Tips For Vintage Shopping from the Hana Hou Vintage Expert

We went straight to the source to find out how to pick the best gems.


On our current shopping list? Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.

No, we’re not getting married—we’re on a hunt for vintage finds, something that marries all of our favorite things. Classic and timeless? Want. New addition to our closet? Need. Borrowed from another era? Oh, definitely.

As for blue? Enter Hana Hou Vintage, the royal-blue-painted, Kailua-based consignment shop that is an old-soul fashionista’s dream come true. But as much as we love the idea of rocking a fringed flapper frock or must-have Mod mini, sorting through all the this-and-thats can be way intimidating. So, we went to the source and asked Hana Hou’s vintage expert Crystal Smith for tips on how she scores all her vintage finds, including how to navigate decades, fits and styles.

Now that’s what we call a blast from the past.


Be aware of your body.

Firstly, know your shape and measurements, the key to finding that perfect vintage gem. In much the same way that styles go in and out of trend, so do silhouettes, and sizing guides are always evolving.


For petites:

You are the universal wearer of all decades—even something from the Victorian age will suit you. Just try to stay away from styles that emphasize the waist, like some found in the ’40s, ’50s and sometimes ’80s if you don't have an hourglass figure, or the high-waist styles of the ’70s, if you are shorter.


For rectangle, narrow and slim shapes:

Look for pieces from the ’20s and on. The gowns and shifts of the ’20s and ’30s are a great choice, or pair a pleated skirt from the ’50s with a wide-shoulder jacket to add some curve to the hips. The ’60s minidresses are also ideal, or bring out your inner bohemian with a gypsy ’70s look (just avoid getting lost in too much frill and ruffle).


For pear shapes:

It’s all about the A-line dress for you, especially those from the ’60s. Avoid heavy textiles and lengths that hit just below the calf. ’70s-era long skirts, boot-cut jeans and flared slacks are great for balancing out hips, or opt for box jackets from the ’80s to add some emphasis on top.


For hourglass forms:

’40s and ’50s looks fit great on hourglass ladies, with cinched waistlines, cardigan sweaters, pencil skirts and Capri pants that will look ultra-flattering. Some of the 1930s bias-cut dresses will also flow over curves nicely. And, look for a chic v-neck from the ’80s (just stay away from shoulder pads).


For apple shapes:

Stick to’70s-era wrap dresses and ’60s-era sleeveless cuts and minidresses to show to show off your legs and accent your shoulders, or circle skirts to add some balance. Lighter fabrics and shin-length skirts are a good bet, as well as decades that focus on the waistline.


For curvy girls:

Understanding your body shape and size will aid you in expanding your closet with vintage. Designers in the ’50s loved a buxom woman and celebrated her curves with cinched waistlines, which carried into the early ’60s. Look for labels that have half sizing (this was the term for plus size at the time). Also, the ’70s disco and wrap dresses were usually made with fabrics that hung softly and had some stretch to them, which can give it a little more room for curves.


Look for the details.

Keep your eyes peels for these telltale signs that a piece is vintage: metal zippers with saw-tooth or pink edges, union-made labels (although a good portion has no labels at all) and 100-percent silk linings.


Don’t neglect your undies.

Overall, undergarments can make a huge difference in how the garment looks on your body. Try it on with different knickers, shapers, stockings and panties to check out how textures, shapes and comfort come into play with each piece.