Friday, May 7, 2010

How I got into vintage

The question people often ask me is how I got into vintage fashion. Well, it has been a long time coming for me. My mother introduced me to classic movies at a very young age. There's old video footage of me from a trip to California in 1992, when I was eight years old. I was obsessed with one Scarlett O'Hara - and still are - and the home movies show me acting out scenes from Gone with the Wind and rocking a similar southern belle hat as Vivien Leigh in the movie. Quite a sight I must have been, a tiny diva! I also got a vintage photo of Vivien as Scarlett from Los Angeles and still have it today. I was truly fascinated by the stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood, especially their personalities and glamorous looks. Vivien and Marilyn Monroe were my very favorites.

I used to drift a lot as a teenager and often wore 1960s summer dresses. But I didn't particularly care about style back then - I was busy writing zines, playing in a band and doing activist work, things like that. I suppose my look has always been somewhat similar to what it is today in that I've always prefered skirts and dresses to trousers and I've always enjoyed girly things.

I was introduced to repro vintage clothing around 2004 and I got my first Stop Staring! dresses. I was really into pin-up and burlesque at the time. I suppose it was also my ever-growing love for classic film that sparked my passion for vintage fashion. For a long, long time I unfortunately subscribed to the notion that plus size vintage simply does not exist. I was glad to realize a couple of years later that it simply is not true! In fact, there's plenty of vintage for the larger ladies; you just have to be patient, know where to look and how to search online, which is what I have learned with time.

I was on a very tight budget during my university years and did most of my shopping at Monsoon sales. Not that vintage has to be more expensive than your general high street fashion but when you're of a rare size it can be hard to come across such items in vintage while drifting. So sometimes it is a good option to check out local high street shops for vintage inspired clothing when you're on a very tight budget. It worked for me.

I am not particularly creative or artistic so vintage fashion is an important way for me to express myself and my personality. I've learned that a pretty dress and a little red lipstick can really brighten up a gloomy day! My blog friends inspire so much. It is so wonderful to have a supporting community of people who are creative in their way of dressing instead of conforming and looking like everybody else.

Thought I'd post a couple a couple of tips I wish I had known when I was getting into buying actual vintage items (especially online, which is where I do most of my vintage shopping).

Never go by size, always, always, always by the measurements given. Modern and vintage sizes are totally different for the most part.

Measure yourself carefully and always double check the measurements provided of a garment you're buying online. Remember that the measurements given are of the garment itself and not your actual figure measurements. The dress should always be an inch or two larger than you are to ensure the perfect fit and that the dress drapes beautifully on you. Obviously this depends on the era too, like 1920s flapper frocks were meant to fall loosely.

Yes, vintage shoes really are that small and narrow. Be extremely cautious when buying shoes online and always compare the measurements given to a pair that fit you well.

Be picky. Even if something is vintage and cheap, it doesn't mean you have to buy it. Carefully consider the condition of an item and whether or not it suits your personal style.

Don't forget accessories and undergarments. Something like a crinoline may be just as important to a 1950s look as the dress itself, not to mention something like red lipstick to complete a vintage look.

If your size is very hard to come by, I would warmly recommend looking into ordering custom made items. I can personally recommend BBBB and Top Runway for beautiful custom made items.

Remember that a vintage piece is a true investment. It comes with a rich history and has survived many years to be with you. Take good care of your garments to ensure these wonderful, tangible pieces of history will continue to have a life for many more years to come. :)


  1. It's always interesting to know how someone got into vintage, maybe I'll have to do a similar post at some point (thank you for the idea, I won't forget ;)
    And your tip about shoes is really true, this club foot knows! :D

  2. great tips and fantastic to learn more about you!!

    PS: I'm on the hunt for that perfect Scarlett summer hat, myself. Just classic

  3. You look really beautiful in those pictures above. You could be a model! :)

  4. A very interesting post - thanks for sharing your experience. I guess vintage fashion is a very subjective thing to live with and not all vintage fashion lovers wear it for the same reasons. Some just collect it! Have a great weekend.

  5. ina - You definitely should! I'm really interested in learning how others got into vintage as well. And regarding shoes, gosh! Nearly all of the vintage shoes I have bought online have been too small so I sort of gave up on it for a while.

    BaronessVonVintage - Thanks! I'd love to learn how you got into vintage yourself.

    Anonymous - Why thank you!

    FairyFiligree - Thanks for your comment. You're right, everyone has their own, personal reasons for loving and collecting vintage and that's a great thing.

    Miss Woody - Thanks! :)