You’ll love rummaging through vintage clothing racks and endlessly searching eBay for it. Perhaps you have wondered if this is something that you could do for a living. Yes.
It pays to have an eye for quality fabrics, patterns, and the patience and perseverance to find the right pieces. You can save time by being a vintage clothing shop owner and you make it ready for customers.
Some shoppers buy vintage to make a statement. Others see vintage as an option to fast fashion and a way to reduce carbon emissions. An industry report by ThredUP, an online marketplace selling secondhand clothing, estimates that the resale industry will grow 11 times faster than overall retail clothing in 2025. This fundamental shift in shoppers’ behavior is causing retailers and manufacturers to reconsider their old practices.
Combining eCommerce growth with changing attitudes has made it possible for vintage sellers to start their own business. An eCommerce website allows vintage sellers to quickly launch and grow their online business.
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Online presence is a great way to reach new customers for vintage sellers who are already selling in a physical shop.
This complete guide will help you sell vintage clothing online, no matter if you are starting a business or already own a brick-and mortar store.
Are you ready to sell vintage? Start your online shop today.
How do you sell vintage clothes online
Spend some time researching vintage clothing and brainstorming ideas before you start your eCommerce journey. Plan your vintage business. Decide what you are going to sell and why.
Although the terms “vintage”, “antique”, and “retro” are frequently used interchangeably, there is a clear distinction. Let’s start with some definitions:
What’s “vintage” clothing?
Vintage clothing refers to any garment that is between 20 and 100 years of age.
What’s “antique” clothing?
Any garment that is more than 100 years old is considered “antique” clothing. These pieces can be very rare and delicate, and require specialist care.
What’s “retro” clothing?
Retro clothing is clothing that has been produced in the last 20 years and which is conscious of imitating vintage style.
Why do people buy vintage?
An increasing number of people are looking for ways to stand out in a world filled with fast fashion and ubiquitous clothing trends.
Clothing is the best way to express yourself without speaking a word. Vintage clothing is exactly that. It is unique and original and made to last.
Because they are from a crucial time in history, some pieces are highly sought-after: the mod miniskirts in the swinging 1960s, the suede fringed jackets or psychedelic maxi dresses in the free-loving 1970s, and the flannel shirt and band tees in the ’90s Grunge era. A vintage piece of clothing can also be romantic and intriguing. It has a history and a story. What was the life of the original wearer?
Vintage appeals to those who want to be more sustainable. We have come to realize the environmental impact of fashion and are now beginning to embrace sustainable options, just like we did with renewable energy, electric cars and reusable coffee cups. Wearing vintage saves old clothing from the landfill, where many garments–particularly man-made fabrics–don’t break down.
How do you choose your niche
To be successful in vintage sales, you don’t have to pick a niche. It’s possible to sell many styles across a variety of decades and reach a broad audience. However, if there are particular clothing styles or eras that you are passionate about, it might be worth taking a more targeted approach.
- A particular decade. You might have a passion or interest in a specific decade, such as the over-the-top glamour and relaxed boho styles that were popularized in the 1980s and 1970s. You can use your knowledge to find great pieces and make yourself a top-of-the-line online shop for decade-specific clothing.
- Formal wear and party dresses. Online styling could be offered to shoppers who need style advice before a big event.
- Vintage clothing for rent. While your target audience may have a larger budget, you will need to spend a lot to increase your inventory. A clothing rental service will increase your return on investment, making designer vintage more affordable to everyone.
- Trend-led vintage. Many of the fashion designs seen on today’s catwalks were inspired by designs from decades ago. Be aware of the latest trends that are appearing on the streets and in fashion shows. Find the right source to satisfy this demand.
- Vintage clothing that has been reworked or upcycled. This niche sells vintage clothing and scraps. This niche is perfect for those who are skilled with sewing machines and creatively have ideas to give vintage clothes a new lease of life.
