The Ultimate Vintage Dress Buying Guide on eBay

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The Ultimate Vintage Dress Buying Guide on eBay

Many consumers hunt for the vintage look when shopping for dresses. Shoppers can hardly walk down the street without seeing an outfit like a flowing dress without thinking about a forgotten time period that reminds them of the vintages days. Not to mention, many of the original trends have come full circle and are now put to practise on modern clothing. However, not everything that looks old is accurately labelled as "vintage". There are certain guidelines to follow for success in finding a vintage dress. Below are vintage dress details that buyers should lookout for when buying vintage dresses.


Vintage Dress Details


Metal Zipper

Located in the seam of the middle back of the dress

Handmade Garment

Those without labels and tags

Care Label

Stitched on the inside of the dress

Made in California

Company brand names followed by "of California" were founded in the 1920s; continued to manufacture into the 1970s

Made in Hawaii

Brand names with any indication of Hawaii have influenced fashion since the 1930s


Compare the size to the current standard size chart; vintage dresses have larger sizes match with smaller modern sizes

Designer Tags

House names like Christian Dior or Chanel

"At Home Wear" or "Hostess Wear" on the tag

Used to appeal to women who dressed for daily life in a casual manner

It seems as though fashion is really a timeless entity. And the online auctioneer, eBay, offers an option for shoppers interested in purchasing vintage dresses.

Vintage vs. Antique

Much controversy revolves around what exactly it is that classifies something as vintage or antique. The general consensus is that anything 50 years and older falls under the umbrella of vintage. When it hits 100 years, though, it is antique, and this is a fact to keep in mind when shopping for a vintage dress.

Dress Through the Ages

Dress through the ages includes time periods from the 1920s to the 1960s. Each era offers different styles that shoppers are looking for when searching for vintage dresses.

The Dress Style of the 1920s

Often referred to as the "Roaring Twenties", the early twentieth century witnessed the emergence of a different breed of women which coined the term "the new woman". This type of woman was bold and unafraid to show her sex appeal. She smoked, she worked, and she was independent. The change in attitude reached through the fashion industry. Gone were the corset waists, and the skirts no longer remained in their more conservative place just above the ankle. The 1920s were a time for the scoop or V-neck. Bell-shaped sleeves were also in style. Since fabrics such as cotton and wool were in an abundance during this time period, many of the garments were made from those materials. Waistlines were loose rather than tight in the beginning until its disappearance in 1925; and without the constraint of corsets like their predecessors, the bodices of the dresses were also loose.

Shoppers interested in the looser dress look with a scoop neck, for instance, should shop with the 1920s era in mind.

The Dress Style of the 1930s

Dresses of the 1930s encountered lowered hemlines and higher, more natural waistlines. During this time, the economic crisis played a significant role in the dresses being bought and sold. No longer were women so concerned with having a dress for each part of the day. Instead, families searched for a garment that could be worn day in and day out. Thus the feedsack dresses became a trend. These dresses were made from animal feed sacks, but they were not as simple as they sound. Companies of the time caught on to what the women were doing and began to print colourful patterns on their sacks in order to increase their business. Of course, these simple dresses are not all the 1930s had to offer. With the help of Hollywood, the 1930s saw a rise in a yearning for simple sophistication with long, slim dresses and mostly in black.

If shoppers are looking for a look that replicates the 1930s, they should look for dresses with lower hemlines or with higher waistlines. Or they may want to follow the old 1930s Hollywood look and find the slim black dress.

The Dress Style of the 1940s

The trends of the 1940s were a direct result of World War II. In order to save up enough material for the troops, regulations were put in place on certain fabrics for the clothing of both men and women. This shifted the focus of the fashion industry, and practicality took over the industry. The least amount of expensive material a woman wore, the more patriotic she was. With material such as wool and silk out of the game, there needed to be an alternative. Thus, rose the popularity of the gabardine dresses. Women of the time resorted to using gabardine, a blend of synthetic materials, instead of wool. Also, narrow hips and skirts that came to the knee became the norm in order to keep the material usage in clothes down. The end of the war brought hope and a new sense of style by Christian Dior, which changed the drab of the war times into something more "new".

