The dream to dress vintage and rock retro looks is difficult to attain with a dwindling bank account. It’s hard to dress the way you want to when your aesthetic goals are Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn, but your checking balance is fit for Ramen and generic brand sodas. For all my ladies feeling the struggle, have no fear! Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks for getting that vintage-inspired look without going broke!
Thrift stores are a girl’s best friend when it comes to trying to dress vintage (cue Macklemore). Thrift stores are constantly rotating their clothing options as people continue to donate. So even if you come out empty one week, the next week may be a goldmine of affordable vintage choices. Never be afraid of just searching through the racks – not every shopping experience has to be a winner. You never know when you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for! I also use thrift stores as a way of finding vintage home goods – $2 for retro Coke glasses? Yes, please!
Much like thrift stores, yard sales and estate sales are a great way to dress vintage on a budget. Yard sales are constantly popping up somewhere (my neighbors have a yard sale seemingly every other month), so you’ll never run out of options. Plus, because they are independent of large department stores or thrift stores, you’ll be able to barter prices if you’re trying to stick to a lower budget. Here’s where you do a little vintage-inspired sleuthing and check your local newspapers or online neighborhood groups to see who is advertising their yard sales.
There is no better way to cheaply dress vintage than to burrow deeper into your own family’s closets. Your grandma would have lived through some of the decades that you’re trying to recreate in your outfits, and we all know that there’s a chest somewhere where she’s stored all her personal memorabilia. Not only will asking to borrow some of her vintage clothes make you feel a closer connection to your family, but it will also allow you to learn more about your grandma’s history and the backstory behind the clothes you are wearing.
Sometimes going out to search out used clothes from thrift stores and yard sales isn’t always something you have time for when trying to dress vintage. The rise in resell apps, like OfferUp, Poshmark, and Facebook Marketplace means that you can shop secondhand from the comfort of your home. Plus, you can follow different sellers and set up notifications for when they upload new items (things you can’t do at physical yard sales). While we might have to play added shipping costs, it’s a sacrifice we are willing to make to shop in our PJs.
Amazon’s extensive selection of sellers is no laughing matter when it’s coming to someone who wants to dress vintage. While Etsy can sometimes get pretty expensive, Amazon offers a pretty amazing selection of vintage clothing at much cheaper prices (plus, AmazonPrime free shipping is a godsend). And they really do offer cute options – I’ve found everything from’20s flapper dresses to ’50s inspired pinup bathing suits. And, again, shopping from home is such a blessing, it’s hard not to take advantage of it.
If you have a department store you really like, or an online website with an amazing selection to help you dress vintage, don’t fret – there are still ways to stay within budget while shopping at your favorite stores. Clearance sections are advertised on almost every online website I’ve ever shopped on, and stores always have a dedicated section for clothes that have gone on sale. I usually shop sales and clearance sections first, but if there’s a specific item I want, I’m not above playing the waiting game. It’s dangerous and sometimes disappointing (especially if the item sells out before it goes on clearance), but there are many instances where my persistence has paid off and I’ve gotten my favorite styles at half the price.
Thrift stores are a great advantage for shopping authentic vintage, but discount stores are also a great tool in your belt when trying to dress vintage. Stores like Ross Dress For Less and T.J. Maxx offer a lot of your favorite styles at half the price. Because they buy overstocked goods that return to manufacturers from big-name retail stores, discount stores pay a fraction of the original price and are thus able to sell their clothes at half the normal cost. The clothes they sell are still name brand and high-end goods, so sometimes you can find amazing vintage clothes for way less than you’d pay at a traditional retail store.
Obviously, this isn’t optional for everyone–not everyone who wants to dress vintage has been gifted with sewing, embroidery, or crocheting talent. But if you are gifted with these inspiring practical skills, making your own vintage clothes is not outside of your reach. Shops like JOANN and Hobby Lobby have a wide selection of vintage patterns and interesting fabrics, so you can not only make your own vintage clothes on a budget, you can also make EXACTLY what you want–no need to sacrifice style or design.
Sometimes entire retro outfits just aren’t within your budget when you’re just starting to dress vintage, and that’s totally okay. There’s nothing wrong with building a vintage closet slowly. A great way to get a vintage-inspired look without stressing about money is to collect low-priced retro accessories. Again, thrift stores, yard sales, and your grandma’s closet are a great place to start with these. I’ve collected countless pairs of vintage earrings, necklaces, and hair accessories for next to nothing over the years, and just by adding these little touches to simple outfits, I’m able to achieve a vintage look without paying the big bucks.
Hair and makeup are a girl’s secondary best friend when trying to dress vintage (right after thrift stores). It costs next to nothing to do a vintage-inspired hair and makeup – most of the time, you already have the necessary supplies no hand. All you need is a little practice and you’ll be able to pull off a ’20s, ’50s, or ’70s inspired look without having to buy any clothes at all. Pair this look with a simple outfit, and you’ll look just as retro as you would if you were wearing a full fit.
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