When I invited readers to submit their questions (ages ago!) I had a couple of requests for advice for girls just starting out in vintage and wanting to build some vintage style into their wardrobe. So now I've finally got around to tackling the question, and put together a series of posts concentrating on Vintage For Beginners. Posts over the next couple of weeks will include advice on building a vintage wardrobe, an overview of 20th century styles, and identifying and dating vintage clothing, but please let me know if there's anything in particular you'd like to see me address!
Let's get started
To begin with, it might help to define why you want to start wearing vintage. Is it because you admire the glamour of past fashions and want to incorporate some of that into your everyday life? Perhaps you want to mix vintage pieces with modern to create a unique look. Or do you admire those who dress head-to-toe in vintage every day, but are not sure where to start? Even if you just want to be able to say "what, this? Oh, it's vintage," this week will hopefully give you some pointers on how to get started.
Adding vintage touches to your everyday style
For the true vintage beginner, it may be best to start small. Vintage accessories can look great with pretty much anything. Whether it's an armful of bakelite bangles, a 1950s rhinestone brooch, a hat, or a 1940s handbag, little vintage touches are a great way to get some instant fabulous into your outfit.
Step it up a notch
If you're ready to step it up, you could start incorporating some vintage garments into your regular wardrobe to give it some edge. If you want to wear vintage and still look "of the moment", take note of what the current trends are and seek out similar items in vintage stores.
Take inspiration from hip, vintage-wearing celebrities like Sienna Miller, Agyness Deyn, Alexa Chung, Kate Moss, Chloe Sevigny, Rachel Bilson (the list is long!), and experiment with mixing vintage with modern elements: layer a "Mad Men" sheath dress with a slouchy cardigan and tights to de-formalise (yes that's a word!) it; team a lace trimmed Peter Pan collar blouse with skinny jeans; wear a giant arran sweater with tweed cuffed shorts and over-the-knee socks; or a 50s beaded cardigan with a flirty mini skirt and patterned tights. To be honest I'm struggling to write this section because I have no idea about modern fashion. But you get the picture!
Above, Rachel Bilson and Casey of Elegant Musings combine vintage with modern for a look that's so 'now'.
Modern with a vintage twist
Which brings us to more familiar (to me) territory. If you like the look of vintage styles but don't want to go all-out, you might choose to go down a route of a vintage/modern style, that is, modern pieces - or a mix of vintage and modern - worn with a retro tone.
A lot of modern clothing can be styled up for a vintage look, with the added benefits of being affordable, available in all sizes (if you buy high street), and easy to care for. I often wear an outfit which, though composed (almost) entirely of modern elements, has a definite retro bent.
If dressing conservatively for the office is a concern, the two outfits above are both pleasingly vintage and perfectly wearable in a modern setting. Items like pencil skirts, demure blouses, and simple fitted cardigans are your wardrobe basics.
Total immersion vintage
Do you yearn to go all-out vintage but aren't sure where to start? We'll cover the topic of building a vintage starter wardrobe later in the week, but in the meantime, if you're just starting out it might be worth figuring out which fashion eras best suit you. Of course, as with anything, rules are made to be broken, and most things can be made to work if you love them.
Even here, you can choose whether to go vintage purist or play fast and loose with styles; to wear only vintage, or mix it with vintage repro and modern, thrifted finds. Some ladies favour a specific period, but while I admire the likes of the Vintage Baroness and Lauren of Wearing History for their dedication to the 1930s, there's so much gorgeousness out there you needn't confine yourself to a particular era. You can be forties one day and sixties the next. You can even mix and match different eras for a unique look. In vintage, there are no rules.
» 20th Century Fashion Eras
» Dating Vintage Clothes
» Building a Vintage Wardrobe