I love styling. It’s a big drive behind this blog, and it brings me great joy to build and analyze outfits. Forever a student of personal style, I like to study it and share a little bit about what I learn along the way. I’ve mentioned many times that I love contrast when building my outfits. I like to mix casual and dressy, masculine and feminine, and perhaps my favorite combo: modern and vintage (or vintage-inspired).
I have a strong affinity for vintage. It’s kitschy but chic. It’s unique but brings feelings of nostalgia. Often the pieces are high quality and stand out in an age of ‘fast-food’ clothing.
While many vintage items are beautiful and bring a sense of depth to an outfit, they are not always easy to style. If I’m not careful, I’ll look like I walked off the set of Stranger Things, or worse, That 70’s Show. I love the costuming on shows like these, but the clothing is just that – costumes. Not exactly the look I’m going for on a day-to-day basis. I want to be unique, but uniquely me.
When it comes to wearing vintage clothing, I have learned what works for me (and what doesn’t).
4 Tips for Styling Vintage Items in Everyday Outfits
1 – Balance the number of vintage items with the number of modern items in a given outfit. In other words, too many vintage pieces in one look can make you look more ‘throwback’ than you’re going for. That’s exactly what happens when I wear my vintage denim, and vintage-esque clogs and sherpa jacket. I feel like I might be hanging out at the pool hall in Dazed and Confused. Instead, I’ll opt for 1-2 vintage(y) items per outfit, and round out the look with other items from my closet.
2 – Contrast vintage with complementary modern shapes. The vintage items I often love are detail-driven and more intricate pieces, a tooled leather bag, a cable knit sweater, or jeans worn in so well they are a roadmap of blue shades. To let these items receive the attention they deserve I like to choose modern pieces from my closet to go with them. Long, clean lines are often the perfect backdrop or complement. Classic items (like a turtleneck or a button up) work well with vintage too. They can be neutral in terms of ‘era’ and play off a vintage item well.
3 – Customize it to make it yours. It took me way too long in life to figure this out. Often vintage items won’t be a perfect fit off the rack. No big deal, drop $15 at a good tailor, and take the item from decent to amazing. When I recently bought a second pair of vintage jeans off Etsy, I realized they were bigger in the waist/hips than I wanted. I went to an alterations place downtown. Five days and $15 later they were exactly what I was looking for. If you’re going to do this, just remember to build it into your budget when shopping vintage.
4 – Go with your instinct. I am a big fan of wearing what makes me feel good, and often that’s dictated by instinct. I try to trust my gut judgement on outfits without over thinking it too much. Pull items you love, like your favorite cashmere sweater and pair it with your beat-up vintage jeans. Or grab that amazing vintage coat you have, and pair it over the simplest dark, skinny jeans and chelsea boots. Let your instincts guide the ‘vibe’ of your look. Often they will do a great job!
Do you wear vintage items? I’d love to hear what ‘rule of thumb’ you follow for styling your decades-old favorites.
This post contains affiliate links. All photographs by Kiara Rose.