Vintage Stores vs. Thrift Stores – What’s The Difference?

Last week, I received the following comment from a reader:

“I have to laugh a little when I see ads for “vintage” clothing shops that jack the price for old clothes when you can find the same things at the Salvation Army for fifty cents. I have no issue with secondhand clothes as I shop consignment/thrift all the time, but is there really a difference between “vintage” and all the other used clothing shops out there? “

This reader brought up a great point, something I am sure many people have asked themselves. The answer is yes, there is a huge difference.

Curated vintage shops save time. The merchandise has already been selected and picked out of thrift stores, flea markets and other sources. Some pieces never make it to a thrift store and are sourced directly from someone’s closet or a vintage dealer.

No digging required. I know people who shop at vintage/consignment stores that would never set foot in a thrift store. Not because they are “above” it, but simply because it’s not their thing. Some just lack the patience needed to sort through multiple bins and racks.

Quality is major factor. Items found at a vintage/consignment store are usually in great shape. You can count on finding pieces that are clean, don’t have any holes or missing buttons. I know store owners who spend their own money refurbishing items and making sure they only have quality pieces on the floor.

You can expect prices to be higher at a specialty vintage store, because the grunt work has already been done. While you may find similar items for less at a thrift store, it all depends on what kind of investment you are willing to make.

Finding amazing pieces at thrift stores is a combination of luck and diligence, specially in major cities. Whether you prefer to forgo time, energy or convenience – it’s entirely up to you. In the end, there is always some sort of cost involved.



  1. There really is a wide gap in store quality…. and the price for SURE reflects it. There really is a store for each person’s commitment level.

  2. I also think many folks should know the difference between retro items and true vintage, i.e., a 90′s item labeled “vintage” is not, and it’s quite irritating when I see a boutique label an item “vintage” when it is in fact not. I suppose it sounds nice … but the understanding should entirely be present.

    I love shopping vintage and thrift shops. I like curated shops, but also love to score an amazing deal myself, as I have a lot of patience when it comes to this type of shopping … most of my friends do not, so I agree it really does depend on the person. Excellent post! -xo

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