Buying Vintage & Pre-Owned Clothing
Unique, affordable, sustainable.
In most cases, there is only one of these items available. If you love it, buy it. There might not be another chance.
The listed size is always an estimate. It is the buyer’s responsibility to use the measurements provided to determine fit. Sellers will do the best they can to approximate size, but no two bodies are the same. Sellers cannot be certain of size or fit. If you ask a seller to help you determine the size or fit of an item, their response is not a guarantee.
Garments may be clipped or pinned
Not all garments will fit the seller’s dress forms, mannequins or models. These items may be pinned or clipped to show proper fit.
Accessories may not be included
Garments may be shown with crinolines, hoops, slips, belts or other items that are not included in the sale. If you have questions about what is included, please reach out to the seller directly.
Garment color may not appear in listings exactly the way it looks in person. Photo lighting and displays can alter color significantly. Describing a color is subjective, please do not pressure our sellers to commit to a specific shade prior to purchase.
Making an Offer
Fashion Conservatory is not a flea market. If the price is marked “Firm” it is not ok to make an offer. If a price is not marked “Firm” you can politely ask a seller if they are open to offers, what is the best price they would accept or make a reasonable offer (no more than 15% off). Lowball offers are not permitted and sending a message with just a dollar amount is considered harrassment. Our sellers are free to ask any price they wish and insulting a seller regarding price, item or model is strictly prohibited. Always be polite. Always.
Most purchases are final sale and not returnable
Return options will be specified in the listing, but the option to return is going to be rare. Many of the sellers on Fashion Conservatory are small, one person operations. Items are unique and many are delicate. Accepting returns is a huge financial risk that small sellers just can’t afford to take. This is why our return policies are strict. Please read the entire description of the item and all of Fashion Conservatory’s policies prior to purchase. Return policy.
Asking a question
If you message a seller, please be specific and ask all of your questions in one message. If you send a different message for each question, your additional questions may get lost in the shuffle. Keeping everything in a single message thread will make communication much easier. Make sure to ask all questions prior to purchase.
The price listed is for the item only and does not include shipping or taxes. Please be aware that if you live outside of the United States there may be import taxes and/or VAT that need to be paid before your item can be delivered.
Most of our sellers are small, one person operations that cannot afford to offer free shipping. Building the cost of shipping into the price of the item is not fair to their overseas buyers and Fashion Conservatory requests that you do not pressure our sellers to offer shipping for free. Free shipping is never free for the seller.
The Perfect Fit
Know your measurements.
The most important aspect of buying clothing online. Know the measurements of your body and know the measurements of your favorite garments in inches and centimeters.
It is the buyer’s responsibility to estimate fit.
Sizing and fit can vary greatly depending on taste, personal style and lifestyle.
We provide information to help buyers determine size and fit here: Measurements, Size & Fit
Fabric content and stretch.
Modern clothing is typically stretchy, eliminating the need for additional ease or tailoring. Garments made pre-2000 were not made in this fashion. This is especially true of jeans. Do not expect vintage garments to stretch unless noted in the item description.
Find a tailor.
Don’t be afraid to get a piece altered to fit, proper tailoring can make an item look like it was made for you. If the measurements are off by just a bit, tailoring is often a viable option. Sellers can often offer a wealth of information to help inform your decision regarding alterations. Be sure to ask your seller about seam allowance, textile type, or any other details your tailor might need, prior to purchase. In the end, it is up to the buyer to determine the proper course of action.
Not everything can be altered to fit.
Please keep in mind, there are certain garments that cannot be altered in a way that allows them to fit and no seller can guarantee that a garment is, or is not, alterable. Maybe the torso is too long, there is no additional seam allowance, the textile will show old seam marks, or any other number of other reasons. This is why it is important to speak with the seller and your tailor prior to purchase. They should be able to provide enough information for you to make a decision.
