'I'm a fashion editor. Here are my 8 best tips for shopping pre-loved or vintage.'

Thanks to our brand partner, eBay

Ever since I was a kid, I've loved vintage shopping.  

Whether it was stopping by the local op-shop on my way home from school, or fawning over the high-end pieces in fancy consignment boutiques as a fashion obsessed teenager.

The first designer handbag I ever bought was a vintage Moschino bowling bag from eBay, as a gift to myself for my 21st.

Now well into my thirties and working as a fashion editor, that love has grown into a genuine passion for sourcing one-of-a-kind pre-loved items and sharing my finds on Instagram.

And if all this talk about vintage brings to mind things like beaded gowns and pillbox hats, it's time to rethink that notion: although I've collected some truly fabulous pieces from the '60s and '70s, some of my favourite finds are old-school denim jackets and sports tees that feel as modern as any athleisure label you'd find on the high street now. 

Thrifting in Melbourne, and a reclaimed sports tee. Images: Supplied.


It's just about knowing what you're looking for, and more importantly, where to look.

Here are 8 tips for shopping pre-loved like a pro.

1. Know the difference between vintage and pre-loved.

According to vintage expert, Charlotte Dallison, 'vintage' applies to anything that's between 30-100 years old. The distinction is usually reflected in the price – good quality vintage tends to cost more because it's older and has generally been preserved in a sellable state decades after it was first made and worn. If something is newer than 30 years old, it falls into the pre-loved category and is likely to be lots cheaper: think pieces from the '90s and 2000s you'd find in a thrift shop.

2. Make sure it's the real deal.

We've all heard the horror stories about people buying designer accessories online at a price that was too good to be true. Fraud is everywhere online, which is unfortunately just a sh*tty reality of the secondhand goods market.


No one wants to get stitched up with a fake, so do your research and take measures to guarantee authenticity.

If you're looking to buy a pre-loved luxury handbag, eBay should be your first port of call – their Authenticity Guarantee gives you absolute peace of mind, and at no additional cost either. The process of verification includes multi-point inspection by their expert authenticators – they'll verify your bag against the seller's listing description, ensuring the one that arrives (with secure delivery) is the one you ordered, and provide you with a unique authentication card.

You don't want to be left with doubts when you're spending up on a designer bag, so I really can't recommend this enough. Look for handbags with eBay's Authenticity Guarantee badge (the blue tick) before making your purchase.

Image: eBay.


3. Go in with a plan.

Although I love the open-ended thrill of heading into an op-shop and aimlessly treasure-hunting, your search is going to be more productive if you narrow it down a little. Especially in larger stores or warehouses, where the sheer volume of stock can be overwhelming and you risk walking in circles and going home with who knows what.

If you've got an event coming up and you're shopping for a dress, keep the focus on dresses – eyes off the glassware and that hat rack that's calling your name. Tell the sales associate what vibe you're going for and ask them to bring you some options – they know where to find the good stuff, and might even have some extra special pieces in the backroom or something from their latest stock shipment waiting to hit the floor. 

I recently went vintage shopping for a hen's party and kept my focus on glam separates - the sales assistant found me this top to try and she was spot on! Images: Supplied.


4. Give yourself a budget.

On that note, if you're buying a designer item online, or shopping from a consignment boutique or high-end vintage store, set yourself a budget to stick within. It's all too easy to get carried away when you see that Chanel 2.55 bag or those Jimmy Choo boots with the tiny scuff mark for half the price of retail – but if it's still way above what you were hoping to spend, the thrill could wear off and leave you with buyer's remorse. (The silver lining here is that a great vintage accessory should hold its value, so you could always sell it!)

It's also a good idea to do your research and look into the general price range of the label or piece you're considering – a quick Google should give you a rough idea.


I bought this retro Celine blouse for a good price in Sydney's Blue Mountains. Pre-loved silk shirts look so modern styled with denim! Images: Supplied.

5. Hit the markets.

Check the local listings in your city or region for the next antique market or retro fair – these can be an absolute treasure trove for decades-old secondhand goodies, with racks of dazzling clothing nestled between old records and furniture. You'll need to do some trawling, but that's all part of the fun.


You can also search for devoted vintage clothing fairs in your state, like Sydney's Round She Goes markets, which is held a few times annually and brings together the absolute best stockists of pre-loved women's fashion. 

6. Make friends with the experts.

As I mentioned before, the store assistants and boutique owners are your friends – they know the stock best, and you should absolutely draw on their experience and knowledge to help you find what you need. On an episode of Mamamia's fashion podcast which was dedicated to the art of op-shopping, Vinnies ambassador Sean Szeps shared this as his number one tip. He also said to ask staff what day the new drops land so you can be first in line for the gems.

Listen to this episode of our fashion podcast, What Are You Wearing? for a curated guide to op shopping you won't want to miss. Post continues below.

7. Don't overlook it if it's not the perfect fit.

Most vintage clothing is different to what's in stores today, in that it was literally sewn to fit the body – many garments bear the marks of being altered to a specific person's silhouette many years ago. If you fall in love with a piece but it's oversized or could do with a bit more room in the waist, don't give up – consider whether you can get it tailored to fit you.

I had this black overcoat tailored for a better fit around my shoulders. The top on the right is a thrifted ladies' shirt I wear oversized in summer. Images: Supplied.


I recently met a lovely boutique owner called Deborah who opened the most gorgeous vintage boutique in the NSW country town of Braidwood. She said she often gives women this advice when they come in search of gowns for special events, as well as teenage girls shopping for unique dresses to wear to formals.

8. Stock up on timeless cool.

When I'm thrift shopping, my first destination is always the retro tees (usually in the men's section) – I look for college athletics logos or Harley Davidson prints. Thick, worn-in cotton tees are just better; they wash well, retain their shape, and look so good tucked into slip skirts or jeans. You know what they say, one man's trash...


I also keep an eye out for sturdy denim jeans from the '90s, because I love the way they're made to sit higher on the waist and aren't cut too skinny on the leg – this shape is always going to be in style, and remember, you can get them altered to fit! The same goes for cut-off denim shorts and skirts. Classic pieces like these are the kind of thing you buy once and wear season after season, year after year.

As we all become more conscious consumers, keeping items in the cycle of wear by purchasing them secondhand is not only a more sustainable choice, it keeps the fabulous vintage boutiques and op-shops in this country thriving. And for me, knowing a piece has a backstory only adds to the joy of giving it another life. 

Happy shopping!

Have genuine peace of mind, from start to finish, when shopping luxury handbags with eBay's Authenticity Guarantee. No fakes. No fraud. No doubt. 

Tamara is Mamamia's Head of Lifestyle and the host of our fashion podcast What Are You Wearing? For more style tips and her favourite vintage finds, follow her on Instagram.

Feature image: Supplied/Mamamia.

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