Maybe you are have just started to become interested in vintage fashion, or perhaps you only want to add a hint of vintage flair into your regular look, in any case only a few essentials are needed to begin curating a vintage inspired look. I have always adored vintage styles, but my own vintage wardrobe adventures began in high school with a few 1950's inspired sundresses and a devotion to red lipstick. Throughout college I was to be found in a uniform of dark jeans, tall black boots, a t-shirt hidden underneath a huge scarf, all topped with my trusty leather jacket. I was still loyal to my red lipstick, but my wardrobe was all function no fun. It wasn't until after college, and after I came to accept my shape, that I really began to wear the vintage looks I had always dreamed of.
So how did I built a wardrobe of vintage styles when I started from jeans and t-shirts? First by adding a few essential vintage style pieces that I could add onto as I transitioned my wardrobe into my dream wardrobe!
If you want to start wearing vintage, but are put off by the prices of the real deal, the narrowness of repro lines, the sheer daunting task of replacing everything you are not happy with with something new, do as I did and start slow. For a $5 dollar investment you can start to feel a little bit vintage everyday, all you need is one tube of red lipstick!
No. 1- Red Lipstick
Few beauty products exist that can instantly make you feel more glamorous than you felt before, and red lipstick is one of them. It may take time to find the perfect red for your skin tone, but luckily, this is one item that doesn't require you to splurge. I have dozens of reds now, bright ones for summer, deep wine reds for winter, and every red in between. Nothing makes me feel more glamorous than red lipstick. Even if the rest of your wardrobe still says modern gal, red lipstick is the gateway to a vintage look.
No. 2- A Little Black Dress
Weather you want to achieve a 1930's inspired look, 1940's, 50's, 60's...which ever, a classic little black dress in that era's shape is a must have! The good thing about finding this item is that you usually don't have to look far and wide, modern shops still sell relatively classic shapes. As a part time sales girl at Banana Republic, I can tell you we sell a dress called the "Sloan" that is super 50's, in a thick stretch bengaline, that would be a perfect LBD for someone just starting out in vintage. I am sure if BR still has one, other modern stores do too. Because of the LBD's popularity through the ages, actual vintage pieces can be easier to find and repro brands always have a few options.
The LBD is your friend because you can style it so many ways. I recommend getting one you can wear during the daytime that can also be dressed up for evening. A colored belt and a great scarf can give you versatility during the workweek, while adding rhinestone jewelry and a faux fur stole can do glamorous wonders for a night out on the town.
No. 3- The Pencil Skirt
The pencil skirt has never gone out of style, and I'm calling it now--it never will! When I first started wearing vintage styles a few years ago I invested in two, one black and one navy. The best thing about adding a pencil skirt to your wardrobe is that you can wear it with a lot of things you already have in your closet. Wear it with your t-shirts tucked in, those button down blouses you wear to work, your favorite sweater, all will work with a classic pencil skirt. When I first started wearing pencil skirts I did just this, wearing my wardrobe of basic t-shirts and old Forever21 tops with them. Eventually you can replace your old tops with more vintage looking blouses and sweaters, but for a starter vintage look, you can do no better than a trusty pencil skirt.
Pencil skirts, like LBDs and red lipstick, are readily found in modern shops. Hit up the work wear area of almost any store and they are still there.
No. 4- Classic Pumps
Now I know, some people just don't like wearing heels, and yes sometimes you know you will be standing for hours and the idea just isn't fathomable, but a classic pair of pumps will go a long way in creating a vintage look. I was a devoted wearer of high heels in high school, yes high school, where I clicked my way down the halls, around the lunch room, and onto choir benches. In college my classes were suddenly much further apart and I abandoned my pumps for sturdy boots. Now, I wear heels out whenever I am not working. I can't understand how anyone working in retail can wear heels to work where one has to stand for 4+ hours at a time, I certainly would never make it! There are comfortable heels out there though! Even kitten heels can look very 50's if you find ones in the right shape.
Round toe or pointed, kitten heel or stiletto, classic pumps can add a lot of vintage flair. Even if your are wearing them with modern jeans, heels give an outfit and extra feminine oomph (so does your red lipstick!)
No. 5- Back Seamed Tights/Stockings
Stockings, or pantyhose in general, give a more vintage look as the ladies of the past wore them everyday! Nothing says vintage dame like seamed stockings. One could wear their oldest, dumpiest business suit, but with seams up the back *bam* something special! They can almost feel too sexy at first, but with the longer hemlines more in line with vintage styles I think seamed stockings are just enough sexy without being in any way vulgar. The best moments for me when wearing seams have been when older women have noticed them and want to talk about stockings with me at work. One woman said she hadn't seen seams like mine since she was a child during WWII, cue me melting! Since no one really wears stocking at all anymore, let alone seamed stockings, they add an instant dose of vintage to your wardrobe.
Now I know they can be hard to find, trust me, it is my constant battle! I prefer tights/pantyhose to stockings because I have yet to invest in a quality vintage style garter belt. The number one source for vintage style back seam stockings and tights has to be What Katie Did. Their seamed pantyhose are stunning, but are pricey and require some gentle love and care to not snag just taking them off and on. So of course I have searched far and wide for other less pricey and more durable back seam options. I'll include some of my sources here: these black sheers with black seams from Hanes are great for fall/winter and are super durable, these nude fishnets with black seams hold up really well for being costume tights but the black "seam" is quite thick, and these fishnets are quite sturdy and are generally much better than the more costumey options out there...but don't have seams.
Another great place to find seamed tights seems to be dance supply shops/online stores. I have yet to try these seamed fishnets out, but they seem like they would be durable since dancers, you know, dance in them!
So those are my top 5 essentials for achieving a vintage look for people just starting to get into vintage! Look out though, because before you know it you can fall down the rabbit hole with the rest of us and become a bit obsessed with vintage lovelies!
As you guys know, I sew most of my "vintage" wardrobe myself as opposed to actually sourcing real vintage pieces. I find it to be less expensive, and certainly my clothes are more durable than vintage can be. I know not everyone is a seamstress, but taking up sewing can become a great way (and sometimes the only way) to add certain holy grail vintage looks to your wardobe. I don't think you have to buy vintage to look vintage, and I certainly don't think real vintage is somehow "better" or more elite than repro, modern, and home sewn stuff. You find what works for your wardrobe, your body, and your price point!