How to find a bargain at vintage kilo sales

Vintage kilo sales are a fairly new way to buy clothes, but they offer a chance to bag a bargain directly from vintage wholesalers; something usually only available to trade customers.

Kilo sales are now popping up all over the country, with the likes of The Vintage Clothing Kilo Sale and The Vintage Weigh and Pay having a regular presence in most major cities.

If you’re used to buying vintage in boutiques and charity shops, or not used to buying vintage at all, then buying used clothing by the weight can take a bit of getting used to.

My first visit to a kilo sale was at the People’s History Museum in Manchester, back in 2013. What follows is my write up from that event (previously published on another blog), but I’ve been to many since and I still stand by what I wrote. I hope you find it useful, and happy shopping…

How kilo sales work

You pay your entry fee (usually £1 or £2) and grab a plastic bag, provided by the organisers. They usually stamp your hand on entry so you can come and go throughout the day.

Then you fill your bag with whatever you like the look of. When you’re done, you take it to be weighed at the tills and pay based on the weight of your haul.

The going rate is £15/kilo. This works out on average at about four items, but obviously you’re going to be able to get a lot more light things for your money than say a heavy leather jacket or wooly jumper.

Pros and cons of shopping kilo sales

+ It’s ridiculously cheap! At roughly £4 a piece, you can get a piece of vintage without the boutique price tag. Meaning you can save money or get a lot more items for your budget.

+ All the usual vintage goodness. You’re bound to find something unique and a little bit special if you’re prepared to hunt for it.

– It’s (organised) chaos! For my first visit, I arrived at the very start of the public opening (registered traders were allowed in an hour before) and it was fairly busy, but within 20 minutes the queue was out the door and pieces of clothing were flying before my eyes. There is definitely no time for leisurely browsing. But hats off to the staff, who ran a very tight ship.

– Measure your expectations. If you’re looking for high grade vintage from the 1950s/1960s or anything not made largely from polyester, this probably isn’t the place for you. The stock is mainly deadstock and recycled clothing from the 1970s, 1980s and sometimes 1990s.

I spotted a lot of damaged stock and things that needed work, so expect at the least to need to give everything a good wash and iron, and maybe get your needle and thread out.

My top kilo sale tips

1. Arrive early (or late)
Stock is replenished throughout the day, so you’re always going to miss something but timing your visit to the quietest times will give you a fighting chance of uncovering some gems when there’s a bit less competition. You can usually come and go once you’ve paid your entry so technically you can go at different times of the day for the chance to see different stock.

2. Travel light
On my first visit I regretted taking my giant bag and duffle coat with me, things can get pretty hot in there!

3. Know what you want
As well as rails to rifle through there are huge buckets full of clothes. It helps to have an idea of what you’re looking for, e.g. woolies, floral dresses, shorts, or key colours. This makes it easier to spot things in the sea of fabric.

4. Act quick
If you think you want something, grab it. As long as you snap things up, you can always put them back later. But if you don’t hold on to something you like, there’s a high chance it won’t be there when you go back.

5. Be polite
It can get a little bit competitive at times as people jostle to find the best bargains, but it’s important not to lose your manners.

6. Check before you buy
As I said, stock can be damaged (though often not beyond repair) so make sure you know what you’re in for before you buy or you could end up disappointed once you get home.

7. One last look
Someone picked up something I liked right before my eyes, but she’d discarded it later and I managed to pick it up, so it’s always worth taking a second glance.

8. Only buy what you love
With clothes this cheap, it can be tempting to buy more than you usually would. However, you might find later that you only bought it because of the price. Ask yourself, do I really like this and will I actually wear it? If the answer to either of those is no, put it back.

The result

On this occasion, I managed to pick up seven pieces for £30, a couple of which are good to wear now and some for fixing up and reworking.

To be honest, kilo sales are not my favourite way to shop, but they definitely have their place in the vintage world… especially if you love a bargain. If you like finding unusual patterns and fabrics, and don’t mind doing a bit of DIY on your wardrobe, then it can be a great/cheap place to source clothes.

Have you ever been to a kilo sale? What did you think?

(P.S. Apologies for the blurry iPhone pictures. Turns out I can’t hunt for vintage, carry a huge bag and take decent photos at the same time!)

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