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guide to wearing vintage


Survey: Advice for a beginning vintage buyer

“If you were to give one piece of advice to a beginning vintage buyer, what would it be?”

I asked this question recently in a survey of people who wear vintage, and the responses were really thoughtful. Also, even though it required a written answer, 110 out of 112 survey takers responded, which is a pretty overwhelming rate.

First, because I love a good word cloud:

See that big measurements? This is a very important issue for vintage wearers, with 21% of those surveyed urging a beginner to get accurate measurements both of herself and the clothing she is interested in.
Measure yourself and measure the item! Know how those two sets of measurements relate to each other. 
Measure twice, buy once. Know your own measurements and what that entails in a piece of vintage so you can better locate what you’re after. 

Condition and care were mentioned by 14% of the respondents. They wrote that purchasing something in excellent condition is important and that knowing how to repair and clean is critical. Some don’t consider buying anything with noticeable flaws, suggesting—
Never buy planning to fix.
while some, perhaps because of their own abilities, just suggested—

Make sure you check items over and if they need repairs make sure you can do them and plan a time to do them.  
Gaining knowledge about vintage was the top priority of 8%. What sort of knowledge? Mentioned was learning to tell if an item is truly vintage, learning the best ways to care for items, and learning how vintage is priced. And why should you gain knowledge of vintage?

There are so many resources to help you date clothing, make sure you know what you are buying and what it’s worth to you. Spending more than that on something will rarely make you happy. 
Study the era(s) that you feel drawn towards and really get to know the cultural history, as well as the fashion themselves, from those years. The greater you appreciate and understand the decades that you’re emulating or drawing inspiration from, the more cohesive and inspired your outfits stand to be. 
Slightly more people (11%) gave answers suggesting what and how to choose vintage for the beginner.

Start small, find that one piece that can work with things you already own and build from there with what feels right. 
Try out different eras. Don’t be intimidated. You totally do not have to look like Viva Las Vegas. 
Figure out which silhouettes look best on you, and buy what you like. Ignore labels. Ignore what’s “hot” or “trendy” (yes, there IS trendy in vintage), and go with your gut. Personal style is never based on popular consensus or trends.  
Pay attention to your lifestyle. If you hate to dry clean, go to a lot of black tie gatherings, never dress up, etc., let that be your guide. I have a closet of fancy dresses I have never worn—all purchased for a specific event, and then I didn’t. I do reach for my vintage cashmere coat, vintage blazers, etc. again and again. I am comfortable spending more on those items because they won’t just sit. Also, be mindful on how to care for your items in a way that makes them last and choose fabrics and items based on how much maintenance you are willing to do. 

5% mentioned the quality of an item, paying attention to what the price ought to be for a vintage piece of a certain type, era, and condition; investing in fewer but better things; and spending money wisely.

A few mentioned where to buy. Several stated that patronizing a good, reputable seller is mutually beneficial. Others suggested looking everywhere until you find your favorite haunts, both online and in person.

The largest percentage of respondents (37%) wrote a variation on a couple of intertwined themes.

Essentially, buy what you like, and don’t wait if you like something. Once you have it, wear it. Something like Nike’s Just Do It. 
If you love it, buy it then and there.  
Use the items, otherwise you are just a warehouse.   
Buy what you love so you will wear it!  
If you love it, buy it! Chances are you will never see one again. Buy what makes you feel happy/fun/beautiful etc. If you have to talk yourself into it, leave it.  
I love the enthusiasm that glowed from many of the answers I got to my survey questions. These were not the answers of fence sitters, but of vintage devotees!
Be confident in what you wear! Vintage clothes will make you stand out anywhere (office, party, walking about, etc.), so make sure you are happy in the skin you are in and the clothes you are wearing. Your clothes are just an extension of your persona, so have fun with how you dress! 




Survey: How you wear vintage, your favorite eras and items

Recently I asked denisebrain Facebook, newsletter and blog followers who wear vintage to take a short survey.

The responses have been so thoughtful and interesting that I thought you might enjoy giving them a read.

A favorite photo via The Sartorialist

Apparently, you mainly like to wear a piece or two of vintage in a mix with other clothing, although solid percentages of you wear head-to-toe vintage.

 How do you wear vintage?

What decades are your favorites for vintage fashion to wear? (answer all that apply) 

The women who took this survey have chosen to interact with me and my business, so I’m not surprised by the decade preferences!

The answers to the next question ranged quite a lot, but there were clear winners, judging from this word cloud.

