Tips for shopping vintage- Size matters. Use clothing sizes as a general rule, but expect the fashions of yesteryear to be less than generously proportioned. Steel yourself psychologically to go up as much as two full sizes.
- Fancy footwork. Vintage shoe sizes have not changed as much, but women with wide feet, or larger sizes, will not have much luck.
- Stress out. Clothing tends to show wear at stress points, such as under the arms. Check seams carefully.
- Out, darned spot. Don't assume that stains and spins can be dry-cleaned. Some damage, such as sun-fading, is here to stay.
- Acronym alert. If wearing someone's cast-offs, no matter how old or how chic, provokes too much of an "ick" factor, look for "new-old stock," or NOS -- shades of Morty Seinfeld's beltless "Executive" trench coat.
- Venue menu. For those who are time constrained, eBay.com offers an ocean of vintage buys; just be sure to read the listing carefully for loopholes ("60s-style" means "new") and check a seller's feedback so you don't get burned. If you're a browser, estate and tag sales are less reliable, but offer the possibility for real "finds."
Hotter than hot. "Big E" jeans (the "E" in "Levis" on the red tab was capitalized in the mid-1960s and earlier), Rolexes from the 1930s and '40s, designer costume jewelry by Miriam Haskell and Elsa Schiaparelli. Unfortunately, both women's earliest -- and best -- pieces were unsigned.
- Denise Flaim