My Rules For Wearing Vintage, Now That I Am Vintage

My rules for wearing vintage clothing, now that I am vintage. I love vintage clothing! Love it. (My definition of vintage, and I realize it’s fluid, includes clothing and accessories from the 1980’s and earlier). For years I collected and sold vintage clothing on eBay, and became knowledgeable about the defining styles of the 20th century. I have a love affair with dresses and skirts from the 1940’s and 50’s. I adore that feminine silhouette, the emphasis on waist and hips, the graceful lengths and the drapey fabrics. I shop at Etsy stores that sell quality vintage at good prices, including Vintage By Suzanne and DeniseBrain.

Today I still own a few of my former beauties, like this one:

A fab 1950’s party dress that can be made to look very current.
I sold this gorgeous 1940’s bias-cut velvet gown, and regret it!

Every now and then I will wear a favorite fitted sheath from the 50’s, so long as I haven’t gained six ounces. I still thrill to the fine construction, the wonderful old labels and the attention to detail. I find I stand and walk with extra attention to form when wearing these dresses.

I don’t dress in head-to-toe vintage. It now feels too costume-y to me. If I wear my beloved black sheath dress, I wear modern jewelry and shoes, and I forgo a vintage style hat or gloves. That combination is a beautiful look, but at age 66, I feel like I am trying too hard. I will enjoy vintage jewelry any day of the week with my modern clothes, and a vintage leather handbag is a big yes, anytime.

Here are my not-too-hard-and-fast guidelines for wearing vintage over A Certain Age (your mileage may vary, and there are some 50+ Instagrammers who absolutely own vintage style):

  • When wearing vintage dresses I wear my usual modern(ish) hairstyle and makeup. No 40’s-style rolled-curls or bright red lips.
  • If wearing an extreme vintage piece, like a circle skirt, I pair it with a contemporary blouse and shoes. I avoid a kitten-ish sweater (a good rule for me any day) or a vintage checked blouse, for example.
  • Vintage accessories are cool any day of the week, especially necklaces and bracelets. I have a wonderful mini-collection of these and wear them often.
  • I’m not a big scarf person, but vintage scarves can be gorgeous, and a true bargain in the thrifting world. Look for real silk, and interesting old labels.
  • Perfect for vintage scores: gloves, in leather, cotton or silk; and handbags of all sorts – leather, straw, velvet, embroidered, whatever strikes you.
  • Not too many vintage shoes fit my modern feet, so I often choose modern shoes with a vintage vibe, like these:
These cool vintage style oxfords come in modern sizes. 😊

“Vintage is rad because the clothes have a history. It’s not straight off the runway and you’re not going to see a lot of people wearing the exact same items.

-Camille Rowe

Vintage clothing and accessories add fun to my wardrobe, and I love the sense of history they convey. I’ll continue to enjoy hunting down and wearing vintage treasures. What say you?

Stay fabulous, xo

Wear what you love, always. Here are some goodies to browse:

Please be aware that links to vendors may be affiliate links. I may benefit from your purchases through the links on the blog. Header photo by Taylor Simpson on Unsplash.

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  1. Thanks to your essay, I now have a greater appreciation for a lot of things that aren’t technically old but that I’ve always loved.It’s fantastic that we don’t have to feel like we have to buy brand new things because of the retro trend.

  2. I love the way you mix up your style with vintage and contemporary, Patti. And as you know, I am a big fan of vintagebysuzanne on Etsy. (That horse pattern dress you bought, gaaa!!) And thank you for the shout-out. Like you, my tastes in vintage are changing and changing. So weird to think that ’90s styles are now becoming vintage. ??!!!

  3. Hi Patti: I will be turning 60 this year and that has prompted me to reconsider the contents of my wardrobe, and what kinds of pieces I want to keep going forward. I still really love eclectic 1980’s design and have quite a few pieces from that era in my closet. Most vintage pieces I find from other eras don’t fit me, so each year I have fewer and fewer older pieces in my closet. When I wear an 80’s piece, I mix it with something contemporary.

    • Hi Shelley! thanks for your comments. I think it’s great to reconsider our closets every so often. You’re right about the size of older vintage dresses and skirts – I can always
      find one with a 24″ waist, heh. Stay fabulous up there, xx.

  4. Thank you for the shout-out Patti!

    Your vintage black wrap party dress is gorgeous! I’m happy you held onto it.

    I have sometimes done the full on vintage look and enjoyed it. I do think that attitude goes a long way in not looking too costumey. Melanie’s “own it” attitude ensures no one questions her clothing decisions. Also the fact that she has model features helps tremedously.

    I still enjoy pushing the envelope on the vintage clothing I wear knowing full well that some people may not like it or may think I’m trying too hard. What I take away from that is, yeah, I’m trying. It’s when I give up trying that I begin to worry. That may all change when I turn 60 in a four and some years. Like my age, my style is evolving.

    Loved this!


    • Good morning, my friend! You look terrific in all things vintage, from hats down to shoes. And yeah, let’s keep trying – and no surrender to anyone else’s style “rules”. Keep rocking the beauty, and I love your store, xx.

  5. That’s the key to wearing vintage, Patti – keep your shoes, hair and make-up current and modern. I do enjoy a full head-to-toe vintage look once in a while, but I agree that it can come across as too costumey.

    That velvet dress is to die for!

    • Good morning Sheila, great to see you. Yes, that velvet 1940’s dress even fit me perfectly! How could I let it go??? but I did. Have a beautiful Victoria day and stay fab, xx.

  6. Enjoyed your article as it created an increased appreciation of many items in my closet not officially vintage but adored past items thank you.So wonderful that with the vintage trend we no longer are pressured to buy new.The vintage trend is great for the environment and our savings.The dresses you showcased were lovely. I have always loved and collected antique jewelry .In past trips to Europe I always saved up to purchase vintage jewelry 1920s my favorite era and often think of the parties and fun events that they have been worn to . There is a certain positive aura surrounding items previously enjoyed by another from the past .

    • You are so right, Joan, about vintage pieces having an “aura”. I too like to think about their history and what parties they may have gone to! Thanks for coming by and have a wonderful day, xx.

  7. I really want a ’50s shirtdress or full skirt, kind of like the stuff Carolina Herrera tends to wear. Or Anna Wintour for that matter. Which all show how a vintage look is still modern. Like a sheath dress. Timeless. The giveaway would be the fabric rather than the cut.
    We had a young Parisian in our AirBnB who dressed head to toe in vintage, including the rolled hairdo. She was adorable. And very chic.

    • Hello TOF and thanks for your comments! I adore Carolina Herrera’s style, and agree she mixes older and new silhouettes beautifully. And a rolled hairdo is chic, but not on me. : > Stay fabulous, xx.

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