The choices on eBay can be overwhelming! At any given time, there are about 50,000 items listed under the Vintage Clothing & Accessories category. The most popular search term in the Vintage category is "dress". As I'm writing this guide, I typed in "dress", and pulled up 12,501 dress auctions listed under vintage!
Here are some search tips and tricks you can use to help narrow your focus, pull up a good selection of what you're looking for, and increase the chances of finding your heart's desire.
Tip#1: Use the categories.
For example, if you know you want a vintage dress from the 1950's era, you can start out at the main category of Clothing & Accessories from eBay's home page.
- Choose the vintage sub-category. Now you're on that page with more than 50,000 items!
- Start using the shaded-orange left-hand column of sub-categories to help you. First choose Women's Clothing, then the appropriate era category under that, which in this example will be 1947-64, with 5,736 items at the moment.
- From there, you could narrow it down further to the Dress category. But your perfect dress might be in the Formal/Bridal category or the Outfit category, if it has a matching jacket. Instead, type "dress" into the blank box just beneath the orange tab the says "All Items".
- Now click the Search button. Today, that gets me down to 2,157 items. Now you can narrow it down further with more keywords.
Tip #2: Use Smart Search Commands
Continuing with my example of the desired 1950's era dress, I add the keyword "1950's" to the word "dress" and click Search again. By the way, in the real search, don't use the quotes! Anyway, I pull up 129 auctions. Is that all of the 1950's dresses tat are up for auction? NO!! If you search "50s dress", you'll get 399 different auctions! Try "50's dress"? 517 dresses you haven't seen yet. And with "1950s dress", 152 more.
The eBay staff has promised vintage sellers to consider tweaking the search so that a buyer can type in any variation of the era and pull up all relevant auction results. But we don't know when (or if) it will happen, and in the meantime, you want to see all of the 50s dresses!
So, do you have to run 4 separate searches for your 50s dress? Not if you use a Smart Search command. Put all of the era variations inside a pair of parentheses with commas in between, like (50s,50's,1950s,1950's). Now when I run the dress search, I get 1,116 items. EBay says not to use spaces between the terms inside the parentheses.
Keep the Smart Search commands in mind for other types of keywords too. If you're looking for a 60s blouse, for example, you might want to search (blouse,shirt,top).
Tip #3: Smart Search for your size.
The Vintage category doesn't have Item Specifics, and it can be frustrating to see item after item that is not your size. Most sellers add a size indicator to the title if they have space, but there isn't a uniform standard for how to do that. Most commonly used is XS, S, M, L, XL. However, some put bust measurement or waist measurement in the title;e.g., B38. Or 38B. Sigh... Also, you and the seller may not agree on what measurements equal what size. You can narrow things down a bit, though, by eliminating sizes that will definitely not fit you. If you wear a modern size 12, like I do, there's not much point in looking at the smallest dresses, except perhaps to drool. M or L is most likely to work, and perhaps XL. So subtract the impossible dresses by adding -(XS,S) to your search. Put the keywords you don't want to see inside the parentheses, and put a minus sign in front without a space. When I do that with my example of the 50s dress, I now have eliminated about 700 small and extra small dresses, and have a more manageable 416 to consider. I still have all the dresses that have M, L, and XL in the title, and the ones without a size in the title. If you usually wear a medium, you can probably use -(XS,XL). If you are small, try -(L,XL).
Tip #4: Try using fashion icons to search for a particular "look".
If you're looking for a curvy sexy 50s dress, try "Marilyn" as a keyword. Want a 1930s bias-cut satin nightgown? Think "Harlow". Other fashion icons with a definable look include Audrey (Hepburn), Jackie (Kennedy), and Lucy (Ricardo). Sellers are not allowed to use both first and last names of celebrities, so you won't have much luck searching for a "marilyn monroe dress". And if you do, the seller is breaking the rules about keyword spamming! We're also not allowed to use single name celebrities, so Madonna and Cher are not good search terms, despite their iconic style.
Tip #5: Don't forget to search the eBay stores!
Many sellers put some of their absolute best stock in their stores. But since eBay took the stores out of the general search, the stores can seem invisible. However if you have a particular color or style of dress in mind, you're going to want to see what's available in the eBay stores. It's really not difficult.
- Look at that orange-shaded left-hand column again.
- Go down past Categories and past Guides.
- See Search Options? Click on the box for "All items, including Store Inventory items" - it's about half-way down.
- Now click the Show button at the bottom of that section. Chances are, you've at least doubled your options.
In this format, all of the auctions are listed before any of the store items, so you'll have to go though some list pages before you get to them. And unfortunately, eBay will not show you the gallery photos for the store items when you search this way. But there is an easy way to see galleries on store items!
- Highlight your search terms to copy them.
- Now, go toward the blank search box that is at the upper right-hand corner of every list of auctions. Click on "Advanced Search" just beneath it.
- Paste your search terms into the box that says "Enter Keyword or Item #".
- Next, click on the blue words "Items in Stores" in the left-hand column.
- Check the box for "Search Store Inventory Items Only", and click on "Search".
- You're there!! You have store items with gallery pictures, and auctions for any seller who has a store. As a small bonus, you can also see the name of the seller's store without clicking into the listing.