Shopping for vintage clothing is wonderful fun but also a little different from buying modern clothes. Most vintage sellers are small independent businesses who sell vintage because we love the garments and the history that comes with them.
There are a few basic rules that will make every trader love having you as a customer:
- When looking through the rails, push the hangers not the clothes and please do not pull things out by the sleeve. These pieces have survived nearly a hundred years, please be gentle and treat them with care.
- Please do not bring food or drinks or even cigarettes onto the stall – these pieces are precious to us, we don’t want any spills!
- If you bring your children and / or pets, they are of course welcome but please keep them under control while you are browsing. One parent explained it to her daughter so well a few years ago by saying “we are going to touch with our eyes only”.
- Please ask to try things on and don’t just walk off the stall with them. There is nothing worse for a trader than noticing that something is missing, even if it has just been taken to the changing room.
- When you are taking something to try on, please do so from one stall at a time and always make sure you return items before moving on to the next stall. Many of us had bad experiences in the past, be it items going missing because they were left abandoned in communal changing rooms or had been returned to a different stall by mistake and it is devastating to say the least.
- If it feels like it isn’t going to fit, please don’t force it. Vintage garments have an inherent fragility and fabric or seams can tear easily if forced. If you measured beforehand, this hopefully shouldn’t be a problem, but we ask that you are careful when handling the items. Most traders will have measuring tapes available for you to use, so if you forgot to bring yours, please feel free to ask.
- Because of the age of vintage, sometimes seams pop, zippers break, and buttons come off if you try something on. It is annoying but unfortunately, it’s the nature of vintage. Traders will understand this and trust me, we would rather that you tell us so that we can fix any damage before it gets worse. If a button comes off, please just give it to us and we can sew it back on in a few minutes. If a seam or zipper breaks, we would rather be told than find out when the next customer is trying on the garment.
- If you would like to take a picture of something on the stall, please ask beforehand. Traders will almost never say no but many of us have had bad experiences in the past with people photographing dozens of pieces just to reproduce a pattern or design detail.
There is also the age-old conundrum: to haggle or not to haggle....that is the question!
This one will always divide the seller community. Some people are quite happy to offer a discount when asked, whilst others strictly do not discount their pieces. It really is individual preference but if you wouldn’t feel comfortable asking in a department store when you are buying modern clothing then you should avoid doing so for vintage too.
A lot of work goes into sourcing and preparing items for you to buy and nobody wants to feel like their work is undervalued. Most traders work to pretty tight profit margins so often there would be little discount we can give. However, if you want to ask for a discount, do...the worst that can happen is that the trader says no. I will say though, there are ways to ask that will be more likely to be successful than others. Please don’t talk the piece down or say “I’ll give you”, it will instantly irritate any trader. Ask politely if there is anything they can do on the price and be prepared that the answer might be sadly no.
If funds are tight, and they are for many of us, most sellers will try to work with you and might be able to sort out a layaway plan allowing you to pay in instalments. That’s always worth asking.
© Copyright Marie-Christin Coomber, August-October 2022