Vintage Lingerie Buying: made easier.

As much as we’d love to always be your source for lingerie and intimates, sometimes, circumstances may dictate that we’re not the answer. If what you seek is vintage – Roanoke Manager Lauren has some top tips for a successful buying experience, based on her experiences as a collector and reseller of vintage pieces.
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1950s Couture Saks Fifth Avenue Set – available via Lauren’s Etsy Shop 
First things first: Ask yourself: “Am I 100% committed to ONLY wash by hand in special detergent?”  If the answer is even a slight maybe, then vintage lingerie is not for you.  It must must must must be washed by hand. Unless you have money to literally burn, vintage lingerie is not a wise purchase, as the garments are often more fragile due to the sheer consequences of time.
Find a good source: There are 2 methods of shopping for vintage lingerie: online and brick & mortar.  In person is ideal, but a rarity these day.  For online shopping, I personally recommend Etsy & independent shop websites. Avoid Ebay. The condition is often questionable and cleanliness is a rarity. For Etsy, look at the feedback.  Look for good photos and good descriptions.  (FYI: you get what you pay for).
Ask questions of the seller: If there is no information on flaws, politely ask. If fabric content is not listed, ask.  Which leads me to…..
Learn about fabrics: Know the difference between silk, rayon, nylon, and polyester. A good seller has a passion for this (I DO) and will know their stuff and be helpful to you during your purchase. Sellers should welcome your curiosity and be willing to answer questions to help you make an informed purchase.
LETS TALK $$: Prices range from $10 for a vintage 1960s nylon full slip to $1000+ for a 1930s bias cut silk trousseau that has lace and hand stitched french seams. Its 100% worth it, but don’t think that just because something is old or previously used, it will be inexpensive. In some cases, you can score great deals – but go in with honest expectations. High-quality garments, even those that are now vintage, are typically priced with their quality and craftsmanship in mind.
Bras & Long-lines: Due to radical differences in sizing and design comparing vintage to modern, I suggest avoiding vintage bras & longlines unless you are a collector, designer, or museum. If someone wants that “bullet bra” silhouette, there are companies like “What Katie Did” and “Kiss me Deadly” that make vintage reproductions for this specific reason. You’ll get something made from modern materials and to modern sizing expectations, but with a groovy vintage vibe. Need a girdle? Rago has you covered.
Know your measurements.  Vintage sizes don’t really exist and if there is a tag, it is not what you are used to in any way, shape or form.  Sellers list by measurements.  Regarding measurements: remember that most vintage, especially pre-1965 is made for medium to shorter size women.  If you are particularly tall, long waisted, or any other possible concerns, ask the seller about shoulder to waist, shoulder width, etc.  A good seller will help you.
Final advice: If you are scared to take the plunge into a high dollar piece, a pair of 1930s/40s silk bias cut tap pants are always a good start. Everyone should own a pair, they’re typically not a huge investment piece, and you can see if vintage lingerie is for you or not. The Underpinnings Museum is also fabulous resource as you investigate vintage silhouettes and styles – and their collections are viewable online.

4 thoughts

  1. I work mainly with vintage cufflinks, but from time to time I come across vintage lingerie clips – some of which are very beautiful and elegant. Your article on vintage lingerie is excellent – thank you for your insight. “Vintage” is definitely a passion!

  2. Lauren gives great advice here and I endorse every word. Buying, owning, cherishing and wearing vintage can be such a pleasurable experience provided you bear some fairly simple ‘rules’ as you go along. Be careful though – you’ll get hooked just like I did!

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