Method 1 Putting Outfits Together
1Raid your parents’ and grandparents’ closets for outfit ideas. Older family members can be great sources of inspiration for retro clothing. Even if the sizing of their clothing isn’t right for you, you can still get a lot of ideas about outfit combinations by looking through their wardrobes.
- As you go through their items, pay attention to details, like patterns and cuts, that appear often and seem to represent certain eras.
- This knowledge can be helpful as you search thrift stores and vintage shops for retro clothing.
2Look at old pictures for fashion inspiration. Ask to see old pictures of your parents or grandparents and evaluate the styles you see. Even better, look through their school yearbooks. These will give you accurate examples of what young people of that particular era really wore.
- Look for archived fashion photography online for additional inspiration.
- Explore a variety of eras and get a feel for how to capture them accurately.
3Mix and match styles and eras. One of the easiest ways to start working retro fashion into your wardrobe is by mixing vintage pieces with modern ones. For example, you could pair a retro 50s top with jeans you already own and a pair of 60s-era ballet flats or vintage sneakers from the 70s. Experiment with different combinations, but try to choose an element that will unify the ensemble in some way. For instance, the repetition of a particular color or pattern can make an outfit look cohesive.
- Sometimes an outfit that doesn’t seem like it would make sense at all can end up looking fantastic once you have it on.
- Head-to-toe retro or wearing too much of a particular decade can sometimes make you look like you’re wearing a costume. Mixing and matching eras can help you avoid that.
4Choose statement pieces. Find a few items that are timeless and classic for a particular era, then build your outfits on top of them. When choosing staple pieces, pick items that you fit you well and look natural on you. Since you’ll be wearing them often, choose quality garments that can withstand a bit of extra wear.
- Good examples of classic staple pieces are a 50s beaded cardigan, a 60s little black dress, 70s polyester trousers, vintage sneakers from the 80s and so on.
- Select timeless pieces that reflect your own personal style.
5Add flair with retro accessories. Look for retro or retro-inspired jewelry to accent your outfits. As with the clothing, don’t be afraid to mix and match accessories. Look for colorful bangles, headbands, pearls, vintage looking necklaces and dangly earrings. Depending on what era you want to reflect, you could also try feather boas, anything with fringe, lace shawls, cat-eye sunglasses, faux fur, gloves, beaded jewelry, large rings, gypsy scarves and a lot more.
- Thrift shops will offer many options to choose from. Experiment with different combinations and find what suits you.
- If you’re trying to ease your way into the retro style, accessories are a great place to start.
6Keep your hairstyle and makeup modern. Unfortunately, wearing head-to-toe vintage and topping that off with a retro haircut and makeup can sometimes make you look like you're wearing a Halloween costume. If you're concerned about your retro outfits looking too much like costumes, you can prevent this by keeping your hairstyle and makeup modern.
- Your unique style is also better preserved when you keep these elements up-to-date.
Method 2 Developing Your Own Style
1Select pieces that reflect your personality. Think about your previous favorite looks and clothing styles, then look for retro equivalents. Have you always gravitated toward simple pieces or do you prefer to be avant-garde with your style? Do you tend to wear dressy or casual items? Do you like sharp, clean lines or loose and flowing ones? Patterns or solids? Every era has a vast array of styles – there is no “one” look for any decade. You can find something that represents your personality in any of them!
- Stay true to what feels natural to you. You should feel like yourself in whatever you’re wearing, not like someone playing dress up.
- Choose items that appeal to you rather than selecting pieces just because they "look retro."
2Choose pieces that flatter your body shape. Some retro items are going to look better on you than others. Experiment with anything that catches your eye, but whenever you find something that works really well for you, look for other items similar to it. For example, if you discover that loose and flowing 60s blouses look great on you, you could search for similar styles in different colors and other cuts.
- As you discover additional pieces that are flattering, continue to add to your retro wardrobe and develop your own unique style.
- Select vintage pieces that fit you well and highlight your best features.
- Whenever possible, try on a garment before buying it. Don’t be afraid to alter pieces that you really like so that they fit you perfectly.
3Add vintage embellishments to your modern pieces. Instead of revamping your entire style and replacing your entire wardrobe, think about adding retro touches to clothing you already own. Try adding patches to your jeans, changing the buttons on a shirt, embellishing a jacket with fringe and so on. Get creative!
- Try repurposing some of your current clothing with retro elements bought from a thrift store. For instance, you could sew a 60s style shirt collar onto a top you already own.
- Give a modern outfit a little retro flair by adding vintage accessories to go with it.
Method 3 Building a Vintage Wardrobe
1Check out thrift stores and charity shops. The best local resources for retro clothing are thrift shops, Salvation Army stores and resale shops. These places also have the lowest prices, but a little digging is usually required to unearth quality items. Don’t be overwhelmed by the massive selection, but be prepared to really dig in. Move boxes around, look under things and pull out clothing from the bottom of the bins. You never know what you might find!
- Check the glass cabinets near the registers, as well. These are generally locked, and for good reason – the best things are often in them.
- Find out from store management how often they replenish their stock and check back frequently.
2Shop at dedicated boutiques and antique shops. Boutiques that specialize in retro and vintage clothing can be excellent resources for building your wardrobe. The same is true for antique shops. The selection is often much better and less digging is required to find the good stuff. Unfortunately, you can also expect the price tags to be higher than what you’d find at a thrift shop. If you’re considering making a significant purchase at a boutique, ask the shop assistant to go over the details of the piece with you.
- If a garment is very expensive, look for designer tags. If it’s not a designer piece, ask about the price.
- Don’t make a purchase unless you are completely satisfied with what they have to say.
3Assess the condition of used clothing. Always run your hand over the fabrics to check their condition before you make a purchase. Look for holes and stains. You can’t expect perfection from used items and signs of wear should be expected. However, don’t let a minor defect stop you from buying a piece you really love. Evaluate any flaws you find realistically. Sometimes garments can be dry cleaned or repaired, but not always.
- Think about the size of the defect, where it’s located on the item, and whether or not it’s still wearable if you can’t fix it.
- In general, the older a garment is, the more fragile the material will be.
- Moth damage is a risk, especially with natural fibers. Hold pieces up to the light to look for threadbare fabric and holes.
4Shop for vintage items online. Local thrift shops can only offer so much in the form of quality retro pieces. Websites like eBay and Etsy can provide a vast selection of additional items that would be difficult to find in a resale shop. The downside is that you can’t touch the fabric or evaluate the size before you buy something online. Inspect the images closely. If you aren’t satisfied with the provided images, request additional ones from the seller.
- Online retailers should provide measurements. Don’t rely on the size identified on the tag.
- Make sure details are provided about any damages or irregularities.
- Find out the seller’s return policy and keep that in mind when making decisions. Often, sales are final.
5Be aware of sizing differences. The sizing systems for vintage clothing are generally not identical to modern sizing systems. Sizes can vary from decade to decade, and also by manufacturer. Because of this, it can be difficult to figure out if something will fit you just by looking at it. Do a little research on basic sizing systems for the eras you’re interested in.
- When in doubt, go for pieces that appear slightly too large. These can always be tailored to fit you just right, but there isn’t much you can do with a garment that is too small for you.
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