10 tips to shop vintage (without regrets)

10 tips to shop vintage (without regrets)

This weekend while I was buried in clothing racks at the antique mall, I heard two girls talking about “Vintage Tunnel Vision.” You know it. We’ve all done it. You’re in the mood to shop, you see something really cute, and say, “I can totally see myself wearing this!” and when you get home, you look in the mirror and realize: you’d never wear it.

Vintage Tunnel Vision is up there with back-pedalling into the fast(er) fashion space, where we keep buying because we’re not really sure what we want, or because there’s less guilt associated with it. And hear me, I am RIGHT there with you. I can’t count the number of times I’ve gone to vintage shops just because I’m feeling the shopping urge and need to do something about it without caving to the mall. It’s led to some really cute finds, but in the past it’s also led to some real lemons that end up sitting unworn in my closet for a long while.

When I started to take the mindset of having less in my closet, the way I approached vintage shopping changed. It all started with the LIST.

If you’re like me (and probably everyone else), you’re not immune to Vintage Tunnel Vision. So here’s my remedy and recommendations for regret-free vintage shopping.



1. Identify your wardrobe holes.

Ask yourself: what are you really missing?


2. Use the tried-and-true ‘list’ philosophy.

Label each item under one of these categories: make, thrift, or buy ethically.


3. Know exactly the silhouette you’re looking for.

Get familiar with all similar cuts, brands & shapes you love. Look at image inspo, build up some references. Being familiar with what you really want, and how it needs to fall on your body, can make the difference between destiny and regretting the buy.


4. Get thrifting! And be patient.

If you’re like me, you love shopping and it doesn’t matter how much is there, or how overwhelming it is—you’ll be cool taking your time. If you’re not like that, remind yourself that you’re never going to be able to go through all of it at once, so go at your own pace and enjoy!


5. Refer to your ‘thrift list.’

Keeping your list of to-buy items close will make it easier to hone in on the right sections or pieces among the chaos. Focus on those items you need (instead of on everything else). Process of elimination = a sense of peace.


6. Let yourself be drawn to fabrics, colours & textures.

This first phase is the most fun! Enjoy it and be a wild magpie.


7. When you find something that fits those criteria, look at the shape & cut.

Be honest with yourself. If you’ve been spending time looking at how different silhouettes settle on you, if you know which shapes are consistently in your wardrobe, make sure you’re honest. It may be cute, but if it doesn’t vibe with the criteria on your list OR anything in your closet, chances are it’ll be difficult to make it fit.


8. Try it on.

If you can’t try it on, hold it up to you. Find a mirror if you can! Nothing will give you a better sense of if you can envision yourself in it.


8. Know your sewing abilities.

If it’s not QUITE the right size, consider if you’re confident enough to alter it. I find that a simple alteration can completely transform a piece. Understanding your sewing capabilities and the kinds of alterations you’re comfortable making can help you envision what the final piece could look like. I do this for skirts all the time, but I know I’d never attempt it myself with denim (my sewing machine can’t handle the weight!)


10. Think of at least 3 outfits you can see yourself wearing with it.


If it meets all these, then you’re set to go!




There’s a couple caveats to all of this.

First, a lot of the time, you WON’T find anything. That’s okay. It’s slow fashion, it’s a slow process. It takes time to find something that’ll become your next best piece of clothing! Don’t let yourself feel disappointed if you walk out with nothing – that’s a victory that means you actually know what you’re looking for!

Second (on the total other end of the spectrum), there will be an item every once in a while that you didn’t intend to find, is not on the list, but it’s GORGEOUS and your brain explodes with multiple outfit possibilities. They’re out-of-the-box game-changers. That can easily be a tunnel-vision situation, but I really encourage you to understand which cuts look best on you, because that’s the no.1 way to ensure everything you’re picking up will compliment your body type.



Since I started doing those 10 things, I have not regretted a vintage purchase! Which is pretty incredible, because it used to happen to me ALL. THE. TIME.

Happy vintage shopping!




10 thoughts on “10 tips to shop vintage (without regrets)”

    • Hi! Really great question. I used to not be confident in what my style was, so I would keep buying clothes that didn’t work for me, or weren’t versatile. Since I’ve stopped shopping fast fashion and buying less, I’ve been really critical about understanding how to maintain a wardrobe that is versatile and can eventually (once the other pieces wear out) work harder and be worn more often in creative combinations. So any of the vintage pieces I buy now are either:

      1. Replacing something that has worn out beyond repair
      2. Filling a hole I could never fill successfully when I was shopping fast
      3. Introducing a versatile piece that I know will help me maintain a smaller wardrobe as I slowly transition

      I hope that helps!

  • Do you have any stores that you could recommend in the Hamilton or Niagara area for vintage shopping? I’m new to this and don’t really know where to start…

    • Yesyesyes!!! Hamilton is the absolute best for vintage shopping. Hamilton Antique Mall on Ottawa Street is full of gems, and you can also find some independently owned shops on King St and James St. N.

      Black Diamond Vintage, Daughter Daughter Vintage and Tuesday’s Gone are my fave vendors from Hamilton. They are on Instagram and Tuesday’s Gone as well as Daughter Daughter are in the Antique Mall.

      I hope that helps! Happy shopping! ❤️

    • So exciting, welcome to Canada! Where did you move from?

      I live closer to Toronto, but from what I can see, Ottawa has some vintage gems as well 🙂

      Darling Vintage looks like a lovely boutique that carries denim, and they’re online as well, here.

      Other boutiques that look worth exploring are Bellewethers Vintage and Ragtime Vintage Clothing.

      If you’re familiar with the chain Value Village (in US & Canada), it’s always a reliable and affordable place to go!

      Ottawa also has one of the largest vintage clothing shows in the country – the next one is happening in November.

      I hope that gives you a little kick-start to where you can find that perfect pair of jeans!


      • Oh wow, thanks for all the great suggestions! I’ll be sure to check out the vintage show in November too. Our family moved to Canada from Montana, but are now thrilled to call Ottawa home!

        • Warm welcome to Canada! 🙂 I hope you find some amazing vintage pieces and settle right in here!

  • Hello! Have just come across your blog today, & couldn’t be more delighted–can’t wait to read ALL of it!

    I am a Peterborough resident, having moved here from Hamilton 10 years ago Love the local references too ♥️

    Best wishes!!

    • Thank you so much for the kind words! <3 I used to live a bit more up your way, too - it's lovely in that area! Enjoy reading! 🙂

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