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How to Wear Vintage Without Feeling Costumed

Monday, March 3, 2014


how to wear vintage clothing without feeling costumed

I recently received a question from a reader asking how to wear and enjoy her vintage treasures without feeling like she's in a costume. Some of us do love to wear costumes and absolutely would on a daily basis if we could. However, some of us prefer to keep a modern look and maintain some of our current personal style or simply not look like a cast member of a living history museum (which certainly isn't a bad thing either!). You can achieve a lot of authentic vintage looks that have a place in a modern girl's lifestyle. Here are my tips for how to wear vintage without feeling costumed.

Experiment with accessories first

Try jewelry, scarves, handbags and an occasional vintage hat. Carry a 1940s crochet handbag with jeans or a work outfit and start a collection of vintage earrings or brooches to wear daily. As you experiment with accessories, you'll quickly develop your vintage style and learn what styles you like and what you don't.  Check out my brooch crafting e-book for 12 DIY vintage brooch projects to add to your modern wardrobe.

vintage 1940s 1950s work office wear

Play with prints

If you sew , look for fabric prints that remind you of your favorite eras. Sew a modern blouse in a great 30s feedsack repro fabric, classic gingham, polka dot or plaid. Today's fashion designers are heavily influenced by vintage so check department stores like Target, Penny's and Kohl's for vintage prints in modern clothes.

Simplify a Vintage Dress

If you find a great 50s dress that you love, keep it modern with a simple hair style and minimal accessories. Retro is very "in" right now so a 60s style dress looks great with current hair and makeup trends. Freshen up a 60 year old dress with modern jewelry and shoes.

vintage 1950s 1940s casual comfortable fashion

Relax in Casual Daywear

Not every 1940s woman wore victory rolls or suits every day. There are a lot of great casual pieces that you can play with in your current wardrobe.

look for:
peasant blouses
high waist jeans
capri pants
wedges or ballet flats
button up blouses

1940s college fashion jeans boyfriend sweater tee shirt and marilyn monroe

Look to the Icons

The reason why we still admire looks from Jackie, Audrey and Grace today is because their style was timeless. A woman could wear any of their hair, makeup and clothes looks today and no one would ask if she's in a play. These style icons leaned towards sleek lines, smooth hair, fresh makeup and solids. 

vintage 1940s 1950s comfortable casual fashion pants Betty White Rita Hayworth


Ultimately, never wear anything that makes you feel uncomfortable about yourself. A fashionable person's most important accessory is confidence.


22 Responses to “How to Wear Vintage Without Feeling Costumed”

  1. Excellent post! I am trying to expand my casual vintage wardrobe (looking for the perfect pair of jeans, they are evading me)

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    1. If you sew, I can't rave enough about wearing history's overall and trouser pattern! I made a pair of jeans and they are so amazing! This summer I hope to sew at least 3 more pairs!

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    2. If you are looking for higher waisted jeans that don't look too vintage (though I do love my Freddies), I just fell in love with Levis. They have a high rise tummy slimming pair that hits right at my belly button. They don't look like mom jeans either. They are super stretchy without feeling or looking cheap. So, they fit like a glove. The ones I got were the boot cut. The straight legs are a tad bit lower in rise, but still just as comfortable. The best part, right now they are on sale for $40 - plus you get an extra 20% off which makes them about $35!

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  2. Perfect timing for me, I love vintage but want to make it feel current and classic. I have been working on a few circle skirts to add to my wardrobe.
    Thanks!

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  3. Really awesome article, great advice! : D

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  4. Fantastic post and some great advice! I follow most of these rules for work every day; I can't stress enough how important vintage jewelry is to me in this quest for work-appropriate vintageness. :P It adds that nice pop of character without being "too much" and it's always a conversation-starter.

    Cheers,
    Jenny

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  5. I'm a big believer in making vintage jackets and wraps out of beautiful boucle or italian printed wools. Wear them with waxed jeans and ballet flats, and you can go anywhere. People can't quite place them, and I get a lot of compliments.

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  6. Great post :) I too sometimes feel a little bit "costumed" or over dressed. Most of the time I just push though it and wear the outfit anyway, but on occasion it is nice to play it down just a tad.
    That photo of Betty White is just amazing. I think that would have to be my ideal casual-vintage outfit.

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  7. Great tips! After 5 years of collecting vintage I've finally started to find my own vintage style. Now I'm finally able to let go of those lovely things I never wear and resist an urge to buy a beautiful but not-so-me dress. I love solids and simple prints and bold colours.

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  8. Great post. Even costume-loving gals like me have many occasions where something more modern would be more appropriate. :)

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    1. absolutely! I am also a costume lover but I can't tell you how many times I was going to something like jury duty or a doctor's appointment and really just wanted some "normal" clothes!! *lol*

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  9. Great advice and just what I need right now to try to introduce a little vintage wearing into my life without going over the top. Thanks :)

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  11. Terrific tips, dear Brittany, thank you for raising an important topic that I think most of us who are into vintage come face-to-face with at some point (if not many points) in our lives. I know that for me, I was leery of sporting a poodles skirt as an adult for many years, until last fall, to be exact. But all it took was one great poodle skirt, styled as I would any other similarly shaped circle skirt, to break me of that trepidation and help me see first hand how-uncosumey this fun 50s classic can be.

    ♥ Jessica

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  12. Adorei as dicas... beijos Vivi
    http://casacherry.blogspot.com.br/

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  13. this is all really great advice. I wear a lot of 20s and 30s stuff and Im not sure if I look a bit costumed, sometimes I don't mind but its great to have every day vintage looks too

    retro rover

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  14. awesome blog, so happy to see another st louisian in the blog world!

    http://beatnikbeatrix.blogspot.com/

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  15. haha yeah, i thought we were the rarest form of bloggers, im just starting out, and happy to see someone so close to home!

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  16. I'm comfortable erring on the side of being a little costume-y, but sometimes it's fun to blend in, too!

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  17. I love the picture of the modern woman in a circle skirt with a t-shirt. They're so flattering and the t-shirt makes it modern. Now I just have to find one!

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I read every single comment (even on old posts) and they make my day! If you have a question, please email me at brittanyvavoomvintage@gmail.com. Thank you for reading me!