How to create a truly vintage look even when you’re on a budget

Some items in this blog post have been gifted

It used to be the case that vintage fashion equaled low cost. You could buy ‘retro’ clothing by the kilo and could dig it out from the back rails of charity shops. However, these days, you could easily spend more money on a vintage dress than one from the high street, so how do you get that vintage look when you’re on a budget? Here are some ideas…

I’m going to a vintage dance at an old WWII airfield this summer – or, at least, I’m supposed to be. It’s hard to know what events will go ahead just yet. Nonetheless, going to retro events and tea dances is one of my hobbies and I love to dance lindy-hop with my husband, so I’m ALWAYS in need of vintage outfits. However, I’ve noticed that the prices of vintage clothing has been going up and up over the years so I thought it was about time to think outside the box to locate some new-to-me vintage dresses.

HAND-ME-DOWNS

Have you seen that Dawn O’Porter advert for Ecover on the TV recently? It’s all about her wearing vintage clothing, and the sustainable nature of it – as well as the heritage of family pieces. So, why don’t you follow her example and see if your parents, aunts, or grandparents have any clothes from their youth tucked away in the attic. If so, this could be a great find for you for these 4 reasons:

  1. You’re helping them to clear out some clutter that they haven’t worn for decades.
  2. If you find things at the back of their wardrobe, you’re helping to make space for them to buy new outfits.
  3. You get a ‘new’ vintage wardrobe for free (or in exchange for one of your home-baked cakes and a cup of tea, more like!)
  4. The clothing is more likely to be genuine vintage pieces if they’ve been stashed away in the attic for a long time.

CHARITY SHOPPING

It’s still the case that you can find vintage clothing in your local charity shop, but the price tag will just be a bit higher than some of the other donations. Don’t worry about that though – you ARE giving your money to charity, after all. Just make sure that you choose clothing that fits you well, so that you won’t have to spend anything extra for a tailor to make any adjustments.

I’ve tried to custom-fit my own vintage finds in the past and, although my sewing projects turned out well, it was rather nerve-wracking to cut a vintage dress in half to make the adjustments! This knee-length floral tea dress above is my latest charity shop find (and was under £5!) and it’s my new favourite.

MODERN VINTAGE

Sometimes it’s all about the accessories we wear that turn a normal dress into an outfit that looks truly vintage. The first stop for me is adding vintage stockings – seamed tights and stockings provide instant glamour. You can go subtle with a black seam on sheer black tights, or a nude seam on nude stockings. Or, if you really want people to noticed the seam on your stockings go for black (or another colour – red, pink, blue, perhaps?!) against nude.

Then I would add my trusty pair of Mary Jane shoes. They don’t have to be genuine vintage shoes – just any pair of dolly shoes that are comfortable and look quaint. Mine were originally from Hotter (I’m talking YEARS ago – in fact, they might actually be classed as vintage now, I’ve had them that long!) and the low heel makes them ideal for dancing the night away. I wrote about how to look after leather shoes back in 2016 and those same shoes are still going strong. I guess I’ve looked after them well, then!

VINTAGE ACCESSORIES

Alternatively, to get that vintage look, you could always style up a contemporary dress with vintage accessories. Handbags, hats, scarves, gloves, costume jewellery, shoes – keep an eye out at carboot sales, secondhand sales and charity shops. These accessories may be cheaper to get hold of than vintage clothing so could be a more cost-effective way to get that vintage look for less. And don’t forget the winged eyeliner and victory rolls in your hair!

Let me know your own tips for achieving a lovely vintage look on a budget in the comments below. And if I do make it to the tea dance, I’ll be sure to share a photo with you so you can see how I accessorised my dress 🙂

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Cassie is a freelance writer with a Masters degree in lifestyle promotion studies. She loves to 'get the look for less' so regularly shares thrifty fashion posts, DIY interior design ideas and low-cost recipes on her blog.

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