A Guide to Shopping for Vintage Clothes

For us, vintage shopping is not a fashion; it’s a way of life. With the amazing Portobello Market right on our doorstep, we have the chance to hand-select the most amazing pieces for our Style by Portobello vintage subscription boxes every month.

vintage clothing shopping guidelines

But not everyone is as familiar with vintage as we are. We know that shopping for vintage fashion isn’t always easy so here are some tips to help you get started.

1. First, Understand the Meaning of Vintage 

Some shoppers confuse vintage with ‘thrift’ or second-hand. Vintage clothing is second-hand but it’s something that is considered as special and a true representation of a decade past. So just because something has been worn by someone else previously, doesn’t make it ‘vintage’. So when looking for real vintage, look for an item which has real cultural significance.

2. Know Where to Find the Best Vintage Shops

We love Portobello Market because it’s simply the best vintage market in the country. But there are plenty of other places to shop for vintage including Camden Lock, Old Spitalfields Market, Shoreditch in East London, Stoke Newington in North London, the Corn Exchange in Leeds, The Northern Quarter in Manchester, and the Digbeth area in Birmingham.  Finding the best places to shop will make your vintage search so much easier. Or you can sign up to our Style by Portobello subscription box for gorgeous vintage accessories delivered to your door every month!

how to shop vintage clothing

3. Get to Know the Decades

The fashion of each decade is unique and that’s what makes vintage clothing so incredibly special. Many vintage shoppers find that they have a  particular interest in certain eras or their body shapes work well in other eras. Get to know the tell tales signs of each decade (eg: polka dots and tea dresses in the 50s, miniskirts and monochrome in the 60s, flares and boho in the 70s) and you will become an expert in spotting vintage items in no time.

4. Look for Quality 

Vintage clothing has stood the test of time and the quality is something we don’t see so much with modern throwaway fashion. Our high streets simply can’t compare to vintage quality – but you have to know what you’re looking for. Always look for any rips and tears in clothing as this can be a common characteristic with vintage items, especially in the lining of coats. Just remember, wear and tear is to be expected and if you’re concerned just ask the seller whether it would be easy to repair.

how to shop vintage clothing

5. Learn How to Care for Vintage Clothing 

If in doubt, always ask your seller about care guidelines. Some vintage items should be dry-cleaned and others may benefit most from being washed gently by hand. If your vintage item has a musty vintage smell (sometimes they do!), there are specialist cleaning services which can help. Other people like try-at-home methods such as distilled white vinegar, baking soda, charcoal or vodka. But we definitely recommend getting advice from garment cleaning experts.

6. Remember Sizing Isn’t Going to be Perfect

Women’s sizing has changed dramatically over the years so always try an item on. If you really like an item but it doesn’t fit you, consider getting it altered to favour your shape and size. But just remember, a lot of vintage clothing is worn for the ‘oversized’ or ‘boyfriend’ look so the perfect glove-like fit shouldn’t be something to look for necessarily. You can also cinch things in at the waist with a belt or roll up sleeves if they are too long for you.

Ode to LFW: Key Vintage Fashion Moments

London Fashion Week kicks off today; if you’re going, we hope you have an incredible time. For those not attending the prestigious fashion event, join us in reliving the most monumental vintage fashion moments of our time…

Vivenne Westwood AW 1989

Above: Vivienne Westwood A/W 1989 was one of the most iconic collections in LFW’s first decade. Model Sara Stockbridge turned heads in a showstopping dress decorated with bold shapes and hearts.

givenchy aw 1996

givenchy aw 1996

Above: Givenchy S/S 1996 saw British designer John Galliano storm the catwalks with his extravagant designs. This is the year that haute couture really came into its own.

Alexander Mcqueen 1998

Alexander Mcqueen 1998

alexander mcqueen vintage

Above: Alexander Mcqueen A/W 1998 brought a whole new meaning to theatre when the designer revealed a sinister theme that wowed the crowds. And who can forget the fire?

