Viewing entries tagged
how to wear vintage

Vintage Mixing


Vintage Mixing

Recently I took a stab at four general vintage-wearing personas, modes of style that you might choose for every day, or flit between. One of these styles, The Vintage Mixer, generated a lot of comments. It seemed to need expansion.


First, a quick review. In that previous blog I proposed that there are— 

1. Wear-with-alls:  Not driven by vintage, just looking for a unique, quality vintage piece here and there 

2. Time travelers:  The total look, hat-to-shoes right out of a vintage Vogue

3. Walking works of art:  Creative and bold, using vintage but not necessarily all vintage

4. Vintage mixers: Mostly or all vintage, put together from various eras


That last type? Too broad. I'm now proposing these four distinct types of vintage mixing personas:

All-vintage Mixers

Era mashing

The Era Mashing Mixer is a purist about wearing mostly vintage, but as to which era, she is an iconoclast. For one outfit she may mix a 1940s jacket with 1970s wide-legged trousers, a 1950s blouse, and a 1960s bag. This might be done with purposeful harmonizing, or ironic wit.

Zara wearing  a 1940s hat and belt, 1950s sunglasses, a 1970s polka dot dress, and a 1980s marabou jacket. I love that #justbloodywearit is her constant hastag and motto! Courtesy of  @zeebeezsazsa  on Instagram

Zara wearing  a 1940s hat and belt, 1950s sunglasses, a 1970s polka dot dress, and a 1980s marabou jacket. I love that #justbloodywearit is her constant hastag and motto! Courtesy of @zeebeezsazsa on Instagram


Showcasing collections of specific vintage pieces

The Specialist Mixer might see herself as a collector, connoisseur, and wearer of certain favorite vintage items in particular. She may tote vintage handbags, or cuff herself in vintage Bakelite bracelets, wear vintage modernist-print Vera scarves or pieces from the 1970s by Yves Saint Laurent. Her wearable collections may be estimable.

Just two of the many amazing vintage bakelite bracelet stacks the vintage maven Sandi of  @lorrelmae  has shown on Instagram. (Also, check out her  Etsy shop !)

Just two of the many amazing vintage bakelite bracelet stacks the vintage maven Sandi of @lorrelmae has shown on Instagram. (Also, check out her Etsy shop!)


Interested in vintage, but interested in modern fashion too

Modern/Vintage Mixer types may seek out vintage that interprets new styles, or new styles that echo vintage. Not one to set aside the present state of fashion, but also fascinated by the past, the Modern/Vintage Mixer is a creative blender of the old and new.

People that I know in this group are sometimes motivated by the green side of vintage, being anti-fast fashion, careful to be sure their modern fashion purchases are ethically and sustainably made as often as possible. Sometimes their contemporary pieces consist of the basics, and they use vintage as the mainstay of their wardrobes.

Stop and ask!  says Nicole,  @theartyologist  on Instagram and blogging (about vintage, sustainable fashion, art, and photography) at  

Stop and ask! says Nicole, @theartyologist on Instagram and blogging (about vintage, sustainable fashion, art, and photography) at 


The goal is the total look, sometimes using vintage repro clothing

This mixer contingency may not be able to find what they need in good shape and in the right size (at the right time), or simply want to wear something that looks vintage that they needn’t worry about if jitterbugging or pruning the rosebush. Often these mixers are close to Time Travelers, their full-on vintage look created with a certain amount of repro vintage-style clothing. The Inspired-by-vintage Mixer might, for instance, wear repro shoes and jeans with an authentic vintage sweater and scarf. 

Photo from the account of Instagram's  @missharlowdarling ; also be inspired by the  Harlow Darling blog

Photo from the account of Instagram's @missharlowdarling; also be inspired by the Harlow Darling blog

What do you think? Do you wear your vintage like any of these stylish mixologists?




Does vintage clothing make you feel like you’re wearing a costume?

We’re coming up on Halloween, a time when many vintage clothing shops see an uptick in sales for looks that spell flapper, mod, Downton Abbey, Titanic, hippie, pin-up girl and Mad Men.

