Vintage Shopping Guide: the Clothing Edition

Previous editions of the vintage shopping guide covering couches and tables and chairs aside, vintage and used clothing is actually my most common purchase at local shops, flea markets, and yard sales. So, if you're headed out on the hunt this weekend, what do you need to be aware of?

The good news is, not a whole lot. Used clothing is a great way to reduce your environmental impact and doesn't come with a host of health issues! That being said, here are a few tips to up your choices.

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1. Wash those clothes before wearing them. While most clothing has seriously limited ability to transmit anything, it's probably just a good idea to give your clothing a rinse before wearing it. This is especially useful for clearing out any dust or dander. Hot water will also help deal with any bed bug concerns. Yeeeeeuck.

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2. Steer clear of synthetic clothing. This is more of a general clothing issue, as opposed to being specific to used clothing, but I wanted to share this advice here too, since it is relevant to clothes shopping of any kind. According to a study at Stockholm University, synthetic fabrics like polyester, rayon, acrylic, acetate, and nylon are exposed to toxic chemicals during production, and some of those chemicals remain in the fabrics. Polyester was found to be especially laden with chemicals. So, look for natural fabrics, or at least clothes that don't contain polyester. Your best bet may be to buy locally-made clothing, which is likely to go through a less-industrial, chemical-heavy manufacturing.

3. Avoid wrinkle-free clothing. I don't honestly think this is a major risk with vintage clothing, but I don't want to be remiss in leaving it out. To make clothing wrinkle-resistant, manufacturers usually use cross-linking, a chemical process that often requires significant levels of formaldehyde. During the manufacturing, wearing, and washing of these clothes, the formaldehyde is then released. Which is not good for you or the environment.

So, with these tips in mind, happy, healthy hunting!



1. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. CPSC Study of Hazardous Products in Thrift Stores.

2. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Resellers Guide to Selling Safer Products.

3. New safety rules for children's clothes have stores in a fit. LA Times.

4. Toxins remain in your clothes. Science Daily.

5. Creating 'greener' wrinkle-resistant cotton fabric. Science Daily.

6. Worst Fabrics for Skin. Who What Wear.

7. H. De Wever, H. Verachtert. Biodegradation and toxicity of benzothiazoles. Water Research. Volume 31, Issue 11, November 1997, Pages 2673-2684