Raise your hand if you have ever fallen for American vintage!
I know, I know we may live in Italy and France, where the best designer vintage is available, but American vintage has a “je sais pas quoi” that kills us all vintage lovers!
Just to give you an example, in 2012 when I first traveled to New York, I had to pay extra luggage for the amount of vintage that I found there in vintage and charity shops, of incredible quality and at the most affordable prices! The Big Apple is full of amazing vintage shops but if you look online or on social media American sellers always offer an incredible quality and so many exceptionally rare pieces: Persephone Vintage, Audrey Scarlett, Ragg Mopp, Retro Rhapsody, Parasol Vintage, just to name a few!
But even if we are in 2020 (almost 2021) it is still pretty complicated to buy vintage from the States if you live in Europe because of three main barriers:
- US Dollar: buying in dollars maybe favorable in some periods, depending on the exchange rate against euro, but pay attention to the hidden bank fees or exchange rates as your beloved vintage dress may cost you more than expected! So, as a good habit, check the rate before deciding to buy it!
- Sizes: American sizes are normally quite different from European but vintage sizes are even more complicated as often, as it happens also for European vintage, they don’t reflect the normal size charts that we use. Then I suggest first of all to use one of these charts to have a first idea, then it could be very useful (and save you time and money) to ask the seller the measurements of the clothes you want to buy. Speaking of this, American and Europeans use different measures (even in Europe we don’t use the same!) so make sure to use a converter to have the exact measure of the pieces you want to buy.
- Shipping and Custom fees: the worst part of the game, shipping costs and custom fees are the real tragedy when it comes to buy fantastic American vintage! Shipping costs are not the seller’s fault so please don’t ask them to reduce them as they really pay a lot to send our beautiful pieces to Europe. Postal charges are quite high from the States and we have to consider them, especially if we want to buy heavy clothes like coats or shoes. Additionally, if the selling prices exceeds 25 USD we have to prepare to pay custom fees (directly linked to the final price….the higher is the price the more expensive is the fee) on our vintage pieces. You can ask the seller to adjust the price for you if it is feasible (not legal though!) but more often online platforms for selling vintage directly print the receipt from the platform then it is impossible to change it. Shipping and customs are definitely the highest barrier to buy vintage from the States, which may explain why I got so many vintage clothes when I was there…even if my extra luggage charge was around 70 USD!!!
I am showing here one of my few American vintage pieces (possibly from the late 70s/early 80s) that I bought online from the wonderful Parasol Vintage, definitely one of my favorite American sellers! I like almost everything she sells, as I think that we have very similar taste. When I see her pieces I often think of the barriers that we have in Europe to buy from American seller and it is really a shame that in a such globalized world we have to pay so much to buy some good American vintage online.
I hope that my little guide was useful and I hope that in the future things would change a little bit to ease the process for Europeans of buying some wonderful American vintage!