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Ways of wearing Vintage

A couple of weeks ago, in Ask Hadley in the Guardian, there was a question from a woman whose friend had told her that she should stop wearing vintage clothes because she was too old, because “vintage clothes look interesting and arch up to your mid-30s, but beyond then, they just look – and I quote – ‘as if you haven’t bought any new clothes for several decades’.” Somebody then left a comment saying: “You can’t wear vintage with ‘modern’ hair and make up, or the dress ends up wearing you, and you can’t treat it like a bit of tat you bought in Topshop. Most young people (or middle aged people who still act like teenagers, hem-hem) don’t have the knowledge or patience to wear vintage properly, nor do they have the faces – fashion, then, was aimed at women, not flat-chested fresh-faced girls.”

Which then sparked some back and forth commenting, should you be inclined to check it out. But what I really want to say is that I don’t think this is an argument about age at all or it shouldn’t be, it’s ridiculous to suggest that there’s an age limit on something as broad as vintage, and Hadley managed to nicely shoot down the letter writer’s friend’s argument. I think that this is really about two different ways of wearing vintage.

Authentic vintage

authentic vintage

On the one hand there’s the ‘authentic’ vintage girls, who dress almost completely in vintage clothes, and if there’s anything anything modern it is vintage in style. An authentic vintage style is of course not complete without vintage style make-up and hair, and victory rolls and beehives rule. And I am in awe of the amount of knowledge people who have chosen to go in for a completely vintage style in their every day life have. I can just about identify 1950s clothes (because that’s my decade of choice), but trying to place anything older than 1940s would be an impossibility for me.

Photo credits: a cat of impossible colour, Andi B. Goode, Vintage Vivant, Living Vintage

‘Mix and match’ vintage

mix and match vintage

On the other hand, there’s those of us who like wearing vintage, but in a more contemporary way. We treat vintage as part of the repertoire from which we mix and match our outfits, treating it like a bit of tat from Topshop I suppose! Not really, obviously mix and match girls understand the value and specialness of vintage, but it’s about integrating vintage pieces with other aspect of one’s style. This may be wearing something old with new pieces, or the use of clashing bright colours, or other elements which have nothing whatsoever to do with the era from which the garment originates. In a way, wearing vintage in a mix and match style is almost the default position, and probably most people who wear vintage would end up going that way, simply by virtue of wearing whatever they were wearing before but adding some old stuff. It’s what will happen naturally. But I think it can actually a more thoughtful thing than that, being about seeing the old in a new way, or finding a way of merging old and new into something more than the sum of it’s parts.

Photo credits: Caotica Ana, softspoken, Joules Vintage, Gold Stars for Tulip and m.drummergirl

As you can see from the way I have written this up, I’m clearly identifying myself as a mix and matchy type of girl! I hadn’t even planned on coming down on one side like that, but it just happened! I have actually been getting a bit more into the authentic style recently, but that’s been mainly for special occasions. I admire anyone that maintains an authentic vintage style at all times (I admire anyone that maintains any non-mainstream style at all times!), and I’d love to know someone in real life who dresses like that so I could swoon over them, but it’s just not something I want to do myself.

What do you think? Which do you prefer (if either)? If you’re a vintage wearer, would you identify themselves as either? Or something else entirely?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Sal 12 April 2010, 3:53 pm

    I think the idea that you can be too old to wear vintage "properly" is utterly preposterous. Vintage clothing spans DECADES and countless styles, and women of all age groups and style types can make those garments look amazing. There's no one way to wear vintage!

  • Sara Lynn 12 April 2010, 4:25 pm

    ah great post! I am a mix&match girl but sometimes I do try out old fashioned hair as well and sometimes I like modern hairstyles. Sometimes it can look costumey but really who cares? I used to follow "what not to wear" and all that, but the only one true clothing rule I follow…fit. I think people should be allowed to wear what their heart wants as long as it fits. No matter what age. 🙂

  • WildBirdVintage 12 April 2010, 5:14 pm

    Wonderful post! I would love to wear "true" vintage but it takes an incredible amount of thought and time I suspect to acquire all the necessary items and skills (I'm thinking hair and makeup). Much more time than I am willing, though I think someone could evolve into it.

    I was an extra in a 60's era film, and it take so much time to get ready. And then it got really uncomfortable with the hosiery, shoes, and girdles. And bullet bra. Amazing experience though.

  • anita 12 April 2010, 6:14 pm

    🙂 Of course there is no age to wear vintage!

    I'm definitely one of the second group and it's the same as you said about you: I didn't mean it to be that way, I just wear what I like and that is the result.

    I love those who are able to wear only vintage, although I don't think something is better just for being vintage, hence I wear also a lot of vintage reproductions or vintage-inspired modern clothes.

    Thanks for featuring and for introducing these girls, I didn't know some of them and I find their styles are gorgeous. 😉


  • a cat of impossible colour 12 April 2010, 7:33 pm

    Hi lovely lady 🙂

    I find it really interesting that you put me in the 'authentic' section, as I would actually define myself as a mix-and-match vintage wearer. Not that I mind of course, but it's interesting that my style comes across so differently to you! I don't do the 'authentic' vintage makeup and hairstyles, and I do wear modern thrifted items with my vintage – I don't try to recreate a particular era. But, looking at my photos, I can see how they could look authentically vintage despite being such a pastiche!

    Food for thought, definitely.

