Op shopping is always a game of chance. The chance you're going to spot something you like, the chance it is in your price range and the biggest chance of all – that it will Fit you.
When I take friends op shopping for the first time they struggle with one and three of these. The way to beat chance number one is to not be looking for anything specific and broaden your mind to what you would and wouldn't wear Price is often not an issue unless you start looking at original 1950's prom dresses and the way to beat chance number three is ...compromise.
A lot of vintage clothing has sizes but not all. Really anything pre-1970's you're lucky to get a size. So much of it was hand made or made-over the notion of it being a size 8 or a size 12 is laughable. You have to know your size, hold up the clothes and guess if it is worth trying on. Sometimes you get it horribly wrong, like I did one day when I dreamt I could fit into a leather mini dress … that poor dead-cow-tube never stood a chance …
Other times you try something on that is so obviously too big but you love it anyway and you will it to work. I did this once in Copenhagen. I'd been travelling for 5 weeks and worn nothing but jeans. There was a party that night and I was determined I would wear a dress. I could have made it easy on myself and gone to H&M but Copenhagen has such amazing vintage shops there was really no question. Working within my travel backpack and budget parameters I fell in love with a dress that was certainly a size 14 on my size 8 frame I bought a belt for it an voila! Instant outfit. I still have the dress today and I still wear it with the same belt; it is mightily comfortable.
For the record – I was the only person at that crowded party not in jeans and sneakers. I felt pretty silly at first but some charming Danish students persuaded me otherwise
Then there is that occasional, wonderful moment when you try on a dress, a pair of pants or a top and … it fits! It fits perfectly, like it was made for you. Like you could rewind the decades and have the same gasp moment when the dress maker brings out the finished cocktail dress. This happened to me late last year at the Brisbane Vintage Fashion and Homewares Fair when I found this 1960's cocktail dress. The moment when a dress fits so well you have to buy it.
For me, the joy of finding that almost miraculous perfect fit in amongst a rack of clothes at a second hand store is so much more rewarding than having it at Target or CUE or Dogstar (as much as I love them). I know what size I am in all these stores and if there is a problem I just pick out a different option. There is no other option when vintage shopping. You either take it or leave it but if you're lucky enough the dress will help you decide.