Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Who Says "You Cannot Wear Vintage From Head to Toe?" My Thoughts

This is me from earlier today. I am wearing vintage clothing at work and my hair is in rolls. This is me everyday without fail. Whether I am at the office, hanging out at home, out for cocktails, or going to bed. I wear vintage. Period.

The other day, the lovely Laura of Betty2ToneVintage blog asked me about thrift and vintage shops here in the DC area. I did some research and found a few websites detailing shops' locations, shop reviews, and an article listing five shops along with a vintage clothing "do and don't" list. Here is a link to the article:

Here is a 'copy and paste' of said list:

Vintage Shopping Do’s and Don’ts
DO check the stitching of a top, dress, pant, etc. before purchasing if it looks cheap-y, do not purchase it (unless it is ridiculously cheap and you plan on wearing it twice).
DO expect that some pieces will need to be tailored. Find a tailor you trust ASAP. (Trust us, all clothes look better after they’ve been fitted to you).
DO take a risk on buying vintage pieces; you are not looking for what everyone is buying at J Crew.
DON’T, and this is a big don’t, wear vintage from head to toe. Best rule to live by when debating on adding vintage to your outfit, no more then two pieces (pants and top do not count).

Overall, this is a good list with good advice. However, I admit that the last "don't" is a bit bothersome. What is wrong with wearing vintage "from head to toe?" 

I agree that not all vintage clothing looks good. Some examples of 'bad' vintage are certain polyester fabrics, 70s butterfly collars,  80s shoulder pads, corduroy bell bottoms, late 60s styles, and cat suits. Vintage or contemporary, there will always be a difference between flattering and stylish and ill-fitting and down right ugly.

Nevertheless, I know that many of us vintage bloggers wear vintage "from head to toe" while many wear vintage mixed with modern pieces. There really is no wrong answer when it comes to personal style. If a look suits you, wear it. Who  cares if it's all vintage or not?

I have never been one to worship fashion and/or follow the trends. Sometimes when I am in my salon getting my hair done, I will flip through Vogue, Glamour, InStyle, Harper's, or Allure. These publications will often feature their "Must Have" list, a "Do Don't" article, or a "What's In and What's Out" piece. Do I really care of if the editors of InStyle say gladiator sandals out and jeweled flat sandals are in? No. Therefore, I am not concerned if a "DC fashionista" deems my pure vintage look as a 'fashion faux pas.'

The main reason for "do don't" lists is marketing. If editors and fashion houses decide what's in, what's out, or what's a 'no no,' they make money. The fashion house creates the must-have style, they pay the magazine for advertising, and the editors and the fashion house make money. Create a false demand for a trend, lay back, and let the fashion-obsessed masses run to their local mall or Neiman or Saks to buy the latest thing so they can be an "in."

As for the 'no all vintage rule,' I am not sure why some think wearing all vintage is a bad idea.  Who decided this? Now, like I said, I totally understand the classic rules regarding fit, tailoring, dressing for your figure, matching colors, complimentary colors, accessorizing, not mixing stripes and plaids, and making sure your clothes are in good condition. But when it comes to applying the whole "do and don't" mantra to style, that is where I refuse to yield.

Vintage clothing flatters my figure best. Modern skirts, jeans, and pants have waist-lines that are too low. Due to my small waist and round hips, lower waist anything makes me look dumpy and bottom-heavy. In addition, contemporary cardigans are cut longer to match lower waist lines. Whenever I pair a modern-made cardigan with a 50s shirtwaist dress, the bottom edge of the cardigan hits the top of my bum and as a result, it covers my waist like a tent! Moreover, the cardigan makes me look shapeless and lumpy from behind. So, I wear vintage-made cardigans that are shorter in length that slim my waist and complement my shape.

I could give several examples why I prefer vintage over contemporary fashion I do not want to bore you! l also do not want to distract myself from my argument! Nevertheless, I wear vintage simply because I like it and because it looks good on my body. If a gal wants to wear something she likes that looks good on her, then why not wear it?

