Thursday, 20 March 2014

Pet Peeves with Vintage Shopping on Ebay

I used to be an avid vintage shopper, scouring markets and vintage or second hand shops for treasures.  I still love vintage but sadly, these days I'm usually never free to go shopping for it.  Most shops I'd like a good rummage around are closed by the time I finish up for the day and weekends are almost never free.  And let's face it - vintage shopping takes a lot of time.  In recent years all my clothes shopping migrated online, including for vintage.

Every so often I peruse that great, open-all-hours vintage market place on the internet for bargains - Ebay.  And I know I'm not alone judging from the bids I've lost to others and the number of watchers on items that catch my eye.  In the past I've had some great successes buying vintage on Ebay (as well as spectacular failures).  Focusing on the good I have some lovely Victorian and Edwardian pieces that were actually quite inexpensive.  This lace embellished Victorian jacket, the gold leather flapper shoes and this ivory cream opera cape made out of a piano shawl are some of my favourite Ebay buys.

I've been using Ebay lately to look for vintage furniture for the flat but the last couple of evenings attention deficit drove me to the vintage women's clothing section.  After a long spell perusing what was on offer, I have to say I felt it was harder to find quality and genuine items with reasonable start bids.  Vintage price inflation has seeped into the start prices and some irritating claims and tricks are being tried by sellers to sell their wares, not all of them qualifying as vintage.

Now I take vintage to mean clothing that was genuinely made in a particular era, and we are talking eras spanning from a time starting thirty or forty years back, clothes that have some genuine fashion history behind them.  But judging from what sometimes gets listed in the vintage clothing section I do wonder if the average Ebay vintage seller is familiar with this concept!

Some practises by sellers that kept cropping up repeatedly really did start to grate after a while and I thought they deserved calling out.  So here they are - my pet peeves when hunting for vintage items on Ebay.  Vintage sellers take note!
  • Sellers listing modern second hand clothing in the vintage section tagged as "vintage style" - please cease and desist.  You are taking up valuable screen space on my search list which could be filled with real vintage items.  I don't want something that is vintage style.  I want the real deal.  Ebay can't you set up a separate category for "vintage style" items on their own?  I swear it would be ten times the size of the real vintage section.  Anyone know how to set up an Ebay search to avoid this phrase??
  • Modern clothing posing as vintage - a secondhand item from Topshop, H&M, Karen Millen, New Look, Zara, and Miss Selfridge does not a vintage garment make. Please also read point one.
  • They may look vintage-y but unless it was manufactured in the 1970s (or 80s at a push) or earlier your "vintage" Monsoon or Laura Ashley is usually just last season's or several seasons old Monsoon or Laura Ashley.
  • Sellers using "Gatsby" or "Downtown Abbey" or whatever title of period dress movie or TV series which happens to be flavour of the month.  It does not make your garment more desirable by comparing it to the costumes in a movie or screen show with a million dollar costume budget.
  • Sellers asking four figure sums for vintage garments.  I have two not very polite words to say to you.  I can get me some runway pieces by top designers for that type of money that don't have moth holes, rips, tears, missing bits or a musty, moth balled smell and hundred year old perspiration marks.  That old adage of flaws and imperfections being part of the charm of vintage clothing begins to wear off at around the £100 mark.  Over £1000 I am more likely to think that you are a money launderer than entertain any notion of bidding on your overpriced item which you probably picked up for buttons.
  • Posting an average UK size instead of posting accurate measurements of the garment.  There is no average UK size people!  A UK 8 in one store can be a UK 6 in another and a UK 12 in yet another.  And it has probably changed since you last hit the change rooms on the high street.  I'm tired of typing in the same request for chest, waist and shoulder measurements for your garments.  Don't be so lazy and post some measurements!  Or I won't bid!
  • Getting your periods wrong.  I've seen some pretty outlandish claims as to what constitutes a 20s flapper dress, what is Victorian, what is Edwardian, the list goes on. And then there is some blatant cover your ass type banding like "50s - 70s dress" - that's a time span of three decades!  A very long time in fashion!  Please do some research and at least try to get it right or admit that you just don't know.
I'm sure there are others that will come to me as I continue my vintage search.  Do you use Ebay to shop for vintage items?  Any pet peeves you've found shopping on Ebay for vintage?

Vintage Victorian riding jacket: Ebay


  1. Thanks for the vintage online shopping insights, V. I've never quite gotten my act together to buy vintage pieces online myself.

    SSG xxx

  2. Oh yah, all of these, you are so right. Definitely, I get POd when I see items mis-identified as vintage. Much like you, I have a good eye and can typically spot a mass market repro posing as the real McCoy. Many sellers don't know their stuff, and what's worse, they're not honest about not knowing their stuff. I tend to shop on Etsy over Ebay for this reason as I find the sellers more knowledgable and the items more curated, albeit pricier as Etsy isn't an auction site. Another pet peeve: when a seller identifies a piece as "rare" and the price is therefore higher. Sure, experienced sellers who specialize in a label or period may know whether or not an item is rare, but there are far to many "rare" listings out there for me to believe that every seller is that on top of her game - call me cynical!

