than twenty. You probably don't sell past the 70's or 80's.

    I sometimes have a hard time dating items from the 40's or before. Other than style and fabric content is there anything special you look for?

    Do you have any tips on dating items that are hand sewn? Other than buttons, zippers and style? I sometimes find them difficult to date.

    Thanks for all the tips!

    Suzanne
    http://www.suzannecarillo.com

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    1. Listing takes absolutely ages, I used to sell 100s of items a week on eBay before I started doing fairs and markets. The thing is, if there's photos of labels, inner seams and zips it allows prospective sellers to make informed judgments.
      A lot of people list Anokhi as "vintage" - if they've included a photo of the label I can see at a glance whether it's current, 10 years old or 40 and put it down to the seller being misinformed rather than dodgy.
      Yes - overlocked seams can be a good way to date clothes although I have come across a couple of 1950s dresses with them. There's always exceptions!
      Polyester. although in existence, wasn't commonly used in garment production until the 1970s.
      Machine washing instructions didn't appear on labels until the 1970s when working class households could afford washing machines.
      As a rule of thumb garments with metal zips are pre-1971, zips were generally centred in the 1960s and set into the side seams in earlier clothes. In the UK, during WW2, metal was in short supply so dresses often fastened with hooks and eyes rather than zips.
      There's some excellent websites providing information and dates on various brands of metal zips which help date clothes.
      I usually have to handle pre-1950s clothes to get an indication of date. There's often clues like horsehair filled shoulder pads, clothes cut on the bias, french or Hong Kong seams. Look out for things like glass, mother of pearl or Bakelite buttons (which have a distinctive smell!)
      During the 1920s sewing machines and patterns became available to the working classes, before then clothes were hand stitched. Victorian and Edwardian clothes would have been sewn by professional seamstresses and the finish will be perfect.
      Hope that's a tiny bit helpful - if you ever need advice in dating something feel free to message me! xxx

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    2. Thanks so much for this detailed response Vix! I'm bookmarking this page.

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  2. I was just thinking how I should explore the world of online vintage & secondhand shopping and ebay sounds like a lovely place to start.
    I love that cotton maxi skirt you bought.

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    1. Dip your toe in the water, it's great fun! x

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  3. The kaftan is lovely!
    As a seller I agree so much about not searching by ending soonest, it drives me mad when people start asking questions in the last hour of a listing as I don't always notice it on time. Many buyers seem to assume that sellers are watching their items like a hawk which just isn't true, I list stuff and forget about it until it's time to package it up and only check for messages once a day when I'm at my computer. And on the flip side, I've been burnt when thinking I've spotted a bargain and bid in the last few seconds only to realise I've bought a real dog of an item later on. We've all been there!
    I agree that a lot of sellers are lazy with their descriptions, but I've found that buyers are often lazy with actually reading the descriptions too. I go to great lengths to describe and photograph in as much detail as possible only for them to attempt a claim because they didn't realise it had something that was described and photographed at length. It's frustrating!

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    1. Tell me about it, it used to drive me mad as well! That and the ridiculous questions - "what colour are those navy trousers, are they black?" "Will those UK size 7 shoes fit a UK size 8?" arghhh!
      You're right, there are a lot of lazy readers out there! xxx

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  4. You always win great items, it makes sense now!

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  5. Gorgeous rabari skirt! And a fab outfit with the blue velvet top and that sweet waistcoat.
    Thanx you for that precious tips! I am totally lost at the bay, but the BW is a wizard finding cool stuff there - mostly clothing for him and interieur items.....
    Beautiful kaftan! xxxxx

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    1. We should go out in our skirts together one day
      Jon's good at eBay, too - although I did find a pair of his favourite style of Levis today for £3.60! xxx

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  6. I do appreciate the sellers who list measurements in addition to the guesstimated size of a garment! When buying in charity shops, I ignore sizes and try for fit -- which means my wardrobe spans 4 sizes. (More than 4, actually, because I've bought some tiny Vix-sized items to hang as wall art.)

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    1. Measurements are so important when you're buying online especially if you've got to factor in the additional postage costs, it can make for an expensive mistake! xxx

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  7. Thank you for taking the time to do this, really helpful! I don't buy much vintage via Ebay as I have indeed been burnt quite a few times, but with a few lucky purchases too. You've re-inspired me to have another go. Aren't you fabulous in velvet? I'd just want to stroke you! xx

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    1. I'm glad to help! Ebay's come on leaps and bounds since I started buying in 2001, the buyer has so much more protection these days so you really can buy with confidence. xxx

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  8. good advice. Sizing is so different in past decades and other countries. When I want to buy something on an on-line auction, I use the highest bid option. Example: If I really want an item, I figure out what's the highest I'm willing to pay for it. Say, $20. I'll bid that and I wont have to keep checking on the bids. The auction will send an e-mail when the bids go over $20. Here comes the tricky bit, do I want to increase my bid or not? Sometimes yes, sometimes, no. Guess this is common with all auctions: a small added fee that the auction house adds on. That,tax and shipping can raise what you pay to be more than what the item cost you. Be aware, and have fun with buying from on-line auctions

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    1. I'm not a gambler either, your advice makes perfect sense. xxx

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  9. Great tips.
    I love your new skirt, and both ways you've styled it.
    The pendant is a genius idea!
    xx

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    1. Thanks so much, Hazel! isn't that pendant a genius way of recycling cutlery? x

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  10. I saw Suzanne's post, and appreciate you adding your Ebay tips to the conversation. I don't buy much on Ebay anymore as I've had a couple of not-so-great experiences. I like your searching tips though, and will try them the next time I feel like having an online browse. The blue bodysuit is definitely a good pairing with the skirt, and that last Kaftan is a real gem!

