Fashion was one of those things I was intimidated by before I really got into it. There’s a lot of elitism and snobbery out there in the fashion world. You must buy this designer. You can’t buy fast fashion. Clothes are an important way of expressing yourself and if you’re wanting to reinvent yourself and give your wardrobe an overhaul, it can be a daunting task both time and money wise. What I want to do is make it as easy as possible and give you my advice on some good starter pieces and essentials.
My story: How I started dressing like this
If you ask any vintage fashion fan how long it took them to amass their collection of vintage clothing, they’ll tell you it took years. That is my answer too. I really started buying vintage clothing when I was 17 and moved out of my parents house to go to university. I had such an interest in classic rock, but I didn’t have the wardrobe to match. Where I used to live, there wasn’t a lot of options for vintage clothing, but Toronto was a completely different world and my head was spinning. So many good options. I used to go to a bunch of shops on Queen Street and Kensington Market. Here are some pictures from that time period.
You may have noticed that I have the username angiemoonthemod here. That’s because I started this blog when I was really into the Mod subculture. When I was in Toronto, the Mod subculture was my obsession. Clock the mod hairstyle! I wanted to be like Steph from Quadrophenia.
Let’s just start with a few steps on revamping your wardrobe.
1. Get some inspiration
Think about which celebrities you like the style of. Better yet if they have the same body type or similar appearance to you. The reason why I say this is there are going to be some things that look good on your body type and other things that don’t look as good. Using myself as an example, I am slim and hourglass shaped, but bottom heavy, so low rise trousers and skinny trousers don’t look good on me. If I wear trousers, I tend to go for higher rise flares since those are more flattering. I also find I look better wearing dresses that are fitted at the waist rather than ones that aren’t because I would look pregnant or like I’m wearing a potato sack.
Of course, you don’t have to limit yourself by gender. I take inspiration from both men and women. You can keep track of your inspirations and find inspiration on a website like Pinterest, or you can look through Instagram. It’s your choice.
2. Look through your closet
Instead of jumping straight towards buying all new things, look inside your closet and think about what you have that can still work for a vintage style. Take an inventory. Chances are you might have a bunch of basics that work well. Shopping your closet is a great way of getting acquainted with what’s in there and figuring out combinations and what are voids in your wardrobe. What do you need to fill in the gaps?
Get rid of things you don’t wear anymore. It’s just sitting there collecting dust and making your closet more disorganised and makes you lose focus. Sell them if they’re something worth buying or donate them if it’s a hassle to sell. Swap with friends, but make sure your friends don’t feel like they’re being burdened with your stuff.
4. Shop Smart
Think about your budget and prioritise what you want to buy. Don’t feel like you have to buy everything all at once. Buying secondhand can be a great way to save money because once you wash those clothes, they’re good as new. I think the best thing to focus on is essentials and below, I’ll detail what I think are a few essential pieces for getting started.
Keep in mind because I’m a woman, my suggestions and advice might be more geared towards women, but there might be some good takeaways here if you’re a guy or you’re androgynous. Not all of these have to be vintage. I think it’s best to buy vintage that’s unique.
- The 70s were all about earthy tones: brown, yellow, orange, green, but you don’t have to limit yourself to those colours. The glam rock subculture used some bright colours.
- The 60s were all about pastels and bright colours. Anything really goes.
- Turtlenecks: easy way to do a 60s beatnik look – black turtleneck and black trousers. Also looks nice paired with a skirt.
- Polo shirts: great for that casual mod look
- Band shirts: easy to find cheap and this was often my everyday wear when I can’t be bothered to wear a dress.
- Bell sleeve tops: girly and 70s
- Flares: get them in a bunch of colours – black, white, brown, striped, paisley, bright colours, dark wash denim, light wash denim. You can accessorise them with patches or paint them if you want to jazz them up. You’ll stand out in the crowd of skinny jeans wearers! They can also be dressy enough too, depends on how you combine them
- Suede button down skirts: very boho and hippie
- A-line mini skirts: very 60s
- Boho maxi skirts
- Plaid skirts
- Simple A-line mini dresses are great for a mod look
- Long Gunne Sax dresses are great if you want a less expensive, but still nice wedding dress. I wore one when I renewed my vows
- Bell sleeve dresses: These are my favourite because they get attention
Outerwear and jackets:
- Mod Parka: A must if you’re in a cold climate and still want to look vintage. Paired with mod clothes, you’ll look like you stepped out of Quadrophenia. Mine have lots of pockets so they’re very practical.
- Penny Lane (Afghan) Coat: You can find longer or shorter ones. They can be a bit pricey, but they’re beautiful and very hippie. These are best for transitional spring or autumn weather.
