Retro Essentials: Working On Your Personal Style

As you’ll have noticed if you know me in person, I like trying weird things when it comes to clothes and makeup. Some things have turned out to be great ideas and others were ideas I’m hoping no one photographed me wearing.

If you’re making a deliberate effort to change your personal style, there are a few things you can do in preparation. This post is aimed to assist those of you who are looking to get into vintage/pinup/retro styles and don’t yet know where to start. I’ve already written about how to wear these styles without breaking the budget and pointed out currently available items that might be a good idea to start with. But how do you figure out what you actually want to wear?

Firstly, there are no rules in wearing these styles, only guidelines. Just because you want to dress more vintage doesn’t mean you’ll have to buy a petticoat or wear winged eyeliner. It’s still your personal style. There are purists out there who live to 100% recreate what people wore in certain time periods, unless you want to you don’t have to be one of them. Oh and remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, let this take time.
So, let’s get on with it then.

Step One: create a pinterest account.
Yes, I know it’s a bit mormon housewife, but it’s actually a really helpful tool. What you want to do is create a style board. Then go into the Women’s Fashion, Men’s Fashion, and Hair & Beauty categories. You’re looking for things you like, nothing more.
Don’t get stuck in the “I’d never wear that” or “That looks so expensive” trap. This isn’t online shopping, you’re just looking for things you think look good. Don’t limit yourself to one style or time period. Like that 19th century dress? Pin it. That leather coat? Pin It. Anything goes. I call my board “Things That Should Be Worn” just to remind myself that it’s not necessarily me personally that should wear them. Go wild. Pour yourself a glass of wine and pin away.

Step Two: Historical Research.
Step away from things other people have pinned and start looking at historical aspects of the style. I’d recommend starting with the 1920’s and going through each decade until the 1960’s. Look for actual pictures from these eras, historical recreations, find some youtube videos giving fashion advice and makeup instructions (from the actual era, there are vintage adds and infomercials on youtube). Have the pinterest button installed and pin the things you like. Just the things you like, it’s ok to not like everything. Go through the classical pinup styles by looking at photos, cards, and drawings. Hell, even tattoo designs can provide inspiration.

Step Three: Current Icons
This is the step a lot of people do first, however I suggest saving it until step three. Look at people and icons who are into the vintage styles already. Dita Von Teese, the fashion from Mad Men, pinup models on youtube, rockabilly singers. People who are currently alive and well and dressing in these styles. Pin the things you like. Why do I want you to do this after the other two categories? Because it’s so easy to be influenced. It’s so easy to believe that there’s only one way to do it and that it is the expensive way. Don’t look at other people to try to copy what they do.

Step Four: Finding the Patterns.
You should have a lot of images saved by now. A lot. Step 1-3 is just data gathering, now you’re meant to start analysing it. Start with the first category and then step through the other two. Sooner or later you’ll notice a pattern. Is there a specific silhouette you’ve pinned a lot? Do you love polkadots but haven’t pinned a single stripe? Have you found yourself saving a lot of modern patterns like cupcakes and unicorns? I personally have a lot of military style winter coats pinned, am drawn to colours like black/white/mint/red/deep green, prefer florals and polkadots over nautical patterns, and love heels. I also love marked waists, business wear, and clothing with elements from fantasy and steampunk. Want to see what I’ve pinned?
This should be really helpful in discovering what you personally like as opposed to what other people believe the style should entail.

Step Five: Finding out what works.
Now that you know what you like, it’s time to figure out how you can take those elements and bring them into your style. Now we’re dealing with the more boring things like budget, climate, body shape, which colours look good on you, what you do for a living, and what you feel comfortable in. This is the realistic part. Perhaps you love Agent Provocateur but have a limited budget to work in. In that case it might be helpful to pinpoint that you like black lace or stockings with seams. There are budget options that have that feeling too. Personally, I think the 1920’s were pretty sweet style wise but recognise that it simply doesn’t look good with my body type. So instead of wearing flapper like dresses, I incorporate elements of the 1920’s when it comes to shoes and manicures.

Step Six: Own It
This doesn’t just refer to purchasing things, but also to the attitude you should have when wearing your clothes. Be confident. Look confident. The further your outfit is from the current norms and trends, the more confident you need to appear to pull it off. If you do not feel comfortable, it will show. Best example? Look at pictures from high school formals. See how so many teenagers look like they’re wearing a costume? That is a perfect example of an outfit wearing the person and not the other way around. Walk with confidence. Shoulders back, looking straight ahead. That doesn’t mean that you should put on a persona or be rude to people, it simply means that you shouldn’t apologise for breathing.

So there it is, six steps. Please let me know if there’s anything I’ve missed or if you have any additional advice.


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