I receive emails, tweets and Facebook messages almost every day from people asking for my advice on how to wear vintage, or where to shop for vintage clothes in their area. So, I thought I’d share a few vintage tips with everyone here on the blog. Because I am so passionate about vintage fashion, it was both easy and difficult for me to write this blog post, simply because I could carry on and on and on.
I hope this helps!
The term “vintage” has become very popular in recent times but how do we define vintage? Something old? Antique? Second hand? It can be all of those because vintage means different things to different people. To some it means Aunt Matilda’s mothball laden overcoats or some dusty old items of furniture. To others it’s a salute to the past with its classic fashion and décor. I think am firmly in the latter camp. Vintage fashion means embracing the essence of bygone fashion and reworking it into a modern context – mixing modern with vintage.
Audrey Hepburn, Françoise Hardy
Christian Dior in 1948, Twiggy
Before I start my quest to convert you all to avid vintage lovers, I’d like to ask you a question: When you think of “vintage”, who or what comes to mind? I asked myself this many years ago too, before I started Vintage Lifestyle magazine. Audrey Hepburn, Françoise Hardy, Twiggy and Dior circa 1948 came to mind. I thought of my grandmother’s sense of style, my mother’s clothing from the 80s and her enormous collection of vinyl’s. I thought of the old school music I grew up with and still enjoy listening to: Pink Floyd, Blondie, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles…to name a few! I thought of the old films I’ve probably watched 100 times: Pretty Woman, Grease, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins. After I answered my own question, I literally went and turned my mother’s cupboard inside out (sorry mom). I found a beautifully tailored navy blue suit from the 80s (that fits me perfectly), a set of pearl earrings, a pair of grey clip-on earrings that belonged to my grandmother, leather belts, black fitted blazers…the list is endless! When my grandmother heard of my new vintage obsession she was so kind as to bring suitcases full of priceless vintage garments that I will treasure forever.
After I released the very first issue of Vintage Lifestyle magazine in December 2010, the vintage scene in Cape Town became so clear to me. I went to vintage inspired coffee shops, vintage markets, vintage and second hand stores. I noticed the old buildings in the CBD and admired somebody wearing vintage on the streets. I became appreciative of the vintage era and the pioneers of the time. Whether that be photographers, beauty icons or musicians. It’s now 2013, and I can say that I am completely and utterly in love with vintage.
The iconic Chanel dress suit, Coco Chanel herself
Grace Kelly, Brigitte Bardot, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn
Jean Shrimpton photographed by David Bailey in 1961
We all have that icon from the vintage era that we look up to for fashion inspiration (I hope). Like Marilyn Monroe in her white pleated dress, Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Coco Chanel and her iconic Chanel dress suit or Jean Shrimpton in her 60s mini dress. Many celebrities today wear vintage too. Like Drew Barrymore, Coco Rocha, Nicole Richie, Kelly Osbourne, Ulyana Sergeenko and Alexa Chung. I often see vintage inspired trends on the catwalks today – it’s always interesting to see how fashion designers borrow from the past.
Grace Kelly in vintage Dior, Dior spring/summer 2013
Françoise Hardy wearing Paco Rabanne in 1968, Paco Rabanne autumn/winter 2013
Saint Laurent photographed by Helmut Newton in 1966, Saint Laurent spring/summer 2013
I’m hoping that whoever reads this has a local thrift store or vintage market in their area. Here you might find that vintage gem that you’ve always been looking for, and at a fraction of the price. Sometimes I actually scream “AAAAAW YEAH!” when I find something really cool. No, I really do. I think that’s what appeals to most ladies about vintage or second hand clothing – it’s affordable and one of a kind.
Some of my tips to thrifting:
- Always check the fabric for holes and stains. Unless it’s really worth sewing up or bleaching (if it’s white), don’t buy it.
- Check the label. This gives you an indication of what it’s worth and whether the selling price is reasonable. If it’s Gucci, you’re going to pay a bit more.
- TRY THE ITEM ON! I’ve made the mistake before of not trying the item on and then going home and drowning in it.
- If you’re new to vintage, try and mix one vintage item with modern items. For example; wear your new shift dress with your vintage clutch bag.
- I recommend hand washing most vintage items, especially lace. Older fabrics may be damaged in very hot water.
- Have fun! Thrifting can soon become a great hobby of yours.
Please keep this in mind: Items such as a pair of black pants, a crisp white shirt, a leather jacket, a pair of jeans, or a black hat are considered classic, not vintage inspired, as they’re more associated with modern trends.
Some of my top vintage items that I think every girl should own:
Clockwise from top left: Witchery pleated mini skirt, Burberry trench coat, Stella McCartney sunglasses, Manhattan fresh water pearl earrings, LBD from Prada, Pumps from Christian Louboutin, Victoria Beckham aviators, Valentino lace dress, Chanel clip-on earrings, Chanel pearl choker, McQ Alexander McQueen Iris dress, Manolo Blahnik Mary Jane shoes, Pleated skirt from Marc by Marc Jacobs, Mint embroidered dress by Collette Dinningan.
