There’s nothing quite like wading through mountains of thrift store clothes to find that one perfect vintage piece. It’s the ultimate needle-in-a-haystack experience, making all the hours of sifting through secondhand items worth it.
Collecting vintage clothing is all about the thrill of the hunt. If you want to turn that passion and skill for acquiring vintage threads into cold hard cash, we have good news for you.
It’s entirely possible to sell vintage clothes online, and getting started with the tools available online has never been easier.
In this blog post, we’ll go over:
- Why you should sell vintage clothes
- How to find your niche
- How to repair, list, price, and photograph your pieces effectively
- The best vintage clothes marketplaces.
Why sell vintage clothes?
Most folks who choose to sell vintage clothes don’t do so with the fundamental desire to make a fortune. You can choose many other business models that will likely make you more money in the long run.
For most people, the draw to selling vintage clothes is the unique ability it provides to connect with other people who also share a passion for fashion – whether it’s from a bygone era or simply something that isn’t being produced anymore.
There are, of course, some financial motivations for selling vintage clothes as well. If you have a knack for finding high-quality pieces and know how to market them properly, you can earn a decent profit.
What’s more, the barriers to entry are relatively low. You don’t need to invest in expensive inventory or secure a storefront like you would with other types of businesses.
Of course, there are also some challenges you’ll need to be aware of before getting started. But first, let’s define what we mean by “vintage.”
As you might imagine, there’s some debate over what actually qualifies as “vintage” clothing.
Most people agree that vintage clothing is at least 20 years old. However, some purists believe that only items from certain decades, usually the 1920s to the 1950s, can be considered vintage.
Other people believe an item can only be considered vintage if it was actually made in the era it’s from. For example, a dress design from the 1950s that was produced in 2018 couldn’t technically be considered vintage.
The lack of a clear definition can make it difficult to market your vintage clothes, as potential customers may not be sure what they’re actually looking at.
To get around this, you’ll need to be as specific as possible when labeling and describing your items. If an item is from a certain era or designer, make sure to mention that in the listing.
You should also give some context about the condition of the clothing. Is it in good condition for its age? Has it been repaired or altered in any way?
The more information you can provide, the easier it will be for potential customers to understand what they’re looking at – and whether or not it’s something they’re interested in.
Pros and cons of selling clothes online
Now that we’ve covered some of the basics, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of selling vintage clothes online:
- You can reach a global audience of potential customers.
- There are relatively low startup costs.
- You can work from home or anywhere else with an internet connection.
- You have the potential to earn a good profit.
- It can be difficult to stand out from the competition.
- There’s a lot of work involved in sourcing, repairing, and photographing vintage clothes.
- It can be tough to find high-quality pieces in good condition.
As you can see, there are some definite advantages and disadvantages to selling vintage clothes online.
Of course, whether or not it’s the right business for you will ultimately come down to your own unique circumstances – including your skills, interests, and goals.
If you’re passionate about fashion and have an eye for finding high-quality pieces, selling vintage clothes online could be a great way to make some extra money or even start a full-fledged business. Just be prepared to put in the work needed to succeed.
How to choose a vintage clothes niche
A good way to compete as a vintage clothes seller is to niche down into a specific vintage category.
One of the best things about selling vintage clothes is that there’s a huge range of items to choose from.
You could focus on a specific era, like the disco-filled 1970s or the flower-power 1960s. Or you could specialize in clothes from a certain designer or brand.
There are also categories of vintage clothes you could choose to focus on, such as formal wear, streetwear, or children’s clothing.
The options are endless.
The key is to find a niche that you’re passionate about and become the go-to authority in that area. When you have in-depth knowledge about the vintage clothes you’re selling, it will be much easier to find and market to potential customers.
It will also help you stand out from the competition. There are a lot of people selling vintage clothes these days, so anything you can do to make your business unique will go a long way in helping you succeed.
To get started, try thinking about what kinds of vintage clothes you’re most interested in. Once you’ve narrowed it down, start doing some research to see what kind of demand there is for that type of clothing.
If you can find a niche that’s both passionate and profitable, you’ll be well on your way to success.
How to fund your vintage clothes business
Another important consideration is how you’re going to fund your business.
Because the barriers to entry are relatively low, you might be tempted to start your business on a shoestring budget.
However, that’s not always the best idea. In order to be successful, you’ll need to invest in high-quality clothes, storage and inventory management, photography, and marketing.
All of these things can add up quickly, so it’s important to make sure you have enough money to cover all your expenses.
One way to fund your business is to save up the money yourself. This could take a while, but it’s a good option if you’re not interested in taking on any debt.