If you want to go with a full-blown vintage look walking down the street during the rest of the year, I salute you! Many, though, fear the looks and questions at our workplaces, schools, and even home. But there are ways to make vintage look right at home on any day of the week.

Vintage clothing does not
need to look like a costume—
unless you want it to

The easiest way is to not try to overly coordinate a complete vintage ensemble, at least for starters. Show your love of the 1920s vibe with a gorgeous piece of jewelry or flapper handbag. Believe me, you will get the compliment: That vintage [fill in the blank] is so great!

Wear a beautiful 1950s coat to work. Carry a vintage handbag with your modern dress. Maybe on some occasion, you’ll feel like putting them together. But for now, give one or another a try.

And speaking of Halloween—


Find this pumpkin image in one of my Etsy shop’s item photos, send me a message (just a simple “found it!” is fine) from the listing page, and I will send you a $10 coupon code to use as a discount on a purchase of $11 or more. The code will be good through the end of November, 2016. [Hint: The pumpkin isn't in the first photo of the item.]

By the way, what will you wear for a Halloween costume? Who knows, I may even be concocting some vintage spells as a mad scientist (bwa-ha-ha!)



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 glove etiquette

Love the look, but afraid you’ll get vintage glove wearing wrong?

Gloves to match a hat by Lilly Daché, 1954 (image found on The Vintage Hat Shop blog)

I recently went to an event introducing a vintage fashion collection here in Spokane. A number of people attending were attired to give vintage style a nod, but one woman stood out for her complete, excellently-fitted and beautiful ensemble of 1950s dress suit, hat, shoes, bag, make up and hair. Everything seemed in place for a period-perfect ensemble and she was wearing the clothing with panache, but when gloves came up she said “I never know how to wear gloves...the etiquette, you know?”

Etiquette books with sections covering glove wear wound down by the 1970s. Not that all glove use disappeared then but with the casualness of the times gloves just didn’t play the part they once had. You can still find advice on glove etiquette for brides—and the basics haven’t changed substantially since the time when gloves were de rigueur—but now the woman wearing decorative gloves is almost always doing so by choice.

Essentially the glove-wearing rules from their heyday years of the 20th century are common sense. See if you can predict which of these are Dos and which are Don’ts according to Edith Heal’s booklet for the Hansen Glove Corporation Gloves: Fashion and Etiquette, 1961.

Do you or Don’t you?
  1. Eat with gloves on
  2. Keep gloves on in a receiving line
  3. Wear gloves in a place of worship
  4. Play cards with gloves on
  5. Apply makeup with gloves on
  6. Remove gloves at the dining table
  7. Drink with gloves on
  8. Wear short gloves to a white tie affair
  9. Wear a ring on the outside of your glove
(Answers: 1. Don’t, 2. Do, 3. Do, 4. Don’t, 5. Don’t, 6. Do, 7. Don’t, 8. Don’t, 9. Don’t)

Even though you probably got these right or see the reason for the correct answer, there are the small details which, when you are not privy to glove-wearing rules on a regular basis, could seem foreign.

But first let’s be honest: Not too many people care anymore if you are wearing gloves correctly. The use of gloves is mainly practical now, and the decorative glove is almost completely optional.

I for one wear vintage gloves mixed into my wardrobe of mainly vintage clothing. The eras are mixed, and I haven’t given much thought to the properness of my glove choices. I had to go looking for vintage glove etiquette advice after I heard that well-dressed woman say she didn’t feel confident in wearing them. Obviously not everyone is as improper as I am! If you wish to employ vintage-style glove etiquette I can suggest looking to guidelines from your era of choice.

Which is what I did when looking into my favorite fashion era of 1940-45. According to Clothing and Fashion: American Fashion from Head to Toe (José Blanco F., Patricia Kay Hunt-Hurst, Heather Vaughan Lee, Mary Doering, 2015) during the first half of the 1940s gloves were considered important for women at all events outside the home, and even sometimes in the home (for receiving guests for instance). Though not quite as strictly essential as in previous decades, gloves were still a symbol of refinement, good manners and fashionability.

