I have been obsessed with everything old from a young age. Some of my earliest memories are watching such classics as Gilda and How To Marry A Millionaire with my grandmother who grew up in the generation that those films were made in. My grandmother taught me how to pin-curl my hair, give myself a manicure with red nails, how to wear seamed stockings and most importantly for every vintage aficionado how to choose your colour of red lipstick and how to apply it properly.
It is no surprise that as I grew up into someone who wears vintage or vintage style clothing daily. I pin-curl my hair, wear red lipstick, have red nails and am inspired by everything old in how I talk, walk, dress and think. So how do you go about building your own vintage wardrobe? Follow these tips below in order to start your vintage journey today!
Know before you buy: Find out what era your like and go from there. Do you like the 1920s Flapper look of short skirts and bobbed hair? Or perhaps you prefer the full skirts and red lips of the 1950s? The fun thing with vintage is that you can mix and match eras or stay strictly to one era. I tend to do both dependent on what vintage clothing I have available!
Research. Research. Research. Look at images from the 1920s-1970s (1980s onwards is not real vintage in my mind) to see what styles suit you and your budget then scour your local charity and vintage shops to see what you can find. Some 1970s and 1980s reproduction 1930s-1950s clothing can pass for the real thing and if you are on a budget or want to keep your lovely 1940s dress for a special occasion. Also do some research into designers and department stores from your chosen eras to see if you can find a vintage gem from a department store that used to be in your local area! (Side note: a lot of department stores had their own in-house dress designers!)
Where to shop? Charity shops, vintage fairs, eBay and Etsy are my main sources for all things vintage! Vintage in charity shops is becoming harder to find but sometimes you can find a real gem. eBay is good for beginners as it will give you an idea of what is out there as they list clothing by decade. Etsy is a hit or miss as you really need to know what you are looking for if a ‘1920s Flapper Dress’ is listed at £20 it is probably too good to be true as 1920s dresses go for £££!
It’s all in the details. Does your ‘1930s Evening Gown’ have a plastic zip, care label and plastic buttons? Then it’s not 1930s it is probably made in the 1970s! Though there could be a good chance that the item could have been made in America where care labels and plastic zips were used earlier than the UK and Europe. It’s also important to know the silhouette of each decade to ascertain what is a 1930s suit from a 1950s dress that way you are also starting to obtain more information for your own vintage wardrobe and what you want to collect!
Accessorize, Accessorise and Accessorize! At first you might not want to go all out vintage and have matching shoes, bag and outfit but there will come a stage when you want to venture into the world of vintage accessories. I have a penchant (i.e. addiction) to vintage handbags, coats, scarves, hats, gloves etc. and have had to scale back on what I buy as unlike a museum I don’t have warehouses to store my costume collection in! When you first venture into the world of vintage accessories I would advise you to buy items that will go with numerous outfits i.e. a black hand-bag that will go with 1930s, 40s and 50s outfits or a black beret that can be worn with outfits from the 1920s to 1960s.
These are just a few tips and you may not need to follow all of these when buying vintage. When you get more confidence with buying vintage clothing you will gain more knowlege of what you like, where to buy it and how to wear it! I’ve been buying vintage for 20 (!) years since I was 11; I’ve been using the same vintage dealers in Dublin, Belfast and Glasgow for about the same length of time. Once you get a ‘good dealer’ they will be able to source you amazing pieces that no one else will have in their wardrobe and you can say ‘It’s vintage darling!’