April 14, 2010

Thoroughly Modern Vintage. Pt 1: Work and Day Wear

Alot of you have been asking me questions about how to get started on having a vintage look. Many have said things about how they'd love to have a more vintage or retro look but don't know where to start. Well I have been in your shoes, and I can tell you it is not that difficult! But like anything it does take effort and a little patience until you get it down. So as a guide, each Wednesday for the next month I'm going to be doing a little feature called Thoroughly Modern Vintage. The idea of this is how to get a vintage look without actually wearing anything vintage. I find this is really helpful to starting out because you are getting things that are easily accessible and come in varied sizes, without having to dig through vintage shops or thrift stores. Granted alot of my more modern pieces did come from thrift stores. But once you know what to look for, you can start finding these basic pieces in thrift stores too. but the idea behind all this is to wear as little vintage as possible, but still look vintage. So let's get started!

Here's some things to keep in mind when you're out shopping:

  • Find a vintage muse. Be it an actress, singer, or your grandma, find someone who's style you really love. You can even find a couple and from different eras. Personally mine are Clara Bow, Marion Davies, Dorothy Gale, and Nancy Drew (they don't need to be real.). Use these muses as a guide. Don't copycat exactly, but try to figure how you would dress if you were them. what is it you like about their characters? How does that effect their style? How does that effect your style?
  • Do your reaserch. If you know what to look for, then you can actually look for it. Use flickr, etsy, or google image search to figure out what cuts belong to what era. Think of it as eye training.
  • It's okay to make mistakes! Just practice! All things get better with practice including fashion.
For my first outfit we'll start with something that is kind of basic. This would be a great outfit for pretty much anything. Work, play, drinks with friends, or anything slightly casual. Also the individual pieces are very basic as well. We'll start head to toe.

Thoroughly Modern Vintage

Thoroughly Modern Vintage

This Barrette (which is how most people say my last name, though it's not how it's pronounced.) was originally a brooch of my mom's that was broken. I saved it, took it a part and hot glued the whole thing to a barrette. Barrette's are great basic hair accessories, and have remained a commonly popular choice in hairwear. Whether you use it to clip back your hair into a ponytail, or a half poneytail, or just clip it into the side of your hair, it always looks great! I'm a big fan of barrettes ( also like me some Barretts too!(I crack myself up.)).

Okay, so I cheated a little on the cardigan because it is vintage, BUT these beaded cardi's are pretty easy to find. My mom just bought one from Target a week or so ago. Beaded or embellished cardigans where very popular in the 50's and 60's. They look just as good with jeans and tennis shoes as they do with skirts or dresses. This one I found in Goodwill for five dollars! Cardigans in general are super cute, easy, stylish, and functional. They come in a huge variety of colours, cuts, and patterns and seriously look good with everything. For spring they are perfect for battling that lingering winter chill, or for some of us pale people, keeping our arms unburned. I'm rarely seen without a cardigan.


This blouse I bought at Target, probably three or four years ago. I love everything about it (yet never wear it?)! When I'm buying a blouse I try to look for cuts that are classic. Classic pieces are great for retro-ing up. This blouse, while classic, also has a little whimsy about it with the print and the ruffle. Don't be afraid of prints! Especially small, or floral ones. Novelty prints were very popular in all the various vintage decades. And also look for fabrics that will be usable all year long. This blouse is cotton and thin enough for summer, thick enough for fall, and pretty enough for winter and spring. I've been trying to find a jumper/pinafore dress to wear this top with too. Blouses like this are incredibly versatile (duh!), and easily found (and I just saw this same blouse at Goodwill the other day for five dollars!).

This skirt is a thrifted item that began life in a very different way. My mom found it for me at a rummage sale in it's former state as a Bitten by Sarah Jessica Parker trapeze dress, which by the way is the most unflattering dress shape on a girl like me. The waist band of this skirt used to be the bust band, with little shoulder straps. the pockets used to be up around my waist. it was horrible and besides that was just a little too tight in the bust for me to even wear it. However after much consideration I simply cut off the straps and voila! the worlds most perfect high waisted circle skirt! Some clothing items need a little adjustment before they can pass for a vintage inspired outfit, but try it! Most people I know think this skirt is actually vintage, but it's completely modern. But if you are a little nervous about cutting up your clothes, look for skirts with classic cuts. Find a length you like and look for cuts that work on your body. High waists look good on everyone and have become very easy to find in the last few years. Pencil skirts are great too, though finding one that looks good on you might be difficult (it is for me!). This skirt has become one of the staples of my wardrobe, whether I'm wearing it with a blouse, or even a t-shirt, it still looks fresh and vintage all at once.

