How To Wear Vintage Clothing With Style

You’d never guess that wearing something used could be a more unique fashion choice than wearing an outfit fresh from the retailers. Because advances in technology and media are developing at lightning speed, consumers have become accustomed to wanting the next best thing. Yet, the nature and appeal of wearing older clothing remains as pertinent as ever.

What is Vintage?

Some fashionistas have their own definitions of what makes something vintage, but putting snobbery aside, the nature of vintage fashion applies to anything from clothing and shoes to jewelry and accessories. The term itself implies that an item is old, second-hand, or even just rare. When gauging whether something is vintage, car collectors say it ought to be at least 25 years old, which is also a fair reference for fashion. Some dealers still sell hand-made items and vintage reproductions under the “vintage” title, though.

Vintage clothing is often separated by the following decades.
– 1920s Flapper Fashion: Knee-high socks, drop waists and cloche hats with long pearl necklaces made the perfect style rebellion amidst prohibition.

– 1930s/40s War Era: T-strap heels, butterfly and banjo sleeves on shoulders with conservative cuts. Think Lauren Bacall in Casablanca.

– 1950s Femininity: A-line dresses and sweetheart cuts accentuated feminine figures to celebrate a new era in sweet pastels.

– 1960s Mod, Rocker, and Hippie Fashion: Mini-skirts, go-go boots, leather jackets and plastic raincoats reined until the late ‘60s when the androgynous, long-haired, earthy, bell-bottom look emerged.

– 1970s Platform Craze: Flared trousers continued with the addition of platform shoes and the disco craze. It’s all glitz and glam from here.

– 1980s Madonna vs The Business Suit: Tight-fitting Lycra skirts and dresses paired with jean jackets or leggings became an anthem against the yuppie business suit generation. Also, all hail the mullet.

Where Can I Find It?

Vintage clothing is everywhere! Here is a short list of where your next vintage find might be hiding.

Thrift Stores and Charity Shops

This is where you’ll have access to the most affordable selection of vintage fashion, but finding items worthy enough and in the right size can be difficult. Get to know your local Salvation Army and surrounding thrift stores to get an idea of which shops are best for finding shoes, jewelry and accessories, clothing, or even furniture.

Vintage Boutiques and Private Dealers

For a wall-to-wall experience with all things vintage, specialty boutiques provide an extensive selection of hard to find shoes, boots, jewelry, accessories, and clothing. The catch with these hubs is that prices here can be extortionate.

Estate Sales, Yard Sales, Flea Markets

Keep a sharp eye out with these; if you see a clothing rack, it’s worth stopping for the potential bargain. Depending on its location, an estate sale can yield a treasure chest of antique beauties—especially when it comes to jewelry. Flea markets are usually straightforward, as vendors tend to advertise their wares. Have a look, and take advantage of any opportunity you get to haggle that 1950s prom dress down a few dollars!

Getting Personal With Vintage Clothing

When you wear clothes that herald of decades past, you have the freedom to combine and create a look that isn’t bound by the rules of modern fashion. Make your vintage look personal by homing in on the decades that most appeal to you. If you love the swing in ’40s and ’50s A-line skirts, or the spacey silhouette of the 60s, find them! Don’t be afraid to dabble. Pairing a 1920s slip with a pair of 1970s boots was never more appropriate than right now.

Janice Oliver is a home decor consultant and content contributor for, a shopping destination for Seda France Candles and hundreds of other scented accessories in the Candle Luxury line.
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  1. Diana Douglas says:

    I rarely buy anything new. Shopping vintage is too much fun and too economical not to take advantage off. Went to a church rummage sale last weekend and they were giving out plastic bags that you could fill for a dollar. I scored!