So, ladies, what do you think? I would love, I mean really love to hear your thoughts on this one!


  1. Just my 2 cents...

    I think that list of do's and dont's are meant for people who are following the vintage trend right now and not for people who live a vintage lifestyle in all areas of their lives.

    The trend isn't to go overboard and be authentic or accurate with vintage outfits but rather to combine the past with the modern to create a fresh look. Okay, this is just what I think anyway! hahahaha


  2. MaryDeluxe,

    You made some very astute observations! The idea of the list being targeted at trend followers makes sense. I, for one, tend to ignore lists so someone like me is not the intended audience.

    Here is an interesting story: when I was in a vintage boutique in NYC with my sister about 4 years ago, the older shop owner looked at me and said, "You look lovely but you really shouldn't be wearing all vintage. You need to break it up. You look like a period movie extra. The vintage is wearing you, consuming you."

    I did not know what to say. I was stunned.

  3. I think Mary hit he nail on the head! Whoever wrote the article is the kind of girl that follows trends and allows other people's opinions to dictate her "personal style". I totally agree with everything that you said. If you want to wear vintage from head to toe, go for it- but know how to dress your body type, how to accessorize properly and so on. I always tell others (and myself) "just because it's vintage doesn't mean that it's okay!" If it's badly damaged, doesn't fit well or is just plain hideous, it won't make a positive fashion statement. Oh, and kudos to you for wearing head to toe vintage all the time. I generally do but I still can't give up my pajama pants at bedtime. :)

  4. Yep Mary is right. It's for the trend followers! I've heard that numerous times before when vintage is "in" and I'm watching a show. They always say Never ever wear vintage head to toe or you'll look like you're in a costume. Just ignore them :)

  5. I think the suggestion to limit the amount of vintage you wear is to avoid looking 'costumy' or like you experienced, being told you look like a period movie extra! Obviously for those of us who love the look that might actually be a compliment, haha, but most people dabbling in vintage dressing probably want to avoid that. That said, a lot of modern clothing at the moment is inspired by vintage fashions anyway, so that rule is probably not the best method to avoid looking costume-y - perhaps they should have suggested breaking it up with an obviously modern piece.

  6. I, too, don't want to be a slave to fashion. I'd rather be a 'pusher' of wearing what looks good and feels good on my body.

  7. " "You look lovely but you really shouldn't be wearing all vintage. You need to break it up. You look like a period movie extra. The vintage is wearing you, consuming you." "

    Wow, that was really rude!

  8. Laura,

    I agree. Rude. I was floored! I did not buy anything so I guess it was karmic for her. I mean, if you treat your customers with distain as you look down your nose at them, then you are not going to get business. Especially from me!

  9. Wow I can't believe that shopkeeper said that to you! I too would have been floored, can you get any ruder and did she think this would get her a sale?!!!

    Again I think Mary is right, vintage for fashion I hate at the moment, suddenly fashionista types are telling people who've been wearing this stuff for 20 years how to wear it, cos of course they KNOW ;o)

  10. Brittany,

    I have an amazing pair of deadstock 50s cotton plisse atomic-print pjs that are super cozy! However, when I am sick, I will keep the house coats and nylon nighties in the drawer and I will instead wear my college sweatshirt, Cure tees, and Gap flannel pj pants!

    Your observations about the fashionista is dead-on! They follow the trends and expect others to follow suit. I think it is good to have a good fit and style, vintage or not. The only time I ever followed the trends was when I was in school, especially middle school. Oh I just had to have my Reebok high tops, frosted jeans, and Esprit sweatshirts! lol

    I hope you and Rhys are doing well! What a lovely Welsh name! Congratulations! I hope big sister Olivia is enjoying her new sibling!

  11. Trixie,

    I agree totally! I have also heard that strong red lips and tattoos are out but I that will never stop me either. I wear red lips daily (even to the gym) and I am proud of my tattoos!

    I think the do's and don'ts lists are ok when it comes to basic style and fit but when they try to tell me those hideous gladiator shoes are in, I just laugh. Besides, why would I want to embrace a fad that makes me look like Spartacus in drag? Blech!