(Some of my tips might seem a bit obvious, but when it comes to vintage, trust me, it works.)
The high-waisted skirt.
High-waisted skirts look best with a well-fitted blouse or a jersey and a statement waist belt. Popular vintage colours at the moment are ivory white, mint green, dusty pink and maroon. Good news is is that they work well for the fuller figure too, and if worn in a darker shade, such as black or navy blue, it will compliment the shape in more ways than one. YAY.
The 50s-style dress.
Floral print never seems to go out of fashion. One could put together images of people wearing floral from every decade. For the vintage look however, it has to be the 50s style floral dress. Conservative top, a cinched waist and a wide knee-length skirt (the bigger the skirt, the better!). Remember when wearing floral not to overdo it. My advice would be to wear one floral item at a time and to refrain from mixing florals with other patterns such as stripes and polka dots. It’s best to pair your dress with a cardigan for those chilly evenings out.
The LBD or “Little Black Dress”.
My absolute favourite item of clothing. The origins of this dress date back to 1920s designs of Coco Chanel. I’m sure you all know by now that a LBD is an essential to have. If you’re standing in front of your cupboard one day and you have absolutely no clue of what to wear, take out your LBD, put on some heels and you’re good to go. What’s also great about wearing a plain black dress is that you have the option of accessorizing however you like, and with whatever colour you like. The classic LBD is a look that works for many women time and time again. For those chilly evenings out, pair your LBD with a classic beige trench coat.
Some of the greatest vintage-style sunglasses have to be wayfarers, aviators, Jackie O’s and cat’s eye. You might have thought that these styles are modern, but fashions have a way of resurfacing. Remember Audrey Hepburn’s wayfarer style sunglasses in Breakfast at Tiffany’s? Tom Cruise’s aviator sunglasses in Top Gun? (I totally have that “Highway to the DANGER ZONE” song from Top Gun stuck in my head right now.) Jackie Onassis wearing her signature oversized, round sunglasses (this style was named after her), and the cat’s eye sunglasses worn by every housewife in the 50s and 60s?
I have a pair of clip-on earrings that are very dear to me. They belonged to my grandmother and anyone who knows me knows that I wear them all the time. What I love about them is that they compliment any outfit. If you can’t get hold of your grandmother’s vintage clip-on’s, don’t worry too much as many of the vintage stores and markets still sell them. If you want to go for a more classic style, try vintage pearl earrings with a matching necklace.
Mary Jane style shoes or classic round pumps.
Shoes have a way of rounding off a look. When it comes to vintage, a pair of Mary Jane’s or classic round pumps will do just that. My advice would be to start off with a neutral colour, such as tan, black, navy blue or ivory white. This is to ensure that they’ll match with all your outfits and then, when you’re ready, perhaps start experimenting with bold colours and prints.
The above is more aimed toward those who are new to vintage. Remember, when it comes to wearing vintage in general (even if it’s not the items above), keep it simple and understated (unless your personal style is daring).
Personally, when it comes to hair and make-up, I always keep it simple. Delicate, wavy hair, with a winged liner on the eyes and a nude lip. Or, all my hair pulled back into a sleek bun with soft eyes and dark red lips. I’m also a huge fan of plaits or braids as they tend to soften a look quite nicely.
Clockwise from top left: Grace: A Memoir, Coco Before Chanel, Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon, Christian Dior: The Biography, Françoise Hardy, Grace Kelly Style, Audrey Hepburn in Charade
If you want to watch some vintage movies or documentaries, I recommend:
Funny Face, Sabrina, Charade, My Fair Lady, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Roman Holiday – all starring Audrey Hepburn. Coco Before Chanel, The Sound Of Music, High Society, Mary Poppins, Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel,Bill Cunningham New York.
If you want to listen to some vintage music, I recommend:
Led Zeppelin, Depeche Mode, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Blondie, Françoise Hardy, David Bowie, Roxette, Black Sabbath, Madonna (in the 80s), The Beatles.
For vintage inspired books, I recommend:
Christian Dior: The Biography, Grace Kelly Style, Grace: A Memoir
Jane Sews, Lenni Vintage
Some vintage stores I adore:
Vintage Lover, Guard The Vintage, Lehza Vintage, It’s Mine Now, Vintage Junkies
Check out Vintage Lifestyle’s new directory where we list shops from all over the world. I also love Oxfam stores in the UK, (I found a beautiful Suzy Smith bag for £4, and bow ties for £1 each.), Lenni Vintage, ModCloth, and Etsy has a great community of vintage sellers.
Vintage inspired stores I adore:
Jane Sews, Lazuli, Bow Peep
Some great markets in South Africa (in season):
City Bowl Fashion Market
I Heart Market
Vintage Wednesdays Market
Some vintage inspired blogs that I love:
Riya Bella Vintage
Gary Pepper Vintage
Vintage Lifestyle (duh) – South Africa’s first online vintage magazine
Above all, remember that vintage is fun. Vintage is a treasure hunt. Vintage is past meets present. Vintage is versatile, dynamic and rewarding for the lover of fashion. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Good hunting…
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