Daytime gloves were short and fitted, wrist length or up to the mid forearm. Gauntlet gloves had a vogue in the 1930s and 40s, and their flaring cuffs could be worn over the sleeves of a suit jacket.

You could make your own hat and gauntlet gloves using this 1940s Hollywood pattern (found on So Vintage Patterns).

Sometimes gloves were made to coordinate precisely with an outfit:

Rose Barrack design, 1945

Even with rationing during WWII, gloves remained an important part of a woman’s attire, although for practical reasons they often were made in the more basic colors, to be worn with a variety of outfits.

These gloves in my Etsy shop appear to date from the 1940s, when the patriotic combination of red, white and blue, and the symbolism of the V for Victory were incorporated into all sorts of fashionable items:

Mousquetaires are formal, long gloves with buttoned openings at the inside wrists. These allowed the wearer to pull her hand completely out of the gloves through the openings while leaving the sleeve on, rolling the fingers of the glove into a neat cuff. This meant you could get a pass on removing your gloves in certain social situations where their removal was expected.

A pair of vintage mousquetaires recently purchased from my Etsy shop:

Opera-length gloves went above the elbow, and were used for formal occasions.

A stunning gown by Adrian is coordinated with opera-length gloves in this advertisement from 1944:

For all things mid-century etiquette, try Vogue’s Book of Etiquette, 1948, by Millicent Fenwick. There are also a number of glove etiquette pamphlets that were given out by the glove manufacturers. This 1950s brochure was printed by Paris Gloves:

When a Lady Wears Gloves
   Gloves should be worn on the streets of cities and large towns, when going to church, to a luncheon, dinner or reception; a dance, a wedding or an official function. They are also worn to a restaurant and in the theater.
   Smart women usually wear gloves while traveling on a train or plane...or in any public conveyance.
   On formal occasions, gloves are worn by the guests and by the hostess, while she is receiving.

When a Lady Removes Her Gloves
   Gloves must always be removed before eating, drinking, smoking, playing cards or putting on makeup.
   When lunching in a restaurant, a lady removes her coat but keeps on her hat and gloves, removing her gloves when seated at the table.
   At dances, long gloves would be part of a lady’s ensemble and as such, kept on. The glove fingers should be tucked into the opening at the wrist while smoking or drinking, and the gloves removed entirely immediately upon sitting at the table.
   When gloves are worn merely as a covering for the hands (such as heavy winter gloves), they should be removed with the coat.

What to do When Shaking Hands
   A lady never takes off her gloves to shake hands…and never asks that her glove be excused. (Of course, this is excepted if she is wearing soiled gardening gloves, or the like…in which case she says she is sorry she can’t shake hands.)

Color, Style and Length
   The most important point in choosing gloves is to make sure they fit and are comfortable. Gloves that are too tight tend to make hands look like sausages.
   White or beige gloves are equally appropriate for any costume with which colors will harmonize. Black gloves are always smart. Formal occasions do not demand, but somehow suggest, white gloves. Colored gloves are becoming increasingly popular and are now worn, quite correctly, to weddings. It is considered very smart to wear matching gloves and millinery.
   A glove of the same color as the sleeve of your garment makes the arm look longer. A contrasting glove seems to shorten it.
   The length of the glove is decided by current fashion and the length of the sleeve. Shortie gloves to 8-button length are normally worn on the street, in the daytime and for informal evenings. Long gloves are usually reserved for more formal occasions.
   The style of glove is dictated by fashion and the style of the lady’s outfit. Simple styles usually accessorize tailored ensembles, while dressy, decorated gloves accompany more formal clothes.
   Bracelets may be worn over long gloves, but never rings.

Convinced to give vintage gloves a try? How about a little visual persuasion:

There are more vintage gloves to love on my Pinterest board G'love

Do you wear vintage gloves? And do you follow glove etiquette? 

📧 Keep track of my vintage fashion ideas and deals by subscribing to the denisebrain newsletter!