Wear & Tear
When you buy vintage clothing, you are buying an item that has already lived a life. The little signs of use and small flaws are part of why we love vintage, it adds to the charm, each piece has a story to tell and as the new owner you get to add your own chapter. Understanding and embracing the idea that things won’t be perfect is a necessary step of becoming a vintage fashion owner.
Every era has a preferred silhouette. When buying vintage clothing, it’s important to understand the silhouette of the era and to buy the appropriate undergarments. This will help with fit and comfort while wearing.
The older the item, the more care should be taken when wearing it. This is especially true with laces and silks.
One of a Kind
Many vintage items were not made to be one of a kind, but enough time has passed, and so many pieces have been lost, that it is rare you will run into another person who owns the same vintage piece that you do.
Buying vintage and pre-owned clothing is one of, if not the most, sustainable way to buy fashion. Using the clothing that’s already here to expand your wardrobe is an ethical choice. Many of these items have been around for at least 30 years; if properly cared for they can last for decades to come.
Caring for Vintage
Properly store your vintage items and they may get passed on to the next generation of vintage lovers. Never store your items in plastic. Materials need to breathe and storing in plastic can cause or speed up deterioration. Do not store in areas with direct sunlight, extreme heat or moisture. Storing with cedar or lavender can help moth abatement, but do not store furs with anything scented. Furs will absorb the scent and it cannot be removed.
Never, ever use wire hangers and never hang knits. When you get your items home from the dry cleaner, change the hanger immediately. Wire hangers can cause irreparable damage over time. Heavy items should be hung on wide shouldered hangers whenever possible. Knits should not ever be hung. They can get shoulder damage in just a few hours and the weight of them hanging can cause the knit to warp out of shape or stretch. Knits should be kept in drawers or on shelves.
Most vintage clothing will not hold up in a modern washing machine or clothes dryer. Hand washing, dry cleaning, and spot cleaning are the typical methods used for laundering vintage items. The general rule is that if a garment has embellishments, beading, sequins, appliqués, is made of silk, rayon, velvet or has a lining, it should go to the dry cleaner. Furs and leathers need a specialty dry cleaner. We will be providing extensive resources regarding caring for and cleaning vintage in the future. Until then, please keep in mind that what works for one garment may not work for another. Dyes are not always colorfast and some textiles will shrink up to the size of doll clothes when wet. Do your research and clean your items with care.
Materials can degrade over time, this is normal and to be expected.
Both natural and man made fibers will deteriorate over time. Vintage clothing wearers are familiar with the practice of keeping safety pins, sewing kits and even back-up outfits on hand for accidental blow-outs. Vintage sellers are not wearing the garments they sell and cannot be held responsible for problems that occur when the item is used. There is always a risk of damage when wearing clothing, but, with vintage fashions, it’s important to remember that the older the item, the more delicate it is. The more delicate the item, the greater the risk of damage.
These are an easy fix. These can be the result of old or damaged thread, heavy use, or a garment being worn too tightly. If the thread has deteriorated (thread rot) seams can be pulled apart easily, at this point we recommend having all seams resewn, just to be safe!
Rips & Tears
These happen when a garment is worn too tightly or when it is not treated carefully. As a rule of thumb, assume that the older the garment, the more fragile it is. Garments made pre 1960 should be worn with appreciation and consideration of their age. Garments older than 1940 should be worn with extreme care due to their very delicate nature.
The dyes used in vintage clothing can often be unstable. Improper storage and care can result in fading. It is not uncommon for heavy fading to occur in garment linings or in items exposed to sunlight of ventilation drafts. Make sure to apply all hairspray and perfume before getting dressed. The chemicals and acids in spray on products can cause older textiles and dyes to fade or bleach.
Elastic has been around for decades, but it doesn’t always last for decades. Expect that older elastic will lose its stretch and need to be replaced at some point. Many sellers will replace dead elastic while the garment is in their care, but others will sell as is. Any current elastic issues will be noted within the listing, but elastic can fail at any time.
