Incorporating vintage pieces into your wardrobe can be intimidating as you run the risk of looking dated or as if you’re wearing a costume. Adding these one-of-a-kind items to your wardrobe, though, gives you an opportunity to express yourself and your style in a fresh, impactful way regardless of what is trending in the mainstream. You can end up trying on things that are outside of your comfort zone, and you might just find a signature look that feels right for you.
To start, make sure your vintage pieces are in good condition. No matter how amazing a piece may be, if it’s stained, shabby, fraying or plain old worn out, your efforts are going to fall flat. If you’re really in love with an item, see if an expert can breathe new life into it and, if not, it’s important to make your peace with letting it go. Wearing items that are no longer in good condition will not present you as your best self to the world.
Accessories are a perfect place to start if you’re new to wearing vintage. Jewelry and scarves, especially, tend to carry a timeless feel. Imagine adding a stunning vintage necklace or scarf to a t-shirt and white jeans, or a donning a vintage cocktail ring for a night out. Vintage handbags can be a really fun option as well; look for clutches or small handbags you can wear for an evening out or special event.
When it comes to vintage clothing, you’ll have a lot more success if you are open to alterations. A nip here or tuck there can have an enormous impact on making a vintage item feel modern without losing the gorgeous details that make it special. Alter pieces for a perfect fit in the waist and shoulders and adjust the length for a look that will fit you well without losing the trademark shape of the time period from which the piece was born.
For most styles, wearing only one vintage piece at a time — or two if one or more is an accessory — will help you avoid that feeling of being in costume. The key to casually and confidently donning vintage items is to marry them with modern clothing. Look for pieces from decades whose styles are currently having resurgence. For example, right now the style details that were popular in the 80s and 90s are becoming en vogue again. Look for an authentic 90s slip dress and pair it with a current leather jacket or find a great pair of high-waisted pants from the 80s and put them together with a modern tank and sandals.
Estate sales, antique and consignment stores and the closets of your own family members (think mom, grandma and aunts) are treasure troves for wonderful vintage finds. The ones that come from your own family history are all the more special for it.
Personal style always trumps what is “in style” and thoughtfully incorporating vintage pieces into your look is a unique and meaningful way to express your style and creativity. Happy hunting!
Cathy Starnes is a personal stylist and the owner of new retail concept, Iris Boutique, which offers unique women’s accessories with a side of personal styling.