How to wear vintage for the 40+ year-old woman, part IX

I promised a little personal summary to this series on wearing vintage for the 40+ year-old, including my best shot at answering the most impossible questions...


Does style matter? Does age matter?

Or, does style matter as you age, and should age impact your style? I say yes, and yes. There are many admirable people for whom fashion is of very little or no interest, but style is something else again. Style is a mode of expression, and even if your style is jeans and a sweatshirt, that is a mode of expression.

Do you feel something is missing from your style? I think that we owe ourselves the self-knowledge of what we want to express and how we want to express it. For me that will always include vintage fashions. I really believe in vintage and what it offers people of all ages.

My vintage manifesto (read in plain text  here )

My vintage manifesto (read in plain text here)

To the second question, does age matter?, I offer a more tentative yes. As we age we simply need to adapt our mode of expression to our current thinking. This is not likely to be exactly the same as it was when we were younger, but in some cases it may be. I can picture a timelessly dressed young woman who stays in a timeless groove throughout her life. However, many of us need to refresh ourselves now and then, updating, for instance, our skirt lengths or color intensities.

Besides, updating is fun—it gives us a chance to pay attention to how we see ourselves and how the world sees us.


Vintage on vintage

You may ask from what age I’m coming on this subject, and the answer is 50+. Is that relevant? For many things not really. I truly believe, as I wrote in the first of these posts, that age can be a state of mind and what you make of it.

If anything, age is a good thing for me. I can remember some of the fashions I offer from their first incarnations, and I have had a lot of time to think about and look at fashion and style. My parents were older when I was born, as were their parents, so I have had older fashions in my life from the beginning.

One of my sets of grandparents and my parents, 1890s and 1950s

One of my sets of grandparents and my parents, 1890s and 1950s

Do I run around getting my work done as fast as I did when I was younger? No. I have recently been diagnosed with a condition that slows me down more than my age would suggest, but it doesn’t stop me. If anything, it makes me feel more empathy and concern for others, which I see as part of my business. (I like vintage manners as much as I like vintage fashion!)


Style, not youthfulness, is a virtue

OK, so I do look younger than my age...probably a decade younger than my calendar years, at least that’s what my most honest friends say. I’m just lucky. My photos sometimes make me look even younger, thanks to a bit of blowing out of highlights and other trickery. But youthful appearance is another subject; hardly anyone can hold back the fine lines and grey hairs of experience, but anyone can have style.


Dos and dos

You know those dos and don’ts pages, the ones with the right and wrong way to wear something? I have never liked those and now I feel experienced enough to disagree with fashion dictates without a care. 

Did you notice that some of the points made by my 40+ year-old readers (Readers tips and advice) contradicted others’ points? Yet these women are comfortable with their own styles? I believe that the only don’t that should carry a great deal of weight is this: Don’t wear something that isn’t your style just because someone else says you should. I started this series specifically because I hear women in their 40s and up saying they don’t wear vintage, but they would like to. That is a really threadbare don’t!

This is a time in fashion history in which most everything goes, from minimalism to baroque-ish flamboyance. Women of every age are being seen as fashionable, and there are more and more people living healthy and long lives. 

Do embrace this and enjoy it; most of us are fortunate enough to live in a time and place where our style can be our own. Do it for your sisters who don’t have this freedom, to show the world a better way. Do it for your friends and family, to show everyone who you have grown to be. Do it for yourself, and have some fun.

Rhonda says “Me in my favorite Swirl—(nearly) as vintage as the dress!”

Rhonda says “Me in my favorite Swirl—(nearly) as vintage as the dress!”

See the previous posts in this series:

Part I  Quit acting like you have something to lose

Part II  Pin your style

Part III  Be bold

Part IV  Mix it up

Part V  Get off to a good start

Part VI  The fit bit

Part VII  Reader tips and ideas

Part VIII  Other blogs on the subject



How to wear vintage for the 40+ year-old woman, part VIII

I have come to the conclusion that you can spend several weeks reading about 40+ style and not even scratch the surface. Are we “age appropriate” wearing vintage over 40? Should we be so visible? Can we go all out with it? Can we be elegant? Quirky? Too elegant? Too quirky? Does caring about wearing vintage over the age of 40 even matter?