  3. P.s. Gorgeous shawl! I am going through a 1970s fringed shawl obsession now .....

  4. I used to buy and sell vintage clothing on eBay and could not agree more with your #1 - "vintage style" was the bane of all of us "real" vintage sellers. That said, I did find some wonderful treasures over the years. The Victorian jacket is splendid!

  5. Tell me about it! I do think it is still possible to find decent vintage pieces at competitive prices on EBay, but boy, do you have to have the patience of a saint and a good eye! And a bit of luck... All the things which irritate you annoy me too. Some sellers are clearly not berry knowledgeable (the number of 80s dresses I have seen described as 50s is huge) but I suspect some are downright fraudulent. I have had to make lots of requests for measurements too, so many sellers don't appear to realise there is a difference between vintage and modern sizing. Hiking up the postage is always a deal-breaker for me too. I know what postage costs, don't try to charge me £6 to send a lightweight dress by second class mail!
    Ah well. I keep having a browse from time to time, out of curiosity, and I have found some fabulous bargains. Love the pieces you have shown us in this post, the shawl/cape is beautiful. xxx

  6. I know what you mean about having no time for in-person shopping--it seems like a luxury right now. With work and the kids I've really transitioned into more online shopping. What I do like about online shopping is the chance to find specific vintage items I've had in mind for myself because when I shop in stores it's more of a crapshoot.

  7. You'd think that eBay would have specific rules about vintage clothing misrepresentation. They have pretty stiff rules about fraud generally, but it seems to be policed by buyers and sellers. Hit and miss, I'd think. Too bad, really, that your lovely interest is becoming more difficult to pursue than easier. I've loved the idea of vintage clothes, but with Champagne tastes and a bottled water pocket book, it's never been something I considered. I did go though a period when I was in Seattle (pre-Internet era. I know. That was a a quarter century ago. Ouch.) when I was a little obsessed with "vintage" kimono. One can have too many very quickly!
    The examples you show are lovely ... I see why your romantic soul would love them.

  8. I've found some phenomenal pieces in the past, mostly under £5, but to be honest I haven't looked for ages as the number of New Look, Chinese "vintage style" and last year's Top Shop drives me nuts.
    I do think a lot of the time that people think vintage means second hand. I've done a lot of fairs where people are flogging used high street tat but the annoying thing is that people buy it. Not because they think its old just because to many people "vintage" is a term used to describe a look rather than an item of over 25 years old hence the vast amount of naff viscose tea dresses and plastic Mary Jane shoes on eBay.
    Your finds are fabulous. My advice would be to hunt down smaller vintage fairs (not the big ones like Judy's and Loulou's) and hunt down some decent vintage from there. You can try it on, inspect for damage or ascertain whether it really is vintage (or the labels have been cut out), there's no postage charges and, more often that not, you can haggle the seller down if there's more than one piece that takes your fancy! xxx

  9. I can relate to your pet peeves! I hate having to go through all the "vintage-style" and second hand clothes claiming to be vintage because they're out of fashion, or calling something vintage simply because it's floral...or it's a hat. It drives me crazy!

    Brilliants finds. That piano shawl opera cape is GORGEOUS.

  10. Your eye for vintage is exquisite! That opera cape makes me drool. To tell the truth, I've never shopped on eBay. I hit the estate sales for my treasures. It could be that I'm fearful that I wouldn't stop once I started spending time on line, searching for vintage. However, you pet peeves make sense to me!

  11. I love that piano shawl. I hear you, and this is my problem as well with some online sellers, but it's not just eBay, there are some people on Etsy that claimed pieces are vintage when they are just retro or vintage-inspired. I remember when I was doing costume design going to a few places and they had some incorrect periods on the description tags. "Vintage" is used too loosely these days with many people not knowing what it actually means. Fortunately, I've found many great pieces and know about the fabrics, tags, and styling.A friend of mine used to be an appraiser/vintage dealer, so most things like furniture pieces that are in question, I take to him. I like to go in the actual stores though when I am buying vintage, this way I see it all in-person. :)

  12. I have just the same complaints when looking for genuine vintage on ebay. The time wasters who list 'vintage style' garments which are clearly cheap modern dross, the lack of proper measurements, the rocketing costs of any item older than 1970s. But gosh you have found some treasures over the years: that Victorian jacket and the flapper shoes are divine. As for the beauteous piano shawl, I'm drooling! Do hope you get to wear it out at any and every opportunity.

  13. I think you've covered everything! I love real vintage too but it just takes up far too much time to find anything decent these days on ebay. My successes tend to be my coats as it's easier to spot the quality of the materials and so on but I don't feel able to choose anything delicate and beautiful like your finds shown.

  14. Great post V. Thx for sharing. Just popping in to wish you a happy weekend dear.

  15. What a CUTE post :) and your blog is so fab and fun.

    Check out my new post....How you decorate a small space to look bigger :)

    Have a great weekend dear

    LOVE Maria at inredningsvis - inredning it's, Swedish for decor :)

  16. Great post. You echoed a lot of my consistent qualms. For a while I would search for vintage hats, but it just made me so angry that some people would post anything with netting for 30 dollars. And the "vintage" that clearly sold on clearance at Belks last season? I just had to calm down and try to tailor my searches more narrowly.


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