- Casual and sportwear. Many millennials are choosing vintage over modern brands. You can meet this need by purchasing fleeces, branded sweaters and jeans from vintage wholesalers all over the globe.
- Vintage by the kilo. Vintage clothing sold by the kilo is a great way to appeal to those with tight budgets. You’ll quickly turn over low-cost stock and your customers will be able to get a bargain.
- Vintage wedding wear. Brides who are looking for something different than traditional wedding gowns will often look to vintage styles. This is a great career path if you are able to handle the pressures of the wedding industry. This niche will give you an advantage if you are a skilled seamstress or work with one.
- Vintage accessories and jewelry. Selling accessories in addition to clothing can provide a great income stream for vintage sellers. Some sellers choose to concentrate on accessories and source handbags, shoes, Rolex watches, fine jewelry and even shoes. Whatever accessories niche you choose to focus on, being an expert in the field will give you an edge.
- Vintage garments that have never been worn but still have their original tags. This is commonly known as deadstock, and it’s a great option for shoppers looking for sustainable fashion options that haven’t been worn.
By The Moon Vintage is a Wix merchant that specializes in “premium romance vintage”. Shoppers immediately get a sense of the store’s style from the font and the soft colors of the home page. There are also lots of images, including natural fabrics, lace, and broderie-anglaise, all shot in beautiful warm lighting.
These small details communicate what we can expect from the store in a blink of an eye.
Create your brand
Once you have decided on the vintage you want to sell, it’s time to identify your target audience. Do they use Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok to find their target audience?
You can start building your social media presence and spend time engaging with vintage buyers and sellers. You can position yourself as a vintage expert and share your collection or old-fashioned photos that match your vintage style. After you have a loyal following, start using polls and Q&As to conduct market research. You can offer a discount or gift voucher for customers who participate in the polls.
While starting your business , take the time to create a brand ethos or mission statement. This will help you guide your business in many ways, including how you source stock and how you communicate with customers.
What are you selling? Are you just a fan of particular styles? Do you want to encourage others to wear secondhand clothing? Maybe you do it for sustainability reasons. Why should shoppers choose your shop? Consider your market position and the benefits that you hope shoppers will get from shopping at your store.
“My mission to stop clothing from going to landfill is to upcycle vintage clothes and make them wearable by using sustainable dyes, creative sewing skills, and a cool aesthetic.”
“My mission in life is to bring you vintage fashion from 1980s – when shoulder pads were big and bold, but no pattern was too unusual or color too bright.”
Henny Penny Retro isn’t afraid to speak out about its brand ethos. It proudly states, “We’re giving fastfashion the middle finger!” on their homepage. This, along with beautiful product images taken in nature, solidifies its role as a store that promotes sustainable fashion choices that are better for the environment.
Finance your vintage clothing company
You can start selling vintage with a small budget. It’s possible to start selling vintage clothing, either from your own closet or from someone else’s. You could also resell thrifted clothes or sell goods from wholesale suppliers with a low minimum order. It is preferable to have cash on hand so that you can source stock in bulk and buy vintage bargains if they come along.
Also, you will need to save money for basic eCommerce business necessities, such as your domain name, packaging and business licenses in your area. As your business grows, you can always bootstrap it. You can reinvest your money as needed, such as buying more stock or renting more studio space. You can get a small loan for your business or an investor if your savings don’t suffice.
How can I source vintage clothing
Vintage clothing sourcing is often done in secret and the best vintage sellers keep this information to themselves. In order to get first dibs on stock, many sellers establish relationships with suppliers. This is understandable considering the rapid growth of eCommerce, online marketplaces, and resale apps and our interconnectedness. You could also be competing with vintage sellers all over the globe.
We can’t give you the exact location of the best vintage clothes in the world but we can offer some suggestions for how to source it. Try different methods of sourcing to find the best one for you.