I am going to try to summarize my own thoughts on the subject in the next (and last) post. Thank you for hanging on while I’ve rolled out these many posts. I’ve learned a lot from so many people, including discovering many thought-provoking bloggers writing on the subject.


A roundup of ideas from across the web

I was inspired to write about wearing vintage for the 40+ among us by a conversation started by Theresa of Blue Velvet Vintage in the Vintage Fashion Guild Forums. As a long-time vintage fashion wearer and seller, Theresa was feeling the urge to show to others that vintage is not just for younger people. She showed a number of 40+ VFG sellers in her blog How to Wear Vintage Clothing if You’re Over 40, and included their tips and ideas. 

Theresa is a stunning vintage dresser herself, and you can’t help but want to believe her when she says that 40+ year olds can wear their vintage any way they want to! 

Jessica of the Chronically Vintage Blog recently wrote a thoughtful and detailed post on the subject (By request: Advice on vintage fashion for women over 40).

Jessica includes an interesting section on the mid-20th century phenomenon of clothing made for specific age groups. (Do any of you remember Mrs. Exeter?)

Some of my favorite takeaways from Jessica’s post:

Consider dressing in vintage from decades prior to your youth to avoid the impression that you are living in your own past. 

Make the most of your best features with vintage. I love this point because various eras emphasized waists, backs, shoulders, legs... Consider vintage an open-ended resource for finding your best styles.

Jessica discusses what might work best in vintage-styled makeup and hair, a subject I can’t find many writers embracing. 

She makes a list of classic fashion choices that have been neither “too young” nor “too old” since they first appeared.

I wholeheartedly endorse her “the more we age...the more important it is that we retain a sense of our identify through our fashion choices.”  Jessica herself is in her early 30s; I look forward to seeing how all her advice evolves.

Lizzie of The Vintage Traveler blog covered the subject in her usual thoughtful way. Read Are You Too Old for Vintage?

The Suzanne Carillo blog has a post titled Top Tips For Shopping Vintage, and although it is not specifically aimed at the 40+ year old, her blog in general is filled with inspiring style ideas and photos featuring her proudly over-40 self. 

If you are not already clued into the Advanced Style phenomenon, you might start by the collection of posts that reference vintage. I owe a lot of ideas and images to the inspiration presented by Ari Seth Cohen and the fashionable older people he has helped us to know. 

One blog that is completely devoted to beauty and fashion for over-40 women is 40+ Style. Again, all an interesting read, but you might start with the posts on vintage.

Starting to form your own strong opinions on the subject? Please add to the list by commenting...or writing your own blog post. I look forward to reading it!


Next time: Does style matter? Does age matter?

(And can I possibly answer those questions?)

See the previous posts in this series:

Part I  Quit acting like you have something to lose

Part II  Pin your style

Part III  Be bold

Part IV  Mix it up

Part V  Get off to a good start

Part VI  The fit bit

Part VII Reader tips and ideas



How to wear vintage for the 40+ year-old woman, part VII

I have received many wonderful photos, links, tips and thoughts from readers, and I want to share a few with you. Kudos and many thanks to these expressive and stylish women!

Reader tips and ideas

And of course every woman who has responded to my request for photos and tips for the 40+ vintage wearer has a different style...each her own, each laudable.

Sarah is a vintage fashion aficionado (with a most amazing collection of vintage Western wear) and shows herself dressed in all-out vintage. When I asked her whether she sees any challenges in wearing vintage at over 50, she replied that some people have problems wearing age-appropriate clothes whether they are vintage or not.   

She makes a good point: One thing that doesn’t necessarily work is wearing exactly the same style you wore when you were young. I know I’m really attracted to the clothing that I loved when I first got into fashion as a teenager, but I have to be careful not to wear exactly the same things that would have been perfect on me in 1974. Also, trying to


young with your dress can be a self-defeating effort. Let’s just say it is a careful balance. 