When women are shopping for a dress style of the 1940s, they should look for dresses designed with synthetic materials and with narrow hip areas which come to their knees. This is also the year that buyers may find the first styles designed by Christian Dior.

The Dress Style of the 1950s

Introduced in the late 1940s, Christian Dior's "new look" heavily influenced fashion in the 1950s. Christian Dior's designs idealized the long skirt, tiny waist. Waist cinchers and girdles made another appearance. This look took on a more soft, feminine look from the 1940s, where the women were working the jobs that were left unmanned due to the men going off to fight the war. Women had to regain the more passive role and thusly needed the garments to look the part. There was an emphasis on a woman's hourglass silhouette, rounded shoulders, and shapely bustlines.

Shopping for the 1950s look, individuals should peruse for what was known as waist-cincher dresses. Also, women who are proud of their hourglass figures or nicely shaped busts shall find the dress style of the 1950s to their liking.

The Dress Style of the 1960s

Colours are perhaps the key indicators of 1960s fashion. The decade witnessed the uprise of the youth in fashion, music, and culture. The movement that swept the nation was crowned as the "Youthquake Movement" by many. In time, the teens become the main influence of the fashion industry, even causing some adults to look back and attempt to emulate their style. Teens dove into the new styles and experimented with different patterns and combinations. With supermodels such as Twiggy gaining popularity, people were becoming more and more open to trying youthful and fun styles. Italian designer, Emilio Pucci, played an important role in this era with his artful pieces. Using geometric patterns and odd colour combinations, his unique dresses were definitely right up the alley for the women of this time period.

In a search for the vintage look of the 1960s, ladies should look for colour combinations that are "strange" and for geometric patterns that seem unique. Vintage dress shoppers should also keeps their eyes peeled for looks that remind them of the Italian designer Emilio Pucci.

Women's Vintage Dress Sizing Tips

Before settling on a dress to buy, shoppers need to know their bust, waist, and hip measurements for easy comparison. Vintage clothing sizes differ from the standard clothing sizes currently in effect. In order to ensure both a comfortable and flattering look, buyers should be sure to compare the measurements recommended for the size. It is with this difference that those who wear a size 4 could end up wearing a 10 by vintage standards.

How to Buy a Vintage Dress on eBay

In order to begin your trek into the vintage section on eBay, go the homepage or any page on the site and find the search bar. Type in several keywords which describe the perfect vintage dress that you are looking to purchase. Examples could include "vintage 1960s dress" or "gabardine dress". After you input the keywords and press enter, a page of listings will show on your computer screen. If you do not find what you are looking for after viewing the first listing, simply use other keywords until you find exactly what you are looking for in a vintage dress. You may also narrow down your results by searching by brand name, colour, or size. You are now well on your way to owning that perfect vintage dress. Remember, you do need an eBay account in order to begin bidding on and purchasing your desired vintage dress. Registration for a new account on eBay takes little to no time.


Changes in the fashion industry occur every day. However, some styles and ideas will always be around. Styles of yesteryear are continuously used as a basis for the clothing and trends of today. There is a re-emergence of high-waist jeans influenced by the 1970s and dresses with collared V-necks dating their influence all the way back to the 1920s. Nothing, though, can quite compare to the careful designs of the originals. Regardless of whether individuals want to relive the flapper days of the 1920s or indulge in some of the designs present in the 1960s, vintage dresses provide something for everyone. For those looking to purchase the real thing, they must remember that just because it looks old does not necessarily mean it is. Keep the eight guidelines (metal zippers, handmade garments, care labels, made in California, made in Hawaii, sizing, designer tags, and tags with "at home wear") in mind. Rather than spend a lot of time shopping around at retail establishments, potential vintage dress buyers can simply go to eBay and find their perfect dress.

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