A small but lucrative department in my online stores is devoted to vintage lingerie. Collecting vintage lingerie seems to be popular, and as with many collectors, money is not always much of a consideration. The condition of the clothing and any packaging is paramount. A sense of nostalgia must play a big role for collectors: clothing that evokes another time. Whenever I find a choice piece of vintage lingerie in a secondhand shop, I know I’ve struck gold. Most items I pay between $1-$5 to acquire.
Most vintage lingerie I find in thrift shops or yard sales has been well-loved (worn a lot) and is not worth speculation. Once in a while I find old new stock. These items still have hang tags attached or are in the original packaging. They are in new condition but quite old. Someone probably bought the stuff years ago and stashed it in a drawer until they died. When the house was cleaned out, the contents were sent to a thrift shop and Voila! a new old stock item for my shop! This is, of course, the most desirable category of vintage clothing. People pay BIG money for New Old Stock.
The next best condition is vintage unworn to nearly new. These are the wares I deal in the most. Care is needed to scrupulously check every inch of an old piece of lingerie to find any damage. Pulls, stains, rips, stretches, fading, pilling, loss of lace or decals, and any other damage will greatly affect the resale price of the garment. A pull in an otherwise gorgeous nylon nightgown could render it unsalable.
I have learned a few things about brands over the years. Some very popular brands that I have carried include Barbizon, Van Raalte, Vanity Fair, Playtex, Bali, Warner’s, Olga, and Kayser, old designers and old department stores like Sak’s, Caldor and Macy’s.
Things I look for to find true prizes are lingerie made in the USA (most modern stuff is imported,) good brand names, metal fittings, and old material names like Opaquelon, Wonderlon, or Taffreda. Permanently affixed material care labels were not required until 1972 so age can sometimes be estimated by the labels the garment carries. Various companies invented their own synthetic material formulas and gave them fancy names. Barbizon is famous for this. Old silk lingerie pieces are a major score!
The fastest selling lingerie or intimates in my shop are lovely cotton or synthetic nightgowns with lots of lace that are new old stock. Second-most popular are full length black slips with lace and gathers in the form-fitted styles of the 1950s. A perfect old Barbizon Taffreda full slip with lots of lace, a fitted bodice and full skirt, in a regular size like Medium or Large will sell for as much as $75-$100 or more. The heavy, rich Taffreda fabric that produces a satisfying rustle as you walk is sought after. Van Raalte full slips with 12″ lace hems or beautiful pleating command big prices, $150-200. Perfect full-length peignoir sets (gown and robe) can sell for hundreds of dollars.
Sometimes a buyer is looking for a particular style or brand that is discontinued. These customers are willing to pay well for something they love and can no longer get on store shelves. I’m one of those buyers. Manufacturers always seem to discontinue my favorite styles. EBay and Etsy are rich sources for discontinued styles, as well as online specialty shops. The best deals are usually on eBay.
Discovering a vintage intimate wear treasure is a thrill and I am willing to dig through endless bins and racks to find a few hidden gems.