Monday, April 14, 2008

LA TIMES: Shopping Vintage Online

Vintage clothing websites that sell the real thing

Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times
Judith Leiber beaded evening bag from Decadestwo, $940.
Forget about the fake Gucci, the stained Pucci -- these websites have stellar reps.
By Emili Vesilind, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
April 13, 2008
FOR lovers of vintage, the Web is the biggest flea market in the world. A click or two, and you're rummaging through a Pennsylvania attic, a chic Hollywood resale boutique, a New Orleans cache of disco dresses and mini-frocks.

But as delightful as that may be, there are perhaps more pitfalls to buying secondhand online than anything else. You could be saddled with a fake Gucci, a stained Pucci or worse. And most of the time, you can't return it.

The safest bet is to use a trusted online seller of vintage or resale fashion. These gurus of garb have built stellar reps through consistency -- listing accurate measurements for every garment and, when necessary, detailing any flaws an item might have. They can tell you why that gold lamé bathing suit is worth $525 ("because Nettie Rosenstein suits are about as rare as hens' teeth") and can spot a fake Fendi at 10 paces.

But no matter where you shop, there are a few things to keep in mind. The Web is a veritable boneyard for fraudulent fashion. "If the price is too good to be true, it's too good to be true," said Christos Garkinos, co-owner of designer resale store Decadestwo and its EBay shop. "People will put fakes up for auction on EBay and sell it at almost full price, then disappear."

Checking out photos of the lining or zippers on a garment is just as important as inspecting the logos, said Sher Katz, owner of online designer shop Swank Vintage: "People are stealing buttons and labels off of items in vintage stores and re-creating them and selling them online."

Even when buying non-designer clothes online, read the fine print, said Melissa Stone, owner of the online Mama Stone Vintage resale store. A modern size 8 was more like a size 12 in 1967, so make sure the listed measurements are at least an inch bigger than your personal measurements.

And if you have any questions, get them answered before pulling the trigger. What if the seller doesn't respond to your inquiries? "Don't buy from them," said Stone, "and look at the customer feedback on any EBay store" -- a cheat sheet for gauging customer satisfaction.

Competition for vintage and resale fashion has increased sharply since the dollar began weakening, so "know that you're up against foreign buyers who are getting an amazing deal," Garkinos said.

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