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Giving the gift of vintage

Made your list and checked it twice? For those who have been especially nice, I suggest vintage! Here are a few pointers.


giving vintage items as gifts

Always make sure the item is in excellent condition or has a great reason for not being in excellent condition (a vintage book marked up by the author would probably be a treasure).

Make it personal! Consider the birth year of the giftee, or some another significant year in that person’s life. Initials or name, hometown or another meaningful place are also good bets. Favorite activities, favorite color, artist, era or material—maybe something that belongs to a collection that the recipient already has (and isn't sick of!).

As much as you personally love something, remember it is a gift so think of the recipient’s own style (no shabby chic for a mid-century mod fancier!).

Allow yourself plenty of time to look around.

Combining vintage with new items makes old new again: How about your famous holiday bread wrapped in a vintage tea towel?

An item passed from one generation to the next can be very meaningful, especially if you add the history of the item—or even a photo—that gives context for the item.

My great grandmother’s locket was a very meaningful gift for me as a young person, especially with this photo of her wearing it included.

My great grandmother’s locket was a very meaningful gift for me as a young person, especially with this photo of her wearing it included.

Some vintage fashion gift hits

Fashion—whether new or vintage—may be the most difficult type of gift to give because it is so personal. Still, it can be the best gift to give! Thinking over my two decades of holiday seasons here at denisebrain, these are the vintage items sold as gifts most often:

Jewelry So many options! How about something Christmas-y like a vintage garnet necklace? Or a novelty brooch with the recipient’s favorite animal? Or an initial brooch?

Capes Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but you can see how a vintage-wearer would like one—very few fit issues! On Etsy, there are nearly 500 vintage plaid capes alone, and over 7,000 vintage capes in all! I own a vintage Pendleton tweed cape and I always get compliments when I wear it, so I found the same model to show you (bottom right in the collage below), available on Etsy now.

Hats For the man or woman who has everything (vintage), a hat can be a fantastic choice. A good quality vintage faux fur hat is a perennial favorite, as is a vintage fedora.

Robes Fairly easy to fit, and a woman can wear a man’s robe just fine, so there are many options. (Since they will be spending a lot of time in it make sure it is in truly great shape.) Silk and rayon kimono-style robes are having a fairly strong fashion revival, and you may as well find a vintage equivalent!

Scarves Not everyone wears every kind of scarf, but almost everyone wears some kind of scarf, whether of warm wool or fine silk. I just happen to have a few in my shop right now (wink, wink).

These items, being offered by other vintage sellers, are in my Etsy Giftable Vintage Fashion list:

BeFunky Collageb.jpg

In the accessory category, another current “hit item”—vintage train cases. Some use these for decorative storage, some even for (gasp!) travel. The kind with the mirror inside the lid is great for keeping and putting on makeup or hair products.

BeFunky Collage.jpg

Don't forget using any vintage gift wraps and ribbons you’ve been hoarding/saving to add the finishing touches. You can even incorporate those sadly orphaned or broken vintage clip-on earrings into your package wrapping!

Image from

Image from


Giving the gift of vintage—while rewarding—isn’t always a sure bet. Here are a few of the less than perfect gifts that I’ve learned about over many Christmases (and other holidays) past…


Gloves. We’re not used to this dilemma because these days it is rather rare to find fitted gloves with a specific size beyond S, M or L. Don’t assume that, for instance, a pair of vintage leather gloves will fit the recipient without knowing that person's glove size. I mentioned a hat being a popular choice, but there are fit issues with hats too, so it is best to avoid a hat that fits down on the head (a cloche style for instance) unless you are certain of the wearer's size.

Anything that is valuable and covetable but not the giftee's taste is liable to be a flop. There isn't anything sadder than giving something truly wonderful to a person who simply isn't interested and just hides it away. I can tell you about a deeply carved Bakelite bangle and a 50s Hawaiian shirt that seem to have disappeared from the face of the Earth...

Anything with major problems is almost surely a miss—unless you know the person well and he/she loves a well ripped up vintage rock band t-shirt or something else well used. Clean and mend any tiny flaws in your gift and package it up beautifully. Yes, there is always that "old stuff" ick factor to consider for those on the (vintage) fence.


Even with caveats, I predict there’s a vintage gifting hit for just about anyone on your list. Many people care about the environment and love the idea of recycling, including fashion. If you do a great job of picking and presenting, who knows, maybe you will make a vintage fashion convert!

So...What vintage is going under your tree this year?

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My December vintage resolution

At the beginning of the year I made 12 vintage resolutions, one per month. I told myself maybe by the end of the year the best will have stuck. Some things have REALLY stuck, and I’ve learned some things I never guessed I’d learn.

...and finally it’s December:

Find at least one vintage item to give for Christmas. I don’t take this lightly because I know that I can impose my taste on someone else if I don’t watch out. But deep down I know there is something vintage that would please and suit every man, woman and child. I just have to figure out what that is!

We probably all know someone for whom vintage is an easy choice, but then there are the people who think it’s “just someone else’s old stuff.” I’m pleased to say that well into my holiday shopping I’ve found only vintage items for everyone on my list except in several cases where I’m giving food or drink and several cases of items by crafts people and artists. Even my gift wrap will be vintage!

I better not give away my current stash of vintage gift items, but I’m terribly excited about them and their suitability for the people receiving them.

Some ideas about giving vintage items to people not used to such things:
  • Make sure the item is in excellent condition, or has a great reason for not being in excellent condition (that vintage book marked up by the author would probably be a treasure)
  • Look for something very specific and personal to the giftee: Consider birth year or another significant year; initials or name; hometown or other meaningful place; favorite activity, color, material, artist or era
  • Don’t let your own style dictate your choice, rather think of the recipient’s style (no shabby chic for a mid-century mod fancier!)
  • Stick to a budget as you would for any other gift and allow yourself plenty of time to look around
  • Try combining something vintage and something new, like your famous holiday bread wrapped in a vintage tea towel
What vintage is going under your tree this year?