Most online entrepreneurs start by building a runway of cash with their “day job” and investing that into the business, working nights and weekends to get it off the ground.
It’s a grind, but sometimes that’s just what you have to do (especially if you’ve lots of financial responsibilities).
Another option is to take out a small business loan. This can be a great way to cover your business startup costs.
Of course, the downside is that you’re starting off your new venture with debt on the balance sheet, which not everyone is comfortable with. Plus, you run the risk of the business failing and having to pay all that money back out of pocket. Do your research and shop around for the best interest rates before committing to anything.
You could also look into alternative funding options, like crowdfunding or venture capital. These can be great options if you have a solid business plan and are willing to give up a percentage of ownership in your company. Although these methods also typically require more upfront work and business savvy than other options.
What are the typical startup costs for a vintage clothing business?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the amount you’ll need to start a vintage clothing business will vary depending on your specific niche and business model.
However, here are some ballpark figures to give you an idea of what you’re in for:
Clothing: $100 – $1,000
You’ll obviously want to have a solid backlog of inventory before opening your store, which will require sourcing. The reason this range is so wide is that sourcing options vary widely in price.
If you choose to only get your pieces from secondhand stores like Goodwill or Salvation Army, it will take a lot longer, but you’ll likely spend a lot less.
If you source your clothes from online marketplaces like eBay, you may pay more. And if you want the quick route, you can source clothes straight from vintage dealers to resell them at a markup.
Photography: $1,000 – $5,000
As we’ll talk about below, product photography is one of the biggest things that separate amateurs from professionals.
Whether you choose to hire a professional photographer or learn product photography yourself (the most sustainable option), you’ll need to invest in camera equipment, lights, and backdrops in addition to spending time learning the skillset.
Marketing: $500 – $5,000
Marketing an eCommerce store is no small feat. You’ll need to invest in ads, social media marketing, email marketing, and more.
If you’re not sure where to start or don’t have the time to do it all yourself, you can always hire a marketing agency.
Not sure where to start? Check out our guide on small business marketing tools.
Storage and Inventory Management: $50 – $500
If you’re planning on storing your clothes in your home, you might be able to get away with a few storage bins.
Web Development: $100 – $500
You’ll need a well-designed website to showcase your clothes and sell them online. If you’re not a web developer, you’ll need to hire someone to build it for you (or use a platform like Shopify).
Sourcing vintage clothes
Once you’ve figured out how you’re going to finance your business, it’s time to start sourcing clothes.
One option is to scour thrift stores and garage sales for clothes that fit your niche. This can be a great way to find cheap clothes, but it can also be time-consuming. You might have to visit dozens of different stores before you find anything.
Another option is to buy clothes from private sellers. This can be a great way to find higher-quality clothes, but it can also be more expensive.
You can find private sellers online or through word-of-mouth. Once you’ve established a relationship with a few good sellers, you’ll always have a steady supply of clothes to sell.
The best way to find private sellers is to join relevant Facebook groups or online forums related to your niche. If there aren’t any, you can create your own forum to build a community over time.
Most of these groups have rules against selling, but you can usually find a way to contact the sellers privately to make a deal.
Finally, you could also buy clothes from wholesalers or manufacturers. This is generally the most expensive option, but it’s also the most convenient.
Cleaning and repairing vintage clothes
Once you’ve sourced your clothes, it’s time to clean and repair them.
This is an essential step because it will make your clothes look their best and help you get the most money for them.
There are a few different ways you can clean vintage clothes. One option is to hand-wash them with a mild detergent. Vintage clothes, by their very definition, are old. That often means the gentler you can wash them, the better.
Another option is to machine-wash them on a gentle cycle. If you machine-wash your clothes, make sure to use a mild detergent and avoid using the dryer.
You should also take the time to repair any damage that your clothes have. This could include sewing on missing buttons, patching holes, or mending tears.
Common things to repair on vintage clothes are:
Anyone can learn the skills necessary to repair clothes. Just do a YouTube search for any of these, and you’ll find a bevy of videos walking you through the entire process.
Storage and inventory for vintage clothes
Once your clothes are cleaned and repaired, it’s time to start thinking about storage and inventory.
This is especially important if you’re planning on selling online. You’ll need to find a way to store your clothes so that they stay in good condition.
One option is to use plastic storage bins. This is a great way to keep your clothes organized and protected from dust and pests.
Another option is to use garment bags. This can be a more expensive option, but it will keep your clothes looking their best.
You should also create an inventory system so that you know what you have in stock at all times. This will help you avoid selling the same piece of clothing more than once.
You can create a simple inventory system using a spreadsheet or database program. Though as your business grows, you’ll definitely want to invest in an automated inventory management software.
