RETRO FIT: How to Make Vintage Work for You

It has been said that styles are recycled every 20 years.  Two decades is a long time to wait. Finding vintage garments that fit your body type or aesthetic and finding styles that fit today’s trends does not have to be difficult.  Any retro fashion or design may be the right fit for you and match the trends today…a great Retro Fit.

Looking into the mirror, you see who you have been, who you are today and what you may want to see tomorrow.  If we look back into the past, we can take from history: great fashion, great styling, and great beauty looks. We can draw inspiration everywhere from motion pictures to family portraits, magazines and even high school yearbooks.  What you and others have seen in the mirror then, may be very “now.”  Taking a Retro-spective look at design is very fashion forward.

In the next few months, you and I are going to Retro Fit our wardrobes, homes, and beauty looks. Retro Fit is more than blog, it is the beginning of a relationship between you and redefining your design using repurposed, or vintage garments, jewelry, hairstyles and make-up techniques.  Retro Fit will help you rethink the way you shop and motivate you to see shopping for retro fashions as an experience.  Retro Fit will incorporate my experiences in design, as well as your experiences.

Retro Fitting great design is simpler than one may think.  These days, you can embrace the vintage vantage point online, in stores and at home.  I recently purchased a great pair of vintage boots on eBay of all places…love them!  The next best thing can be as easy as a trip to your own closet and rethinking a piece you already own.

I want to make Retro Fit as interactive as possible.  Throughout our relationship, I will propose to you personal challenges and action oriented scavenger hunts.   My first challenge is to go to your closet and air out any skeletons you may have.  Start with that one piece that still has the tags on it.  Force yourself to find an event that this piece would “Fit” perfectly for.  While scavenging, set aside a few pieces or garments you do not wear and donate them to a local second hand shop or sell them to a vintage store.  This is like paying it forward in the vintage circle of life.  (One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, share the pot of gold.)

I challenge you to go to an elder relative.  Create a conversation about what they have worn.  How these clothes made them feel.  Where they would go when they wore the garments.  Ask them who they went on dates with in their retro designs.  There are so many things we can learn about clothing just by asking.  Then, ask them if they still have any of these pieces.  Go to their closet with them and see what they are talking about; what do these clothes look and feel like?  You might be surprised how easy it is to take what may look like a dated tunic from your grandma’s past and feature it with a great pair of your favorite jeans and that right pair of stilettos.  Perhaps these vintage designs already fit you and you could pair a vintage cardigan or broach with a fitted-t and skinny jeans or leggings.  The possibilities are endless…if you embrace them.

What other places should you look?  One of my favorite places to find inspiration for great design is television.  I love love love Downton Abbey.  Taking a look at costuming from period television, we can see different silhouettes that have appeared in the past, appear again throughout time and reappear today.  The Edwardian hairstyles found in Downton can be found on the red carpet to the pages of current magazines.  Take these designs to your own style be pinning a few loose curls into a messy side bun or dramatically side part a French Bob to make the look asymmetric, reminiscent of the 20’s.  The possibilities are endless and always hair-razing!  A lot of the lace found during the Edwardian (Downton Abbey) period can be found in the fashion of the 80’s and again today under cardigans and paired with silk tank tops.

Another good direction to find the right Retro Fit is to layer the unexpected.  A pop of color is a great rule of thumb in design, likewise with a pop vintage.  That one vintage piece can redefine an entire look!  Something old, something new, something borrowed does not have to make you someone who is blue.

Some fashionistas may find it a bit difficult to make use of old clothing and feel comfortable wearing it in today’s society.  Start small, go with accessories to find the right Retro Fit.  Use ancestral jewelry and have it melted into a more modern piece connecting the past with the present.

A good rule of thumb with the right Retro Fit is; adorn yourself in things that make you smile.  If you feel good about a piece and you pair that emotion with another piece that represents your personal style, new or old…it should work.

As your guide on the search to find the right Retro Fit, I urge you to be brave, be bold, be beautiful…be you.  I implore you to reuse, recycle, rethink and reinvent your design and Retro Fit your style.  Recreate, repurpose and reuse design.  You may find a new aesthetic within yourself and you will be more proactive in creating a more sustainable environment.

I would love for you to send info on your favorite vintage stores or antique malls.  I am always looking for great places to purchase retro garments and jewelry pieces.  Feel free to send me pics of your own design and thought process.  We can learn from each other! And stay tuned for the next Retro Fit post, an interview with the owner of Broad Ripple Vintage!

In future conversations, topics may include the following captions: Going Green…Green with Envy, Be-dazzled…Romancing the Stone, Make-up for Lost Time, Shop Til You Drop…no need to “waist” time, and Costume Party…Vintage Style.  In these conversations we will talk about things like using your wedding gown for multiple purposes, restructuring your mother’s wedding gown, how to be thrifty with vintage flare and so much more.  I will conduct interviews with local shop owners and local vintage magnets to guide our way down the runway of life in vintage fashion for the “sustainable good.”

By the way, it is “sew” great to meet you…I look forward to us shopping together!

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2 Comments

  • I have some “retro” pieces that I would like to pass on to someone who might appreciate them. Two were my mother’s: her parachute silk wedding gown hand made by my grandmother for her 1947 ceremony and a coral coat + dress ensemble from the 70’s. i also have some mid-90’s Tamotsu pieces from my personal era of glamour. Any thoughts about where I might take them?

    • Elizabeth…thank you for participating in the conversation! If you are local to Indianapolis, we have a few great options to sale/consign your garments. Specifically, I would like to direct you to reTULLEd in Irvington. Amy has a great stock of formal consignment and she is seeking vintage works for her customer base. The 1940’s wedding gown can potentially be sold there. (Look for a RetroFit interview in the coming months with Amy of reTULLEd, jus sayin’.) 😉
      If you are not local to Indy, I find that “artsy” neighborhoods tend to follow the vintage market more closely (not to say that there are diamonds in the rough and outliers). In Indy, Broad Ripple and Irvington are great places to sale and shop vintage…we also have great stores in Fountain Square. I tend to use the philosophy that if you would shop “there,” then someone is more likely to purchase your items off of the street…making your garments worth more money to a vintage retailer.
      I hope this helps! Have a great day!

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