Although vintage-inspired clothing has experienced a revival in mainstream culture over the past several years, there’s still some confusion about what leading a retro lifestyle entails. Below I’ve addressed 9 of the common misconceptions surrounding dressing in clothes influenced by decades past.
1) You have to commit to it full-time.
Many of us vintage-loving ladies have a closet full of darling dresses, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t also have or appreciate modern clothes. I tend to dress myself based on mood, comfort, and weather conditions (though some would disagree with this since I still wear dresses in cold Canadian winters), and sometimes, I don’t feel like looking like I stepped out of a 50’s movie. Sometimes time constraints or other priorities can get in the way, like rushing around running errands or studying for exams. In fact, although most people who get to know me are used to seeing me all dolled up in retro attire, I recall one unfortunate incident from this past school year where I showed up for class wearing sweatpants after staying up all night studying; but at least I paired them with a cute top! Other times I just feel like dressing down, or I like and want to wear a modern design. Other women might like mixing it up; wearing vintage finds in their spare time, and dressing more modern at work. In fact, my Mom has some Modcloth and Tatyana clothes in her closet, but she likes to mix them in with her modern pieces for her own unique look. The point is, just because you like and own retro-inspired clothing, doesn’t mean you have to wear it exclusively.
2) You can’t shop in ‘modern’ stores.
I’ll admit that when I first started to fully embrace my vintage lifestyle, I thought it meant I couldn’t dress in modern clothes since they wouldn’t fit in with that style. But this isn’t true! Other than what I addressed above about having the freedom to mix and match your retro and modern pieces, or taking a break from it completely, you can also find lovely vintage-inspired clothes in popular stores like Forever 21 and Le Chateau. In fact, since fashion has a way of reinventing itself, drawing inspiration from past decades, there’s always bound to be something you could incorporate into your retro wardrobe. I’ve been surprised several times with great styles like this while out shopping at my local mall. Just this spring I walked into Le Chateau with my Mommy and my friend Amanda, jaw-dropping at all of the lovely polkadot patterned frocks that would’ve felt right at home next to my Modcloth and Collectif dresses. But, luckily for my wallet, I practiced some self control and only left the store with one sensational wiggle skirt. You can see some of my pairings on my instagram page, and I plan to do a post about this topic soon.
3) You have to wear a lot of makeup/ it’s time-consuming.
I’m not going to lie, sometimes it takes me a while to get ready depending on whether or not I’m trying out a new makeup look or hairstyle, but this definitely isn’t always the case. There’s certain life-hacks and short-cuts you can use to look super vintage without it taking up your whole day. There’s no getting around the time put into a good wet-set, but that hairstyle can actually last for several days, so it could potentially save you time in the morning in the following days. There are also alternative ways to do your hair if you’re in a rush in the morning. I like to grab my basic conair curling iron and quickly run it through my hair to add a bit of texture (I have annoyingly pin-straight hair). Accessories also add a bit of that old hollywood flair if you are in a pinch; hair scarves, head bands and hairpins can become your hair’s best friend real quick! Concerning makeup, a lot of vintage styles actually require more of a fresh-faced, naturally-inspired look anyways. I never even touched foundation or any face makeup until about a year-ago and I got by just fine. A nice winged liner or a quick swipe of a red lippy can add that lovely vintage touch with minimal effort. But there are also women out there who fully embrace the vintage look and don’t wear a stitch of makeup at all. Regardless of what you choose to do, it doesn’t have to be time-consuming to get that true classic look.
4) You can only wear bold or red lips (for 50’s-inspired).
As much as I absolutely adore my red lipsticks, you don’t always have to have cherry lips to fit in with this style. In fact, you can wear any bold colour and still comply with what is considered a pinup look. I sometimes even don a lovely royal purple shade when I feel like it. But lipsticks aren’t a necessity anyways, you can either go with or without. Sometimes I go with a less conventional nude lip, but I can still make it work so long as my apparel and hairstyle fall within the confines of a 50’s look.
5) You can only stick to one decade or subculture.