Textile thinning and wear
Garments can have thin areas in the textile from use. This is not always obvious upon inspection and may not be noted in the listing. Elbows, knees, areas under belts, pocket edges and cuffs are all prime locations for thinning textiles. Sometimes the textile was so heavily used that there will be threadbare areas where the textile has worn completely through. Any obvious thinning will be noted.
These guys deal with a lot of stress! Make sure they are tight and ready to go before each wear. Carry a large safety pin in a pocket or purse in case a button pops off while wearing. Older buttons may also crack or break. Keep in mind that buttons may need to be removed before dry cleaning. It is not unusual for garments with fancy buttons to have them pinned on instead of sewn on. This allows for quick removal and reattachment when dry cleaning.
Prong set rhinestones may lose shine as they age and the prongs may damage the textile over time. Glue-on rhinestones are subject to the strength and age of the glue, as the glue deteriorates, the rhinestones will be lost. When the rhinestones shed, you can collect them. Most of the time, the glue-on stones can be reattached.
Older sequins are made of gelatin. If you get them wet or steam them, they will melt! To test if the sequin is gelatin, you can dampen the tip of your finger and touch the sequin, if it’s sticky, it’s gelatin.
Beading & Sequins
Items that are heavily beaded or sequined may have a few loose or missing beads or sequins that are not mentioned. Beads and sequins can also get tarnished, lose color and degrade over time. This is typical with these types of garments and to be expected. Any significant issues will be noted in the listing.
This happens to silk, especially when it is not properly stored. Older or dirty silk can deteriorate to the point that it just starts falling apart. Even the tiniest amount of stress will cause the textile to shatter. Once this process begins, there is no chance at recovery. The item can be used for display or study until it has completely disintegrated.
This can happen to textiles, leathers, and furs that are not properly cared for. Sun damage, water damage, not being cleaned, improper storage and many other things can lead to dry rot. Most items with obvious dry rot will not be sold and if they are being sold for study or pattern, the dry rot will be noted. However, dry rot is not always obvious or visible. Sometimes dry rot will only present itself when you wash or wear a garment. It’s a heartbreaking experience when an item falls apart, but it is the nature of dealing with older materials. All things die eventually.
When fur has not been stored properly it can begin to deteriorate. The fur will lose its shine, start shedding, and eventually, the pelts will start tearing. There is no remedy for this. Depending on the garment type and style, deteriorating fur items can typically be worn with care for quite some time after the process begins.
As time passes, items can deteriorate. This is especially true of the products used to make and hold shoes together. Shoes must handle a great deal of stress when worn. With vintage shoes soles can crack, split or separate, heel caps break and fall off, leathers can tear, the thread can break, shoelaces can snap, and glues can and will lose their stick. A good cobbler will be able to fix many, but not all, of these issues. It’s always a good idea to take vintage shoes to a cobbler to check and reinforce the soles prior to wearing them.
The dreaded moth, destroyer of fine woolens. Many vintage garments will have moth damage. Some issues, like moth holes, will be obvious to the seller and will be noted in the listing. You may also see notes like “moths have nibbled at the nap” meaning there is some damage to the surface of the textile, but not a hole through the textile. There is another moth damage that may not be visible until after wearing or cleaning. The stress of wearing, dry cleaning, or hand washing a garment can reveal damage that was previously not visible. Moth holes can often be rewoven by a professional or darned at home.
A few vintage garments may have an odor that is noted in the listing. Sometimes, garments will smell just fine until the scent gets “activated” with a bit of body heat or steam. This can be a frustrating experience, but not an uncommon one with seasoned vintage owners. If you’re wearing your item for a few hours and start to notice a smell, you’re not alone. It can be anything from perfume to mildew and it’s always frustrating. Even items that have been dry cleaned can react this way - certain fabrics just hold on to scents. There are many ways to remove these odors from fabrics, but usually, a good airing out will do the trick. Sometimes it takes more drastic measures. We will go over this in detail when we add our laundering resources; they’re coming soon!