When you’re managing multiple sales channels, in-transit orders, and customer returns all at once, you’ll want to rely on software to do the heavy lifting so you can spend more time on your business and less time in spreadsheets.
Pricing vintage clothes
Once you’ve figured out how to store and inventory your clothes, it’s time to start pricing them. The most important thing is to find a balance between making a profit and attracting customers.
One thing you’ll need to consider is the condition of the clothes. Clothes that are in better condition will be worth more than clothes that are in poor condition. You’ll also need to consider the age of the clothes. Older clothes will usually be worth more than newer clothes.
The only exception to this would be notably rare or very specific limited edition pieces.
Finally, you’ll need to take the current fashion trends into account. Clothes that are currently in style will obviously be worth more than clothes that are out of style.
An easy way to solve the pricing problem is to study your competitors. Look at what they’re charging for similar items and use that as a starting point.
Of course, you’ll also need to take into account the condition of the clothes and the current fashion trends. But this should give you a good idea of what you can charge for your clothes.
Vintage clothing photography
One of the most important aspects of selling vintage clothes is taking good photos. It’s amazing how much cooler a vintage Nickelodeon t-shirt looks on a trendy-looking model than photographed with a smartphone on your kitchen floor.
That’s not to say that smartphone photos aren’t viable options. Any experienced photographer will tell you that it’s not about the gear. It’s about the technique and, perhaps most importantly, the lighting.
Good lighting, whether that’s artificially created or natural, will make or break your product photography.
Study the competition. Follow influencers on Instagram. Try to reverse-engineer their camera and lighting setup. Are they using a flash? Are they using a softbox?
Then, try your best to replicate these best practices. This is by far the best way to learn.
Here are some other strategies for great product photography:
Hire a model
Most pieces will look their best when actually worn by a person. This could be you (if you’re comfortable being in front of a camera), a friend, or a family member.
You could opt to hire a model as well or reach out to local dancers or actors. Nobody in show business will ever turn down a free photo shoot, so it’s a win-win.
Flat lay photography
Certain pieces will also benefit from flat lay photography.
Flat lay photography is a type of photography that involves taking photos of objects from a bird’s-eye view. This type of photography is perfect for displaying smaller objects or the detail of certain items.
What are the best camera settings for vintage clothing photography?
For clothing photography, you’ll want to shoot at a high f-stop, between f-8 and f-11. It’ll help focus only on the apparel and highlight its best details. You’ll also want to set your shutter speed to around 1/125.
If you’re using a model and want to eliminate motion blur, you’ll need to use a faster shutter speed.
If you’re shooting in low light, you’ll need to use a higher ISO setting.
You’ll also want to set your camera to the correct white balance. For vintage clothing, use a warm white balance setting.
Another trendy way to photograph vintage clothes is to use your camera’s built-in flash. This aesthetic hearkens back to old-school camera equipment from the ’90s and 2000s, which is why it’s become popular again in recent years.
Capture your pieces from different angles and in various contexts
When it comes to eCommerce product photography, more is definitely better. 75% of online shoppers rely on product photos when deciding on a potential purchase.
You really can’t overdo product photography.
eCommerce best practices dictate that you’ll want to capture your product in at least the following contexts:
- Worn by a model
- Laying on a flat surface
- Hanging on a hanger
- Close up to the material
It’s important to have lots of photos of products that customers are used to being able to touch, feel, and try on. You don’t want them to feel like they’re taking a shot in the dark by purchasing your pieces.
Places to sell your vintage clothes
Once you’ve taken care of all the necessary steps, it’s time to start selling your clothes. Here are some of the best places to sell your pieces online.
One of the most popular places to sell vintage clothes is online auction sites like eBay. These sites allow you to list your clothes and set a starting price.
Bidders will then compete against each other to buy your clothes. The highest bidder at the end of the auction will win the item.
Auction sites are a great place to sell vintage clothes because they allow you to reach a wide audience of potential buyers.
Some examples of auction sites include:
- Live Auctioneers
Read our blog on how to start selling on eBay for more tips on how to get your listings set up and optimized.
Marketplaces & dedicated apps
These platforms allow you to list your clothes and set your own prices. Potential buyers can then browse through the listings and purchase the items they want.
Marketplaces and apps are a great place to sell vintage clothes because they’re easy to use and allow you to reach a wide audience of potential buyers.
Some of the most popular dedicated marketplaces for vintage clothing are:
Consignment & trade agreements
Another option for selling vintage clothes is consignment or trade agreements. With consignment, you’ll allow a store to sell your clothes for you.
The store will take a commission of the sales, and you’ll receive the rest of the money.
