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Sources of Vintage Clothing

 Vintage Clothes 16

Sources of Vintage Clothing

By Pauline Weston Thomas for


Sources of Vintage Clothes


Sourcing Vintage Clothing

Antique Auctions

Desirable vintage clothes that have been selected and sorted from mere old clothes are often sold through auctions.  Auction houses such as Christies and William Doyle hold regular auctions of textiles to include not only vintage garments and accessories, but also linens, textile drapes, curtains, shawls etc.

Even if you can't get to these auctions buying the catalogue is an informative treat for any vintage collector.  You can also browse their online catalogues nearer the auction dates of specific textile sales.  Estimates, labels and eras are highlighted and help give sellers a feel for what is currently happening in vintage textile sales.

Clothes do cost more when bought this way, but if it saves you time and energy and you hate rummaging among old clothes this may be the best way for you to buy vintage.  Beware though of jumping on the vintage bandwagon if it's not really your style just because it has been currently fashionable for the past decade.  Many people consider vintage to be a rip off and if you don't know your stuff that is exactly what it can be.

Other auctions take place on the internet and a search through Google will soon reveal listings, but several links are shown further down. 

When you search the internet for vintage, you will find more interesting sites if you add a designer name like Enid Collins or Hermès or Fortuny or Balenciaga or other designer names to the word vintage, than just keying in simplistic phrases like vintage clothes or vintage fashion.  Living designers such as Zandra Rhodes are highly collectible.  Google will search deeply and find the sites that really have better quality items if you search well.  Any vintage seller who can describe a scarf as Hermès or a bag as Enid Collins probably has good vintage stock generally.

If wary about internet trading because of sizing, it is better to buy accessories, blouses, coats or knitwear on the internet rather than garments like dresses which have more sizing problems attached to them.   Dresses, particularly closely fitted figure skimming ones, cannot be be worn with as much ease as the other items mentioned.  The accessories on offer can also add a great sense of vintage panache to a contemporary ensemble.

Accessories to look out for include scarves, bags, shawls, stoles, belts, snoods, hair ornaments, hats, umbrellas, footwear, evening purses and face compacts.  One site where you can view some interesting handbags is where you can see and buy wearable art and need never worry about garment fit.

London Auctions

Christies South Kensington, 85 Old Brompton Road, London SW7. Also has very easy to view online catalogues.

Sotheby's, 34-35 New Bond Street, London, W1.

American Auctions

William Doyle Galleries 175 East 87th Street, New York.   Also has very easy to view online catalogues

Sotheby's, 1334 York Avenue, New York. 

Christies 20 Rockefeller Plaza, New York.

Specialist Shops

Specialist Shops are probably the best place to buy if you are seeking for example particular 50's style items by specific designers.  You leave your details with the shop and they contact you when they have an item that fits your request so you can take a look.  Repeat customers often get good discounts from local dealers.

Some London Vintage Sources


Bermondsey Market, London Bridge, London SE1.

Camden Market, Camden High street, London NW1.

Camden Passage, Islington, London, N1.

Greenwich Market, London SE10  (Please note this is about an hour by car out of central London).

Portobello Market, Portobello Road, Ladbroke Grove End, London, W10 and W11.

The shop Virginia in Portland Road London W11 4LQ, Tel 02077279908 sells late Victorian clothes and pre 1920s coats in the styling of Poiret.


I'm listing a small selection here of my personal favourite vintage and vintage related sites, because frankly there are so many sites that are trading on the word vintage when what they mean is retro or even brand new rather than vintage in the true sense of the word.  I have tried to omit those with flashing dark backgrounds, difficult navigation, and inappropriate use of the word vintage.  The list is in no particular order and all these sites were functioning on 2 March 2009.  I'm sure you'll enjoy them if costume history is your passion. For superb lace goods, lappets, collars and engageantes, splendid vintage costumes, vintage riding and sports wear, Cloisonné buttons, corsets, bustles and other lingerie.  This is Karen Augusta's eclectic vintage textiles site.

Costume, antique textiles, children's clothing, shawls and accessories from a trusted UK dealer.  Read one of Meg's informative articles on collectible Mandarin sleeves on her site.  For mixed vintage gowns including museum vintage gowns, shawls, quilts, textiles, hats, shoes, lace, accessories.  Featured on fashion-era here.  Featured on fashion-era here. For true vintage couture and designer g owns, coats, scarves and wearable art from Fortuny to Zandra Rhodes.  A good list of links and much much more about vintage.  Garments begin as tiny thumbnails, but info and pictures are generally good on the page details.  Limited items from Victorian era, but plenty from 1920s onward.   The thumbnails go to attractive pages and reveal lots of detailed photographs.  Famous for being the first vintage site on the web.  Mainly stocks everyday clothing items circa 1940 to 1980.  Accessories, bags, hats costume jewellery and shoes are frequently good.  Often has everyday stockings or nice gloves that have been kept in someone's drawer for years. You will find lots of unusual items there like 1950s's bathing hats, bras, sunglasses, spectacles and bathing suits.  Such items would be out of place on sites with a narrower couture brief.  The everyday clothes here may be very suited to drama/film productions with big casts. 

Affordable, but most items less likely to ever be investment items.  The most expensive item on their site at the time of writing was $400 for a sixties wedding dress and many items are under $100 with even more around $30 to $85.  I like the site because it is quick and functional offering a fast page of thumbnail images allowing you to explore further for greater detail.  It's a family business that understands what it's selling, knows it's market and does not try to make the goods into something they are not.   You may well find an item there if you are interested in this level of vintage.

Vintage Dress Patterns and Vintage Fabric InterestVintage 1950s dress pattern

Vintage 1950s Dress Pattern

Left - Vintage 1950s dress pattern from Vogue by Patou.

Image courtesy is featured in the collect fifties vintage section of this site here and sells all types of vintage clothing and accessories.   There you can also often buy Vintage dress patterns such as the Patou one below.  I recall making a Vogue Couture pattern by Patou up for ball gown in the late 1960s.   The cut was wonderful so such old patterns can be very rewarding when made up.  I am sure this example would give any woman a good figure with its superb designer cut. The Vintage Pattern Lending Library.  I like this site.  It's a site that you can browse through for interesting information on past dressmaking patterns.  Looking at pictures on old dress or garment patterns is an education.   I absolutely love going to this page url as a starting point.  You could spend quite a lot of time here.  Ideal for people who like antique and vintage textiles in general.  Joan writes informed, interesting articles about aspects of vintage textiles.   This is great for re-enactment patterns. Which sells good Vintage and great quality reproduction.  Well worth a look.

Recollections Victorian Styled Clothing for Women Already described on my page here.

As with all sites you need to see for yourself and make up your own mind about which sites to bookmark.  Bookmark the  site for reference reminders.

I hope you have found useful information in this section on vintage clothing, fashion and textiles. 


Image in header by arrangement with

Original 2003 vintage links all updated March 2009

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Recollections Victorian Styled Clothing for Women

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About looks at women's costume and fashion history and analyses the mood of an era.  Changes in technology, leisure, work, cultural and moral values. Homelife and politics also contribute to lifestyle trends, which in turn influence the clothes we wear.  These are the changes that make any era of society special in relation to the study of the costume of a period.Fashion History can take no responsibility for any information on the site which may cause you error, loss or costs incurred from use of the information and links either directly or indirectly.  This site is owned, designed, written and developed by author: Pauline Thomas and Guy Thomas. This site is designed to be viewed in 1024 X 768 or higher.

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