Buying vintage online is like trying to find a little Y2K needle in a haystack, and it’s hard to know where to start. Thankfully, I’ve been wasting my money for years buying other people’s castoffs; here’s what I’ve learnt from that fruitful venture.

Know what you’re looking for

Knowing your brands is the key to finding great pieces fairly painlessly. Consider your personal style and the style eras you identify most with, and then do your homework. For those looking for late 90s and 2000s finds, try searching brands like Kookaï, Karen Millen, Kaliko, Per Una, old label New Look, French Connection, Calvin Klein (for denim). In terms of shoes, Faith, Steve Madden, and Nine West often deliver.

In addition to building up a roster of brands you can recall off the dome, brush up on your key terms so that you have the vocabulary to find items you know you’re going to love. Something that changed the game for me was looking carefully at my clothes and working out what all my favourites have in common. Why do I gravitate towards certain styles, colours, fabrics, and necklines? Understanding what I truly enjoyed wearing and knowing how to describe it made shopping vintage online so much easier, and saved me tonnes of buyer’s remorse.

Quiz that seller

There’s nothing worse than being disappointed by the condition of a piece when it arrives, so don’t feel shy about giving your seller the third degree. If it’s a designer piece you’re looking at, ask for proof of authenticity—there are resources online which detail the markers of authenticity used by specific brands.

“Consider your personal style and the style eras you identify most with, and then do your homework”

Other vital things to know are what the fabric is, and how they have been washing, drying, and storing the item. This is really going to affect the integrity of an item and how long it’s going to last for you. For example, you’d want to stay away from knitwear that’s been machine washed, tumble-dried, and stored hanging up in a wardrobe for years. (On that note, if there are any knits currently hanging up in your own wardrobe, take them down right now because you’re sending them to an early grave.)

eBay: A messy but rewarding lottery

Though Depop is the vintage one-stop-shop for our generation, eBay is an absolute goldmine if you know how to use it. It’s home to many reliable and really knowledgeable vintage sellers offering amazing pieces, as well as a whole host of personal sellers offering some truly mind-boggling bargains. I purchased my favourite and most-used handbag on eBay for £12. It’s a gorgeous denim monogram Guess handbag with tan brown leather and gold hardware which was in mint condition when I first got my hands on it. Resisting the urge to scream “AND IT WAS TWELVE POUNDS” in response to a compliment is one of the hardest battles I face.

I only have one other major piece of eBay advice: do not bid until the last 30 seconds of the auction. Placing any bid before then is simply going to drive up the price and get you no closer to your item. Add items to your watch list and, if it’s really special, set your own timer to make sure you’re there when the auction draws to a close.

Stay committed, stay vigilant: Search little and often

The nature of buying vintage online is that items go fast, and, once it’s gone, the chances of you finding a garment again are depressingly slim. To add insult to injury, some phenomenal pieces fly under the radar because the seller took the images on an iPhone 3, or because the listing is described only as ‘Dress’. Don’t let their incompetence get between you and your Roberto Cavalli dreams.


Mountain View

Why can't fashion forget about the 90s?

Here’s a personal anecdote for a little motivation. A few weeks ago, I finally tracked down a vintage Karen Millen gown that I had been searching for since I was 16. I had started to think the dress was a figment of my imagination; I scoured the internet constantly and could barely find a whisper of its existence. And then one day, eBay simply handed it to me. If you keep checking little and often, you just might get lucky.

Using eBay, Depop, Vinted, Vestiaire Collective little and often will train the algorithm to understand what you’re looking for, and soon it will start throwing gems your way. Like riding a bike, shopping vintage starts off slow and disappointing, but once you’ve got the knack, your wardrobe is going to make the Pinterest girls green with envy.

So stay committed, stay hungry, and stay off Depop.