Style Panel: How to wear vintage, for beginners

Despite how widely worn and loved vintage clothes are, some of us still get that familiar icky feeling when entering a second hand shop. The racks seem endless (and not in a good way), the air seems stuffy and the amazing finds are not a sure thing. Nonetheless, vintage shopping is still one of the cheapest, most eco-friendly and fun ways to get in on the trends you love. Moreover, it will ensure that you wont see your outfit doppelganger around every corner. To ease you into the treasure hunt, we asked our Style Panel, now including Vancouver’s Alicia Quan of Alicia Fashionista how to wear vintage.

Question 5: How can you break into vintage if it’s not your thing? Read the answers now! »

Or jump to: ALEX GRANT, TORONTO | ALICIA QUAN, VANCOUVER | ALYSSA LAU EDMONTON | AMY NELSON, CALGARY | GRACIE CARROLL, TORONTO | KASSANDRA CAMPONI, EDMONTON | KRISTIN MACDONALD, FREDERICTON | LOLITTA DANDOY, MONTREAL | MO HANDAHU, HALIFAX | VICKIE LALIOTIS, EDMONTON

Alicia Quan, 25
Vancouver | Alicia Fashionista

My very first vintage shopping experience came about while I was a university student. Funds were low, vintage was in and I was in the mood to shop. Stepping into Value Village without the intent to purchase a Halloween costume was very foreign, and the racks and racks of clothing felt extra daunting. I almost ended up leaving empty-handed and discouraged, as finding items that aren’t a size zero can quickly turn into mission impossible. Turns out that vintage shopping is the perfect way to purchase current, trendy items for a fraction of the price! I found two oversized blazers that day that I easily turned into boyfriend blazers just by rolling up the sleeves. I’ve since had luck with this theory, like when I struck gold and found this off-white 100% silk Club Monaco blouse in the men’s section for $5.99!
If vintage isn’t your thing, don’t try to go from zero to hero and find a head to toe look. Searching for beautiful pieces that you can incorporate into your wardrobe and focusing your search on a particular item will help you not to feel intimidated by the endless racks. No luck in the women’s side of the store? Try hopping over to the men’s section! They have great oversized sweaters, jackets and button-ups.

Alicia’s wearing: Silk blouse, thrifted. Black mini skirt and suede wedges, Urban Outfitters. Hat and bag, Front and Company. Necklace, Wolf Circus. Watch, Marc by Marc Jacobs.

Photography by Janick Laurent/janicklaurent.com
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Gracie Carroll, 24
Toronto | Gracie Carroll

I’ve been a huge lover of vintage my entire life, but the thought of a puffy prom dress from the ‘80s entering my vicinity gives me nightmares. Instead, my favourite way to wear vintage is to look like I’m not wearing vintage at all. I like to hunt for items that are timeless, beautifully made and reflective of current trends. The best thing about vintage is that when you find a true treasure, no one else will ever have it, and that is what makes your wardrobe (and style) unique.
These sheer black pleated palazzo pants were found at the Salvation Army, and my cotton top (that is nearly 100 years old) was found at a local market in Florence, Italy. While my outfit probably cost me less than $20 in total, I don’t believe anyone would ever be able to tell.

Gracie’s wearing: White short sleeve top, vintage. Black palazzo pants, vintage. Earrings, Ranjana Khan. Clutch, Fashionably Yours.

Amy Nelson, 19
Calgary | Amy Flying a Kite

I love the clothing from previous eras. Through my years of vintage trekking, I’ve found overalls, bell bottoms and even cowboy boots with a previous owner’s name on them. I always thought vintage stores were more like museums than shopping centres. Every garment in a vintage shop tells a story of a different time and a different owner. I feel like I’m wearing an artifact or a souvenir from somebody else’s travels.

Today, I’m wearing a vintage floral skirt from shoppalu.com (a Canadian vintage retailer) and everything else is brand new. The lion top is from romwe.com, and the shoes were sent from Korea. To ease yourself into the world of vintage, try pairing something new with something old. By wearing the modern-looking lion top, I’m not diluting myself in too much of the old.

Photography by Mark A. Cadiz
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I wear vintage every day. I like knowing that what I’m wearing isn’t something anyone can go pick up at a chain store, but rather, is something one-of-a-kind and rare. Whether it’s from a carefully curated vintage boutique, or sifted from piles of junk at your local Value Village, throwing in some vintage adds a unique touch to your outfit. Whether it’s one of my mom’s silver necklaces that she bought in the ‘70s while in Greece, a ‘90s schoolgirl dress or a Victorian lace blouse, the pieces that I deem the most special are usually ones I know I won’t see elsewhere.

It’s worth the hunt, but if you’re new to vintage, try looking for items that don’t scream the year they were made. (Leave the muumuus for a rainy day.) Go for items you would buy new in a store, but bask in the fact that you’re wearing something one-of-a-kind that has lived a life before your time.

