Junebugs' Guide:
How to Buy Vintage Online + Search Term Help!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Hello, Peaches!

Today: Places to Buy Vintage Online + Search Term Tips

Left (June): Carole Top by Pinup Girl Clothing, Skirt: Vintage via eBay
Right (Amelia): Top: Vintage via Sweet Ludie's Vintage, Skirt: Vintage via Vintage Ooollee

We talked a little about the Pros + Cons of Wearing Vintage here, but after writing that post we had some ladies say they had problems navigating the online vintage market.  We know not every lady is lucky enough to have a shop that sells vintage in her town and for those that do, if you work a 9-5 it's sometimes hard to make it there before closing time.  For that reason, there is the wide world of online vintage shopping!

Our main choices for online vintage shopping are eBay and Etsy.  We know there are other online avenues (like actual websites or Instagram shops) but these are our favorites. With both sites, you grow to understand the vintage selling community thereon and frequently check in on various e-stores until you're able to find out what sellers are your favorites.  Well, here are some search term tips + tricks!

Vintage via Ebay

When searching Ebay, you'll immediately notice that people commonly put as many keywords in their item title as possible so it reaches a wide audience.  The trouble with this is that often what comes up may not be what you're looking for.  For example, using the word 'vintage' brings up as many reproductions as it does actual vintage pieces.  So you're going to need ways to narrow your search.
  1. Know your measurements - We realized during our Junebug's Closet sale that a lot of ladies don't know their measurements, that's going to cause you major problems when shipping vintage, as a size 6 in 1958 isn't the same as a size 6 in 2014.  We are true believer's that if you don't at least know your waist, bust and hip measurements, you are going to have a HELL of a time shopping vintage, online and otherwise (here's a link explaining how).  Not to mention, it helps even when shopping reproductions as all size charts are not created equal.

  2. Search terms, be specific! - search terms such as wiggle dress, circle skirt, sun dress, shirt dress, day dress and other descriptive terms can aid in narrowing your search, especially if you're looking for a specific item.  Even if you aren't, it may help to search each item you're interested in individually.

  3. Filters are your best friend - you can filter things by brand, style, price, etc. (although we would strongly recommend against filtering by size on vintage pieces as a medium to one person usually isn't a medium to another) and then favorite that filter.  eBay will notify you every time something that fits your filter is listed, so you're not having to continuously re-invent the wheel.

  4. Getting caught up in the auction - I (June) will say I am SO guilty of this, I see a dress I love and watch it all week and then 15 seconds before it ends, the price is driven WAY above what I intended on paying and I get sucked in.  I win the auction, but then I'm left with an amazing piece that's tinged with buyer's remorse.  While vintage pieces are often one-of, it's so important to remember that others will come along. 
Left (Amelia): Dress: vintage - gift from June purchased via eBay  |  Right: Dress: Vintage via Sweet Ludie's Vintage

Vintage via Etsy

Some people find Etsy easier to navigate than eBay because people label things more clearly (June prefers eBay, Amelia prefers Etsy) and this might be an overreaching statement, but the informed vintage seller's on Etsy tend to outnumber those on eBay.  But, to counter that, the average pricepoint of vintage on Etsy (of course there are exceptions on both sites) tends to be a bit higher.  How do you navigate the Etsy waters?
  1. Search terms, your choice - Like Ebay, search terms are your friend on Etsy.  But, we've found that on Etsy, you can be a bit more vague like  '1950s Shirtdress' or more specific '50s novelty print Strawberry Circle Skirt'.  You might not always be successful when being so specific but, we've found it more likely than it is on Ebay. 

  2. Try searching by size - On Etsy a general search usually brings up a lot more options than Ebay so by including your size you cut down on results.  Whether that be your numerical size or taking the risk of searching your general size (small, medium, large).  However, buyer beware--not all sellers provide accurate measurements or sizes (the same can be said for Ebay).

  3. Filters can be really helpful - For starters, when you search something on Etsy you end up with pages of mixed results, so instead of the general "relevancy" filter, you might want to exchange that to filter by recency or price.  Also, as Etsy is a "buy it now" based site, we find it helpful to also filter your results by price. While we love looking at the beautiful, in-perfect-condition, novelty print masterpiece as much as the next person, it's out of our price range and excluding things out of your price range can definitely help cut down on the pages of search results.
Left (June): Dress: vintage via eBay  |  Right: Skirt and Top Set: vintage via eBay
We hope you find these tips to be a helpful place to start on your journey through the labyrinth that is online vintage shopping!  Feel free to ask us any questions you might have or comment with things that have worked for you! 