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    1. Thanks, Shelley! As a buyer I absolutely love eBay, I love the challenge of searching for things, knowing everything I could ever want is listed, I just need to think creatively in order to find it! x

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  11. Your skirt was a great find, and it looks heavenly combined with the crushed velvet body suit and that fabulous waistcoat. The curtains are the perfect backdrop too. I'm loving your crushed velvet frock as well but my favourite of your finds must be that amazing kaftan! Thank you for sharing your eBay tips. I used to buy lots of vintage Barbie stuff on eBay, and found that browsing all categories could unearth hidden treasures! xxx

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    1. I was thrilled with the skirt, it's getting harder and harder to find traditional Indian clothing in India, I used to pick up bits like this from street markets all the time, now it's racks and racks of Zara, Primark and Desigual! xxx

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  12. That's all excellent advice! I've never been good at finding clothing on ebay (perfume however is another story). Going to try your tips for filtering and search terms. Thanks!

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  13. Teaming the navy velvet top with your blue eBay skirt was a great idea. It goes so well together, especially with the embroidered vest on top.
    I always love reading good tips, and I agree (and use) the first three tips. X

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    1. Thanks, Jess! Can't beat a bit of velvet! xxx

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  14. That red embroidered velvet maxi dress is a dream and I like the coat you paired it with. Both Indian made vintage maxis are simply gorgeous. You always find the best things. Thanks for sharing your tips for browsing and finding vintage.

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  15. Gorgeous bodysuit and necklace! And those two dresses!
    I love your curtains so much!!!!!
    Great shopping tips. I'm so excited vintage and secondhand might be going mainstream :)

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    1. Thanks so much, Becky! I love that more and more people are shopping secondhand, there really is enough used for everyone. x

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  16. That bodysuit looks 90s to me - I love it with your new-to-you skirt. I never shop second-hand online because of many of the issues you point out: fabric, trims, sizes. My tips for shopping in second-hand stores deal with a lot of these same things.

    Hope you had a fab weekend, Vix. Give Mr. Frank a cuddle from me and Vizzini.

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    1. Thanks, Sheila! I was all over the bodysuit in the 1990s, I was wearing one - alog with hot pants and platforms - when i first met Jon!
      Frank's sitting behind me right now, I've sent him your love! xxx

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  17. I do hate all the Chinese stuff that shows up when you're trying to search for "real" vintage on Ebay. That's a good idea to check off "used" to weed them out. Had never thought of that. You do find yourself some amazing things. Better than I usually unearth on Ebay US. So maybe I havent been searching correctly or UK just has better stuff!

    Theresa

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    1. I absolutely loathe all those Chinese non-vintage pieces - have you ever seen them in the flesh? A few dresses I've admired online have turned up in our charity shops and they're absolutely disgusting, the fabric is like mosquito netting! xxx

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  18. Thankyou so much for sharing these valuable tips. I've had my own ups and downs with Ebay, as probably most people have, so I really appreciate any useful advice. Most of the time nowadays I prefer to just buy from markets/car boot sales/op-shops etc. I like being tactile, feeling the weight of fabrics. More importantly, I have found that what looks great on another woman doesn't always look great on me, so I prefer to try things on.

    Your skirt and velvet top are beautiful together. As are your new dresses.

    Good on you for having the patience to complete those gorgeous curtains! They look fantastic. My favourite is the Suzani cushion covers - they are beautiful.

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    1. I agree about feeling fabrics - that's why I only bid if I'm 100% sure about materials and labels. I'm not a gambler, I like to spend my money wisely!
      Suzani is amazing, isn't it? I'd love an Uzbek coat but I wnat to travel there to find it! xxx

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  19. The skirt is beautiful and the red velvet dress is gorgeous too. I find I cant resist velvet, it's just so richly coloured, I love the depth.
    I shop a lot on eBay too and your advice is very good. I'm terrible for the ending soonest though! I have had my fingers burnt on occasion but also picked up some bargains that went un noticed. xxx

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    1. Thanks, Sally! I did find a gem when I had a quick look at ending soonest in a f=different category today - in fact it's such a rare find I wouldn't be surprised if the seller decides to cancel the sale...fingers crossed she doesn't! xxx

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  20. Thank you for your insight into the confusing world of purchasing on Ebay. I have often looked but never purchased due to my lack of knowledge, maybe its time to try. I have looked at Etsy but with our low dollar and postage costs it makes it very costly. You seem to find the best items. xxx

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    1. Etsy seems really expensive to me - and difficult to navigate. Give eBay a go, there's loads of good stuff offered by Australian sellers. x

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  21. wowww, this is great advice from an expert!, I really love to read your tips and now I know something more about ticking all the correct boxes!
    Ebay is still my favourite place to find second hand clothes online and to sell my own stuff.
    Love your recently acquired embroidered skirt (and the matchy velvet bodysuit) and love those fab dresses, their color and textures (and Sleeves!) are particularly appealing!
    besos

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Lots of love, Vix