    Andrea xx

  • Teenysparkles 12 April 2010, 8:26 pm

    Love this post, I shy away from full on vintage as I would feel too costumey. This isn't to say I don't love poring over the photos of those gals that do encompass full vintage….they look beautiful and really are quite an inspiration.

  • DailyDivaDish 12 April 2010, 11:03 pm

    Great post. I must say that my vintage-wearing definitely falls into the mix and match category. My style is very eclectic, so I have a hard time doing the full vintage look – although I admire those who can do it.

    And btw…in my book, there's no such thing as an age limit for vintage.
    XO Piper

  • Chloe, Butterfly Cupcakes 12 April 2010, 11:35 pm

    I'm definetely a fan of the mix and match category. I don't own enough vintage to be pure vintage but also I kind of just like the mix of old and new I think its kind of eclectic and fun.

  • Audi 12 April 2010, 11:52 pm

    I'm not a frequent wearer of vintage, but when I do I tend to be in the mix and match category, because I simply don't want to go to all the effort that authentic vintage requires. And sheesh, the notion that there is an age limit to wearing vintage is something I'm glad I'd never be fool enough to believe!

  • Veronica Darling... 13 April 2010, 9:06 am

    Great musings post babes! I tend to think I'm a bit of both, but I probably wear more vintage as a mix and match. As I make my clothes though, it's all modern but mostly 50s/60s patterns and style.

    I wear heaps of dresses, so if I'm still wearing dresses when I'm old and they're vintage in style, I will not care what anyone thinks of me, as I don't tend to care what people think anyways. YAY!

  • Andi B. Goode 13 April 2010, 10:05 am

    Obviously, I go for the authentic side of things. ;]
    I must admit, I sometimes find myself slipping into being a bit of a vintage snob and thinking that modern hair, etc doesn't look right with a certain dress and wishing to, uh, 'rescue' dresses from girls I don't think can wear them properly. Then I kind of mentally slap myself upside the head for being so pretentious (although have seen some gorgeous dresses shortened or altered hideously by those who don't know better) because, really, if you 'own' your style it'll work!

    And thanks for using my pic by the way =D

    -Andi x

  • Retro Chick 13 April 2010, 1:48 pm

    I'm definitely a mix and match kind of girl, I have a tendency to be drawn to retro styles, but sometimes I fancy being a bit rock chick for a day maybe!

    I think like you I am finding myself going a bit more "authentic" sometimes for special occasions, or just because I'm in the mood, but in general I really like to mix it up.

    I think it's ridiculous to claim that you can't wear vintage past a certain age!

    Actually there is a discussion on this on the Vintage Network worldwide at the moment and the majority on there say they mix and match. That's the advantage of modern fashion. we can be a different person everyday!

  • michelle 13 April 2010, 4:33 pm

    i love the "authentic" vintage look (including hair and makeup) and admire anyone who can pull it off on a daily basis. personally, i'm not willing to put in that much time and effort unless it's for a special occasion.

    i'm more drawn to details than to a specific style, so i definitely fall under the mix and match category.

    interesting post. thanks again for including me!

  • Vasiliisa 13 April 2010, 9:22 pm

    Definitely more mix and match. For me, personally, all authentic can feel a bit costume-y. Also, I am quite interested in cultural references, and I'm certainly not too nostalgic about times past. Sure, clothes were better then, but also things like gender equality have improved so much. This is something that troubles me about those beautiful 50s styles. I don't identify myself with the 50s, which to me symbolizes traditional values and the housewife institution. If I wear something from that era (which not so often), I like to make it look more modern, somehow.

  • Eyeliah 15 April 2010, 1:00 am

    crap did my comment delete?
    I've been thinking of putting together some 'authentic vintage' looks, up until nowI've been very mix and match. I just linked this post on my blog too 🙂

  • The Waves 15 April 2010, 2:27 am

    What a great topic! People who say you can be too old to wear vintage, or that you need a certain look to do it, are really out of their minds. I don't understand why some people are so narrow-minded!

    I am definitely a mix&match girl (woman) myself, and couldn't care less if in someone's expert opinion I shouldn't be! 🙂

  • fashionforwriters.com 15 April 2010, 5:47 am

    What a wonderful, wonderful post! I appreciated reading it so much. I think for myself, as an Asian American female, and maybe other women of color agree or can relate to this, it's hard to strive for the former category (authentic vintage) because I'm not quite sure what ladies like myself dressed like in the 50's and 60's and 40's, and if it would be appropriate to take inspiration from that, or if I would even want to, and to take inspiration from dominant vintage styles from the past can also feel alienating because there are so few vintage images of women of color (especially Asian.) It's a complicated process to feel as if I have any ownership or intimate relationship with vintage styles but the idea of wearing something preowned that contains narrative and history is always appealing to me, and being able to not participate entirely in mass produced fashion commodities always feels wonderful!

    xo Jenny

  • Amelia 18 April 2010, 10:40 pm

    Thanks for including me! All the girls here look fabulous!

    I have been honing my style since the age of 12, so dressing head-to-toe 1930s style has come more naturally for me, and it's honestly not a lot of effort anymore. I feel out of place in jeans and a tshirt (not that I own any, anyways!) and love the feeling of 1930s silk over any other sensation in the whole wide world.

    Kudos to anyone getting into vintage!


  • Maria 20 April 2010, 10:37 am

    I think the idea that you can only wear vintage (or any type of clothing) in only one way is prescriptive and boring. A good vintage piece should be able to mix in with the other pieces in your wardrobe and my wardrobe is full of things from charity shops as well as things from the high street.

    Maria xxx