Published: 29/06/2014 15:30 - Updated: 05/07/2014 13:16

A crafty guide to vintage fashion: 6 tips to get you started


AS you know, I love dressing my home in a vintage style, but I also love wearing vintage styles.

We ladies long to look as elegant as the Audreys and Jackies of this world, but entering the world of vintage can be daunting. Where do we start?

Many would argue that fashion is reserved for youth – well, flimsy fashions might be, but timeless elegance and classic style are not ... heck and blast, no!

My 83-year-old neighbour Ros dresses with elegance and vintage style, and never leaves the house without her silk scarf.

I reckon 98% of my clothes are from charity and vintage shops (the remaining 2% are undies as one has to draw the line somewhere).

My love of vintage clothing started when I was a shabby student in Liverpool. It had some fantastic vintage shops and opened up a whole new world of shopping and style to me. Now I simply can’t pass the charity shops in Stortford without being tempted inside and I always manage to find something lovely.

What is ‘Vintage’?

‘Vintage’ basically means second-hand clothing from a previous era.

What I love most about vintage clothes is the quality; they’re made well and built to last. And then there’s the style. There’s so much wonderful inspiration we can draw on from bygone eras.

I love the ‘40s tea dresses – the cut of them was so flattering and feminine. I also loved the Victorian era – the lace, the gloves and the delicate cottons. That style definitely influences how I dress today.

It’s not always easy to pick up authentic vintage goods, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take inspiration and dress in a vintage-style. So where to begin ...

1. Get to know your style

I’m not going to tell you what to look for, you need to discover what you love. If you don’t know where to start, try looking back at some of the previous styles and see what you’re drawn to. Perhaps look to iconic women, too? Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe were huge style icons, though I prefer Marilyn when she was dressed casually. My days of low-plunge tops and killer heels are well behind me, though it doesn’t seem to stop Miggins next door.

2. Start small

Once you’ve found a style you’re drawn to, start small, perhaps by accessorising. Try wearing silk neck scarves or adding brooches to cardigans and bags to add instant vintage glamour. Once you’re comfortable with that, try a piece of clothing. Soon you’ll start to recognise pieces from your preferred eras when you’re out shopping.

3. Shop little and often

When you’re a vintage shopper, you can’t just pop into a charity shop and expect it to have exactly what you’re after. So in order to get the good stuff it’s worth popping in frequently, even if you’re not after anything in particular – you’re more likely to find lovely clothes this way. I use the same method when visiting my cake tin – little and often! Generally, if shops are in a busy town they’ll have new stuff in all the time, so pop in each time you pass.

4. The art of scanning

Searching through every rack in the shop can take an age and is no fun. So before you start browsing the rails locate your size straight away. I regularly fall in love with something I can’t even get my leg in. Then ... scan. Cast your eye over the whole section, then do it again slowly and just wait for something to jump out at you, whether it’s a colour, pattern or fabric. The more you do this, the better you’ll become.

5. Don’t be swayed by the designer

Learn to shop via quality rather than name. This way you can be more spontaneous with your buying, and remember it’s not who you wear, it’s how you wear it. If you’re after a really posh designer frock try going to a charity shop in a posh town, though bear in mind, the posher the town, the pricier the shop.

6. Try it on

I bought a navy and white dress in a thrift shop in Amsterdam (see final photo in slideshow). I didn’t like it at all on the hanger but hubby suggested I try it anyway. I did and absolutely loved it! So always try it on just to see – you’ll be surprised.

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