Today, you and I are going thrifting!
Although I've heard amazing stories of people finding older vintage in thrift stores, that doesn't seem to be the case in most cities nowadays. Most thrift stores have been picked over as vintage has gotten more popular, and mid-century and older items are becoming very difficult to find.
My area has very little vintage (probably because it wasn't an affluent area by any means, and there are VERY few people even on the lookout to save vintage pieces). This means the thrift stores in my area are full of 80s, 90s, and 2000s awfulness.
Never fear, though! There are ways to get fantastic vintage style from these decades if you know where to look and how to get past the polyester to the treasures! Here are some tips you can keep in mind when thrifting to get that older vintage style you love:
The 90s had a LOT of rayon!
Few people realize how much rayon had a comeback in the 90s! If you look around for those "Full House"-worthy floral gowns and check the tags, you'll likely find a large percent of them are rayon or rayon blends. These are great to wear as "90s does" dresses if the print and silhouette match your decade, and you can also repurpose them into other pieces. The 90s was also great for long, fabric-generous maxi skirts that can be cut up and made into blouses, skirts, etc. that have that fabulous 30s-40s rayon drape.
Look for "Diane Chambers" blouses
Diane Chambers, a character off the 80s American show "Cheers," had an entire wardrobe basically made of 80s does 40s/50s pieces, and these pieces can still be found in thrift stores! Blouses are especially easy to adapt to a midcentury or earlier look by pairing them with a pencil skirt and cardigan, for example.
Look for blouses with pussy bows, unique pintuck details, silks, and lace. You'll often even luck out and get a shirt with built in (albeit possibly giant) shoulder pads!
Don't pass up the plaid!
The 80s also had a throwback to classic plaid skirts. Lots of them are wool and look very similar to midcentury styles, though the color palettes may be a bit brighter. These are fabulous, classic pieces to work into a vintage wardrobe for easy-care items you don't have to be so afraid of ruining.
If you're brave… check out the undergarments.
I don't know if your thrift store are like this, but I'm pretty sure mine is largely stocked with old lady clothes. While that can be disappointing at times, it's fantastic in the undergarment department! Older women's bras still tend to be made like vintage ones with horizontal seams across the bust and/or a more generally "bullety" shape. Slips are also plentiful items that most people nowadays have no use for, so you can pick up some pretty ones quite cheap! Shapewear is also an option if you can find it in your size and aren't weirded out by it!
Give ugly dresses a chance.
As I go through the racks, I'm constantly feeling fabrics and looking at prints. The 80s and 90s had some AWFUL floral prints, but they also had some good ones, too! Give those ugly floral dresses a chance, though they usually majorly lack in hanger appeal. Imagine these loose dresses with a waist belt, and many of them can look fabulously vintage!
Don't forget to check men's shoes!
Men's shoes haven't changed that much over the years, so it's a great place to look for classic styles like penny loafers and brogues. Check boys' for smaller sizes.
Check out the sweaters for classic knits.
I like to look for sweaters in thrift stores. Often 80s and 90s tops are still oriented on the natural waist and shorter than modern ones, so sweaters can go very nicely with midcentury and earlier trouser styles. Chunky cables, 60s-style beatnik turtlenecks and Land Girl-esque sweater vests can all be found in thrift stores.
Shorts racks are your friend!
While, admittedly, many 80s and 90s shorts make me cringe, there are still lots of options that can be found that resemble more midcentury looks. High-waisted ones with era-appropriate prints aren't hard to find!
Classic skirt shapes are abundant.
Classic silhouettes like the pleated skirt and pencil skirt have stuck around for decades. Look first for prints or colors that could work in your wardrobe, then narrow it down to high-waisted pieces with a vintage shape that flatters your body. I especially love these for everyday, easy-wash wearing. I've also found that 70s and 80s pleated skirts to be especially practical because the fabric is usually a synthetic blend and the pleats have been chemically or heat set. They don't need to be ironed after washing to reset the pleats!
Here are some of my own thrift store/ "80s and 90s does" pieces I've shared on the blog:
90s does 40s dress
An Open Apology Letter to the 80s Dress
Corduroy Shorts made from an 80s skirt
90s rayon skirt
80s does 50s pleated skirt
What are your tips for finding vintage styles in thrift stores? What has worked for you?