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Stumped about what to look for when vintage or thrift shopping? Click through to learn about the five key items you should always buy vintage—plus, five you're better off purchasing new.
Classic Designer Bags
buy vintage
Take it from a girl who considers her secondhand Chanel 2.55 to be her most prized possession—there are absolutely incredible handbags to be found in vintage and consignment shops. Just beware of buying a fake. Many high-end vintage retailers guarantee the authenticity of their goods; if you have any doubts, of course, it's a good idea to ask about a shop's return policy and then have the bag authenticated at the designer's own store.
Of course, you shouldn’t limit your search to big-ticket designer styles alone—there are tons of amazing no-label vintage bags out there, too!
Leather Boots
buy vintage
Because breaking in is hard to do—and boots, unlike most forms of footwear, keep getting better with age.
Coats
buy vintage
Whether you prefer military-style peacoats, fur-collared toppers or classic Burberry trenches, the outerwear of your dreams is likely just a trip to the vintage store away. And remember: if you're in love with a piece that's seen slightly better days, you can always replace the lining and swap out the buttons with some help from your favorite tailor (or without, if you're crafty like that).
Sunglasses
buy vintage
Simply put, there are few new sunglasses out there that can compete with the shades of yore. Think about it: even many of today's most popular frames (Ray-Ban's Wayfarer and Clubmaster, Gucci's Jackie O oversized styles) are identical to those sold decades ago. So why not opt for the originals?
Denim Jackets
buy vintage
Jean jackets haven't evolved in shape or silhouette all that much over the decades—and in this case, that's a good thing! Go for one with an oversized fit, bleach splatters, funky patches—whatever floats your proverbial boat.
Silk Tops
buy new
Silk is one of the easiest-to-stain fabrics on the planet—meaning that if you manage to find a blouse or button-up in the fabric without mysterious drips or discolorations, it'll be a fashion miracle. To make matters even trickier, silk tends to hold on to smells. Enough said.
Basic Tees
buy new
I mean, you're just asking for armpit stains if you try going vintage with this one. You'd be better off picking up a Hanes three-pack (or one of these amazing, editor-approved tees!).
Shoes (That Aren't Boots)
buy new
As cool as '50s-era Mary Janes and '70s wooden wedges might look, you can never be sure that they haven't been weakened by those decades of wear. And what's worse than being out and about and having a heel snap off or a sole separate from an instep? Since pumps, flats and sandals endure far more wear and tear than, say, a skirt or blazer, it's a better idea to purchase those items new. If nothing else, it's the more sanitary choice!
Suits
buy new
While it’s perfectly possible to find cool suiting separates at secondhand stores—a blazer here, a pair of kicky striped trousers there—any pant or skirt suit you intend to wear as a full ensemble should probably be bought new. Why? Women’s suiting trends tend to change at least every few years, and a dated two-piece might get you mistaken for a decades-late Murphy Brown extra. Hello, shoulder pads!
Cashmere Sweaters
buy new
Fact: cashmere pills and pulls. Unless you magically manage to find a super-soft knit without any defects (or that simply requires a quick go-over with a sweater stone), you're better off buying your crewnecks and cardigans new.