Vintage clothes are like fine wine, they improve with age. These garments were beautiful then and remain so now. Even when there’s no “retro-inspired” version being shown on the runways, vintage still looks fresh, beautiful, even luxurious.
Current fashion often samples looks from the past. (When I worked at Loft in 2000, we sampled embellishments from the middle ages and styles from the 1950’s and 60’s.) So vintage clothing remains stylish and fashionable for many, many years and will continue to do so. And vintage is quality. Many vintage fabrics are no longer manufactured. To reduce the cost of materials and production, many design and construction techniques are no longer used. Those techniques helped clothing fit.
For example, many vintage skirts had six or more seams. Each seam was 1/2″ to 5/8″ instead of 1/4″ to 3/8″ (the standard today). Those wide seams allowed women to let their skirts out to get a better fit. And those design and construction techniques sculpted a woman’s body so that women of various sizes looked amazing. (They also wore corsets and had great posture. Both really affect the way a woman’s clothes look. Corsets are a bit much but great posture is worth cultivating.)
It’s worth doing a bit of internet research to discover the huge variety of vintage clothing. Garments from the 19th century through the 1980’s are all vintage now. Pinterest is a great place to start. Follow my boards, Beautiful Vintage and The Age of Haute Couture, and search for other vintage boards. An hour on Pinterest will expose even neophytes and newbies to a variety of vintage designers and garments. Glamor Daze has a wealth of information on vintage clothing through the 1960’s. And check out some of the many, many online vintage shops. Keep such research in the shopping education category and don’t look at price tags.
A few of things to keep in mind:
- Some vintage is very expensive. But reasonably priced vintage clothing can often be found at thrift shops, flea markets, in small, dusty antique shops, at vintage fairs, and even online. Use the internet to learn what attracts you first then keep an eye out for reasonably priced pieces. (I’ve found dresses for $4 to $10 and jackets for $25. My 1960’s Spring coat cost $10 and is gorgeous.)
- Ignore size labels. I once got a gorgeous 1940s sundress because the first woman who looked at it balked at the size 16 on the label. What she didn’t know is that sizing for women’s wear changed after the 60’s. That 16 is a modern 6/8.
- Availability of sizes depends on the vendor and the area of the country, even the world. One vendor may have mostly small sizes, another will only have large sizes. Vintage requires a bit of effort and patience. Just keep your eyes open and eventually, you’ll have several pieces.
- Head to toe vintage can easily look like a costume. Mix pieces from various periods. (ie. Try a 1960’s Chanel style jacket with jeans, a cami, and a sheer 1950s blouse.) The one exception is very formal occasions. (Stay tuned for W is for Wedding Gowns on 27 April. I’ll be highlighting many vintage gowns.)
- For those who sew, vintage patterns are often inexpensive. Keep in mind, some pre-1950’s patterns don’t have instructions printed on the pattern pieces. Inexperienced sewers may find them more difficult.
- Remember, there are also vintage shoes and accessories. Vintage furs too!