How To Get & Give Vintage For The Holidays

Addressing the issue of giving and getting vintage lingerie and fashions as gifts is part of my holiday survival guide series (Part One, Part Two, Part Three). 

Giving vintage garments certainly isn’t as easy as shopping for contemporary styles; but for those of us who love vintage, it can be even more rewarding!

To leave no stone unturned, I asked for a little help from the experts. You’ll recognize the ladies from posts at this blog, and from this how to buy vintage garments guide, but let’s make proper introductions too. Helping me out are Theda Bara of Theda Bara’s Vintage Lingerie (where she specializes in lingerie from the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s) and Wink of Tiddleywink Vintage (a store containing mostly clothing from the late ’40s through early ’60s, including lingerie).

All three of us — surprise, surprise! — give vintage as gifts, and love to receive it too. The question is, How? Well, actually, the “how” is a series of questions *wink* So let’s get to them…

Ladies, any tips for those who wish to receive vintage fashions as gifts?

Theda Bara: Put vintage lingerie and/or fashions on your wish lists!

Wink: makes it easy to add items from Etsy (and other vintage vendors) to your online wish list. As a matter of fact, one of my Christmas pressies last year was a 1940s-era suit from Rockin’ Ruby’s Vintage, picked from my Kaboodle list by my best friend.

Slip Tips: One, let everyone know you want vintage! Too often people know you adore vintage lingerie, but they don’t know you want it as a gift.

Two, Kaboodle even has a shopping list contest!

Three, check out these tips on purchasing at eBay this holiday.

Since the sizes on those vintage labels can be especially confusing for today’s shoppers, what advice do you, as both sellers and collectors, have for them?

Wink: Measure twice, buy once.*wink*

But seriously, I think every woman understands how frustrating sizes can be.

It helps to understand how the clothing of the era that you’re buying from was worn. Women’s bust sizes weren’t as full, waistbands were worn higher and, if you’re buying a slip, keep in mind that it was probably worn OVER potentially restrictive undergarments so you may need a girdle or bodyshaper to nip things in apropos to the period.

Know your measurements, re-measure yourself periodically, and be honest. Don’t try to fit 42″ hips into 38″ tap pants just because they’re sooooo pretty and, well, the fabric is bias cut so… Not only will that bias-cut flutter not drape properly, but you’ll be putting undue stress on delicate fabric!

Theda Bara: Make sure you have your measurements correct. The best way to do this is to pull out your favorite fitting negligee or gown and measure the garment.

Slip Tips: The Measurements You Need

How To Take Them On Yourself & On The Garments

To measure yourself, and the garments themselves, you’ll need a reliable cloth tape measure.

Measure yourself while naked or in your bra and panties.

To measure garments, lay each flat and unstretched on a firm surface such as a tabletop.

Your Bustline: Measure around your bust, at the most ample spot. (Bigger busted ladies, we are best off to do this while wearing our best fitting bras.)

The Garment’s Bust: Measure across the back of the garment, from the seam under the arm (or armpit) to the same on the other side; then double that number. Measuring is done on the back as there will be extra fabric built into the front on most of garments, which may be misleading and result in improper (too tight) garment fit.

Your Waist: Measure your natural waist. For garments with an empire waist, measure just under the bust line.

The Garment’s Waist: Measure on the waistline, from side to side, then multiply by two; if the wasitband is wide, measure at the most narrow part.

If the garment has no defined waist, then many sellers will state that the item is “free,” “open,” etc. which means the item is going to fit so long as all the other measurements are correct.

Your Hips: Measured across the widest point of the hip area (including that behind!).

The Garment’s Hips: Found approximately 8-10 inches below the waist; measure the garment from side seam to side seam and double it.

Those are the basics required for lingerie; for other vintage fashions, please see this measurement guide. Also, vintage lovers should check out Jaynie’s tips on finding the right shoe size when shopping for vintage shoes — as well as these other vintage buying guides.

Before I move on too far, I also want to point out something about size…

If you are a collector of vintage lingerie and fashions who care so much about being able to wear the items, let your friends and family know that size isn’t an issue!

Similarly, if you also covet vintage fashion magazines and catalogs, collect vintage lingerie advertisements, etc., let those giving you gifts know that! (I made this cool binder specifically for saving your vintage lingerie ephemera collection!)

What advice do you have for people who know they have vintage lingerie lovers on their gift-giving lists, but are unsure of sizes, styles, etc.?

Theda Bara: Get them a gift certificate! They’ll be able to pick out their style and sizes — they’ll be in heaven!

Wink: If you’re nervous about getting it just right, and your intended hasn’t left you with a clear set of instructions (online wish list, notes taped to the fridge, etc.), ask his/her favorite vendor about a gift certificate. They’re always the right size! It can be twice as much fun to pick out something together.

Slip Tip: Let folks know that gift certificates from vintage sellers, vintage clothing shoppes or antique malls are acceptable; that those gift certificates aren’t seen as “unthinking” gifts.

Photos/shopping info:

Vintage peach nylon and ecru lace Van Raalte full-slip with underwire bra from Theda Bara Vintage Lingerie. (Get gift certificates here.)

Retro hot pink peignoir and bralette set from Tiddleywink Vintage. (Get gift certificates here.)

And the pretty “Moments You Can’t Let Slip By…” binder I made — which is a cool girlie scrapbook too!

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