  12. Emma,

    That is so true! I have seen heaps of cardigans and jumpers in places like Forever 21 and Bebe that have a very vintage vibe to them! I have a few modern, vintage-looking pieces that I wear often but if I have a choice, I prefer vintage. I do love a nice cashmere cardigan but most of the modern ones are so long. I sometimes buy the teen sizes because they tend to be shorter.

  13. Hear, hear, Kimberly! I, too, prefer fit and flatter over fad and 'must-have-right-now.' I just love the way a shirtdress with a full skirt makes my waist look smaller and how a 50s wiggle dress hugs my curves!

  14. Fiona,

    Yay! Good to see you back! Hope your computer woes are better!

    Yes, the shop owner was rude for sure. I did not buy a thing. I browsed to make a smoother retreat and after a while, my sister and I left! That lady was well out of order and there was no way I was going to spend a dime after what she said. She probably thought she was giving me sagacious advise but it came across as stroppy and rude!

    I, too, think the recent hipness of vintage is annoying because we all know that in a year or so, it will be yet another passing fad. But those of us who live the vintage life; vintage is a mainstay, despite the "flash in the pan" response to what we wear and have been wearing for ages!

  15. Great post. There should be no rule about wearing 100% vintage either way: if someone dresses well and it suits them, be it totally vintage, a mixture or even well made repro,s o be it.

    I do have a little issue, however, with your own rule that some vintage items ("Some examples of 'bad' vintage are Polyester fabric, 70s butterfly collars, 80s shoulder pads, corduroy bell bottoms, late 60s styles, and cat suits.") look terrible whoever wears them. I'm not sure about where you are, but in London I see examples of the above styled fantastically- and looking so good people are making repro of these items. They aren't for everyone (and perhaps because too many people wore them 'badly' when they were in fashion they got a bad rap) but they can be worn.

    I love late 60s-early 70s for one. I know I can never do catsuits, but high-waist maxis, for sure. I don't like head-to-toe poyester, but I've found some comfy blouses and skirts that mix well into an overall look.

  16. PS. We have the opposite kind of rude shopkeeping in London. I've had one sneer at a friend because she wasn't carbon-copy mid-20th vintage 'accurate'. She's an artist and wears amazing Victorian-gothic-with-a-twist-of-grunge style, HER style- but the shop keeper was disgusted that she wasn't head to toe classic vintage. Surely it should be up to the individual to style themselves, not these rules?

    In London, people get so heard to toe pedantic that I don't mention vintage or retro unless asked for fear of being assessed like an audition!

  17. I agree with Mary and all the other girls. Though like Perdita I do think polyester , 70s butterfly collars, 80s shoulder pads, corduroy bell bottoms, late 60s styles etc have their place - often on me ;) xx

  18. Tara - I think the Vintage Baroness did a post ages ago about how gladiator sandals were actually 'in' during the 30s! If they are not covered in studs and nonsense, just plain tan leather straps, I actually think they can look quite nice >_>

  19. I am very much of the each to their own camp, I wear a mix of modern and vintage but I have no problem with people wearing all vintage or just a vintage brooch on a modern outfit. I hate that people try to put other people down or tell them that their outfit is wrong unless of course it is meant kindly because what they are wearing does them no favours at all. I adore clothes and over the years have followed trends some more successfully than others it has to be said! As I've got older I've found what I like and more importantly what suits me and makes me feel good about myself. I'm not a slave to fashion or vintage, there are some vintage styles I wish I could wear but I can't. I am completely the wrong shape for them and they look awful, so I don't. I don't get that idea of wearing vintage , or current fashion come to that just because it is in, and irrespective of whether you look shockingly bad.

  20. I'll echo the rest and say that Mary hit it right on. That do/don't list was not made for "us".

    I think people should wear the styles that they like and feel comfortable in whether it's trendy mixed with vintage or a total look. I LOVE seeing a person dressed in vintage attire from head to toe I think it's inspirational and wonderful and I envy those folks for looking great and rocking a look with confidence.