- Wool coat: I have a purple one with a Nehru looking collar. I love wearing this during the autumn and spring.
- Velvet blazer: I have a black one that I wear with pretty much everything. These are usually super cheap to find and even better if they have pockets.
- (Faux) Leather jacket: I have a fitted leather (don’t worry, it’s secondhand) jacket that my husband absolutely loves on me. It fits perfectly and goes with everything.
I believe in getting nice, practical, comfortable pairs of shoes. Don’t be afraid to splurge because you want to be comfortable when you’re walking. A pair of shoes can elevate an outfit. Sometimes you don’t need new clothes, you need a new pair of shoes. If you have big feet, it can be hard finding vintage shoes. None of the shoes I have are vintage because my feet are large by 60s/70s/80s standards. My great aunt wore the same shoe size as me and back in the 40s, she had to go to the one specialty shoe store in Chicago to find shoes that fit.
- Birkenstocks are really comfortable and durable sandals.
- Doc Martens are comfortable and versatile. These are my go-to shoe for everyday
- Clogs look nice with a pair of bell bottoms and make a nice 70s look
- Platform shoes are a must for me when I need shoes to impress: all lengths are good from ankle to knee high to thigh high.
Don’t underestimate the power of accessories. Like shoes, they can change a whole outfit and elevate it.
- Scarves can change up an outfit
- Necklaces that have cool designs – I’m partial to moons and animal shaped pendants (cats, butterflies, dolphins)
- Headbands are great accessories for a hippie look
- Berets for that beatnik look
- Flower crowns for that Lana Del Rey/hippie look
- Sunglasses: Large round frames are very retro and you can’t go wrong with Ray Ban Wayfarers!
I think makeup can add a lot to a look and I notice how much of a difference it made when I really got into it. My signature look is a 60s cut crease like Twiggy’s. 60s makeup is much easier than today’s Instagram glam. Just one eyeshadow all over the lid, some eyeliner, blush, and lipstick and you’re good. These are my personal essentials:
- Foundation: Good to splurge on this because it goes all over your face and it’s important to have a nice base
- Primer: As Nikkie Tutorials says “Not to prime is a crime”. Make sure your face is prepped.
- Concealer: I personally cheap out on this. The drugstore has lots of good options. You can even use it as eye primer.
- Eyeshadow: The colours I like using most are blue, purple, silver, pink, white, and peach. I like using a lot of mattes since they’re versatile, but I like using shimmers sometimes all over the eyelid. The easy go to 60s look is white or silver eyeshadow all over the lid with 60s cut crease eyeliner.
- Eyeliner: I personally find that gel eyeliner goes a longer way than eyeliner pens and it’s easier to use than liquid eyeliner.
- Mascara: I personally use false lash effect mascara
- Blush: I like pink and coral
- Highlighter: totally optional, but I think it adds a lot of fun to your look. Since I’m really pale, I gravitate towards pink and silvery highlights. Some shimmery eyeshadows can double as a highlighter.
- Lipstick: Use whatever formula you like best. Pale pink is the ultimate 60s lipstick colour, but it’s hard to find these days because the trends are different now. I like darker pink too when I want to feel like a 60s/70s Barbie.
Money saving tips:
- Check eBay for the same items on Etsy. A lot of sellers list things on both websites and often will list things for less on eBay
- Easy one: sort from lowest to highest price
- Look at sites like Etsy on Sale, which compile what’s on sale on Etsy.
- Platforms like Poshmark and Depop are ones that are usually more open to negotiation. Don’t go lower than 50% of the asking price, that’s rude. If you’re going to make a deal, please be a serious buyer. Sellers hate time wasters.
- If you’re at a brick and mortar shop, inspect clothes carefully. If there’s a flaw that isn’t noted on the tag or if it doesn’t say “as is”, notify the staff. Sometimes I’m successful in getting the item for less by letting them know there’s a flaw.
- Learn to sew and alter clothes so if you find a bargain that is a little too big, missing a button, needs to be hemmed, etc, you can fix it.
- Take a look at the whole cost including tax and shipping, avoid that sticker shock.
- Ask the shop if they bundle shipping costs if you buy more than one item
- Shop around holidays when there are sales
- Follow vintage shops on social media to get discount codes for followers
I find vintage and secondhand shopping to be quite dangerous because it can be really addictive and lead to impulse buys. What attracted me to it is it’s like a treasure hunt and a fun way to pass the time when you’re in the city or travelling. With vintage you may never find something like that piece again, but you’ll also fall in love with something else soon enough. It’s important to set limits on purchases before you go crazy and spend your whole paycheque on vintage clobber. Set a cost per item limit, a monthly/quarterly/yearly budget, number of items purchased limit, no-buy, low buy, whatever works for you.
