Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Creating Vintage Styles With Modern Clothing

This is me on my front porch on Sunday afternoon. I am about to head off to run errands. I am wearing a red cotton and lace camisole from Charlotte Russe, a white cardigan from Target, a black belt from Urban Outfitters, a black skirt from Heartbreaker Fashion, and gold leather wedges from Re-Mix Vintage Shoes. The only real vintage items I have on are my sunglasses and the red handbag I am carrying. Everything else was bought from modern stores and/or is repro.

When it comes to wearing vintage looks, I try to buy the real thing but I will also buy contemporary pieces as well. Sometimes a girl has to improvise!

So, I have created a guide that can help build your vintage wardrobe with modern clothing. I have comprised these tips/suggestions based on my personal experience.

1. Cardigans. When looking for vintage-style cardigans, try look for ones with shorter hems. When wearing 40s house dresses or 50s circle skirts, the shorter hem will compliment the waist line and not drape over it, causing a tent effect. I have found several cardigans online and in-store at J. Crew, Forever 21, Charlotte Russe, Target, and Express. Also, try to buy simple designs in solid colors. I think white, black, red, navy, cream, blue, and pink are good colors for any girls' collection. In warmer months, short-sleeve, elbow-length, and 3/4 sleeved styles are great.

I have also found print cardigans that look very vintage! For example, I was in Forever 21 a couple months ago and I saw a short-sleeved, white cardigan with small black polka dots. I didn't get but now I know I should have! I also have seen cream-colored cardigans with small floral prints as well as leopard print styles. Dainty florals and leopard prints go great with black dresses and skirts.

If the buttons look cheap or need a vintage touch, you can go to most fabric stores and find tons of cute retro-looking styles. Simply take the current buttons off and replace with the vintage-esque ones. You can also "vintage up" any cardigan with retro brooches and pins.

2. Camisoles. Camisoles are always a girl's must have! Look for cotton/lycra blends in solilds. When buying camisoles I always suggest buying ones made with a lyrca/cotton blend because solid cotton can lose its shape throughout the day and become baggy. Lyrca will not only stretch to fit you comfortably, it will keep its shape!

If you like polka dots, try finding a camisole with this print too. Polka dots are always in vogue and are totally vintage! (Leopard and zebra are usually great prints too. Just use your judgement since not all prints are pretty!) Pair a polka dot camisole under a bright-colored, solid cardigan with a black pencil skirt. Now, just add some lucite bangles, and/or a chunky retro necklace, and some wedge shoes, and you are out the door in no time (an in total vintage style)!

3. Pencil skirts. They are always chic! Pencil skirts became very popular during the late 40s and early 50s. I have seen pencil styles everywhere from Target, Ann Taylor Loft, Banana Republic, to Forever 21. Skirts in black, red, and plaid are very vintage. EC Star makes really cute plaid pencil skirts! Pair pencil skirts with white blouses, cardigans, turtlenecks, etc.

Some girls think pencil skirts are not flattering. I have found that if a skirt does not fit, take it to a tailor. I have a small waist and a round bum so I usually need to take pencil skirts and trousers to my local dry cleaners for alterations. For pencil skirts, my tailor will take it in the waist and maybe in at the hips a little bit and presto, I have a skirt that skims my curves and flatters my figure. A general rule of thumb is to buy skirt that fits and flatters, not one that squeezes and distorts! Also, a skirt should never be too big either. Baggy clothing is just as bad as too tight clothing!

4. Pants. Capri pants in black, red, or most bright colors, dark-rinse denim jeans (that you can roll), high-waisted pants with wide legs (black crepe is best due to its drape), short shorts with high waists (these are very popular this season), bermuda shorts in cotton/lycra blends and in colors like black, red, or navy (bermudas are great for those girls who feel short shorts show too much (like me!), and skinny cigarette pants in most solids. Just like for skirts, pants usually require good tailoring to ensure a flattering fit.

5. Blouses. Choose blouses with classic lines and button down styles. Also, avoid pockets! I have no idea why most designers insist on putting pockets on women's shirts and blouses! Most of us do not use pockets! However, if you already have a a blouse or button down shirt that has a pocket (or two), you can wear a cardigan over it (the cardigan's sleeve length should be longer than the shirt's sleeve underneath!). Chiffon, cotton, and rayon are all lovely fabrics. In the summer time, cute halter styles (check out Heartbreaker Fashion) go wonderful with everything from pencil skirts, capri pants, rolled jeans, to solid-color circle skirts. If you have a larger bust, make sure the halter can accommodate a strapless bra.

6. Prints. As I mentioned a few times already, prints in leopard, floral, and polka dot are all great for creating vintage looks. Checker, houndstooth, gingham, tweed, and plaid are all vintage-style prints that would compliment any vintage girls' closet! Moreover, prints are wonderful for circle skirts, a-line skirts, sun dresses, shirtdresses, jackets, blouses, and coats.

5.Accessories. Wide belts, vibrant-colored lucite bangles, lucite bracelets and earrings, cherry- themed jewelry, fruit-themed jewelry, pearl necklaces, wedge shoes, cat eye sunglasses, and chiffon scarves are good items to add vintage touches to any look. You an find most of these accessories in Macy's, Target, Forever 21, Betsey Johnson, Charlotte Russe, Claire's, and online at Etsy and eBay. If you want the real vintage deal, most costume jewelry from the 50s and 60s I have found on Etsy and at vintage stores is affordable.

With some determination and imagination, you can find vintage styles most anywhere. And whether you are a rich lady or hot mamacita on a budget (like me, sans the hot part!), you will be successful in building your vintage wardrobe.


  1. Great tips - I just wish we had some of your stores in the UK too!

  2. Thanks for the comment, Dolly Cool Clare! I remember going to Miss Selfridge with my cousins when I was visited London I989. I went to their website today and saw this little cardie:

    I like it! I would pair it with dark rinse jeans rolled up and also a pair of red wedges!

  3. I personally like to mix it up- I often wearing vintage and modern mixed in- but keeping a vintage aesthetic. With work I will wear a modern scoop tee with a vintage skirt, modern ballet flats and remix (I keep my vintage shoes for going out or special occasions), modern bolero cardigans and sweaters, 40s style wide cut pants etc. That way you can stick to your style without feeling like a slave to vintage or feeling too bland in a completely modern look.

  4. Great thoughts and fashion ideas, phenolicfanatic! I have been on the hunt for a great pair of 40s-looking, high-waisted, wide leg black pants. I would love to wear them with everything from cardigans to scoop neck tees.