Ankle socks are of course something that looks very retro, as are saddle shoes, but these saddle shoes are from Payless and the socks from JCPenny's (I think). I have a giant foot and finding vintage shoes in my size is nearly impossible, but it's fairly easy to find repro, or vintage inspired shoes pretty much everywhere now. Remember that shoes and socks are a great way to experiment too. I used to be terrified of ankle socks. I was convinced that they'd make my legs look chunky, and make me look short, and while I've tried them with other outfits that did infact make my legs look chunky and short, in general I really like the look. Most of what you'll find with trying to find a vintage look it that it's all about trial and error. And that's okay! some outfits are going to be a bust, but others are going to be super amazing! And like I said it takes some effort. I know it's tempting just to slide back into your jeans and hoodie, but try maybe one day a week at first until it becomes organic. The more outfits you put together the better you'll get at having an eye for vintage outfits.

As far as accessories go, both my earrings and necklace are modern. My earrings are from Forever 21, and the necklace from a tiny shop in Chinatown in San Francisco. Pearls always give off a classic vintage look, but you're not limited to just pearls. There are a lot of modern jewelry companies who make very vintage looking jewelry. Forever 21 is a great place for that. I hate that store, but they are great for vintage inspired accessories. My sunglasses are also from there. I do have a pair of vintage cat eye sunglasses, but these are less severe, and I'm less afraid to beat them up. As for handbags, vintage ones are fairly easy to find in thrift stores, but if you're still wary of searching, look for boxier styles. Or just use your modern handbag. Remember it's not what you wear but how you wear it!

Pearl Earrings

Thoroughly Modern Vintage
Now that you have some ideas in your head here are a few online places to buy quality modern pieces with a very vintage feel.
Pinup Girl Clothing- My go to shop for vintage inspired shoes. If I had a million dollars, I would spend it all on their shoes. However, they do carry a variety of other pieces (including plus sizes!) and accessories. Some of it is *coughcough* a little trashy, but they do have a very nice collection. I'm really loving this hair clip.
Baby Girl Boutique- This is alot like Pinup Girl, but I find they tend to have a larger selection. I'm currently trying to justify spending $55 on this cardigan.
Gap- I know Gap tends to have a bad reputation for being mass consumerists, or whatever, but their clothes are well made, classic, and fairly reasonably priced (especially if you can find a Gap outlet!). I think both these tops would look beautiful tucked into a pretty skirt. I'd even forgo the cardigan. They're just too pretty!
Old Navy- Old Navy is also a really good place to look for basics. I love this skirt (though it's a bit short). If you're more of a pencil skirt girl though, this one comes in a really pretty pink.
J. Crew- J. Crew has a strange reputation, but they have great classic cuts. I really like this more modern version of a pearl necklace.
Target- Target is a really great place to get shoes with a vintage feel, especially in the last couple of years. If you're a flats girl I think these and these are perfectly Audrey Hepburn (and come in a bunch of colours! But you can never go wrong with a balck flat!). For ladies who like heels, these two are great options. Personally I love wedges, and this pair looks so 40's!
Forever21- I love their jewelry. If you want a nice faux pearl these are great, and very cheap (especially if you happened to have been an idiot in your teen years and have three peircings on either earlobe (I always win that "how much jewelry are you wearing" game. Always))! Not a pearl lady? How about these earrings?
Sorry for the lengthy post! I'll try to be shorter next week!


  1. great informative post, the skirt DOES look vintage, very clever!

  2. great tips my vintage princess ... i thought of you when i saw this dress:


    isnt it lovely?


  3. SWHHW- Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

    BBM- yeah, just died when I saw that dress. If only I had $$$!