How to Buy Vintage Swimwear, According to Experts


Let’s be honest, there is an undeniable factor in buying used swimsuits. Even the most seasoned shoppers tend to be hesitant to invest in pre-loved swimwear and it has everything to do with cleanliness, or lack thereof. Now, thanks to the booming second-hand market and the continued popularity of Y2K-inspired, logo-marked fashion trends, having an insignia-stamped archival bikini in your closet by warm weather seems like an easy choice.

Like any other vintage and used category, knowing the full ownership history of an item is nearly impossible. But with swimwear (and lingerie) in particular, there are other factors that come into play that make shoppers a little hesitant. From the oils your skin produces when you sweat, to second-skin silhouettes that cling to the body, sellers need to be especially careful.

Catherine Margaret Rosethe founder of the vintage swimwear store someone’s baby (named after the classic 80s song by Jackson Browne), recalls encountering his fair share of supply nightmares, including a suit covered in blood spatter. But his biggest advice to buyers is to buy from a seller you trust. “Personally, I meticulously inspect every swimsuit I buy for quality and cleanliness, make any necessary repairs, then wash and sanitize them before I put them on sale,” he explains. she to NYLON about her extensive resale process, which involves using Lysol Laundry Sanitizer, an antibacterial laundry additive. . “Of course, the price when buying from a vintage seller is a bit higher than from a thrift store or estate sale, but at least you know you’re getting something. clean and in great condition – and you don’t have to do a dirty job.”

As for how she got into the vintage swimwear game, Rose cites her seaside roots and innate love for thrift shopping as key driving forces. “I’ve always been a beach girl, so I have more bathing suits than any rational person should own,” she recalled. “Initially, I just started buying vintage bikinis for myself when I was saving money or shopping on resale sites. I started getting a lot of ‘where did you find this ?!’ feedback from friends so I thought I could probably sell a few of my finds on my Instagram and Depop The response was positive so I decided to invest some money in sourcing and to start a real boutique, inspired by the iconic girls I grew up idolizing: Pam Anderson, Naomi Campbell, Cher, Cindy Crawford, and the girl-next-door love interests of old teen movies.

Rose believes, like all fashion categories, that swimwear has also been impacted by the breakneck speed of trend cycles due to fast fashion. “Mass-produced, low-quality bikinis have become the norm, which of course creates more waste and raises concerns about ethical production,” she notes. And while durability can be a big reason to buy second-hand, there’s also the possibility of micro-trend fatigue, as well as the desire to invest in unique fashion items instead.

“Most of today’s swimwear styles are knockoffs of vintage cuts anyway,” Rose says, “so why not go straight to the source?”

But before you fully commit to shopping for vintage swimwear, there are a few things you need to consider to make sure you’re doing it safely. Read on for our top expert tips.

Buying Vintage Swimwear Tip #1: All About the Item

Similar to buying any other used category, the more information you have about an item’s condition and other specifics, the better the likely outcome will be. As Rose points out, vintage swimwear is almost always non-refundable, so getting the full rundown of a product helps avoid any surprises. Also, when shopping online, don’t be afraid to ask the seller questions if something in the item description is unclear; this includes all the information they can offer. For those shopping in person, be sure to take the opportunity to thoroughly inspect an item and determine whether or not it should be part of your swimwear collection.

Buy vintage swimsuits Tip #2: Check the condition of the threads and elastics

When checking an item’s condition, buyers should pay close attention to the finer details to ensure it can withstand even more wear and tear. “A quality elastic will survive many baths and washes. But a cheaper elastic can crack and degrade over time,” says Rose. In other words, if an item already appears to be on its last leg in terms workmanship and doesn’t have the stretch typically found in a bathing suit, it may not be worth it.The same can be said if the threads that hold the piece together get fray or fray – don’t force it and instead find a suit with better bones.

Buying Vintage Swimwear Tip #3: Ask Sellers for Flat Measurements

As the industry has changed drastically over the decades, vintage sizing charts tend to be a bit temperamental. Therefore, it is often best to base your purchase on an item’s measurements rather than a single scale. For swimsuits in particular, Rose suggests asking sellers for flat measurements — and in the case of bikinis, tops and bottoms — if they’re not readily available so you can compare them to your own swimsuits. bath. If you’re shopping for a used, unseen or online bath piece rather than IRL, it will help you make an informed purchase and avoid any sizing issues later.

Buy vintage swimsuits Tip 4: …And then compare with a swimsuit you already own

Pro tip for those hoping to find their perfect swimsuit: find styles with measurements that are nearly identical or at least close to similar swimsuit styles you already own. This way you can compare the two even if you can’t see potential future purchases in person until you fully commit. And if you fall in love with a suit and the size is slightly off, don’t hesitate to contact your favorite tailor – one who is familiar with flexible materials – to fill the gap.

Shopping for Vintage Swimwear Tip #5: Sniff Deadstock Styles

One thing to consider when shopping for used swimwear is to look exclusively for unsold pieces, or never-worn but still vintage items. “About half of my inventory is vintage deadstock with the original tags and hygiene tapes,” Rose says of her own Somebody’s Baby arsenal. “These pieces are usually priced a bit higher, but worth it if you prefer something that hasn’t been worn.” This essentially eliminates much of the concern and worry buyers have about buying swimwear that has been worn – in some cases more than a few decades ago.

Shopping For Vintage Swimwear Tip #6: Always Soak At Home

While it may seem like common sense when shopping for vintage swimwear or lingerie, it’s essential to do a preliminary soak before wearing your new item. Luckily, there are plenty of gentle, inexpensive garment cleaners on the market that will reassure you and prep your latest swimwear additions before they debut. For example, you can’t go wrong with The Laundress’s Sports Detergentspecially designed to give your swimwear and activewear the refresh it needs.


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