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Fashion Vintage

What Goes into Running a Vintage Business

January 26, 2021

I’ve been buying and selling vintage for even longer than I’ve been writing this blog. I started it as a serious job about 12 years ago as I wanted to work from home more. I launched my own website and started selling at vintage fairs and markets at the weekends. It was huge learning curve and that first business taught me so much. As I’ve mentioned before my Grandmother and her mother were both antiques dealers and specialised in textiles, so it’s something I was exposed to as a child and I’ve always had a passion and fascination with old things. Running a vintage business is the perfect job for me!

What Goes into Running a Vintage Business | Vintage Frills

Running a Vintage Business:

I love everything about selling vintage, hunting out treasure, researching old brands and finding out more about each garment, getting to clean, repair, display and photograph each pice is so much fun. I absolutely love fashion and had a past career as a visual merchandiser, so I get to use some of the skills I used in that job to style vintage pieces from both my shop and my own wardrobe. In fact selling vintage really incorporates all of the things I enjoy, so it’s a pretty good job for me!

It is however a lot of hard work and it can have it’s ups and downs. Today I thought I’d talk a bit about some of the day to day things that go into being a vintage seller. I also think it’s important to understand why sellers charge particular amounts for what they sell. When you buy from a vintage dealer, you are supporting a small business and buying clothing in one of the most sustainable ways possible, so that makes you a bit awesome!

What Goes into Running a Vintage Business | Vintage Frills

Sourcing Vintage:

I buy vintage from a lot of different sources, anything from auctions, my own contacts, car boot sales, privately from people who are clearing out their houses. The price I pay can really vary, so the amount of profit I makes varies massively from piece to piece. I’ll often pay a bit more when I’ve hunted out something really special and put quite a lot of work into getting it ready to sell. The cost of shipping can be quite high for bulky clothing and the cost of fuel if I’m travelling to buy or pick up vintage also comes into account.

What Goes into Running a Vintage Business | Vintage Frills


It’s very rare to find vintage garment in perfect unworn condition. People used and wore their clothes for a lot longer in the past and often patched and repaired their clothes before giving up on them. So I’ll often have to take a bit of time to do minor repairs, or take a bit off the final price of an item to allow for any damage. You’ll always find detailed condition reports on everything I sell.


One of the most time consuming parts of selling vintage is all the cleaning. Lets face it old clothes can be a bit gross dirty and smelly! I usually give them a soak and a really good clean before ironing or steaming them to photograph. Anything woolen goes into the freezer for a few weeks to make sure there’s no trace of moths and dry clean only items will either go to cleaners or get sprayed with vodka (which is great for neutralising smells) and given a very very good steam.

Ironing and Steaming:

I love to present clothing as well as possible for photographs, so as I mentioned above everything gets a very thorough iron or steam before I take any pics. To be honest, I really hate ironing, but it’s such an important part of the job. I also think it’s far nicer to receive a garment that’s well pressed and free from creases when it arrives.

What Goes into Running a Vintage Business | Vintage Frills

Photographing and Editing:

I take lots of pictures of every item from lots of different angles and make sure to get accurate pictures of any labels or damage that the buyer might need to see. I spend a lot of time editing all my pictures so that they really show off the products.

What Goes into Running a Vintage Business | Vintage Frills


A big part of selling vintage is knowing your stuff when it comes to dating items. I have lots of books on vintage fashion that I regularly refer to, I also look for similar items online to get a good idea of dates, fabrics and to find out a bit more about the brand. I’ll often add links to interesting articles in my listings so that buyers can find out a bit more about their garments. I can usually date garments by looking at stitching techniques, materials, care labels and just by the piece’s appearance and fit. Having sold vintage for years, I’ve become really familiar with different eras and brands, which makes things so much easier than when I first started.

What Goes into Running a Vintage Business | Vintage Frills

Measuring and Describing:

I like to go over every garment very thoroughly to note absolutely very flaw and detail. I also measure everything so buyers know exactly what size they’re buying. The size labels on vintage garments aren’t very helpful, as vintage sizing is completely different and just needs to be ignored! I try to make sure my descriptions include everything a buyer might want to know before purchasing and they don’t get any surprises. I’ll then upload everything to Etsy and get the listing up for everyone to see.


This one is a bit of a downside of running a vintage business. Once things are all clean, photographed and listed, I then have to store them. My house can at times resemble a vintage warehouse, which can be quite annoying. So I try to keep everything stored away and out of sight once I’ve done a bulk load of listings. I used to keep everything hanging on a rail, but now I box it up and keep it in a cupboard, where it won’t get exposed to any light.

What Goes into Running a Vintage Business | Vintage Frills

Advertising, Marketing and Social Media:

Getting the item listed is just the beginning of running a vintage business. I then need to make sure people actually know that I have new stock in the shop. I share lots of pics on both my Instagram via stories and on the Vintage Frills Shop instagram account. It’s really enjoyable enjoy making pretty social media content, but it does take quite a lot of time. I usually do my social media in bulk and then schedule posts of all my different platforms, especially Pinterest.

What Goes into Running a Vintage Business | Vintage Frills

Packing and shipping:

Once items sell, it’s time to lovingly pack it up and get it sent. I love packing items really beautifully and putting them in tissue paper. I pay for all my postage online and then drop them at the post office. So once everything is packed I weigh it, add all the details to The Royal Mail site, print off the labels and then everything is good to go.

What Goes into Running a Vintage Business | Vintage Frills

Accounts, Taxes and Admin:

Just like any other business I also have to keep on top of my accounts, do my tax returns and keep on top of the general running of the business. I try to have systems in place to make this easier. Over the years I’ve got used to doing all this stuff, but it can take quite a lot of time. I’d definitely recommend keeping good records of everything going in and out.

And then I do it all over again!

Running a Vintage Business:

Running a vintage business is such a fun job and definitely one that has worked well for me, while being a mum. But it is hard work and obviously it’s so dependant on people actually wanting to buy what I sell! Getting every single order is the best feeling in the world and seeing people using and wearing things that I’ve lovingly chosen for the shop makes me so happy.

If you have any questions about selling vintage or want to know anything else about what I do, feel free to drop me a comment below. If you’d like a similar post on what does into running a blog, let me know. I’d love to share a bit more about what goes on behind the scenes.

Find more vintage fashion posts in the Fashion section of the blog. If you want to buy some fabulous vintage and support my business, check out my Etsy shop.

Ways to follow Vintage Frills

Instagram – Twitter – Facebook – Pinterest – Etsy


  • Reply
    January 26, 2021 at 11:45 pm

    Such an informative post – thanks for sharing! I have always admired people who have small shops like this 🙂
    Jenna ♥
    Stay in touch? Life of an Earth Muffin

    • Reply
      January 27, 2021 at 4:48 pm

      Aw thank you! xxx

  • Reply
    November 27, 2021 at 8:33 pm

    Thank you for a very helpful post. I’m in the pre-launch phase of transitioning from my former flea market/home sales/stall shop business to a multi-online marketplace business (eBay, Etsy, Book, Pinterest, etc.).

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