Recently I found myself among some new friends. One of them remarked to me, “I love how you always dress so vintage-y!” I thought this was very strange since I was wearing very modern jeans and a T-shirt at the time. But I was also wearing a hat. It was then that I starting thinking about what makes for “a vintage look” and how you can start dressing vintage today.
Wear a Hat
As mentioned above, the only thing remotely vintage that I was wearing was a straw cloche on my head. But that was enough to give the impression that I was “dressed vintage-y”.
I mean, look at that (photo at right). Isn’t that vintage as a vintage thing? All I’ve done is pull on a fur felt cloche from Hats in the Belfry. The shape of the hat provides the perfect 1920s silhouette.
That’s it! I didn’t even do my hair. *blush*
But since we’re on the subject…
Do Your Hair
There is nothing that will give you a more solid vintage look than a vintage hairstyle. After all, your head is what most people look at when they’re talking to you. And if you hair is decidedly vintage, it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing. You will have a vintage look.
A fake bob for the 20s, fingerwaves for the 30s, victory rolls for the 40s or a bouffant for the 60s will give you an unmistakable vintage flare. And let’s face it: it’s fun to look polished once in a while, isn’t it? Do your hair for no reason! Just go to work in finger waves one day. The reaction of your co-workers will make your day.
I have a lot of original vintage hairstyling books in my collection. But the best vintage hair book I’ve ever bought is Vintage Hairstyling: Retro Styles with Step-by-Step Techniques by Lauren Rennells (August 1, 2009) Paperback. No lie. It goes through all the steps that the books from the period assume you already know how to do. Plus is gives the modern equivalent for many period hairstyling products that you cannot find in stores today. This book was a breakthrough in my ability to fingerwave my hair.
Change Your Makeup
Quicker than doing your hair is trying some vintage makeup. Red pinup lipstick à la the 1940s, fake 1960s eyelashes, or 1950s cateyes can totally transform your look. I get my retro-look lipsticks from Besame Cosmetics. They researched lipstick and makeup colours from the 20s, through 70s and reproduced them in a paraben-free formula that is not tested on animals. And the packaging is almost as great as the products themselves! The lipsticks come in gold “bullet” tubes. The powders are available in gold-tone compacts. And the quality! I really cannot rave too much about Bésame lipsticks. I have worn their lipsticks through a big meal and didn’t even have to do a touch up afterwards. They are long lasting, soothing to dry lips, and even smell vaguely of chocolate. Even if they weren’t the perfect period lipstick colours, I’d wear them anyway. I’m wearing Bésame lipstick in all my photos on this site. It’s the only lipstick I’ve worn for years! Go get yourself some.
Lauren Rennells also has a great book on vintage makeup: Retro Makeup: Techniques for Applying the Vintage Look by Lauren Rennells (April 25, 2011) Paperback But for the real deal, I have to give a shout out to my boyo Stevie in Ireland at Glamour Daze. He has reproduced a bunch of vintage makeup guides from the early 1900s through the 1960s. And you can get them all in a bundle as PDFs for one low price. (See Links below for more info.)
Add a Vintage Accessory
A pair of gloves, the right shoes, a tie, a scarf, the aforementioned hat… Any of these accessories can give that vintage boost to anything you wear. Go to your local vintage or antique clothing shop and see what you can find. Even the smallest accessory — like a brooch or a hair comb — can have a lot of impact.
Put on a Coat
Nothing changes your silhouette so completely as a coat. Even if you’re wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, you can look “period” in a coat from the period. Shop your local vintage store or buy a pattern (*wink wink*) and make your own.
My favourite is “RH1013 — the “Ride Astride Coat”. It’s always a stunner. You can be wearing rags under this coat and no one will ever know. Just throw it on as you dash out the door and you’ll get compliments everywhere you go.
Here are links to some of the books and products mentioned in this article. They’re a great place to start on your vintage-dressing journey.