People say that vintage clothing is more sustainable than fast fashion. That is true, but the most sustainable thing you can do is not purchase items you don’t need. Appreciate what you have in your closet and find ways to make your outfits fresh again through alterations, accessories, or pairing them with a nice pair of shoes. That can make all the difference and it’s better for your wallet in the long run.
Here are things I think about to talk myself out of purchases, since I am on a perpetual low buy. The nice thing is, a lot of these strategies work.
- Have I seen/tried on this item in person?
- A lot of items look incredible in photos, but in real life, they’re not as nice. Kind of like Cher Horowitz explaining to Tai what a Monet is in the movie, Clueless.
- How is this going to fit? Chances are you don’t have a body like the model in the photo so it’s going to look different on you. If you’re in between sizes, it can be tricky. How many times have you seen something look good on a mannequin, but it doesn’t look good on you? I know I’ve had this happen many times.
- If you’re picky with fabric textures, you’re better off trying things on in person or buying from an online shop with good return policies.
- You need to see an item in person to get a feel for the quality. I’ve ordered things online that the quality didn’t match my expectations
- Do I have anything like this in my wardrobe?
- If so, do you really need another? Really, think about it. Avoid wardrobe redundancies, unless the item is a staple.
- If not, why? Do you not like the colour, design, shape, cut, style? I often find that we have fantasy selves and real selves. Fantasy versions of you like flashy things and less practical things than the real you. I think of fantasy me as Heart and real me as Brain, like those Heart and Brain comics by The Awkward Yeti.
- If so, do you really need another? Really, think about it. Avoid wardrobe redundancies, unless the item is a staple.
- What’s the shipping cost and tax?
- Oftentimes, I no longer want to buy something when I go to the checkout page and I see the shipping cost and tax added on. Ouch! Make sure to not fall for the free shipping limits either, those are clever tricks used by shops to get you to buy more stuff than you need. Sometimes, it’s just cheaper and better to pay the shipping. Don’t buy things you don’t need or want.
- If you’re ordering something from a different country, make sure to budget for customs duty/VAT that needs to be paid.
- What’s your budget?
- If you need to put it on Afterpay, you can’t afford it, full stop. Don’t go into debt. Save your money and pay for it in full, then you have no worries. Find something cheaper that’s similar.
- Will there be a sale?
- Check the shop’s social media and see if they have any coupon codes for followers. Some shops have affiliate codes given to bloggers and influencers.
- Usually around certain times of the year like bank holidays, Christmas, Black Friday, Easter, etc, there are sales. Check social media and keep an eye on any deals.
- Use a browser extension like Honey (Note: this is my referral code, I get rewarded if you use it, but it won’t cost you anything). It has a list of discount codes and it automatically finds the best deal for you. Some websites even send you coupon codes if you leave something in your trolley to entice you to buy.
- Is there a return policy?
- You have to think about the possibility of being unsatisfied with your purchase. If you spent all that money and there’s no return policy, it’s as if you burnt the money or flushed it down the toilet.
- Be sure to check the return policy and know what you’re getting into. Most vintage sellers online have an all sales final policy, so buyer beware. Read the item description so you know what you’re getting. Know your measurements.
- Make sure you really want/need it before buying.
- If you and the shop you’re purchasing from are in the EU, you have statutory consumer rights, but with secondhand goods, you’re not covered for quality if you’re buying from a private individual seller – you only have the right to return if the item is grossly misrepresented. As for brick and mortar shops, you are not entitled to a return because you changed your mind.
- Why do you want this?
- Are you emotional shopping? If so, wait a while before purchasing that item. Give yourself time to cool off. If you still want it in, let’s say a month or two, then you really want it. Forcing a cooling off period before I purchase really helps me and it prevents regret buys.
- Are you going to use it? Is this for everyday you or fantasy you? Think about the cost per wear. If it’s “cheap”, but you’re not going to wear it, effectively it’s more expensive than an item that’s pricier, but you wear every day.
- Are you only buying it because it’s on sale? If you don’t truly want it, but you’re just buying it because it’s a bargain, then you’re not saving money and you’re not buying it for the right reason. Spending money on sale stuff is still spending money.
I usually try to find any reason to not buy something. One funny strategy I have is to roast items and have reasons you aren’t going to buy that, do your own anti-haul.
I hope these tips helped you. If you have any tips you want to share, share them in the comments section. Thank you for reading!
Shoutout to my friends Patrick and Matt for supporting the blog.
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