Building the Perfect Vintage Wardrobe: Purchasing Tips

Basics decided? Check! Wardrobe readiness? Complete! Now the next step is to actually purchase items. This, however, is where people often get caught up the most; there are a wealth of options out there, but following these tips can really help you sort it all out- and wind up with a wardrobe that you enjoy.

Building the Perfect Vintage Wardrobe

Tip One: Modern or Traditional?

The first question to ask yourself is this: Are you a Modern Vintage type of person, or a Traditional Vintage type? Believe it or not, there’s quite a bit of difference between the two.

Traditional Vintage Enthusiasts are few and far between in the greater scope of the Vintage community. These individuals tend to care more about the authenticity of their Vintage look- taking few, if any, liberties with staple elements such as hem lengths, cuts, patterns, and styling]. And while it isn’t true for all of them, people who lean more towards Traditional Vintage disproportionately prefer to purchase True Vintage items as opposed to Reproduction or Vintage Inspired ones.

Those who prefer Modern, however, are by far the most common; these are generally people who don’t place near as much emphasis on being authentic.  As a result, they’re often far more willing to take liberties with era style staples. The result is a unique (if not overexaggerated and caricatured) image with a Vintage flair- though it still remains somewhat recognizable as their era.

We see this sort of modernism most commonly with the 1950’s style of clothing; many, if not the vast majority, of the most notable Pinup Models and Photoshoots that you see today tend to lean this direction. Miss Osiria Rose, a wonderful vintage fashion photographer, model, and blogger with whom I had the privilege of being friends, is a great example. But even though Modern Vintage Enthusiasts tend to be the largest group, more people actually fall somewhere in between.

Where you wind up will greatly influence where you end up shopping- and what items you wind up buying in the end.

Tip Two: Vintage Inspired, Reproduction, and True Vintage?

Vintage Inspired pieces aren’t Reproduction items- and nor are they genuine Vintage. Instead, they’re completely modern garments. However, some minute element of their design is derived from or inspired by a specific historical era; their overall design elements are partially or wholly modern, but pieces have a recognizable Vintage look to them.

Repro, on the other hand, is common community shorthand for Reproduction. These are Modern garments made from modern fabrics, with modern techniques, but which use the same cuts and styles as True Vintage pieces are.

True or Authentic Vintage are two interchangeable terms which refer to any piece which was actually manufactured in or during that era in history. However, these are sometimes very hard to find and can wind up costing a pretty penny depending on where you purchase them from. Regardless, they are without a doubt authentic pieces which managed to survive mostly in tact up until today’s time. That being said, they can be very brittle and often require special care instructions.

There are pro’s and con’s to each of these three primary styles. Whether or not you’ll gravitate towards one or the other will greatly depending on budget and preference.

Tip Three: Know where to shop for what you want!

If you like a particular style, researching companies which cater to that style, have good customer service, and a great return policy really goes a long way.

Reproduction and Inspired pieces (while they can still be expensive) are a dime a dozen and easy to find; a great example for Vintage Inspired pieces is the company ModCloth– and despite claiming to be reproduction companies in some cases, I would argue that “Pinup” companies like Hellbunny and Heart of Haute are more inspired as well. Likewise, if you need stockings, Secrets in Lace caries an affordable line of vintage inspired stockings from Dita Von Teese herself (and having worn them myself, I can personally say they’re great for the price). Whirling Turban and Blue Velvet Vintage, on the other hand, are both great examples of authentic Reproduction companies. What Katie Did is another great example that specifically caters to undergarments.

The most difficult item to shop for is by far True or Authentic Vintage pieces. However, if you know where to look and have a good eye for the style of your era, you will be surprised at how easy it can be to find pieces.

Even in Small Town Oklahoma I have managed to find several authentic pieces with little effort- including a 1950’s Skirt with hand crocheted lace detailing (which I saved from being repurposed into a Lamp Shade, of all things), several pairs of 1940’s and 50’s ladies gloves, two 1950’s real fur stoles, several pairs of 1950’s metal frame horn rimmed glasses, a 1960’s era faux fur coat, a 1940’s petticoat, and even a late 1950’s hat (which was such a treasure because I was lucky enough to speak to and see old photographs of the woman who has owned it since she purchased it from the store in 1956). I did not purchase all of these items, of course, but a significant number of them have made their way into my collection over the last few years.

And where did I find all of these? Two primary places: local Yard and Garage Sales, and Antique Stores; never underestimate the finds that you can accrue by digging through others’ unwanted items in such a manner. You may be genuinely surprised at what you come out with- and it can be at a quarter of the cost of what you would find online or at vintage conventions.

Tip Four: Don’t get rid of modern items!!!

If you don’t like an item? Then return it or resell it (just remember: never remove the tags if you can help it until you’re sure you want it in your wardrobe). Keep going one or two pieces at a time, throwing out more old clothes as you go until you’ve built a wardrobe that you are happy with. But whatever you do? Never throw out all of your modern clothes completely.

Vintage pieces can be very, very impractical for modern life and it’s always a good option to have at least a few modern items; keep around some modern t-shirts, shorts, jeans, and shoes to fill that practicality gap that will be created when the bulk of your wardrobe looks like it was pulled from a bygone era- and never throw them all out entirely unless you’re replacing them with equally modern items.

And that really is it! Happy hunting!Signature Blue


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