I'm busy working on my book about getting started with wearing vintage, and my editor suggested I need to add a section to fill out my comments about how to style vintage clothing. I agree with her, it isn't always obvious how to put vintage wearing into practice.
I don't like do's and don't's, so this added section wouldn't be about rules, but I also don't want to fill pages with words that give no guidance. So, meet the Vintage-Wearing Personas, modern vintage-wearing styles that you might choose for every day, or flit between.
You can help me with this by letting me know
- if you think there is a vintage-wearing persona I'm missing
- which of the personas fits you and how closely you relate to it
- who are some of your choices for your persona's heroines
Not driven by vintage, just looking for a unique, quality vintage piece here and there
Do you want to wear vintage but not broadcast the fact that you are? You may be a wear-with-all type. Your natural style may be bold or reserved, elegant, flamboyant or grungy—wearing vintage is not your driving motivator.
For the wear-with-all persona, you may want to find vintage replacements for the modern components of your wardrobe. You might find something that is in style right now, only in the better-quality, better-priced, and unique vintage original version. Start with just one piece mixed in with modern clothes and accessories from your closet.
What’s easy about this style persona is that you almost can’t seem costume-y. You can blend into your work setting, take the dog for a walk, go to a party…and feel attractive but not conspicuously “vintage.” You are more likely to hear “I love that!” than “is that vintage?”
The hard part may be coming up with the vintage items that work well for you with your present wardrobe, in the right size. (That’s why I am writing my book, coming soon!) Really, the hardest part may be showing restraint once you get going with vintage!
The total look, hat-to-shoes right out of a vintage Vogue
This is the easiest and hardest vintage fashion personality, rolled into one. The simple part is that you don’t have to figure out if a style works, you just need to recreate a look that you admire. You can choose your outfit and styling literally from a vintage magazine editorial or advertisement, a movie…you are the costumer and actor in your own period drama.
Difficult may be finding and putting together the details of the look you want, and then carrying off the look with aplomb. Your look could be seen as costume-y, and you will need to be ready to answer questions about the style and why you are so "dressed up."
Some women pull off this look daily, even in a workplace environment, others dress from hat to shoes in one period look for a vintage fashion event. This is a persona you might take on here and there...or all the time.
Walking works of art
Creative and bold, using vintage but not necessarily all vintage
#justbloodywearit, is a hashtag I always find on the Instagram feed of a vintage fashionista named Zara (@zeebeezsazsa), who wears a rainbow of color, clashing prints, 1940s with 70s, 60s, 30s, 80s. A doctor, Zara thinks of her fashion as an escape from all the life and death emotional decisions that need to be made daily. Her litmus test for choosing something to wear is that she likes it and that it expresses how she feels. She doesn’t follow rules or strive to look like anyone else.
This persona is easy for a small percentage of people, the types who might see their bodies as a canvas for being sartorially creative. Dressing with vintage will give this type the maximum possible options for self expression.
Maybe this is the look you really admire but it seems difficult to you. First you have to decide what works, then you have to let go of your inhibitions. The one commonality I see between the protagonists of this style are their signature touches—wearing fluffy pink pieces, giant bracelets, a turban—whatever seems to most suit their style. I also think it takes a sense of humor. A bit of a smile never hurts when you’re being noticed by everyone.
Mostly or all vintage, put together from various eras
Do you want your wardrobe to be mainly vintage yet not feel like you are time traveling from another era? Vintage mixing is the art of putting together an outfit from various vintage components that may date from different decades. You might put a 1940s jacket with 1970s wide-legged trousers, a 1950s blouse and a 1960s bag. What might bring the decades together is some sort of harmony, in color, print, fabric or style.
On paper, this might seem the persona box you'd like to tick. After all, it is all vintage, but creatively harmonious. What's difficult is making this mix-and-match work.
When you mix vintage things up, consider matching certain elements:
• Color across eras
• Patterns that relate to one another
• All one era but in an unexpected way
• Textural combinations that work across decades
• Timeless elements
So what do you think? Can you relate to any of these vintage-wearing personas? Please let me know in a comment!