How To Buy The Perfect Vintage Coat

This is an incredibly useful post from the always helpful Tara over at Nothing Elegant. And you know she’s a girl after my own heart – what with my obsession with vintage eskimo parkas and what not!

Most of us have at least one irresistible obsession, and mine happens to be outerwear. Not the naughtiest addiction ever, but it’s an addiction nonetheless! I just can’t seem to say no to a good trench, blazer, peacoat, military jacket, or swing coat. I’m inexplicably attracted to faux fur, rhinestone buttons, bell sleeves, and funnel necks. Yes, I’ve got a problem, but luckily I’ve learned to indulge my habit without breaking the bank! Over the years, I’ve realized that the best way to keep my coat compulsion satisfied is to stick to buying vintage.

Why I Buy Vintage
:: From classic 50’s swing coats to avant-garde 80’s cocoon coats, there is a breathtaking array of styles and silhouettes available out there.
:: In my experience, the price for a great vintage coat is, on average, at least 50 percent less than a newer version…and in today’s economy, that is saying a lot!
:: Vintage outerwear is often made with better materials and craftsmanship: just imagine how expensive a brand new coat made with thick wool or velvet, silk lining, glass buttons, and little details like brocade trim or rhinestones would cost at a department store.
:: I’m helping the environment by not contributing to waste! This is an added bonus to buying vintage — why buy something new when there are already so many options available?

Of course buying vintage can be daunting: Where do I start? What about condition? And what about…that musty smell? Here are some of my tried-and-true tips…

Tips on Buying Vintage:: Have a budget in mind and stick to it. I rarely spend over $60 for a coat, and for a jacket I keep it to around $15-$25. But the budget will depend on a variety of factors, like your area (vintage is more costly in bigger cities), as well as the material and age of the coat.
:: Ask questions! If you’re buying from a thrift store,you’re on your own, but if you’re buying from a vintage dealer, get as much information as you can to help you make your decision.
:: Check for stains — getting rid of stains on vintage fabric can be daunting and difficult. Unless the stain is on the lining where no one will notice, I usually shy away from the purchase.
:: Check the lining. Lining can be replaced, but sometimes changing the lining can cost as much as the coat itself –just weight the cost/repair ratio before deciding {and if you are a masterful sewer, then you are good to go!}.
:: Check the smell — because of the thicker fabric,vintage coats seem to hold a musty smell. This can often be removed with a simple dry-cleaning. Ask your dry cleaner for their advice if you have concerns about the fabric holding up. Dryel sheets are also a good, inexpensive way to get musty smells out of fabrics.
:: Check the details, like buttons, buckles, etc. Most things can be fixed or replaced, but you always want to be sure you are aware of the work you will need to put into it before buying.


Places to Start Your Own Vintage Outerwear Addiction
:: Thrift stores! Some of my best vintage coat finds were at Goodwill and Salvation Army.

:: Vintage store and boutiques. While these will be a bit pricier, the quality is typically more consistent and the items will usually be cleaned and mended.
:: Estate sales — if you’re into waking up early and beating the crowds.
:: Ebay is the place to go for great deals without leaving the comfort of your sofa. Search by era, material, style, etc.
:: Etsy has a gorgeous selection…and superfriendly sellers. Just for a taste, check out Good Grace, Dear Golden, Cassie’s Attic, Thrush and Bad Girl Vintage.Good Luck and Happy Shopping!

Are you addicted to vintage coats? Any other tips to share?



This was a wonderful post! Tara is so clever when it comes to vintage things. And I really like your header, by the way – usually the standard Blogspot-layout is a bit of a turnoff for me, but your header made it seem rather pretty. Did you make it yourself? πŸ™‚

Sarah Von Bargen

Thanks, Airam! Actually the header artwork is from an artist named Yellena James, reworked and futzed with by my BFF who's a grapic designer. I really love it, too!


Hi there-a great post, I adore thrifting and have some lovely faux fur for this winter! Well done Tara, a very informative post! From Sharon Rose


I've been after a faux fur coat for aaages, but vintage round here is so expensive and the shops seem to stock massive sizes πŸ™
Maybe my time will come, but until then, at least I can soak up tips! πŸ™‚


oh dear…. i always thought i had a thing for coats (living as i do in Boston, queen of suck-ass winters), and i was definitely jealous as all hell when i saw your freakin' awesome Eskimo coat, soooo now i guess we'll find out if i really do have a thing for coats. i suspect that pretty soon i'll have more coats than clothes o.O $50 for a gorgeous blue swing coat??? $100 for a ridiculous Russian princess coat??? where do i SIGN?????
Sarah Von, you're the best. I read you every day! thanks for having Tara guest post!


Excellent post by an exceptionally stylish blooger! And how true! Buying a good new coat today is outrageously expensive! Fortunately we're going into summer here and my coat lasted the distance but I will be on the hunt again next year and I think vintage is the best option.


I *adore* vintage coats and all of Tara's points are spot on. Especially about the quality–they just don't make 'em like they used to.


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