Sarah wears her magnificent clothing collection with such flair and self-assuredness:

Speaking of self-assuredness, Denise says: “When I started wearing vintage in my 20s there were some things I couldn’t pull off because I didn’t have the panache that I gained by my 50s. For example, the Bette Davis off-the-shoulder black dress in All About Eve...I would have looked silly attempting it back then. But now out and do fasten your seat belts!”

Cherith of The Gypsy’s Closet is 45 and wears vintage from the 1960s and 70s daily. She writes, “Vintage is not popular where I live but I don’t care... It makes me happy!

...It’s funny because I met an older woman when I was a very young woman who inspired me, she had a small vintage clothing shop here in New Hampshire. I used to visit her every day, have tea and buy vintage clothes. I thought she was the coolest woman I had ever met; she didn’t care what anybody thought or what anyone else was wearing. I aspired to be like her...She totally rocked it in a classy way!”

See what you can do for younger women when you share the love of vintage and keep caring about style? 

Marcy is 66 and dresses in 1920s-50s with occasional 1910s or 1960s-80s. She’s a member of the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles and finds lots of vintage events in L.A., as well as people dressing vintage around town. Unless she’s with some of her head-to-toe vintage-wearing friends she usually will just go with a vintage dress and purse mixed in with other items from her wardrobe. She makes the point that you may have to be ready for attention (photo requests included!) when you go all-out vintage. 

Not a bad thing for some of us, as Romona (who is turning 51 in December) writes: “I wear vintage or retro 40s and 50s nearly 100% of the time! It’s timeless and classic. My friends say a little too ‘costume-y’ but at my age, frankly my dears, I don’t give a damn!” Confidence with your style is so important—Romona really owns her look!


Laurence of the amazing Lost in the 50’s blog and Instagram is not quite to 40 yet, but she feels the age differential when she notices that lots of girls in their 20s are more into repro clothing than real vintage. Her style is evolving, even in her mostly vintage wardrobe. “I think you must choose your clothes to make you happy not to be part of a group or show something to someone else...You know, I think I’m preferring my actual self more than my 20s one.” I hope that preference continues to grow for you Laurence!

Karen has been wearing vintage 30 years, since she was 16. She mentions that her style has changed through the years, mainly due to personality whims, not age. Certain things have come with her maturing interest in vintage fashion: “I’m much more interested in quality, well-made pieces and responsibly produced clothing. So aside from the vintage sourcing I do for my job [the great Small Earth Vintage], I shop much less than I used to, and vintage has become even more important to me.”

I’m with Karen—I’m to the point where shopping for new clothing (with some exceptions) is anathema to me. Real vintage can spoil a person!

Monica has also been wearing vintage since she was a teenager. She sees herself as giving these glamorous and well-made fashions a second life, as well as giving her co-workers a view of something interesting and distinct from the usual business attire.

Carol, who is 55, proudly wears vintage day dresses to work at “the coolest office in Sacramento, California.” She wears 1960s and 70s day dresses the likes of which some of her favorite vintage TV heroines wore on programs like Bewitched and The Dick Van Dyke Show, mixing them up with some funky modern accessories.


She buys most of her vintage online, and says it is pretty easy once you get the knack, cautioning to choose by measurements not size, and to carefully read the details about items including flaws, because these may not be obvious in photos.

She writes: “I consider the day dresses historical pieces of wearable art. I admire the details and craftsmanship on each garment; features like darts, side zippers, ornate buttons and pleating are not as common in today’s mid-budget dresses. I have bought many vintage dresses online and have had really good luck with my countless purchases.”

My friend and colleague from the Vintage Fashion Guild, Liza of Better Dresses Vintage, often is seen modeling her clothing for sale and wears amazing complete outfits for historical events and as a movie extra. 

Here she is (on the right, with her friend Sarah) dressed in late 1910s clothing from top to bottom, inside and out. I can vouch for Liza’s sense of humor and drama...she was born to take vintage out on a crusade like this!