    In my book looking like a period movie extra is a good thing. Even if the movie is Carwash, although, honestly, I prefer Where the Boys Are.

    Anyway, you always look great!

  21. I'm in the process of getting as much vintage in my wardrobe as possible so I'm sure one day in the future I will have on vintage from head to toe. I agree that it's probably put in the article as a don't so that people don't look like they're going to a costume ball. Sometimes even pieces I really adore are a bit too Perhaps it's because I wouldn't have a 'ball' or another very specific event to wear them to. But I like having a 80/20 ratio of vintage/modern. I like modern basics like cap sleeve shirts, turtle necks, and some cardigans. I think if you have true style, you can wear anything, be it vintage, retro inspired, or modern head to toe and be just fine.

  22. thanks, sweetie! We're doing very well! I've been trying to find the time to blog more but so far, I just have 5 minutes here and there for quick comments! :) I am shocked about that shopkeeper's comment to you! I wonder, what was -she- wearing that day? LOL! In St Louis, we have a vintage shop, run by a crabby old lady who always makes rude statements too. If you pick up a cute dress just to look at it, she'll say something like "That will never fit you!" Her inventory never changes so we always skip over her shop anyway.

  23. I find it amazing that anyone could be so rude as to make a negative comment to someone else about what they're wearing or how they're wearing it. What nerve! There are things I see on the public at large on a daily basis that I think don't look the best on them but good grief, I don't go around telling them that.

    I agree with everyone else that the article was geared for people who are trying on vintage as a fad, not 'lifers'. I pay no attention to modern fashion and don't give a flying fig how someone thinks I should or shouldn't dress or what's in or out. I didn't start wearing red lipstick because it was in and I'm certainly not going to stop because someone says it's out. In fact I understand and care so little about modern fashion that I wouldn't even know if something was in or out anyway. I doubt I've ever worn anything 'in' my entire life! LOL!

  24. It is actually quite comical that the lady in NY said that to you why you were shopping in a VINTAGE boutique? Er, hello? Do you want any customers lady?! What an idiot!
    People should wear what they want, and feel comfortable in, and "rules" as far as I'm concerned area load of crap anyway! Wear what you like, from whatever period as long as it makes you happy and you feel nice wearing it is all that matters.
    I think you always look immaculate and very well turned out - a lot of people should take a leaf out of your book in how to dress nicely (yes scruffy person in the joggers with your ass crack hanging out, I am talking to you!)

  25. That is so rude, I would taken my Mexi- gun out,lol
    que estaba pensando esa vieja?
    I think people should wear what they want.
    anyways everything is so mainstream now, so we have to look for the more authentic vintage clothes.dont like being compare to Katie Perry style either or Amy winehouse.
    She should be asking you for tips amor.

  26. Perdita,

    I guess I am a little biased against the 70s and 80s because I lived it for real! I remember poly everything, Wallaby shoes, feathered hair, cord pants, 80s shoulders, claw bangs, and stirrup pants. I hated it then and I cannot get past wearing it again! lol

    As for vintage purists, I guess every culture has its snobs. Like I said, there is no wrong answer! Wear what looks good on you and own it. I have repro, vintage, and cardigans from teen stores that have a vintage look.

  27. Penny,

    Thanks for the insight and comments! Like I said to Perdita, I am a little baised against the 70s and 80s because I lived through it. I just can't go back! lol! But if someone can pull off that era, then go for it! I think some 80s styles and 70s maxi dresses look amazing on a tall, slim form. But someone like me who is 5'3 and curvy, I look odd to say the least! lol!

  28. Miss Emmi,

    My sister looks amazing in gladiator sandals. She is taller than me and is very petite (100 pounds). Her legs are longer and when she wears strappy shoes, she looks great! My legs are too short! I look better in heels and wedges. Flip flops (thong sandals) also make my legs too stumpy! It's quite comical!

    Anyway, I had no idea gladiator style shoes were in during the 30s! Wow!