It’s no secret that I love to don a 50’s – inspired look, but I also enjoy dabbling in 40’s and 60’s style. And sometimes I mix the looks of several different decades together. There is no limit to what you decide to do since the best part of living a retro lifestyle is being able to encompass the glamour of previous decades, while being creative and adding a bit of yourself to the overall look. Last week I decided to pay homage to my beloved Paul McCartney on his birthday by grabbing a 60’s-looking, peter pan collared dress, swiping a nude-pink lip and thickening my winged liner. But I didn’t want to go all-out with the mod look, so I didn’t play with pastel eyeshadows or draw on twiggy-like lower lashes. Instead, I kept my bettie bangs and hair styled more 50’s, combining the two looks, though obviously with a heavier 60’s influence to it. It was so much fun to be able to play around and incorporate those two lovely decades into one look. And these iconic styles we associate with specific decades in reality don’t fit as neatly as we’d think. There is overlap and merging; just because it was 1960 didn’t mean all the styles of the 1950’s suddenly stopped being worn. Think of the first few seasons of Mad Men, the women often wore long circle skirts and dresses and red lips even though they were pairing it with heightened hair and living in the early 60’s. The same kind of reasoning applies to vintage-wearers who decide to dabble and explore with all kinds of clothes and styles they like, regardless of rigid decade requirements and subcultures.
6) You must ONLY be into vintage-related hobbies and interests.
Anyone can decide to leap into a vintage lifestyle, regardless of their interests. If you like the look and want to wear it, what does it matter? After all, we aren’t stuck in a time-machine; we are allowed to have modern or more ‘normal’ interests. I love watching my junkie MTV shows, reading Harry Potter and other fantasy series. I collect Beatles memorabilia, even though it is from a decade after what I typically dress like. I’m obsessed with Pretty Little Liars and McDonald’s fries. The point is, even though I’ve fully launched myself into the retro life, I’m still a normal twenty-something year-old woman. I don’t study fashion or make my own clothes, and I can count on my fingers how many old hollywood films I’ve seen. It doesn’t matter what you’re into; if you like vintage fashion then you’re welcome to embrace it.
7) You can’t wear pants.
Yes, beautiful dresses are hard for us pinup girls to pass up, and a lot of us like to stick to that very feminine silhouette, but it’s certainly not required. In fact, if you scroll through Pinup Girl Clothing you will see an assortment of high-waisted, 50’s inspired trousers. Just because pants (particularly jeans) are so commonly worn nowadays, doesn’t mean you can’t find a pair with that lovely retro flair. Although I really don’t wear pants often (growing up I was always more attracted to skirts and dresses, I think because I associated them with what I considered strong and womanly), but when I do I love to throw on a pair of my Modcloth jeggings. They perfectly accommodate for my wide hips and narrow waist – something very hard to find in modern clothing.
8) You believe in entirely old-fashioned values.
Yeah, no. Definitely not! While I love the culture of the 1950’s; the music, the clothing, the general aesthetic, I don’t support the openly misogynistic views of that time. And I’m not the only one; several leading ladies in the retro scene have made their beliefs about women-empowerment known, such as Laura Byrnes and Micheline Pitt of Pinup Girl Clothing and Dita Von Teese. Also, donning dresses and primping ourselves doesn’t mean we don’t support the social progress made in the present day, merely that we like wearing pretty dresses! I never feel more powerful and feminine than when I’m wearing a wiggle skirt; probably something I picked up from my powerhouse of a mother (go mom)!
9) It’s a super expensive lifestyle.
In my guest post for The Wolf and The Wardrobe, I give some tips on how to save money when buying from online retailers. I’ve noticed that the better quality of vintage-inspired clothing I purchase, the longer it lasts. I don’t go through jeans super quickly like I did when I dressed modern, especially because the vintage ones account for my different measurements. Mainstream clothing companies seem to create clothes to fit one body type, where vintage-inspired clothing is often a lot more accommodating, with a lot of brands carrying sizes from xs-4x. These companies also account for narrow waists, big busts, and wide hips, which translates into less trips to the tailor! And since you can still find beautiful retro-looking clothes at the local mall, there are still some very cost-effective options available. Plus a lot of the pieces can be mix and matched very well, and once you play around with hair, makeup and accessories, you can really change the look.