Find the value of vintage clothing & accessories

Your closet is so crammed you can scarcely shut the door. While sorting out the possessions of Great-Aunt Fanny, the family clotheshorse, you notice a lot of things bear the name of that designer the History Channel profiled last month. And you see how much traffic that consignment store with the cutesy name attracts. All of which makes you wonder: Could my old clothes be valuable? Our Savvy Specialists can take measurements of the garments’ worth.


Old clothes fall into three categories: antique, vintage and used. As with most collectibles, “antique” traditionally means at least 100 years old, though some collectors stretch the point to include the pre-World War II decades, too. Certainly, it’s safe to call clothes from the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s “vintage”; vintage pieces are at least 25 to 30 years old. Anything more recent is “used.”

The tough news is that clothes – like cars – depreciate in value the second they’re no longer new. And they usually don’t improve with age. If the garment is something you bought, it’s unlikely you’ll ever recoup anything close to your cost, unless you got it at a deep, deep discount.

Vintage clothing might fetch more. Of course, condition is key – the more pristine the better – with never-worn items, known as “dead stock,” the most valuable (the giveaway: the original sales or price tags are still dangling from a sleeve). It helps if pieces have characteristic motifs or styles of the period, like a 1920s beaded flapper dress or 1940s padded-shoulder suit or 1960s white go-go boots. But often, it’s all in the name – the designer’s name on the label, that is. Especially if that designer is from one of the haute couture houses that made custom clothes or very limited editions – and fashion history along with them – particularly during the Golden Age of Couture, the 1930s to the 1950s. Christian Dior is perhaps the most perfect example of a collectible designer: famous, pioneering, recognizable, well-documented and, best of all, scarce: His meteoric career lasted only 10 years, from 1947 to 1957 (though of course his label kept going after his death, helmed immediately afterwards by a young man named Yves Saint-Laurent).

Not all collectible clothing is couture. Some mass-manufactured brands are in demand, like the ready-to-wear-clothing designed by Claire McCardell in the 1940s and 1950s.

Aside from labels, other factors that determine the value of vintage clothes include quality of the materials, scarcity, and provenance–i.e., if a celebrity owned a particular item or was photographed in something similar to it.

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To preserve your vintage garments, do up all zippers, buttons and closings. Store them away from sunlight, in a cool, dry place to avoid fading and fiber damage. Use padded hangers and muslin covers; avoid plastic, since it can lead to mold and mildew – but if you must, tear a bit open at the bottom to let air in. Store fragile, beaded and stretchable clothes flat, in acid-free boxes, using acid-free paper or cotton or linen sheets between layers. Air garments out, and refold them periodically. You should have a professional dry cleaner deal with stains, and repair small holes or rips, but don’t replace vintage fasteners. They’re part of the piece’s charm.


StuffSavvy can match you with the best resale partners to get you the most value for the vintage clothing & accessories you'd like to sell. This is a good option once you know the value you want to sell the item for.


StuffSavvy can also match you with with local partners for official appraisals, insurance values, and resale options. This is the best option if you want to work with Fashion Specialists to maximize the value of your vintage clothing & accessories for resale locally.