However, when it isn’t for an event or a movie shoot, Liza usually wears one or two vintage pieces mixed with modern pieces and modern hair/makeup/accessories. She says that she finds vintage looks better, flatters more, and is aligned with her values; she’s been avoiding newly made, mass-produced fast fashion clothing for more than a year now.

Jean, of Bop and Awe, also does her own modeling as a vintage seller, and wears vintage in real life. She writes “I have opened some eyes here in my tiny little world of Corpus Christi.” 

I really appreciate what she writes in her Etsy profile: “I love anything old (myself included) and with a history (myself included) and turning it into something individual and glorious.”

One of my favorite vintage fashion mixers is Isabelle, who lives in Nice, France. Apparently vintage is not so much a


there, but by mixing vintage, modern and handcrafted items in her unique way, she is no doubt turning heads and getting many compliments! 

This outfit mixes modern and vintage elements in a fall color palette: 

Isabelle is a connoisseur of details, for instance loving the just-for-the-wearer detail of a beautiful printed lining. She seems to know every vintage nook and cranny in her area, and frequents the vide-greniers (flea markets) where she gets to know the sellers, who sometimes save out things she might especially like. She has an arrangement with a vintage shop owner who will let her trade vintage that she no longer uses for new-to-her vintage items. 

Getting acquainted with sellers is a great tip, no matter what one’s age! 

Here is one of her colorful outfit mixes including an item she got in trade from the vintage shop:

I especially admire her ability and ambition to save vintage treasures and repurpose them into wearables for herself. About this jacket project she writes “half the tapestry was dead but enough was left to carry on my back this picture!” 

What got Pam hooked on vintage was wearing one of her mother’s novelty print 1950s dresses (shown on the right below) for a play in the 1980s. What started as a costume soon became a wardrobe staple which set the tone for her interest to this day. 

Pam still loves finding vintage novelty prints to wear, and at 52, unapologetically wears vintage almost daily. Her blog (about “all things groovy and mystical”) is called The Mid-century Mystic, appropriately enough!

When 45-year-old Sara checked in she was debating wearing these vintage barkcloth culottes with heels and a simple t-shirt for an event that evening:

Sara is attracted to the nostalgia and uniqueness of vintage from the 1950s-70s, and also to items because of their graphic and/or whimsical prints (such as horse print culottes!). She doesn’t wear vintage every day, but often—usually pairing one vintage piece with a modern twist.

Melanie would second that modern twist aspect. As she writes: “I keep my hair and makeup modern because I don’t want to look like I’m trapped in a decade or going to a costume party.” She prefers what she calls loud, flattering vintage from the 1960s and 70s, such as Lanvin shirt dresses or mod colorblock garments. 

Here is Sarah again, with a friend. She says: “We have both been wearing vintage since our late teens so are very comfortable with our own style.”

In the end, isn’t that what’s most important?

Next time:  Some more writers’ takes on the subject

See the previous posts in this series:

Part I  Quit acting like you have something to lose

Part II  Pin your style

Part III  Be bold

Part IV  Mix it up

Part V  Get off to a good start

Part VI  The fit bit



How to wear vintage for the 40+ year-old woman, part VI

Have you a measuring tape? And a list of your measurements?

This is not a cue to start worrying about how much your waist size (etc.) might have increased, just a reality check. In this case, reality is the key to enjoying vintage — looking and feeling really fantastic in it.


The fit bit

You need to know your measurements—not your modern size—to purchase vintage clothing. Heck, you need to know your measurements to buy modern clothing too, with modern sizes all over the place! As a vintage seller I do try to give an approximate modern U.S. size, but the only true way to tell if something will fit is by comparing your measurements with the garment’s measurements. All vintage clothing you might purchase online must have the piece’s dimensions (or don’t hesitate to ask the seller for them!).

There is a pretty comprehensive list of measurements and how to take them on wikiHow.

Then you need to figure out the extra room needed to move and breathe in the item. This is the ease.

