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Choosing fun-looking vintage work clothes isn’t so difficult

June 27, 2019

No matter what your vintage style is, you still need to follow some basic rules when selecting vintage work clothes that are right for you and your workplace.


Most people just see a piece of vintage clothing, and immediately think about buying it! The thoughts that run in their minds are likely about (low) price, or (hard to find) availability. So, if a rare work jacket is on sale, one might feel compelled to rush in and buy it. And that’s not a wise move!

Men and Women in typical day clothes, Budapest, Hungary, 1939

Men and Women in typical day clothes, Budapest, Hungary, 1939

Choose vintage work clothes wisely

This may sound counter intuitive, but acquiring vintage work clothes just because they are either readily available or well-priced, is definitely a bad strategy. If you follow this approach, you are likely to end up with a huge and disparate collection of vintage workwear in your wardrobe, that has no harmony.


Sure, you might have a great pair of vintage jeans in your collection – something that friends, family and colleagues might be envious of. But if you don’t have other appropriate pieces of work clothes to go with those jeans, your latest acquisition won’t satisfy you. Despite it being a rare find, and even though you got it for a “steal”, your vintage work clothes will probably be underused.


And using wisdom in building a vintage inspired work wardrobe isn’t just about being able to pair your possessions with other items in your wardrobe – be they pieces of vintage clothing or contemporary items. There’s much more to it than that! There’s an art as well as a science to picking the right vintage work clothes.


So, what’s the best way to choose vintage workwear wisely, so you don’t end up with a wardrobe full of vintage clothing that you’ll never wear?

Levi 501 big e selvedge jeans

Levi 501 big e selvedge jeans


Selvedge seam of 1960s 501 jeans

Selvedge seam of 1960s 501 jeans

Vintage work clothes golden rules   

When assembling or updating your vintage work wardrobe, there are a few golden rules that you absolutely MUST follow. Now, these are generic rules, and may not always apply to an individual situation. However, depending on your particular vintage style preferences, you can tailor these rules accordingly:

Dark Green Work Jacket

Dark Green Work Jacket


  • Rule#1 – Plan your vintage work clothes wardrobe: A well-planned wardrobe is more than about planning when to go out on a buying spree. It’s about realizing what you need, and then finding the right opportunity to buy it. A 1950s vintage inspired piece of outerwear might make a great addition to your wardrobe, but are you really into 50s style? If not – then you don’t need it!


Avoid random
  • Rule#2 – Avoid random picking of vintage clothing: What if you had a 1950s A-line dress from, say Modcloth, and wanted to buy a piece of outerwear to go with it. Now, that’s a need that a piece of 1950s vintage inspired outerwear may fulfil. But the problem is that outerwear item is in the wrong colour – you only wear neutrals, and this piece is in bright yellow! Randomly picking vintage work clothes will leave you with a wardrobe full of items that just don’t “stick together”!


Don’t hesitate
  • Rule#3 – Don’t hesitate to cross eras and decades: So, what if it’s a 1950s work jacket, and a 1960s pair of khakis that you may have picked from Oxfam. Just because they are from different decades or eras, doesn’t mean they will crimp your vintage style. In fact, some cross-decade combos bring out the best in individual pieces of vintage workwear!

70s Brown Suede Cable Knit Mens Button Cardigan

70s Brown Suede Cable Knit Mens Button Cardigan


Mix & match
  • Rule#4 – Mix and match: Just as you shouldn’t restrict your vintage clothing choices to just specific decades, you also shouldn’t be afraid to mix vintage with contemporary. Who says a vintage 80s velvet blazer jacket from ASOS won’t go well with a pair of contemporary dress trousers? I fact, the vast majority of vintage lovers prefer to pair vintage inspired pieces with other contemporary items in their wardrobes – and it works great!


Time & place
  • Rule#5 – Remember the time and place: Vintage work clothes shouldn’t be chosen in a way that makes you look out of place. Donning on a fisherman’s sweater or a classic Norfolk Bleu de travail work jacket behind a bank counter might be frowned upon. However, if you work on a shop-floor or a factory, that vintage style would be perfectly acceptable.


  • Rule#6 – Comfort before style:   Most of us spend a lot of time at work. So, if you are going to dress for work, then you need to dress for comfort. It’s therefore important to choose vintage inspired fashion that makes you feel your best at work – relaxed, alert and comfortable!



While all of these rules for selecting and buying vintage workwear might seem overly restrictive – they’re not! When you look at each of these rules objectively, you’ll see that they provide sensible guidelines to people in search of vintage clothing for work. But if following too many rules isn’t your “vintage style”, then here’s one single golden rule that you should adhere to:


When you buy vintage work clothes, make sure they don’t make you look and feel “vintagey”. There’s nothing like wearing a piece of vintage clothing, like a work jacket, that looks and feels so out of place that it makes you look like you walked straight out of the set of a B-grade vintage inspired movie set!

90s Red Leather Pencil Skirt

90s Red Leather Pencil Skirt

Making vintage work clothes work

So, what would be a good, if not ideal, combination of vintage clothing that men and women can wear to work – without violating any of the Golden Rules? Well, here are some ideas to consider:

As vintage clothing goes, the indominable Pencil Skirt is probably one of the most ubiquitous pieces of workwear that women can wear without running afoul of the Golden Rules. The best part of Pencils is that they make creating a personalised vintage style that much easier.


You could create a stunning vintage inspired work ensemble by pairing a black 1950s or 1960s Pencil Skirt with a white cardigan or shirt. To look professional, tuck your shirt into the skirt so your vintage work clothes don’t look out of place – remember Rule#5!

Le Glazik Black Work Shirt

Le Glazik Black Work Shirt


There’s nothing in the Golden Rules that stops you from accessorising this ensemble further. A high-quality black work jacket, or even a navy-blue blazer can help you pull off that perfect vintage workwear look!


When it comes to choosing vintage work clothes, the working man has a number of options too. For chilly days at the office, choose either cable knits or try a Grandpa cardigan, or just a vintage cricket sweater over your neutral coloured dress shirt. Now, just put on those khakis, and this will give you a perfect vintage inspired office look.

William & Edwards

Dress shirts from William & Edwards make a great starting point for men that want to combine contemporary with vintage workwear. If you want to give your work clothes a bit of a “zing”, without being too “vintagey”, then you might want to consider adding a pair of vintage zig-zag clip-on braces with a pair of vintage trousers from Oxfam.


Some men might balk at adding braces to their vintage inspired office wardrobe. Well, don’t worry – there are options. Just add a leather belt to your dress pants, and you should be good to go!


Now, to complete your vintage style, you’ll need a piece of outerwear to go with your dress pants. Finish that look with a nice leather work jacket, and you’re all set for an exciting day at the office!


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