These are just a few of the options available to you:
Thrifting requires patience and a lot of patience. You will also need to be able to spot vintage styles and labels when you are looking through large quantities of clothing. Although it can be tedious, thrifting offers many benefits.
- Method of low cost sourcing
- Easy and fast way to increase your inventory
- You can feel the materials and inspect for damage with your hands.
- Find items that have high resale values
Top tip: Do your research. You can learn a lot about vintage fashion trends by studying and becoming familiar with the styles and brands of vintage clothing. To familiarize yourself and your brand names, you can use online marketplaces such as eBay, Wix eCommercehappens for native integration, and Etsy. The material and cut of the garment can reveal a lot about the vintage brand, even if it doesn’t have one. If you want to dig a little deeper, there are many vintage fashion forums and resources online.
Wholesalers are a trusted source of inventory for vintage sellers, especially large quantities. Wholesalers of vintage stock have warehouses that have been processed and sorted, and are ready to be packed and shipped. Here are some benefits to using a wholesale supplier.
- Wholesale pricing available
- You have access to a large selection of vintages of the highest quality
- You can quickly source large quantities of stock
- This is a great option for companies with high stock turnover
- Chance to establish beneficial business relationships
A Google search for vintage wholesalers brings up nearly 8 million results. It’s tempting just to click the first result and think it’s a good job, but it’s better to spend some time researching what’s available.
What should you look for in a vintage wholesaler?
- They have received positive reviews. What do other sellers think?
- You have the option to purchase in person or via video handpick. Not all wholesalers sell bulk bales.
- A-grade stock. Are they able to sell other grades with signs of wear or damage?
- Premium branded clothes. Are they able to sell labels?
- Low minimum order quantities (MOQ) What is the minimum amount you can spend?
- Product categories. Do you need to buy from multiple categories?
- Where will it be delivered? Will you need to pay customs fees for stock imports?
You want full control over your inventory’s quality and standards. A vintage wholesaler will have high-quality stock. They can allow you to pick garments in person or by video chat to match your store’s style. Bulk buying is best for vintage clothing that are in good condition and stores selling by the pound.
Ask for the MOQ of any wholesalers before you book a buying appointment. This will help you determine if it is within your budget. Wholesalers need to make sure that your time with them is not wasted. However, many will be happy to provide low MOQs for startups. Make sure you read their Ts & C’s. Wholesalers may require you to purchase from multiple product categories. This might not be a good fit for your business model, especially if you are only able to sell party wear.
It’s easy to spend too much, especially if there are many garments that you love.
These are only a few of the key factors you need to consider, but ultimately your niche or business model will dictate your wholesaler selection.
Top tip Be aware that there may be additional charges if your wholesaler is located overseas. International shipping can result in additional taxes and customs fees. This can significantly increase the cost of your shipment, and can also impact your bottom line.
It’s similar to thrifting, but eBay sourcing is much easier and more affordable. Although it takes patience and time, there are some incredible finds to be made if you know how to use eBay. These are just a few reasons eBay is such a great place for vintage. You can:
- Source and search for very specific items
- Set up alerts to receive information about specific brands or items
- Vintage bargains available
- Find rare or designer pieces
- You can make offers or bid via auction
- For more information and background, contact the seller
After creating an eBay account, you can save items and make bids. You can also create email alerts to product searches. eBay is a great place to find vintage sellers who have a niche offering. You can use filters and keywords in order to narrow your search by style, decade, or designer. You will need to scroll a lot. You might be unaware of the market for the products they sell. This means that you may need to scroll through product listings using a fine-toothed comb. You’ll be rewarded by vintage bargains.
Top tip If you are asleep in bed and an auction ends late at night, there are two options. You can set an alarm to wake up and bid more than the competition. You can add another bid if you are the current winning bidder. This will ensure that bidding does not stop while you sleep. If it does, all other bidders will automatically be outbid until your maximum bid is reached.