If you have some garments that fit just perfectly and are in the cut of an item you are considering purchasing online, you can compare the size of the online item to your perfect piece. That is handy information, but I must say, we don’t all have the perfect-fitting 1950s sheath dress lying around.

I have written in the past about fit and vintage, and if you feel you need some priming on the subject, please do have a look at these.

  • This post gives information about the vintage sizing numbers vs. measurements; a bit about ease; and some great fit tips from my colleagues at the Vintage Fashion Guild. 
  • Here is a post that discusses waist length and a few other specific fit issues. 
  • In this post I discuss vintage underpinnings and how our mothers and grandmothers got the fit bit down.

If you haven’t already seen the point in taking a tailored garment to be better fitted on you by someone who is an expert at alterations (or doing the altering yourself if you possess the skills), then now is the time to start. Wearing nothing but modern, skimpy stretch knits is a cop out, and not a very flattering one at that. But an ill-fitted vintage piece, no matter how wonderful its quality, is not very flattering either. 

Your alterations person needs to have a clear sense of how the item would best fit, which may take having a knowledge of fashion history. Make sure you ask to have inseams and hems left uncut so that they can be restored if wanted or needed. Be in the habit of purchasing items that are either just the right size for you, or big enough in the most fitted dimension to be altered to fit you in other dimensions.

You may want to keep a list of the measurements that work best for you in certain items, for instance: 

  • The bust, shoulder width, waist, hip, back waist length and overall length of a woven-fabric dress
  • The waist, hip, back and front rise, inseam, leg circumference and outer leg length of pants
  • The length and width of the inside of a pair of shoes and your best heel heights

One last word: Please don’t buy into the rumor that vintage clothing is all tiny. Among many myths, this one is probably the most prevalent. I have seen vintage clothing in every size imaginable, even if your size (whatever it may be) is not the most common, believe me it is out there. I think the myth comes from the fact that vintage clothing is OOAK and you really do need to keep your eyes out for items you love in your size.

But you know what? It’s fun—and so worth it!


Next time: Your ideas, tips and photos

See the previous posts in this series:

Part I  Quit acting like you have something to lose

Part II  Pin your style

Part III  Be bold

Part IV  Mix it up

Part V  Get off to a good start



How to wear vintage for the 40+ year-old woman, part V

Maybe you are the sort of person who jumps into the deep end of the pool head first, but if you like to test the water, this post is especially for you.

Some 40+ women are intimidated at the thought of wearing vintage. There is the care of the garment, the size, the but will it work for me?


Get off to a good start

If you are over 40 and aren’t currently wearing vintage, consider adding one or two wonderfully easy things first. I have written a lot about getting started with vintage, and I can guarantee you will be happy in adding vintage to your style if you start with a few easy pieces and keep growing your wearable collection along with your style. This is not necessarily age-specific; many people find it hard to make the first move in adding vintage fashion to their wardrobes and would be off to a good start with a few winning pieces.

The easiest place to start? Jewelry...a brooch for instance. Everybody can wear a vintage brooch. A few suggestions for the 40+ woman:

Think of impact. Cluster a group of brooches of like kind or color; pin one in an unexpected way such as in your hair, on your bag or on the shoulder of your jacket; bring a different era into your normal mix with an art deco or modernist piece.

Image via  Hikari note on Tumblr  

The artful crafter Julie Arkell so perfectly shows off her style with accessories; she resembles one of her delightful creations!

And speaking of Julie’s style, another great vintage choice is a sweater. The fit is relatively easy, the quality for the money is likely to be vastly superior to a new sweater, and there are many styles from which to choose.

A handbag is another great first choice. There are so many wonderful vintage bag styles...don’t be surprised if you end up collecting them (speaking from experience)!

Image via MyZestLiving

Image via MyZestLiving

And whether it is a brooch, a coat, a bag, a sweater—by all means express your style, think bold, and mix it up.

My blog series with lots of tips on getting started with vintage (for every age) is indexed here.


Next time: The fit bit

See the previous posts in this series:

Part I  Quit acting like you have something to lose

Part II  Pin your style

Part III  Be bold

Part IV  Mix it up