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How to wear vintage clothes without looking like a clown

Love the idea of wearing vintage clothes but fear looking like you’ve run away from the circus? We understand – selecting and styling vintage fashion can feel daunting when you’re just starting out. But have no fear, we’ve compiled a guide to help you on your way.

Styling tips: the basics

What you actually find in a vintage store can be hit and miss, which is actually a huge part of the fun – discovering items you can restyle and reinvent. If you’re immediately captivated by an item, follow your instincts. However, if you’re struck with uncertainty when you see the colourful racks of clothing and aren’t sure how or what to search for, a good place to start is with your body shape:

How to wear vintage if you’re a gazelle

A woman wearing colourful striped trousers and a bright blue coat – styling tip: long legs look good in flares

Tall and slender? Look out for these three must-have vintage items:

 

  1. A good pair of full- or calf-length wide trousers. They accentuate long legs and the vintage kind are available in cool, bold velvets, embroidered fabrics and bright linens. Styling tip: Keep balance with a simple white, grey or black top.
  2. Maxi skirts and bohemian dresses. These were made for height, just make sure they nip in at the waist to help emphasise your form.
  3. An oversized leather motorcycle jacket. It is the ultimate vintage staple and looks phenomenal with anything from basic jeans to floral dresses.

But avoid…

 

  • Anything too baggy. If you fall in love with a piece in a larger size, avoid the tent look by getting it taken in.

How to wear vintage if you’re petite all over

3. Whether it’s a stubborn stain, a snagged thread or a flaw in the weave, a tiny bit of damage can ruin your favourite party dress. Fix your dress by using double-sided adhesive tape to cover up any unsightly imperfections. We created a fun pattern with simple decorative ribbons to conceal a snagged thread for one night only. For more permanent results, use iron-on tape or sew the ribbons on with a sewing machine.

Small but mighty? The following three top vintage items beckon:

 

  1. A 1960s shift dress in a plain or two-tone fabric. This is just the thing for your body type. Styling tip: Grab the biggest, brightest earrings you can find and allow the two to meet.
  2. 1940s fitted blazers, nipped in at the waist with subtle lapels. They’ll  provide structure to a slim figure and can be paired with jeans or trousers. Styling tip: Go checquered and add a brooch (or three) for full vintage points.
  3. Silk scarves. Whether they’re worn around your neck, head or as a bracelet or bag accessory, silk scarves bring vintage styling pizazz to any look.

But avoid…

 

  • Wide 1950s skirts, 1970s bell-bottom trousers, 1980s shoulder pads or anything else with lots of fabric that threatens to steal your thunder.

How to wear vintage if you’ve got womanly curves

A woman wearing a red dress with a matching boater-style hat and green coat

Beautiful, feminine and ready to show it? Don’t go past these three top vintage must-haves:

 

  1. 1960s dresses and blouses. Think florals, floating chiffon bows and V-cuts in shapes and colours that excentuate your curves.
  2. Flared 1950s skirts. They’ll cinch in your waist, bringing attention to all the right places.
  3. A well-cut pencil skirt. Aim for a tea-length hemline and ensure it emphasizes your beautiful hourglass figure.

But avoid…

 

  • Straight-cut maxi dresses that attempt to conceal, rather than flatter, your curves. Also on the list: anything that clings to you too tightly.

The balancing act of wearing vintage

Not everyone is brave enough to wear a top-to-toe vintage outfit. Bold retro patterns, brocade jackets or an unusual shape, like a billowing skirt or puffed sleeves, can look wonderful if worn with other, more subtle or classic, items. The secret is balance: bold with delicate, bright with muted, structured with soft. Flatter your figure and you can’t go wrong.

Hot tip: Once you get your vintage home, make sure to take care of it properly to ensure it lasts as long as possible.

Image credits

Header image: Blaublut
Image of a woman wearing colourful striped trousers and a bright blue coat: Getty Images
Image of a petite woman wearing a black fitted blazer: Blaublut
Image of a woman wearing a red dress with a matching boater: Shutterstock