How to sell vintage clothing online

If you want to earn money selling vintage clothing online, it’s best to have a passion for fashion. Selecting and preparing the clothing is a lot of work, especially at the beginning. It’s also important to choose the right sales platform and strategy for your business. Having your own online shop where you sell vintage clothing allows you to be more flexible.

What is vintage?

The word ‘vintage’ refers to clothing that is at least 20 years old. Some fashion experts go a step further and define vintage clothing as clothing that was produced from the 1920s to 1950s. Current clothing or clothing that is only a few years old is not vintage, but it can be made to look vintage.

Why you should find a niche before selling vintage clothing online

There is so much to choose from in fashion nowadays. If you are interested in selling vintage clothing online, it is important to have a clear vision about what will make your fashion business stand out. That’s why it’s essential to find a niche and establish a brand and a sales strategy. Make sure you have a clear business plan that outlines your unique selling proposition (USP).

Tip

The Business Name Generator and the Logo Generator are useful tools for developing your brand.

Your niche could be centred around a specific decade, occasion, style or garment. Concrete ideas include:

  • Vintage clothing from the 1920s
  • Vintage bridal fashion or sportswear
  • Casual or romantic vintage clothing
  • Vintage trousers or coats
  • Vintage fashion for children or work
  • Vintage shirts with film themes or bands

Advantages and challenges of selling vintage clothing online

The main advantage of selling vintage clothing online is that clothing items are usually available in large quantities and at a cheap price. However, this also presents a challenge, as sourcing can take a lot of time. Once you have found the right clothing, it must be checked, cleaned, and repaired. Customers will still expect good quality when buying used clothing. Once the clothes are ready to be sold, they’ll need to be photographed in a flattering manner and stored appropriately.

What to consider when selling vintage clothing online

In order to get your vintage fashion business up and running, you’ll need to consider the following things:

  • Procurement: You can source vintage clothing from your own wardrobe or from family and friends’ wardrobes. Other good places to find vintage clothing include online marketplaces and classified ads, markets, house clearances, auctions and charity shops. There are also wholesalers who you can buy vintage fashion from. Make sure to pay attention to the quality and price.
  • Treatment: Unless you have the skills and equipment yourself, you’ll need to find a cleaning service for standard and demanding materials, and a sewing shop to mend any damages.
  • Presentation: Provide high-quality product photos and descriptions. Product photography plays an important role in online sales.
  • Storage: Keep all garments dry and organised. It is important to have garment bags and padded hangers as well as sufficient space and a system for finding items quickly.
Tip

Interested in selling other items as well? Check out our guides to find out what you should know when selling furniture online, selling jewellery online, and selling art online.

Advantages and challenges of selling vintage clothing online

In addition to the benefits and challenges related to specific items, online retailing in general presents its own unique opportunities and stumbling blocks.

Thanks to already existing platforms and useful tools, you can get started selling vintage clothing online quickly and with relatively little effort. You can decide how big your online presence is, how much time and money you invest, and where you want to work from.

In the world of online retail, it can be a challenge to capitalise on all the opportunities you have and tostand out from the crowd. Additionally, you’ll also need to think about shipping logistics. Since customers won’t be able to touch or try on clothing prior to purchasing it, you’ll need to have a plan in place for how to handle shipping and deal with returns. One option may be to work with a dropshipping provider, who takes care of the storage and shipment process.

Where to sell vintage clothing online

Having your own online vintage clothing shopoffers the greatest flexibility, giving you the best chance to distinguish yourself from the crowd of online vintage retailers. Whether you only have a few items or hundreds, you can decide how to present the items using photos, videos and any other information you want to include. For example, you can include content on care or tips on how to combine different clothing items.

Develop a content strategy and talk about your fashion and style to promote your website. If the shop system you are using does not offer the option for this, you could also set up a blog and link it to the shop.

You can also sell vintage clothing on social media, for instance, on Instagram or Facebook. It is worthwhile to combine your online shop and marketing on social media. That’s also where working with influencers comes in handy. The advantage of social selling is that you can directly interact with your community of customers. The disadvantages of social selling, however, include limited presentation options and potential ongoing costs for promoting your posts.

Tip

Turn your followers into customers with the Social Buy Button from IONOS. With the Social Buy Button, you can quickly sell vintage clothing on social media.

The third way to sell vintage clothing online is through online marketplaces. For example, Etsy is an established platform for selling homemade crafts, but there is also vintage clothing for fashion lovers. Etsy alternatives for clothing include Amazon and eBay, both of which are among the largest online selling platforms. One advantage of these platforms is the reach and infrastructure they provide. The downside of using such platforms is the limited presentation options for clothing and having to pay a commission for each sale.

Online sales channels for vintage clothing

Advantages Disadvantages
Personal online shop
  • Maximum flexibility in presentation
  • All data is on your own server
  • Can be scaled and customised as desired
  • Comparatively high initial expense
  • Requires certain know-how and/or budget
Social selling
  • Existing infrastructure and reach
  • Easy to set up
  • Ideal interaction opportunities with target audience
  • Limited display options
  • Data is on third-party servers
  • Ongoing cost/commission per sale
Online marketplaces
  • Existing infrastructure and reach
  • Easy to set up
  • Logistics and marketing measures may be available
  • Data is on third-party servers
  • Limited display options
  • Ongoing costs/commission per sale
  • High competition

What to consider when setting up your own shop to sell vintage clothing online

You need to complete a few business formalities if you want to have your own online vintage clothing shop. For example, you need to decide whether you want to operate the business full-time or simply on the side as a small business. This can influence which legal business structure is best suited to your online business. Take the time to create a business plan. It should describe your idea, your niche, where you source the clothing from, the market, your target audience and your financial plan. Your financial plan is more than just the initial costs of starting your online shop. It should also cover running costs and the pricing of the clothing items.

Tip

Wondering how to get started with your online shop? Use IONOS’ eCommerce website builder and get fast and secure storage space with WooCommerce hosting.

Once the formalities have been cleared up, you can move on to the next steps. First, select a shop system. Depending on your know-how and the amount of time you can invest, you can use a shop builder or create an online shop with WordPress. You should also think about your brand, company name and logo. Once you’ve got a company name, you can start looking into hosting and domain name registration.

Domain Check
  • .co.uk
  • .com
  • .org

Next up is designing your shop. This includes visual elements such as fonts, colours and images as well as organisational points, for example, different categories and website navigation. After you’ve sorted out the design and architecture of your website, you can bring your shop to life by uploading photos, product descriptions and any other additional content. Pay attention to important search engine optimisation criteria. In addition to the technical aspects, texts can also be optimised. Additionally, you can also implement SEO for images. Once the content of your website is finalised, your shop can go live.

Marketing is another essential aspect when running an online shop. Depending on your goals and target audience, you can use social media platforms like Instagram or TikTok or newsletters to effectively market your shop. A well-defined content strategy is also important for defining your marketing goals. It is important to track activities, check what works well and what doesn’t, and constantly refine your target group and adjust your measures.

Tip

You don’t have to limit your shop to clothing when selling products online. Selling photos may also be another avenue worth exploring. Check out our article on how to sell photos online.

Summary: How to succeed in selling vintage clothing online

If you want to make money selling vintage clothing online, you need an eye and a love for fashion. Searching for suitable clothing at markets, charity shops and in other people’s wardrobes can take a lot of time, as can preparing and photographing the clothes. The actual sale of vintage clothing also requires creativity and patience. Clothing items with good photos and descriptions will have greater success, especially if they are paired with authentic stories that resonate with the target audience. With the right tools and kits, you can create the technical framework needed for selling vintage clothing online.