pencil dress polka dot long kimono

How To Wear Vintage Clothing (without looking like you’re wearing costume)


People often ask me how they go about wearing vintage clothing for everyday life.  Lots of people worry about ‘getting it right’ when it comes to modern styling, but with the help of magazines, tv and friends then you have guidance but when taking on vintage it sometimes feels like a minefield as you have no advice on hand to help.

The thing with vintage is that there is no right or wrong way.  If you want to look exactly like people looked in a certain era then of course you need to do a little bit of research but half the fun of fashion is that there aren’t any rules.  You an mix 40s with 80s if you want and providing you’re happy carrying it off then brilliant.

My transition into vintage began a few years ago when I started to accept the fact I had boobs and a bum. For once, rather than fight it and squeeze into backless jumpsuits or high neck t shirts like all my peers I decided to dress in styles that complimented my shape which led me to naturally to fifties style.

For a curvy girl with stumpy legs, midi skirts, pencil dresses and nipped in waists looked great but I was worried about how to wear it right as sometimes you want to stand out but other times you want to blend in so that focus is on what you’re saying rather than your dress.  Don’t get me wrong, I still get it wrong lots and constantly panic whether I should still be twirling around in petticoated swing dresses when knocking on 40 but I at least enjoy the trial and error.

I wanted to write an article to make people feel comfortable with taking a step into vintage style and realise that it is a line you can stand on, cross over and cross back to modern whenever you like.  Most people are already wearing vintage style without even realising it as every trend you see has normally come around based on something in the past.  So here are a few tips to kick you off….

My top tips:

  1. Look at current trends – you’ll be surprised at how many vintage trends are in right now so taking a step towards another era won’t be something you do alone. Currently shops like H&M have some great circle skirts in a 50s style and 70s maxi dresses are dominating places like Topshop and New Look as festival season kicks off.HM trend fifties retro

    H&M trend collection circle skirt and cardigan is spot on the modern fifties trend

You don’t have to wear someone else clothes – There are many vintage reproduction brands as well as the high street trends that you can shop in if you don’t fancy rummaging through charity shops or vintage markets. Have a look at the article I wrote here for some of the best options.

  1. Keep your hair and make up contemporary – Don’t get me wrong, I think girls that carry off victory rolls, winged eyeliner and red lips look incredible but I find keeping things modern/natural allows me to stay in my comfort zone. It also allows you to pull off the ‘not trying too hard vibe’. For work, I tend to simply apply liner and have a top knot in my hair with a simple pencil dress from Diva Catwalk or The Pretty Dress Company with a Dolly shoe to still look professional and smart.
  2. Modern accessories – this is my favourite thing to do. I love wearing Converse trainers with a tea dress or gladiator sandles and an oversized bag with a 70s maxi dress.   Choosing one striking colour such as a red or black to carry through your sunglasses, shoes, belt and bag will look fabulous.

    ferne cotton vintage modern

    Ferne Cotton mixing vintage and modern easily

  3. Mixing modern and vintage – The high street does this really well. There’s nothing wrong with pairing a circle skirt with a t shirt, in fact it looks really cool. An eighties batwing sequin top with black jeans and boots just works. Maybe think of having one statement vintage piece and building round that.
  4. Dress for the situation – I would love to say ‘screw it I’m going to dress 100% in fifties clothes every day’ but I work for a large corporate which is very much a suit and tie type environment. For that I stick to pencil dresses and tea dresses with natural make up, saving some of my more outlandish outifts for leisure time. Most eras have extremes and subtleties so you can always find something to suit any situation without having to compromise too much.pretty dress company dress

    Pretty Dress Company is great for workwear and you can keep hair/makeup modern

  5. Mix it up – It’s boring dressing one way all of the time. If you want to wear an eighties jumpsuit one day then do it; if you want to go to Primark and buy shorts and vests then do that. Do what makes you comfortable and wear what makes you comfortable – just because you wear a certain look one day then it doesn’t mean you’re committed forever.
  6. Start slowly – You might want to start by just wearing some vintage accessories such as a string of pearls with your normal dresses or a headscarf while you’re on holiday. Just by adding a splash of vintage into your every day life will make a difference and make you feel confident in spreading your wings.

Do what makes you feel fabulous!  If it doesn’t work then laugh and move on.  Good luck!

pencil dress polka dot long kimono

Rocking a Kelly Brook 50s pencil dress with modern accessories on holiday – not looking out of place with my on trend friends.


A thirty something, fifties inspired traveller with a love of home comforts and pretty things. Lives in Norwich, plays in London.

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