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5 Tricks That Will Help You Find Vintage Gems at Your Local Thrift Store

Find thrifting overwhelming? This guide will help you uncover some real treasures.

Verily’s Poetry in Motion shoot from our June/July print Issue featured dreamy vintage clothing, conjuring the beautiful simplicity of Emily Dickenson’s poetry. Inspired by this feature, I got together with Verily fashion author Courtney Kampa to seek some vintage treasures of our own.

Vintage, consignment, and thrift stores house a gorgeous variety of pieces from across the decades. The one we visited, Ritual Vintage on Broome Street in Manhattan, was the perfect kind of thrift shop—cozy and cluttered with all range of timeless pieces dripping from the walls. But it can be overwhelming to sift through successfully without the clues of a seasoned thrifter. Whether you're looking for a '70s linen camp shirt, or early Twentieth Century eyelet sundress, here are a few things to keep in mind for a successful trip.


Art Credit: Janelle Jones

1. Most vintage clothes lack sizing of any kind, especially in the case they are handmade, so use the fitting room to your advantage. Know your measurements; use a seamstress tape to measure your bust, waist, hips, and length of your inseam before your trip to the store. Even if you find the most incredible drop-waist flapper dress you've ever seen, it shouldn't come home with you unless it fits like a glove. Also be sure to bring appropriate undergarments (read: wear nude underthings and bring a slip) so you’re 100% sure how the dress wears before you make the final-sale purchase.

2. Most shops separate items by color story. Start with the colors you wear most, and look for silhouettes that suit your figure. If you're looking to emphasize your waist, look for cuts that cinch in at the bottom of the rib cage. If high-waisted pants are what you’re looking for, measure the length from the crotch to the button to see how high it will sit on your hips.

3. Fabrics can make all the difference in the way that clothes wear, fit, and last from season to season. Most pieces have fabrication listed on the inner tags. Pure fabrications like 100% cotton, silk, linen, and wool will last longer than a blend, which could pill, stretch, or tear over time. Keep in mind that certain fabrics are seasonal, depending on the climate where you live.

4. Don’t be afraid to dig. Take note of fixtures above or below your line of sight, like top shelf turbans or lace up flats below the racks, where more gems could be found. Speak with the shop associates if you're looking for something really unique, like a black fascinator to wear to a wedding; they may have one hidden for the right buyer.

5. Go often. Not every trip will be a successful one. The more you get to know your shops, the less time you spend sifting through each rack. Your newly trained thrifter's eye will identify new pieces easily.

On your next trip to Manhattan, make sure to head over to Ritual Vintage for plenty of inspiration, like these amazing finds.

Outfit 01. // On Nicole, Top: Ralph Lauren '70s linen camp shirt $139; Necklace: '70s gold chain with wood $38; Jeans: J.Crew matchstick denim (Nicole's own); Shoes: Sebastian pumps $95.

Outfit 02. // On Nicole, Dress: Anne Klein for Bergdorf Goodman $110; Necklace: '60s gold chandelier $80; Booties: Shoemint (Nicole's own); Bag: '80s leather bag with rock crystals, made in Brazil $179.

Outfit 03. // On Courtney, Dress: 1905-1910 Edwardian eyelet $384; Boots: '80s White cowboy boots $110.

Outfit 04. // On Courtney, Top: American Apparel tank (Courtney's own); Skirt: '50s pleated maxi $200; Boots: Nine West (Courtney's own).

Outfit 05. // On Courtney, Dress: Depression era floral print $219; Headpiece: '50s velvet with comb $90; Shoes: '90s black espadrilles $110. On Nicole, Dress: '20s drop waist $325; Shoes: Zara (Nicole's own).

Photos by Janelle Jones.