  1. So true! I totally find that Etsy usually has more informed sellers then Ebay. Either way I think its fun to shop both and it is a great way to get your hands on the perfect vintage item that might not be possible around where you are living.

  2. So far I have only gotten one thing off of eBay. This was such a helpful post for people like me who have no clue on how to navigate these sites. The only thing I am unsure of now in returning. Can you do it on eBay or etsy? Seems like a silly question. haha

  3. do you think you could tell us what things you search on ebay exactly? or on etsy?
    :D thank you!

  4. Guys, this post is pretty much perfect. I literally checked off all of your points as things I do myself when I shop for vintage online. I've now bought vintage pieces from both Etsy and eBay, and I think there are definite pros and cons to both. It's easy to get lost in the vintage section of Etsy especially, just because there are SO many vintage sellers (which is actually a good problem to have, I suppose). The number one thing I always tell people when shopping for vintage online is that you HAVE to know your measurements (and be absolutely honest with yourself about them -- there should be no shame there!). Mid-century vintage pieces really don't have stretch to them like modern garments do, so I think that's important for people to keep in mind. One thing I really dig is that on Etsy, there are a lot of listings for "1980s does 1950s" (or other variations on that), which can be a very cost-effective option. Technically, it's still vintage, but it's also vintage reproduction, which is kind of cool. You can get the same silhouette and feel of a 1950s dress usually at a fraction of the cost (of course, the quality might not be as good, since it was probably made with cheaper fabric, but if you're wanting just the look of 1950s vintage, it's a good option to consider!). You guys have scored so many wonderful vintage pieces. I especially love that skirt and top blue plaid set that Amanda's wearing! I always like being reminded of how to tell real 1950s vintage from reproduction garments (zippers, union labels, etc.), so if you're looking to continue in the vintage post vein, it might be a cool topic to touch on!

  5. We actually included about what we search. My most common search is simply "1950s dress", it's how I've found all my favorites. Then I use filters for price, recency and on eBay decade (since eBay allows you that option) and on Etsy I make sure to select the "vintage" option. Now that I've set up a system of filters, I don't actively search anymore, I just check my eBay favorited filters every day to see the new listings unless I'm searching for something specific. The first time you search will be time consuming , but after that if you favorite how you got there, you can just see the new things every day. I'd start with "1950s dress" "1950s full skirt" "circle skirt", things like that.

  6. I find that Etsy is really great about learning your style. I'm a bit list maker, so I like to go through and favorite 20 different options before I finally pick one to buy. Half the time, when I go to check my feed on my Etsy account, it will have a list of similar items that I might have missed the first time around, and there've a couple of times where that's what I end up getting.
    Have to really second the recommendation to know your measurements, and also not to be afraid to message sellers to request them if they're not listed, or double check them if they seem off. I purchased a skirt where the hips sounded absurdly tiny in proportion to the waist, and it turned out they'd made an error when they listed it. I'm also not shy about requesting extra photos.

  7. do you guys have any etsy shops that are your favorites?

  8. I actually haven't found a shop that I feel provides consistently "good deals" so I tend to just lurk openly. However, RainbowValleyVintage, WhenDecadesCollide and TuesdayRoseVintage all have pretty consistently amazing items, even if I feel like they're sometimes a bit high.

  9. I've never had that sort of luck, maybe my Etsy account doesn't know me as well as yours does haha but I do frequently favorite things : )

    I agree with all of the above and I have done every singe one of those things! If I'm going to buy an item I will never see or try on and that I can't return, I want to be absolutely sure about it before I buy it. Such good points!

  10. Great tips ladies! :) x

  11. Hi June & Amelia! Thank you so much for writing this post! I'm still very new to the pinup circuit and even newer to vintage, so the advice given is an absolute godsend! I'm not sure if you've seen this account before, but on Etsy, I found a user called bluebarnvintage and they seem to have some pretty great stuff (at least by my standards haha). The accounts you suggested were very helpful so I figured I'd try and return the favor. Thanks again & happy 4th!

  12. Hi Ali! I'm so happy to hear that you found this post helpful! I'll have to check that shop out! We're currently trying to devise how we want to do our next post about vintage! Happy 4th to you too! xoxo