Moschino SS13

Above: Moschino S/S 2013 may be a more recent collection but it definitely belongs in our list of key vintage fashion moments as the throwback designs bow down to the swinging sixties with monochrome, mini skirts, big hair and retro makeup.

If you love vintage fashion, make sure you sign up to the Style by Portobello monthly subscription box. It’s a style subscription box filled with vintage bags, belts and accessories hand-curated from the markets of London’s famous Portobello.



How to Tie a Vintage Headscarf

There are so many ways of tying a vintage headscarf and here are 4 step by step styles that are so easy to do! Read on to find out how you can style your vintage headscarf…

how to tie headscarf


This is one of the easiest ways to tie your headscarf. Not only is it super stylish but because it covers your head, it’s also great for covering any hair loss or just a bad hair day!

  1. Stretch out the full scarf and place over your forehead.
  2. Bring the ends of the scarf around to the nape of your neck.
  3. Tie the ends of the scarf together in a knot.
  4. Let the lengths of the tied ends sit at the back or bring them round the front / side for a chic look.


how to tie headscarf ali macgraw


Like actress Ali Macgraw (top left in the image above), you can show your boho side with a relaxed hippie look headscarf. It’s so 70s chic.

  1. Fold the scarf longways until the section is 2-3 inches thick.
  2. Place the middle of the long section on your forehead and wrap around your head.
  3. Tie the scarf at the side and let the length of the ends fall down.


Ali Macgraw was also a fan of the sidebun headscarf look (top right in the image above). It looks super glam but it’s so easy to achieve.

  1. Tie your headscarf in the pirate style (the first look we showed you at the top of this post).
  2. Bring the two long ends together at the side of your head and twist them together until you have one thin/tight piece.
  3. Twist this round in a bun shape and secure.


hot to headscarf audrey hepburn


This is so 50s Hollywood darling. If you’re an Audrey Hepburn fan, get her glamorous Breakfast at Tiffany’s look in 4 easy steps…

  1. Fold the corners of your scarf to create a triangle.
  2. Place the straight end to the front of your head.
  3. Wrap it around your face and bring the ends under your chin.
  4. Tie a sweet bow for the Hepburn look.

If you’re a fan of vintage headscarfs, sign up to our Style by Portobello monthly subscription box. We deliver gorgeous vintage scarves, bags and accessories direct to your door. And if you found this post useful, don’t forget to share it using the social media buttons below!

Meet Our Vintage Style Ambassadors!

We’re absolutely delighted to introduce you to our three fabulous, totally gorgeous and utterly chic vintage style ambassadors for our Style by Portobello subscription boxes.

style by portobello

Style by Portobello vintage subscription boxes are filled with amazing vintage goodies every single month. And now you can follow the unboxing of these boxes with our three lovely ladies; meet the Style by Portobello ambassadors!


vintage fashion blog

Sophie from Fashion Slave is an effortless dresser with all the charm and charisma you would expect from a London fashion writer and shoe lover. We love her city chic style and thought she would be the perfect ambassador for our Portobello-born vintage accessories subscription box.

Follow Sophie on her blog and watch as she unboxes the lovely one-off vintage goodies from Style by Portobello over the next few months.


style by portobello blogger

Sinead from Drop Dead Ned is unbelievably stylish. She’s a high street fanatic who lives in Central London and we can’t wait to see how she styles our monthly vintage accessories with her huge high street wardrobe.

Head over to Sinead’s blog if you want to see the beautiful fusion of London high street with authentic Portobello vintage. We think it’ll be a match made in heaven.


style by portobello blogger

The adorable Alice from Alice Tinted Glasses has an utterly unique sense of style. Inspired by all things vintage and all things fashion, Style By Portobello subscription boxes will be her perfect partner in crime. And we can’t wait to see her unboxing her monthly vintage accessories; how will she style them we wonder? Visit her fashion blog to find out.

And if you love vintage as much as these bloggers do, make sure you help us share this post!