What is your favorite type of vintage item to wear?

The most interesting answers were to the question—

If you were to give one piece of advice to a beginning vintage buyer, what would it be? fact, the answers to this question were so good that I need to create a separate post showcasing lots of them! 

(coming soon!)



Vintage for really busy women

Do you get up, throw on the first presentable item, make breakfast and lunch and drive your kids to school on the way to work?

Then you may think that vintage fashion is a luxury that you don’t have the time to afford.

No need to be overwhelmed! Just take a deep breath and consider what vintage will work best for you. And it will work, with the attributes of better quality for the money, saving the world’s limited resources, something no one else is wearing and the opportunity for self-expression. Also—dare I say it?—a chance to have fun.

I would suggest taking what you are currently wearing as a starting place. Are you the type that wears pants and a sweater? A dress and jacket? Go look for the equivalent pieces in vintage.

I know that vintage princess-y poofy formals, dramatic flapper dresses and siren swimsuits are the sorts of things that we most know and love about vintage. There is a place for the most outgoing of vintage pieces in your wardrobe, but for the busy woman who wants vintage to mix in as part of her day-to-day life, start with what you wear now.

Here are some great vintage choices illustrated by street style bloggers, and some options currently available on Etsy from seller-members of the Vintage Fashion Guild.

A blazer
Courtesy of Jessica Abo

A blouse
Courtesy of The Sartorialist

A sweater
Courtesy of Nora Finds

A skirt
Courtesy of The Sartorialist

A coat
Courtesy of The Art of the Trench/Burberry

Accessories make perfect choices, and if you are having a hard time dipping your toe into the water, these are great starting places.

A bag
Courtesy of Hummingbird Girls


Courtesy of That's Life

A scarf
Courtesy of Chicago Street Style

Courtesy of Street Style Sacramento

Shoes (that look great and you can actually walk in!)
Courtesy of Collage Vintage

If you could use a primer, I’ve written a stage by stage guide to getting started with vintage.

Here’s hoping you can put your feet up at the end of the day—not because they hurt, but to show off your great vintage shoes!

What about you, do you lead a very busy life and wear vintage? Any tips from your own experience? Please comment and let us know!



New Year's resolution: Wear vintage guide

Since the beginning of the year, I've been writing about getting into wearing vintage stage by stage.

Here is a guide to my guide:

New Year's resolution: Wear vintage, stage 1
   Great first vintage items, a little about condition

Wear vintage, stage 1 continued
   Some more good first vintage choices, and a reader suggestion 

New Year's resolution: Wear vintage, stage 2
   Getting started with vintage fit

New Year's resolution: Wear vintage, stage 2 continued
   Finding a vintage sweater

New Year's resolution: Wear vintage, stage 3
   More about fit

New Year's resolution: Wear vintage, stage 3 continued
   Understanding vintage sizes, ease to allow for a good fit

New Year's resolution: Wear vintage, stage 3 continued
   Waist length, and your particular fit issues

New Year's resolution: Wear vintage, stage 3 continued
   See yourself in vintage glasses

New Year's resolution: Wear vintage, stage 3 continued
   Let vintage hats go to your head

New Year's resolution: Wear vintage, stage 3 continued
   Vintage shoes have sole

New Year's resolution: Wear vintage, stage 4
   What our mothers and grandmothers knew about getting a better fit

New Year's resolution: Wear vintage, stage 4 continued
   Altered reality

New Year's resolution: Wear vintage, stage 4 continued
  Getting started with vintage quality and value

New Year's resolution: Wear vintage, stage 4 continued
   More about quality and value

New Year's resolution: Wear vintage, stage 4 continued
   More on vintage value

New Year's resolution: Wear vintage, stage 5
   How to wear vintage

New Year's resolution: Wear vintage, stage 5 continued
   Some inspiration for wearing vintage your way

New Year's resolution: Wear vintage, stage 5 continued
   What flatters you

New Year's resolution: Wear vintage, stage 5 continued
   Alternatives to authentic vintage

New Year's resolution: Wear vintage, stage 6
   Vintage myth busting

New Year's resolution: Wear vintage, stage 6 continued
   For further research and understanding

New Year's resolution: Wear vintage, stage 6 continued
   Condition continued

New Year's resolution: Wear vintage wrap up
    A few loose ends

I hope this has helped some of you get started wearing vintage, or increased your confidence and knowledge.

Wear vintage!
photo from Brownstoner