Wearing Vintage: A Primer

You know it from our sidebar:  here at Vintanthromodern Vintage, we believe in wearable vintage. We might sound like a broken record, but we really believe it. A 1950s cocktail dress, a 1930s hat, or a 1970s stretchy jumpsuit might be an amazing piece, but it isn’t exactly wearable day-to-day.

One fun part of vintage fashion — and one part that makes it accessible to anyone — is mixing and matching pieces from across eras. Going full-on post-war pin-up may fun in its own right, but for most people, it isn’t a practical way of dressing for, say, grocery shopping.  (Gals and guys who are totally committed to this sort of style can and do pull off daily vintage looks with aplomb, but y’all don’t need a ‘how-to’ guide for wearing vintage, right?)

1. Start small

The easiest way to begin incorporating vintage into your wardrobe is through accessories, particularly vintage bags, belts, scarves, and jewelry. If at the shop we can’t make a sale of a dress or a sweater to a vintage skeptic, we know we can make a sale on a handbag or amazing pair of boots.

2. Prize versatility

A straw bag or a burnt orange scarf will tie you to a season. A rhinestone and velvet bag will tie you to date night (or maybe just being fabulous …). When you’re first trying out vintage items, go for items that would function well in all seasons are in colors that you match your existing wardrobe, and fit into your lifestyle. The more you wear something, the more you’ll love it. Vintage is way more than costume or one-time wear:  you can wear vintage every single day without looking like you’re wearing vintage every single day.

3. Pick a neutral base

Let your vintage accessories shine against an easy neutral base — gray shift dress, white t-shirt and jeans, cream top and black pencil skirt — that doesn’t compete for attention. Don’t worry about juggling too much at once!

4. Add one item at a time

You don’t need to wear a bunch of vintage items all at once; everything in moderation. If you’re unsure whether an item clashes or not, just take it off! You’ll feel better. Try it again by itself.

5. Just do it!

What’s great about accessories is that you can take them off in the middle of the day if you simply can’t bear to wear them anymore. This means they are relatively low-risk items to wear. So what’s the risk? Try it out!

6. Remember everything new is old, too

Designers love vintage. Ever wonder where, say, Marc Jacobs gets all of his shapes? You guessed it — vintage! If you love modern items, from Prada to Anthropologie to F21 — structured bags, charm necklaces, watercolor print scarves — chances are very, very good you’ll love the vintage items from which the designs were lifted. Your current wardrobe may be full of “vintage,” yet you don’t even think of it like that! True, some shapes are modernized, but let’s be real:  the high slits on tight skirts and body-con dresses you’re seeing for this fall are straight out of the mid-90s. Fashion recycles. For vintage newbies, take a look at the places in your wardrobe that are already vintage inspired, and work from there.

7. Be cheap

Those of us in the business of actually selling vintage clothes probably shouldn’t encourage this tidbit but … if you’re just figuring out how to wear vintage, don’t feel the need to drop $240 on a pair of 40s paste earrings. There is a lot of very affordable vintage out in the world, particularly vintage accessories. If you spend $5 or $10 or $20 on something, you’ll feel a lot less bad when it doesn’t work out … and like a damn smart lady when it does.

Need more tips?  Check out these great resources:

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4 thoughts on “Wearing Vintage: A Primer

  1. Juliane says:

    Affordability is definitely key. I like blending old and new, and being about to swap out different accessories definitely helps. Even in my living room the small accents are what set the mood. I’ve found a lot of affordable options especially with wall art.

  2. Pigg says:

    What great tips! I especially like the idea of looking first in your closet for the modern vintage you already own 🙂

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