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Buying Vintage Online

Posted on Jan 17, 2015 by Paul Tiernan

The internet has literally opened up a whole new world of opportunities for fans of vintage clothing. Follow our tips and you'll avoid the common pitfalls while building a wardrobe of classic vintage pieces. Of course, if you're buying from ourselves, we do all this for you! 

Garment Age 

With experience, you will start to recognise the subtle differences in labelling, cloths, construction methods and styling that help to identify a garment with a particular era. Unfortunately, not all sellers are suitably knowledgeable, and some advertise relatively recent items, usually through wishful thinking but sometimes more cynically, as belonging to a much earlier era. We see a lot of 1980s & 1990s double-breasted suits being advertised as '1940s'. If in doubt, ask the seller to guarantee in writing that the item is from the era stated.


We see many garments that are advertised as 'bespoke' or 'handmade', but are clearly not. Sometimes a seller assumes this if they can't find a label or, more deviously, they add the word bespoke to their listing because they think it will increase the amount that bidders will pay. An experienced seller will be able to describe the features of the garment that led them to conclude that it can accurately be described as bespoke.


Don't assume that the seller's idea of 'excellent' or 'very good' matches your own aspirations. Ask them exactly what their definitions of condition gradings are, and ask them to give you full details and images of any significant wear / flaws / damage to the garment. Images should be sufficiently large and clear. The important thing is to know about any significant issues before you pay your money, and then not to get any nasty, unexpected surprises when you unwrap your item. Read about how we grade items


When estimating the size of any garment, it is important to understand how the cut and construction, combined with the actual measurements, will affect the fit. Inexperienced sellers may not fully understand this. Common mistakes we see are sellers advertising garments to fit the size that a garment measures without allowing any room for movement (OK, we suppose, if you want to wear it skin tight!), and overcoats being sized to the same rules as jackets when the thicker cloth and the requirement to go over a jacket actually necessitates considerably more generosity. Ask the seller to provide the actual measurements for the garment so that you can compare these to a piece that you already own. This is especially important when considering a bespoke tailored garment that has not been cut to a standard pattern. Don't rely on the garment's size labels, if present, as previous owners may have carried out alterations. View our Measuring Guide


You'll want to go through the steps above to ensure that you're not wasting your time and efforts on items that are not suitable. If the worst does happen, though, or you simply change your mind, a no-fuss returns policy ensures that you are not heavily out of pocket or stuck with a garment that isn't quite right for you. Note that items sold through online auction sites are not automatically covered by the Distance Selling Regulations for returns, regardless of whether the seller is a private individual or a business. Ask the seller to state in writing that they accept returns for any reason and the time that they allow for items to be returned. Otherwise, it's very much a case of 'buyer beware'. View our full Returns Policy

Do's & Don'ts

DO build up slowly. Develop your tastes and knowledge before you splash out on that 'signature' piece for several hundreds of pounds.

DON'T expect vintage items to be in perfect condition. Deciding just how much wear you will tolerate in a piece is a personal choice, though it's certain to say that greater tolerance will give you a wider choice for a smaller outlay! Some visible wear is not always a disadvantage. Consider when and where you intend to wear the garment. If it's for a vintage revival then, within reason, you'll want a garment to look it's age.

DO measure yourself properly. Knowledge and understanding of your own sizes, and fit preferences, will be invaluable. Comparing the measurements of an item you already own against prospective purchases is often a very good guide, also.

DON'T give up at the first attempt. It may take a few tries to get your sizing right. An experienced seller will understand this and will encourage you to provide feedback so that they can assist you best with potential future purchases.

DO talk to your seller about potential alterations before you buy. Garments can often be altered to fit at reasonable cost. An experienced seller should be able to assess the feasibility of most alterations. You need to try the garment on before you make alterations, though, so make sure that you can still return the item if it subsequently turns out that the required alterations are not possible.

Testimonials for Savvy Row

"All best - and thanks for a great year. The heavy heavy 1952 great barleycorn tweed is the most incredible gift ever worn. Even fashionista wife adores it..also had a heavy flannel charcoal three piece from the ex-governor of Bermuda and that is causing quite a stir amongst admirers. Wore it to a party on the Row and a number of tailors were most keen to get at the label and were all keen to hear about the source." I.D, London

"OMG! Finally received this in the mail after waiting for customs, and this beauty was well worth the wait. A beautiful color, totally unique, the jacket fits like a charm and the pants are the right length, they just need to be taken in at the waist. Couldn't be happier. You guys are awesome. I will be sure to send photographs of the suit in action at the wedding. I decided not to return the first suit I had ordered, as it was too nice to let go and I'm going to try to have it tailored for winter use. Keep up the good work." M.L, Canada

"I'd like to thank you for your excellent service and excellent product, it's well-nigh impossible to source beautiful British tweed over here and I thoroughly enjoy receiving your emails as they prompt me to look again at your site. Although it took me about six months to spot a hacking jacket that I liked and thought would work well in the Antipodes, I'm delighted to say that thanks to you and all the gang at Savvy Row, I'm now stepping out in fine style in Sydney. Looking forward to spotting another gem on your site." M. S-B, Australia

"Just a note to say the coat arrived today. Absolutely blown away - fantastic quality, it was great speaking to you on the phone the other day simply because of the enthusiasm you had for great service. Have recommended you to friends, and I really hope the business is a great success - thank you!" Dr. P.M, Wiltshire

"Dear Savvy Chaps, I have safely received the order after a bit of delay caused by my own domestic post service. The Royal Mail has yet again outshone the far famed German perfectionism by days. My order however arrived perfectly alright and in quite the excellent condition you advertised it. Your measurements have been as exact as ever and the fit is thus just as perfect as I had hoped it to be. The suit excels the pictures in good looks and the fabric is just dashing. I wish to extend my gratitude for providing me with yet another wardrobe essential and a new favourite to see frequent use soon. The service was as with my previous orders impeccable from your side and I am overall quite delighted." D.W, Germany

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