You can also source vintage clothing in other ways:
Estate sales are a popular method to find vintage clothes, jewelry, and accessories in the United States. Estates can be a goldmine for vintage and attract visitors from all over the world. If you find something that you love, be prepared to negotiate. Find estate auction houses that let you subscribe to their website to receive information about estate sales in your area.
Rare or designer vintage items can be found at auctions. Register for email alerts to receive information from auction houses that are holding vintage clothing auctions. You should also consider that you will have to pay a buyer’s fee and VAT in addition to your winning bid price.
Flea markets offer a great place to find vintage bargains and are a popular place for antique and vintage lovers. Many flea markets have thousands of vendors, making them renowned for being huge. Many vintage sellers who have a larger budget will travel across the country and even abroad to attend these flea markets. If you find this treasure hunting-style approach appealing, you can do the math to determine if you can still make money after you have taken into account the cost of your buying trip.
Family members or collectors
When you have a good reputation as a vintage seller you will find people will approach your if they have any vintage items for sale. These people could be private collectors or someone who manages an estate. Or they could be friends or family members looking to sell their clothes. Many sellers advertise that they purchase or consign vintage items. You can either buy the item upfront and then resell it at a higher price or consign the item so that the owner is only paid if the item sells.
Storing and managing vintage clothing inventories
Vintage clothing should be treated with care. Some vintage items are fragile by their very nature. Others become more delicate as they age. You should clean and restore vintage clothing to make it look its best.
Here are some cleaning tips for vintage clothing
- Look at the care label. This will give you some guidance about how to wash your clothes. Take the fabric type into account and make an educated guess.
- Follow the rules. It’s better to follow dry-clean or hand wash instructions. Vintage sellers often try to make things less expensive by selling unfinished goods.
- Handwashing can be your friend. Wash the garment with soap flakes or gentle detergent and rinse thoroughly.
- Learn about cleaning fabrics and methods. YouTube, Google and other resources are great if you’re willing to tackle stains and age-related discoloration.
- Take a bath. Baths can be used to soak large, stained clothes and give them the space they need. Do not be alarmed if your bathwater turns grayish or black with dirt. It happens.
- Get a steamer.
- Take the time to inspect each item. Look for any rips or moth holes that could affect its value. To find any damage, check seams, zips and buttons.
- Get it dry-cleaned by a specialist if the garment is delicate or old. Find a reliable tailor to help you with repairs. These costs should be included in the retail price.
- Learn how to sew. You don’t want every little repair outsourced. Learn the basics of sewing by purchasing a sewing machine or sewing kit.
Your house, garage or studio space can quickly feel chaotic as you begin to build your inventory. As your vintage business grows, it is important to manage inventory.
Here are some tips for clothing storage and inventory management
- Keep track of stock and unit costs with a spreadsheet
- Label each garment with the measurements, brand name, size and material.
- Use the dashboard tool on your website to manage inventory
- Sort your products by collections and categories on your website
- If storage is needed, make space for stock and invest in storage
- To protect clothing from sunburn, store garments in a controlled temperature environment.
- For easy identification, separate clothing according to category. Arrange clothes by size or color
- To avoid tears, rusting, or damage to garments hang them on padded hangers
- For foldable items, use well-labeled shelving or clear, damp-proof containers
- Protect delicate garments such as sequined or beaded clothing with acid-free tissue paper
How do you price vintage?
A traditional retail model would require you to do a break-even analysis, taking into account all costs. Then you’d use this information to price your products. Vintage is a different story.
Consider your target audience and their demographics before setting your prices. Also consider what they are willing to pay. You should also consider the garment’s rarity and age as well as brand name and current market values. Vintage items can be extremely sought-after, so it is worth using Google and other online marketplaces for information about the current market value. Your online shop will appeal to both budget-conscious millennials and affluent 40somethings. If you keep your prices consistent, you’ll have a loyal customer base.