  29. Miss Magpie,

    Your comments are very articulate and well-said! You made some great points! I think the rule is basically wear what you like, just be sure it fits and flatters you!

    As for people looking down on others, that is so true. Vintage snobs do it as do trend setters.

    One time I was in a bathroom in restaurant and two college-aged, fashionista drunk girls began staring at me as I washed my hands. (When I came out of the stall, they were talking and reapplying their makeup) One of them asked, "Why are you dressed like that?" I simply responded, "Because I like it." I added, "Why are you dressed that way? Because YOU like it. So there you go." As I walked out, "One of them shouted, "You look stupid!" I turned around and calmly said, "Well, honey, I can change the way I dress but you cannot change the fact you are a disrespectful bitch." Both of their mouths dropped.

    I felt bad for losing my cool a bit, but I felt like they deserved it.

  30. Great thoughts, Gabriella! And funny too! I agree the list is not for us! For us vintage is not just fashion, it is a way of life! When I was at Viva a couple of weeks ago, I was so happy and inspired to see so many gals and guys in one place! It felt good to see all the different subcultures that make up the sphere of vintage living too! No one judged anyone else. It was just compliments, smiles, and good times. Whether you were a vintage purist, psychobilly, rockabilly, greaser, or gothabilly, everyone was accepting and wonderful! Talk about refreshing!

  31. Retro Natural,

    Isn't building a vintage wardrobe fun? I love the hunt of finding the perfect dress or accessory, especially for a good deal! My home is also a slow vintage transformation process! Even though I want my house to be vintage-tastic all the way right now, I know I need to be patient so I can do it right!

    Anyway, I have a few modern bits from Gap, Old Navy, J Crew, Target, and Forever 21. I am actually wearing a black pencil skirt from Forever 21 today paired with a 40s vintage jacket. Most of my shoes are modern too. Finding the real deal in my size and in decent condition for a reasonable price is hard! Remix Vintage shoes, Miss L Fire, and Betsey Johnson area all must haves for me!

  32. Brittany,

    So good to hear! I cannot wait to see more pictures!

    Sounds like your local vintage lady and the NYC lady went to the same school for crabby retail! lol! I cannot believe that she would say something wouldn't fit! Rude! I, too, would never shop there! In my case, I was going to buy a moonglow set and a bakelite bangle but I browsed and made my exit!

  33. Tasha,

    Great comments! I,too, am so "out of the loop" when it comes to modern trends! I am the same way about most modern/mainstream music too! I have no idea what the top hits are! lol!

    I agree that even though many modern fashions (ie pleated khakis and Crocs) are not flattering, I never say anything. Who am I to judge? I would be so rude if I ever did!

  34. Thank you for the kind words, Clare! You always look immaculate! I thought it was funny as I was sitting on the plane (flying to Vegas for Viva) in my seat and saw a few fellow passengers stare at me like I was weird whilst they had on trackies and rubber thong sandals! lol! I wanted to bust out laughing but I simply smiled and said "hello."

  35. I have been having a similar debate with a friend of mine who just cannot see the appeal of dressing vintage head-to-toe 24/7. I think she thinks I've lost my marbles. At the same time, if I try to wear a pair of modern jeans, I'm told "those look weird on you". I've always preferred vintage looks and I'm more comfortable in them. I am clearly not setting out to be a trendsetter per the latest fashion magazine but rather to have a style that looks good on me.

    You look fabulous in vintage and can wear vintage. It suits you and you enjoy it. To hell with what anyone else says about it.

  36. This was so well put! I agree, with your take on why modern clothes aren't flattering, with their low waistlines. I am built like you, high, small waist, and larger rounded hips, and I very rarely finds anything modern (even in the repro world) that fits correctly or is flattering. Why spend $150 on a repro dress that needs to be altered, when I can spend $25-70 on a fabulous vintage dress that needs little to no alterations?

    I wear vintage from head to toes, except maybe my shoes, on most days. I prefer vintage jewelry and purses. I am complimented every day on my style, so I guess those people aren't reading the "Dos and Don't" lists either!

