From retro rockabilly styles to eighties vintage clothing, the fashions from past decades are particularly trendy today. Vintage clothing shops (in person and online) usually have the best selections, but estate sales, thrift stores, and flea markets are good sources too — especially if you're willing to dig. You might even find a few forgotten designer duds.
Vintage Clothing Shopping Tips
Most secondhand sources don't offer exchanges or returns, so make sure the pieces fit before you pay.
Fitting rooms are fairly rare too, which means you'll have to try things on where others can see. Wear layers with a thin, tight layer closest to your skin so you can stay decent while (mostly) stripping down.
If you find a piece that almost fits (as long as it isn't too tight), go ahead and buy it if the price is right. Then, take it to a tailor. Even including the price of the alteration, the piece probably still costs less than a new one of similar quality today.
What to Buy
Vintage clothing you actually wear should fit your lifestyle, personal taste, and body shape. After trying lots of styles and shapes, you'll discover that some decades suit you better than the rest.
Dresses are the staples of many vintage wardrobes. Here are some styles you might try arranged by decade:
- Shirtwaist dresses
- Full-skirted dresses with nipped-in waists
- Sheath dresses with narrow skirts
- Color-blocked and graphic-printed shifts
- Mod mini dresses
- A-line dresses with overblouses
- Prairie dresses
- Wrap dresses
- Prom dresses with ruffles and sequins for the teenage set
- Cocktail dresses with ruffles, puffed sleeves, and/or balloon hems for adults
Blouses and Tops
From fitted sixties styles to yuppie career wear of eighties, vintage blouses are easy to mix into a wardrobe.
For the biggest impact, look for blouses with decorative detailing such as:
- Pin tucks
- Peter Pan collars
- Keyhole cutouts
- Gathered yokes
- Lace insets
- Pussy bows
- Bell sleeves
- French cuffs
- Wrap waists
Vintage bowling shirts, cashmere sweater sets, and concert t-shirts are fabulous finds today too.
Sometimes it's easier to wear separates than a single piece that has to be a perfect fit. You can still get a period look. Just skip the difficult dresses and look for skirts:
- 1950's wiggle skirts (called hobble skirts then)
- 1950's circle skirts
- 1970's wrap-around skirts
- 1980's gathered midi skirts
Though collectors of vintage women's clothing tend to prefer dresses and skirts, it's important to have pants in your wardrobe too. Depending on the looks you like, here are some styles to try:
- Tailored Katharine Hepburn trousers
- Laura Petrie capris (called pedal pushers or clam diggers at the time)
- 1970's and 80's designer jeans, such as Jordache, Gloria Vanderbuilt, and Calvin Klein