I think a lot of people shy away from vintage because they don’t want to risk looking like they’re in costume or are on the way to a fancy dress party. Don’t get me wrong, I love a full-on vintage look (I wrote a post about my favourite vintage-style bloggers and couldn’t be more of a Dita Von Teese fan if I tried) – if it suits your personality and your lifestyle, then I say you should absolutely go for it 100%.
If you’re more like me, however, and love vintage but don’t want to do the stepped-out-of-a-time-machine look, I think there’s a simple rule to wearing and styling vintage to make it look modern and less ‘costumey’:
IF YOU’RE WEARING A VINTAGE PIECE FROM ONE DECADE, ENSURE THE REST OF YOUR OUTFIT – INCLUDING HAIRSTYLE – REFLECTS AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT DECADE.
For example, if you’re wearing a 1970s shirt with a bold pattern and long collars, don’t wear your hair long and straight with a centre parting, or with wide, flared jeans, or with knee-high platform boots. In contrast, DO go for the long straight hair with a 1950s prom dress. That hairstyle is so unlike how they wore their hair in the 50s that you’ll avoid the full-on vintage look altogether. I’ve put together a collection of some of my favourite outfits where I’ve mixed and matched vintage and modern to give you an idea of how I’ve tried to avoid that costumey look.
Let me know what you think, and also: Are you a vintage fan? Do you own any vintage pieces that you just don’t know how to style? Let me know in the comments!
1. 1950s silk shirt
Styled with a white blazer and leopard print skinnies (original post)
Although this 50s shirt was a very bold pattern (and a very typical print of that decade), I didn’t shy away from some pattern mixing but went for what will probably become ‘the’ print of this decade – leopard print – in skinny jeans. I could have gone for cropped Capri pants and flats, but that would have made it very 1950s/Grace Kelly all over. I was purposely trying to make it look as non-vintage as possible.
2. 1970s/80s polka dot dress
Neck refashioned. Styled with contrasting bold belt and matching camisole (original post)
This is probably my favourite vintage dress. I changed the neckline to make it more modern because where it crosses over (if you look closely you’ll see it’s a wrapover style), it came right up to the neck and made it very matronly. I simply unbuttoned the two sides and tucked them under to create a v-neck which straight away made it look less 80s. By adding a bold contrasting belt and matching camisole it doesn’t actually look vintage (meaning old fashioned) at all.
3. 1980s floral dress
Styled with a ruffled cardigan and white trilby (original post)
Another dress, but this time a floral one that I wore with a very modern ruffled cardigan. The summery white trilby is another piece that’s not very 80s either – and the same goes for my hair which is what (like the leopard print) is going to become typical of this decade.
4. 1960s tapestry coat
Styled with grey skinnies and bold brogues (original post)
I was loaned this stunning coat to wear to LFW, and when a piece is this bold you don’t need much else. Again, skinnies are the perfect bottoms to contrast with vintage tops, and boldly coloured brogues won’t add to the 60s look. I know my hair is a little on the 60s side with the wide hairband, but I think I got away with it.
5. 1980s floral blouse
Styled with collar tips and loose peg leg trousers (original post)
I like adding statement jewellery to vintage shirts and blouses, and simple pearl collar tips were a nice addition to this (much-worn) favourite blouse of mine. The loose trousers and strappy sandals were the modern contrasts and stopped the blouse going into frump territory.
6. 1980s pleated nautical print skirt
Styled with layered tanks and tennis shoes (original post)
I’ve worn this vintage pleated skirt so many times, and I’m surprised I’ve found so many ways to style it. For this outfit I added a sporty element – layered tanks and white tennis shoes – to what is essentially a very ladylike piece… is there anything more ladylike or feminine than a pleated midi skirt??
7. 1970s landscape print shirt
Styled with a statement necklace, trench coat and plain black skinnies (original post)
My first-ever London Fashion Week outfit…! I was determined to wear vintage so the 1970s shirt with cheesy landscape print and massively long collars was my number one choice. Again, skinnies are the perfect contrast to a 70s shirt, and by the time I’d added a statement necklace, a trench coat (timeless and of no decade, by the way) and curled my hair, the screaming 70s-ness of it had long subsided.
8. 1940s wrapover robe
Refashioned into a dress and styled with a deep belt and white skinnies (original post)
The oldest vintage piece I’ve ever worn, this was actually a long 1940s wrapover robe with long sleeves, not a dress, that was on loan to me. I styled it as if I had shortened it, which is what I would have done had it been mine to keep. Unless you’ve got a true designer piece worth thousands I don’t think you need to hesitate to alter vintage clothes, so make them suit you with alterations. The pattern is so gorgeous and so 1940s, but a deep belt with massive buckles and a chunky necklace make it look anything but. The modern dress-over-trousers look that I’m so fond of worked really well here. It’s so far from a vintage look but the fact that it’s actually a 60 year-old robe makes it all the more special.
9. 1970s patchwork knitting bag
Styled with light wash denim and chinos (original post)
If you’re still not convinced about wearing a vintage clothes, why not dip your toe in the water and go for a vintage accessory instead? They don’t have to be expensive – this vintage knitting bag cost me all of about £10 from eBay – but it’s so reminiscent of my childhood that I had to have it. The light wash denim jacket with chinos and strappy wedges were far removed from the boho look anything patchwork conjures up in my mind, but the gingham shirt is a subtle tie-in.
P.S. Like this post? You might also enjoy my Top Tips for Buying Vintage on eBay!
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