How to photograph vintage stock
Online shoppers are well aware that product photography is crucial in deciding whether or not they buy something. Closeups are essential. We want to see how something feels on our bodies. Even if you don’t have the ability to shoot on a mannequin or flatlays, you can win the trust of a browser by sharing detailed images that show what they can expect from an old, worn garment.
A great photographer can make you stand out as a vintage seller. This is especially true on social media, where it’s all about aesthetics. You have two options: go creative and experiment with different backgrounds or interesting locations, or you can keep it simple and clean. You can do what suits your store’s ethos.
Photographing vintage sellers can be a time-consuming task. You need to take photos, style clothes, use lighting to get the best shots, adjust the size and edit the images.
Here’s how to get started
- Smartphone with high resolution camera
- Oder a DSLR camera
- Bluetooth remote control camera shutter
- Simple lighting kit
- Seamless backdrop for photo studio
- Photo editing app
Here are some top tips for photographing vintage clothes
Choose the look you want for your photography. You can use your backyard, your backyard or a specific location such as a busy street or vibrant mural to create a backdrop. Are you looking for fashion photography that resembles H&M or Zara? Or do you prefer quirky and fun photography? Photography doesn’t need to be difficult. It all comes down to the product.
Plan your photoshoots. Choose the items that you wish to photograph and put aside any accessories and clothes you will need to complete the look. You’ll need to be prepared for shooting on location. It is always better to shoot in batches, as you can manage a lot of inventory at once. Before you shoot, make sure your items are ready to go. You will need to be comfortable giving instructions and creating briefs if you are using a model for outsourced photography.
No budget? No problem. As long as your smartphone can shoot in high resolution, you can still capture great photos and film quality videos. Selfie mode and a self timer are your best friends if you’re solo. You don’t have to buy a tripod. Instead, use your imagination and find other things that can balance your phone. If necessary, you can tape the phone to the wall. If you don’t own a lighting kit, take your photos outside during daylight with nature as your backdrop.
Create a studio. Place your tripod and use studio lighting to create a background. Line up the items you want to photograph.
You can use apps and gadgets to connect your smartphone to your DSLR camera. If you are shooting solo, this is a great way of controlling the shutter speed. These apps can be used to view photos without looking at the camera, and to instantly sync them to your phone’s memory. You can crop and filter images using editing apps, but be gentle. Despite the temptation to add warmth or highlight filters, you want the product to be accurately represented. To make it easier if you are shooting solo, use a remote controlled camera shutter. The handy gadget can be connected to your smartphone or camera shutter via Bluetooth. It fits comfortably in your palm so you don’t have to worry about it ruining your shots.
Show movement with video. Is the leather jacket shiny or matte. Is the skirt flexible or rigid? Although your photography may grab the attention of a browser, it can also help to show how a garment feels on a person.
Take a look at the angles. How does that jacket’s front, back and collar look? So that they can visualize how the jacket will look on them, shoppers want to be able to see every angle.
Be honest about your flaws. Most people who buy vintage expect to see signs and scratches. These imperfections will help you become a trustworthy seller. Take photos of any stain, broken buttons, or small pulls in wool jumpers so that buyers are aware.
Take a picture of the label. Vintage shoppers love labels that have the logo of the brand and the place of manufacture. This label could even seal the deal. When it comes to knowledge sharing within the vintage community, sharing labels can be a great help.
Write descriptions for vintage clothing
To write a compelling product description, you don’t have to be Shakespeare. Although it is nice to have a personality, the most important thing is to give as much information as you can to minimize the chances of customer questions or returns.
- Describe the garment using color, style, decade, material, etc.
- Please include measurements and details about the size (vintage sizing can be smaller than modern sizing so add bust, waist, and hip measurements in cm or inches to give online buyers an accurate size guide).
- Mention why you like the label or brand.
- You might want to rate the condition and quality of your garment.
- Add care details and instructions
- Mention any age-related or damage flaws
- Look at SEO keywords to increase organic traffic