  37. Style is so much a personal thing, I hate it when people are so judgy about it! I aspire to wear vintage head to toe everyday, but I really don't see that fitting into my lifestyle right now! (I work with chemicals.) As long as it fits and makes you feel good, enjoy your own style!

  38. (Hi new to your blog and not far from DC!!)

    Every time I see a "rule" like that I feel a mad urge to break it just because!
    That said I like head to toe vintage style.

    To me people should always do what they think looks good, if everyone followed do's and don'ts like that nothing would ever go any where.

  39. I agree that it is personal taste and fashion rules are rediculous. I admire women who wear vintage all day every day. I don't for multiple reason but the main one being that I have the opposite problem as you - my waist is sooo long that vintage (and a good majority of modern clothing) just does not fit right. As I collect piece by peice, I may one day end up with a comprehensive vintage wardrobe, but until then I'm not sweating the small details like appeasing the fashion gurus!

  40. Too funny, La Dama! I agree that I do not want to be compared to Katy or Amy! Not good! I want just to be me. Life is too short to worry about what people think anyway!

  41. Ana,

    Thank you for the comments and compliment! I agree about wearing what looks good on the individual. I, too, look odd in some modern pieces. I have a pair of low waist jeans from Lucky brand and whenever I wear them, my mom asks me if I gained weight, even though I haven't! Again, those pesky low waists make my bum look big and do nothing for my waist!

  42. Thank you for your comments, Kim! I agree about repro fitting oddly as well. I have a couple of Stop Staring dresses and they tend to do this weird bunching or gapping just above my bum. If I pull the dress down it looks better but I can't really go around, pulling my dress down all day! I have to get them taken in in the back darts or the tailor extends them. I prefer vintage because like you said, not only is vintage cheaper and the real deal, it fits better and there is no need to spend money on alternations!

    1. Wow, thanks for the alteration tip! I just received a WT dress and I am in contact with them about this same bunching situation

  43. Well said, Stephanie Lynn! There is no need to be judgy! Life is too short to dictate to others what to wear or look down on people for their style choices! I think it call comes down to insecurity and being afraid of what's different.

  44. Vivcore,

    How neato that you are not far! I am in Northern Virginia. I live about 10 minutes or so away from Dulles.

    I agree that we should not blindly follow rules just to fit in. Why? It just seems so silly and pointless. Besides, what does it matter? How does my vintage affect anyone else?

  45. Nicole,

    My mom is long waisted but is very petite (5'1). It is hard for her to find pants and tops that fit right. I am short waisted, have a 25.5-26 inch waist, 37-38 inch hips, and my in-seam is only 28 inches. I look great in shirtwaist dresses with fitted waists, a-line skirts, and full skirts. I have to be careful with pencil skirts. I need to get a 4-6 skirt and have the waist taken it. However, most vintage 50s pencil skirts are made for smaller waists and rounder hips! Yay!

  46. I found you through va-voom vintage and I'm excited to read more of your blog... I think don'ts are for amateurs, so they can get an idea of how to wear vintage. Once you can follow the "rules" and look good, then break them! You aren't a vintage amateur, so I wouldn't worry about it.

  47. Like all the other ladies here, I agree, that list is made for people who are looking at vintage as a trend.
    I work in an up-market hair salon and wear repro most of the time (I don't want to ruin my vintage with hair colours and bleach) and always have my hair and make-up done "vintage style". I enjoy looking at modern fashions, but I don't personally follow them...I love my vintage and feel odd in low jeans and would never wear my pj's outside of the house!
    People often ask me what is "in" and what is "out". I say the same thing to them...who cares?! Wear what you like and what suits you, that goes for both clothes and hairstyles!
    x Molly

  48. I think people should wear whatever makes them feel comfortable and whatever flatters their body type. Rules were made to be broken :) There are tons of styles that have come and gone that have been the "must have of the season" and I can say with 100% certainty that those styles would have made me look ridiculously awful.