An obvious first choice for any vintage lover is actual vintage. The pieces are historically accurate, the fabrics are period and many of them are just darling. If you are good at thrifting and digging through estate sales, you can find things for cheap. If you are not, sites like etsy and ebay are full of treasures someone else has already done the dirty work to find. And, if you are lucky, there may even be a vintage store or two in your area. (There seem to be gobs of them on the west coast.)
But vintage pieces may come damaged or be in delicate condition. They also come in one size so even if you fall in love with a piece, you may have to pass it up. Things can be altered a bit, especially since vintage garments tend to have longer hems than modern garments, but again, they are often in delicate condition so you don't want to have to take them apart and put them together a lot. Plus, professional alterations add to the cost. And, speaking of cost, really fabulous pieces can grow into the hundreds of dollars in cost. They also tend to be rather tiny!
When I opt to add a vintage piece to my collection I consider a couple of things before purchase.
1) It absolutely must fit or be able to be altered to fit. I have made that mistake in the past and it's so sad to have something arrive in the mail and realize that it doesn't fit! Make sure you get measurements of the garment before purchase and don't forget your measurements need to be smaller than the garment! Modern garments tend to have more stretch in them than vintage ones so take that into account.
2) It needs to be in good condition. Look closely at the garment and inspect it for holes, tears and damaged seams. I never buy things I can't fix myself. Missing a button? That's pretty easy to replace with new ones. Giant 4" tear some place prominent? I'll probably pass, even if it's priced appropriately.
3) It has to look cute! This may seem silly, but don't buy something just because it's vintage. It needs to appeal to you aesthetically and look good on you. This is why brick and mortar shops are nice since you can try things on. If it looks bad on you, you won't wear it and if you do, you'll look silly, not fabulous.
I love this vintage dress from Bad Girl Vintage.
Somethings I like to buy vintage: things with unique prints, things that would be difficult to recreate myself (for technical or fabric difficulties), hats, scarves, bags and things that are just really special.
I sew, as you all know, so this category opens up a new world of vintage style for me. Vintage patterns can be found while thrifting and abound on etsy. Plus, there are a growing number of small pattern companies offering multisized reprints of vintage patterns and there are even some offered by the Big 4 pattern companies (though I've heard tales of mixed success with these). Circle skirts are a great beginner project. You can do some really fun stuff with them for much cheaper (and in larger sizes!!) than you'd pay for authentic vintage circle skirts with unique designs. You can make something that isn't nearly as delicate as a vintage piece.
You do have to be able to sew. Some things are just to difficult for me to make. Vintage patterns do have some of the same difficulties as vintage clothing does. Namely, small sizes, can be pricey and may be in delicate condition. They are also one size rather than multisize. Directions can be brief and some patterns are unprinted. It can also be difficult to find appropriate fabrics (especially prints).
Perhaps my favorite Wearing History Pattern!
Some things I like to make are: things that I have difficulty finding premade that fit me well (pants, button front blouses and anything "wiggle" shaped), circle skirts. I find myself mainly limited by finding a good pattern in my size (I hate grading!) and by my skills. I'm not up for winter jackets, jeans and knits.
Many non-sewing vintage enthusiasts flock to reproduction pieces. They offer many of the advantages of me-made garments including durability and are generally available in several sizes and some companies will even make them to your measure. You can find pieces that range from rockabilly and pinup to the more conservative and classic styles.
My biggest problem with reproduction is the sizing. While repro sizing tends to run curvier than modern sizing, it's still often not curvy enough for me. And it can be pricey! There are several really nice repro companies out of the UK but with the difference in currencies and shipping to the US, I don't end up purchasing from them as much as I'd like. Repro items also have a tendency to look more modern than actual vintage. Some companies do better than others on this front.
Things I like to buy repro: pieces I can't make myself or a particular design I just have to have. As a sewer, I kind of feel guilty about buying repro, but considering how much I wear my one repro dress and how much I already love my Freddies of Pinewood jeans, I'd say the purchases I've made are smart ones.
So which of these categories make up the most of your wardrobe? Is there one you prefer over the others? Is there a particular type of clothing you tend to buy from each category?