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Creating a retro clothing look that works for you every day!

October 17, 2018

With vintage inspired fashion on the rise, and being paired with contemporary every day wear like dresses and tops, retro clothing isn’t a thing of the past anymore

Whoever said that the age of vintage style clothing is dead, was sorely out of touch with today’s fashion revolution. Retro clothing is back with a vengeance, and it can be seen on runways and cat walks all over the globe. 

Caricature of Mr CB Fry. Oxford Athletics, 19 April, 1894

Caricature of Mr CB Fry.
Oxford Athletics,
19 April, 1894

Embracing retro clothing

It’s official! Everywhere you go today, you can see young girls, teenagers, young women – and yes, even some seniors! – embracing vintage style clothing. However, if you haven’t thought about creating a unique vintage style of your own, it might be because you are unsure of yourself – but we’ll get you started!


While initially it can be a bit intimidating to “dress like the old days!”, creating a vintage inspired look can be fun – and rewarding.  In fact, if done correctly, vintage era dresses and tops can be easily woven into your contemporary wardrobe. Whether it’s for work or for leisure, if you master the basics, you can wear vintage every day, without really looking as though you are dressed for a costume party.


Before we help get you started on creating a unique retro clothing look that’s right for you, you need to understand that its all about trial and error. Just as a master chef perfects his secret sauce over multiple tries, so to you will learn to create vintage inspired fashion through several iterations.


The key here is to learn from each effort. If the leopard-print full skirted look doesn’t feel right for you, perhaps 20s, 30s or 40s dresses and tops might be a better fit.  And if that isn’t working – keep on experimenting!

Retro clothing - Still from the American drama film Bright Lights of Broadway (1923)

Still from the American drama film Bright Lights of Broadway (1923)

Retro clothing basics

It used to be that workplaces had very strict rules about your every day wardrobe. Back in the 1920s 1930s and 1940s, secretaries, receptionists, telephone operators and mail-room clerks typically wore specific types clothing daily. But all of that has changed now. So, it’s no wonder then that today, you’ll see contemporary and retro clothing mixed and matched all over – in offices, malls and on the streets.


The big question however remains: How do you bring vintage inspired styles into your daily routine? And what’s the best way to make vintage style clothing a part of your contemporary wardrobe? Well, here are some tips to help you get started:

Photo portrait of the actress Michiko Sugata, 1960s

Photo portrait of the actress Michiko Sugata, 1960s

  • Go retro shopping

Before you get rid of all your dresses and tops, stop for a bit and think! What are you trying to accomplish? Do you want to reinvent your look so that you dress retro every day? Or is the objective to temper your daily office and leisure outfits with some unique vintage pieces thrown in?


Once you answer those questions, it’s time for you to go shopping for some retro clothing. A great place to start is online, where you will find websites that specialise in 1920s 1930s and 1940s styles. If you are the type of shopper who likes to “touch and feel” before you buy, take a trip to the nearest thrift shop and browse for some vintage inspired fashion tips.

vintage & retro clothing & accessories shop. Oak Street, Old Carrollton section of New Orleans

vintage & retro clothing & accessories shop. Oak Street, Old Carrollton section of New Orleans


  • Don’t give up!

Creating a unique look around retro clothing can be a bit of a challenge sometimes. You may not find just what you are looking for. For instance, if it’s a full skirted look that you want, you mat not get a piece with the right material. Or the cut or length might be all wrong.


Retro only works if it’s “uniquely you” – otherwise you may end up looking too “costumy”! So, the best way to create your unique vintage look is to keep trying – don’t give up. If you find something that looks like it might work – but not quite –  you can always alter it a bit. A nip here, a tuck there, and you’ll be amazed at how well dresses and tops can fit you perfectly!

Retro clothing - Jean-Pierre Aumont & Jean Simmons in Hilda Crane - 1956

Jean-Pierre Aumont & Jean Simmons in Hilda Crane – 1956


  • Customise your every day look!

And if nips and tucks aren’t your thing, think about taking your contemporary pieces and turning them into retro clothing. All you need to do is go online and get some inspiration! Then, use your imagination to turn your jackets, dresses or tops into vintage inspired pieces.


For instance, take that houndstooth jacket out of your closet, and create a late 1920s 1930s and 1940s look with some shoulder pads or an oversized scarf wrapped around your neck. You could even customise your coat or jacket for an every day look by adding a woollen beret or knitted muffler into the mix.


The point here is that, retro clothing doesn’t need to always be bought – you can create your unique retro look by customising what you already have.

Promotional still photo from the 1941 film The Maltese Falcon, 1941 Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Barton MacLane, Peter Lorre, Ward Bond

    Promotional still photo from the 1941 film The Maltese Falcon, 1941


  • Pick your daily building blocks

The biggest mistake that retro lovers make, is that they think that, when you are aiming for that unique vintage look, you need to go “all retro”. Quite the contrary!  For instance, to create that classic vintage full skirted look, choose a grid-patterned plaid full-length skirt, or an above-ankle length skirt with tucks and pleats, and pair it with a contemporary every day top or a jacket.


The secret here is: Don’t feel pressured to use all you’ve got in your wardrobe. Instead, highlight one piece of retro clothing for the day, and then use it as a building block to create your unique vintage look around that piece.

Retro clothing - Screenshot of Film, d'amore e d'anarchia - 1973.

Screenshot of Film, d’amore e d’anarchia – 1973.


  • Go decade-hopping!

Don’t be afraid to select vintage style clothing from multiple decades in order to create a unique vintage persona for yourself. Whether it’s elements from the 1920s 1930s or 1940s, they all can have a place in your grand retro-look plan. Obviously, you might not be able to mix and match all of those decades into a single look. But if you are creative, you could introduce vintage inspired themes from each decade – one for each day of your work week.


For instance, 1920s dresses and tops could easily blend in with today’s tweed or woollen coats and jackets. Finish that look with a pair of flats or your favourite pair of heels – and you’re all set!


While there is no hard and fast rule that says you shouldn’t mix 20s fashion with 40s – it’s best to adopt retro clothing styles from a particular decade, and pair them with your contemporary wardrobe pieces. That way, you’ll look less “mismatched”.

Photo Still from the film "Labbra serrate" with Vera Carmi and Fosco Giachetti, 1942

Photo Still from the film “Labbra serrate” with Vera Carmi and Fosco Giachetti,

Retro clothing Comfort – The name of the game!

The key to creating a unique vintage look, that’s right for your personality, is comfort! For instance, if you aren’t too confident that the full skirted look is right for you, adopting it will put you out of ease throughout the day – and that’s not something you want.


When choosing vintage style clothing for your daily wear therefore, don’t just think about what goes well with your contemporary wardrobe, but also choose a look that you can comfortably “pull off!”.  From dresses and tops, to outer wear, footwear and accessories, there’s plenty too choose from. There’s enough inspiration out there for you to choose from a wide range of every day clothes from the 1920s 1930s and 1940s. But when you are choosing, make sure you are comfortable with the looks you create!


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