With trade, you’ll exchange your clothes for other items, usually with another vintage clothing store.
Consignment and trade are great options if you want to sell vintage clothes but don’t want to deal with the hassle of shipping and logistics.
Some notable online consignment stores are:
- The RealReal
- ASOS Marketplace
How to promote vintage clothes online
Get on Instagram
With over 1 billion monthly users, Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms in the world.
The vintage clothing market is highly visual. Combine this with Instagram’s natural bent toward visual media and it’s the perfect match for promoting your store.
Put your best foot forward with eye-catching photos and use hashtags to attract potential buyers. If you have the marketing spend, you can also use Instagram ads to reach a wider audience.
Write blog posts
Another great way to promote your vintage clothing store is to write blog posts. These can be about anything related to fashion, style, or vintage clothing in general.
Not only will this help attract potential customers to your store, but it will also establish you as an authority in the industry. This can help you build trust with potential buyers and make them more likely to purchase from you.
To get started, simply create a blog on your website or on a popular platform like WordPress.com. Then, start writing and publishing articles.
If you’re struggling to figure out what to write about, just document your process. Talk about how you source your clothes, how you repair them, and your journey in starting an online store.
You can also target particular keywords in Google that your audience is likely searching for, such as:
- “How to vintage fade a t-shirt”
- “Best 90s vintage pieces”
- “Vintage fashion history”
- “Vintage fashion guide”
All of these are real queries in Google, so feel free to use them!
Even better, you could start a YouTube channel and film yourself showcasing vintage pieces or demonstrating vintage clothing best practices.
Participate in forums & online communities
There are many online communities dedicated to vintage clothing. These are great places to connect with potential customers and promote your store.
Simply create an account on one of these platforms and start participating in conversations. Make sure to include a link to your store in your profile so that people can easily find it.
Here are some of the most popular forums & online communities for vintage clothing:
- Reddit – /r/vintageclothing
- The Fashion Spot – Vintage Clothing Forum
- Styleforum – Vintage Clothing Thread
FAQs on Selling Vintage Clothes Online
How can I make a living selling vintage clothes?
It’s possible to make a living selling vintage clothes online, but it’s probably prudent to start it as a side hustle until it can grow into a scalable business.
That said, if you practice fiscal discipline, scale your team early, and you’re willing to grind, you can turn your passion for fashion into a career.
How do I find the value of vintage clothes?
There are a number of ways to determine the value of vintage clothes.
One way is to research comparable items that have recently sold on auction sites like eBay. Another way is to consult with experts in the field, such as antique dealers or appraisers.
Finally, you can also reference pricing guides that specialize in vintage clothing. By taking the time to research the value of your clothes, you can make sure you’re getting the best price for them.
Is 1980 considered vintage?
The answer to this question is somewhat subjective. However, most people would consider clothing from the 1980s to be vintage.
This is because it’s been at least 20 years since the clothes were produced and they are no longer in style. Additionally, most people believe that clothes must be at least 20 years old to be considered vintage.
Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule. For example, some people might consider clothing from the 1990s to be vintage because it has a retro style.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what you consider to be vintage.
What are the most popular vintage clothing items?
There is a wide range of vintage clothing items that are popular among collectors and fashionistas.
Some of the most popular vintage clothing items include dresses, shirts, pants, skirts, jackets, and shoes.
Of course, the popularity of certain items can vary depending on your location. For example, items that are popular in the United States might not be as popular in Europe.
Additionally, the popularity of vintage clothing items can change over time. What’s popular today might not be popular a year from now.
So if you’re looking to sell vintage clothes, it’s important to stay up-to-date on trends. The best way to do this is to follow fashion blogs, Pinterest accounts, and Instagram accounts.
What are some tips for selling vintage clothes?
First, it’s imperative to take good photos of your clothes. Make sure the photos are well-lit and show the clothes from different angles.
Second, write effective product descriptions. Include information about the condition of the clothes, as well as any unique features.
Third, be prepared to ship your clothes to the winning bidder. This may require investing in packaging materials and shipping supplies.
Millions of people are passionate about vintage clothing, and with so many niches to choose from, there is definitely room in this market to make a good profit.
To recap, here are the most important things to keep in mind when selling vintage clothes online:
- Niche down
- Study the competition
- Find reliable funding
- Learn great product photography
- Participate in like-minded communities
- Leverage Instagram
- Learn to clean and repair your pieces
- Practice good inventory management techniques
If you want more tips on starting or scaling your eCommerce business, subscribe to our blog.
Or, if you’re not interested in carrying inventory, you can check out our recent post on how to start an online store with no inventory.
Thanks for reading, and good luck!