Sometimes, dressing with a vintage vibe can be daunting. Especially for those of us who can find just veering from our go-to trainers nerve-wracking, it’s the sort of look you admire wistfully, knowing that you’ll never have the courage to pull it off. Considering that half the point of vintage fashion is to stand out like you belong in a whole different decade, it’s unsurprising that most people view it as a “go hard or go home” style choice. But don’t worry, you can rock pleats and ruffles without having to raid Queen Victoria’s wardrobe- just follow these five simple steps.
1. Do your research
Now, don’t freak out. This isn’t “research” as in college project work, and it doesn’t have to be lengthy, or boring. It just involves giving yourself some time to work out what kind of vintage vibe trends you like the most. Generally, the best way to do this is to have a look at a decade in turn, and the styles that characterise each one. Most people begin with 1920, but you can start before that if you think that you would be more attuned to earlier fashion. Note down the main style components that make up each period, take a look at pictures from the time, and see who the style icons were for each decade. In order to do this, you can of course, just use google, but there are also books out there that break down all the elements of each look for you, which is a lot easier. Examples of these are “Style Me Vintage”, an eye-catching hardback which also details hair and makeup as well as clothing trends from the 1920s onwards, and the glossy “Vintage Fashion Sourcebook” which details each look from 1900 onwards; both of which you can get on Amazon.
2. These are a few of my favourite things…
As we all know from The Sound of Music, you don’t feel so bad when you’re surrounded by the things you like, so, pick out the decades whose fashion trends you like best. You can pick as many as you want, but you should start with three max, and go back and pick others if you like, rather than overwhelming yourself with too much information straight away. Once you’ve done that, make a list of all the particular elements you like from each of your three chosen time periods. For example, if you picked the 1950s you might list: Bright floral patterns, Cat’s eye sunglasses and Pearls; for the ’60s: Mary Jane shoes, Baby doll mini dresses, and Chunky bangles, or for the 90s: Denim, Turtle necks, and Oversized jumpers. Then, combine these lists together, to make one big list of all your favourite items. You can add to this final list by having a look back at the icons of your favourite eras too. What do you like about their style choices? Which look of theirs is your favourite? Do you prefer the Marilyn Monroe halter-dress look, or the Marilyn Monroe pencil skirt and jumper look?
3. Let’s go shopping!
Ok, so for many people this will be the best bit: the actual buying of the components that will make up your new look, but if you’re like me and the endless changing of clothes tires you out, this step will work just as well online. Using the list you made from your research in the previous step, have a look around. This task isn’t time-limited, so you don’t have to grab everything all at once. Just slowly check off your list depending on what you can afford. Less specific items, like turtle necks, oversized jumpers and floral patterns, you’ll be able to find in almost any store, so for those, you can pick out the clothes from your favourite brands that match your list. For more specific requirements, for example, if you’ve got “dropped waist dress”, or “jewel-tone velvet top” (a-la-50s) on there, you won’t just be able to wander into any store and get them, so remember to search where you can buy these from more carefully. As you’re just shopping for looks, and vintage-inspired styles, you are under no obligation to find the real deal, so divide your time between normal retail stores and vintage/retro/charity shops, as you see fit. If you want your look to be more modern overall, you can stick to your classic chain stores, whereas if you’re wanting to be a little more authentic, pick up some statement pieces from a vintage boutique.
4. You are your own stylist
This step is your chance to take on everyone’s dream role of being the Barbie closet (don’t bother lying, we all wanted one), and start to create outfits out of your individual items. This is the time for mixing and matching, so although you can match the items on your list with each other, you can also match items on your list with clothes you already have, or just normal, non-vintage inspired purchases. For example, you could match that jewel-tone velvet top with a denim skirt, wear your peter-pan collar jumper with jeans, or pair your 60’s babydoll dress with trainers. If you’re more unsure trying out a Vintage vibe look, the best thing to do is outweigh the vintage-to-modern ratio so that the vintage element is an addition rather than the main part of the outfit, but this all depends on how confident you feel.
5. Don’t forget the accessories!
As mentioned in Step 2, items such as sunglasses, jewellery and hair accessories are likely to be key components on your list, and are a great way to add a vintage vibe to your outfit if you’re not in the mood to go full on retro. Not only this, but these types of accessories are just the sort of thing you can buy in independent vintage shops that are authentic, but not too flashy. Cute 90s hair clips, for example, give you a distinctly unique vibe, without drawing too much attention to your look. It’s also fun to give yourself a vintage makeover- try out weird and wacky hair and makeup styles, and you might find looks that suit you really well. In fact, many hair and makeup trends that are popular today are vintage-inspired: winged eyeliner, for example, would probably be nowhere near as popular if it hadn’t been for Audrey Hepburn and Twiggy. Of course, wearable vintage items are not the only accessories that you can get: many people often try out a vintage look in their home, channeling their quirky tastes through retro posters, record players, and books.
6. Inspire yourself
These steps though, are just a starting point. The most important part about exploring a new style is that you enjoy trying out something different, and that you feel comfortable in yourself, so even if you never wear more than one vintage-inspired item or accessory at a time, that’s totally fine. Frequently though, once people start wearing vintage, they can’t stop. Use these steps as a starting point to build the confidence to wear what you want to, no matter who sees, even if that ends up being a floor-length authentic 30’s evening gown. Fashion is meant to be a way of expressing yourself and your individuality, and liking a style that is perhaps more quirky and unique than the general modern trend should never stop you from doing that!