Thrifting 101, Part 24: How to wear thrifted and vintage clothing

As some of you might already know, I'm in the process of writing a book. My content is done, my bibliography concluded, chapters organized and paragraphs spell-checked. It would seem like most of the difficult work is behind me, right? Not so. You see, now approaches the time to edit. The editing process involves going through sentences with a fine-toothed comb, looking for redundancies and cliches and grammar mistakes and pointless dialogue and endless run on sentences kind of like this one. It's a tedious activity, one best spent with no distractions in order to create an environment of complete and total concentration and is that a squirrel???

ANYWAYS, while I was flogging through my editing it occurred to me that a crucial post was missing in my Thrifting 101 series. I've covered fashion history, thrifting etiquette, cleaning tips, and thrifting protocol. I've given advice regarding the best thrifting blogs, easiest ways to locate thrift stores,  and most fruitful days to thrift. I've even pontificated on my great, sweeping love for thrifted pleated skirts and sequins. But I neglected to offer what might be the most powerful chapter in the series - a post regarding how to style and wear thrifted and vintage clothing.

If you've never worn vintage before, it's ill-advised to wear a head-to-toe outfit comprised completely of vintage pieces. For the novice or expert, it's best to mix thrifted and vintage clothing and accessories with more modern silhouettes already in your closet. Here's some advice for incorporating thrifted and vintage pieces into your wardrobe:

  • Start small: If you're a newbie to thrifting and intimidated in regards to blending vintage with modern, start with accessories and jewelry. Vintage accessories such as scarves, belts, bags and jewelry are great gateway tools for incorporating vintage into your daily wardrobe. Choose just one vintage accessory per outfit - any more, and the effect could be lost.
An outfit built around a vintage 1980's clutch
  • Avoid the costume effect: Wearing head-to-toe vintage will make you look like an extra from a movie set, or Mad Men. I love Mad Men as much as the next girl, but I have no desire to have my neighbors mistake me for Joan Holloway. Mixing one focal vintage piece with the rest of your wardrobe basics will make you look modern. Ideally, there should be no more than a 50-50 mix between vintage and new in an outfit.
Thrifted vintage prom dress paired with denim
  • Dress around one dramatic piece: Take one head-turning vintage find – in my case, a thrifted amaze-balls sequined vest – and wear it against a background of simple silhouettes. Pairing the vest with a white tee and jeans helped it stand out.
  • Separate vintage pieces to give them a new look: Bought a cute vintage suit but don’t know how to wear it? Pair the blazer with a fitted tee and skinny jeans, and the skirt with knee-high boots and a blouse. This trick not only maximizes your dollar, but also brings a little creativity into your wardrobe.
This thrifted cropped tuxedo jacket came with a floor-sweeping skirt. I separated the two pieces and voila! New outfit!
  • Use a tailor to update old styles: A seamstress can remove shoulder pads, bring up a hemline, replace missing or unstylish buttons with new ones, and alter blazers for a slimmer fit. Modernizing silhouettes makes vintage much more wearable.
My tailor hemmed and took the waist in on this thrifted Escada lace skirt. Now it's the perfect silhouette for my petite frame.

Hopefully this post has helped you find ways to style your own thrifted and vintage pieces. Do you have an other tips for styling vintage clothing and accessories? As I return to editing (sigh), please catch up on all the other posts in my Thrifting 101 series.


  1. Oooh, that Escada lace skirt! You look beautiful!
    I look forward to your book :o)

  2. I love that last look! Great tips!

    xo L.

  3. This post is pretty much perfect for me... I desperately need to learn to vintage better... I do accessories all the time and shoes.... but I need to branch out beyond...

  4. Oh, loved this. I've never-ever been thrifting and bloggers have put it into my head that I'm really missing out. I'll definitely be going back through your series to brush up on all things thrift. And as for this post, I love the concept of focusing on singular vintage pieces rather than all-out thrifted finds. It really highlights each one!

    P.S. Can I be first in line for that book of yours, please? I've written two novels, both of which are waiting for the editing process to be inflicted on them, but I can't seem to bring myself to commit to it! I know too well just how much work it's going to take to bring them up to snuff. Eek!

  5. That purse really pulls the outfit together. You couldn't do it as well without it! I love accessories! Hard to find good second hand shops with good supply here in the Seattle area.

  6. Congratulations to you on the book, how exciting is that ?!

    Thanks for the useful tips on wearing vintage, I find thrifing a challange and you certainly have helped me a great deal.

  7. I need to take these tips to heart. I'm putting myself on a crazy strict budget and will need to get much better at thrifting in the months ahead. You always look amazing in your thrifted and vintage pieces! - Katy

  8. I wish you had written this yesterday before I wore my Alexis Carrington /Dynasty dress :) Sometimes I go a little crazy at the thrift store!

  9. Great post. For me the tips to mix vintage and modern and to remove should pads are most near and dear to my heart and the steps I ALWAYS take when wearing my thrifted vintage.

  10. I'm a wicked girl! I haven't read this post yet but you had me at vintage- so I just peeked at your awesome vintage pieces and now I have to run...I heart you!


I love my readers! Comments are welcomed and appreciated.