I have found Ferragamo flats at Value Village, gorgeous form-fitting LBDs on Etsy, and the most ideal leather shorts, jackets, skirts and so on at local vintage boutiques. I buy and sell a lot of vintage on Etsy, and I swear by it (my online vintage store is naughtymess.etsy.com).

Wearing: Top, skirt, belt and bag, vintage. Shoes, Jeffrey Campbell.

Alex Grant, 25
Toronto via Vancouver | To Vogue or Bust

I started thrifting when I was about 14, and I soon became hooked on the thrill of shoveling through piles of ‘80s polyester blouses in Salvation Army or Value Village to find a single treasure, like the mod, bubblegum-pink mini dress that I wore to my prom.
Thrifting is definitely a skill that improves the more you do it, so if you don’t have hours to devote to it or are new to vintage shopping, your best bet is to just hop over to the accessories area. Not only is it easier to spot good finds there, but accessories are also the easiest way of incorporating a bit of vintage into your look without going all-out.
I very rarely wear a full vintage look: here, for example, only my pants, clutch and belt are vintage. Like most things, it’s all in the balance: a bit of modern mixed with a bit of the old makes the thrifted pieces a bit more wearable while giving my new pieces a bit of an edge!

Alex’s wearing: Vintage pants, Shoppalu. Top and hat, Club Monaco. Bag and belt, thrifted at Salvation Army. Shoes, Michael Kors. Cuff, Forever 21.

Alyssa Lau, 20
Edmonton | The Ordinary Peoples

The great thing about vintage is that everything comes back into style sooner or later, so something from 40 years ago may look as rad as something from your local (insert popular store name here). And really, anyone can wear vintage. Personally, my favourite vintage finds are shoes. Then again, I’m usually just obsessed with shoes. But as of late, my favourite vintage piece has been this denim jacket I’ve been wearing probably a bit too much for everyone’s liking. If denim ever goes out of style, I’ll be flabbergasted.

Alyssa’s wearing: Vintage denim jacket, Value Village. Shorts, Goodnight Macaroon. Bag, Romwe. Top, Sheinside. Hoodie, Urban Outfitters. Heels, Zara.

Kassandra Camponi, 26
Edmonton | Kastles

Finding vintage clothing pieces that fit you properly can be tricky. If you don’t have an awesome tailor or any sewing skills for yourself, vintage accessories are your way to go. Scarves and belts are two of my favourite vintage pieces to wear. They are both easy to wear. Try a scarf in your hair, tied to a purse or wrapped in a bow around your neck.

Kassandra’s wearing: Scarf and belt, vintage. Skirt, H&M. Top, Loft. Necklaces, Joe Fresh. Wedges, Nine West.

Kristin MacDonald, 27
Fredericton | Doll Parade

For me, vintage is like a go-to accessory. Take these shoes as an example. Bought initially for a ‘60s Warhol-factory party in order to channel Edie Sedgwick, I have been finding myself defaulting to them in order to subtly spice up some skinnies or a simple shift dress.

Other go-to vintage items featured from within my closet include my faux croc nude clutch (it’s saved my life on so many occasions with its neutral shade and quality make), and finally, a rhinestone pin that works when paired with blazers, scarves and even purses. If you’re crafty, grabbing some bright nail polish and giving a piece like this a makeover can instantly transform it, bringing it from old to new. For me, finding the balance between incorporating a great vintage piece and keeping everything modern and clean at the same time,is all part of the fun. So, all said and done, my break-into-vintage tips: determine what type of vintage goods would work for you and identify your look before you set out. Once this is done, you can incorporate vintage of your own accord without looking like an antique photo.

Lolitta Dandoy, 32
Montreal | Fashion Is Everywhere

To me, the most important rule is to not do head-to-toe vintage. You can easily end up looking like you are wearing a costume. Instead, choose one standout element and mix it with contemporary pieces.
I love this vintage ‘50s full skirt, because of its high waist and print. To make it perfect for today, I’ve paired it with a simple asymmetrical top and added a bit of personality with my favourite vintage Yves Saint Laurent brooch.

Lolitta’s wearing: Skirt, vintage from her online boutique MyWalk.in. Top, Judith & Charles. Brooch, vintage Yves Saint Laurent. Wedges, Dolce & Gabbana.

Mo Handahu, 29
Halifax | Curvy Geekery

The best way to ease into vintage is by shopping for accessories that complement your style. This textured 1920s clutch is one of my favourite vintage finds that I can wear with almost anything.

If you’re not ready to dive in head first, find brands that design vintage-inspired clothing, the modern twist that might help ease you into vintage shopping. Some great online spots to check out are Modcloth, Lace Affair and Ruche.

Vickie Laliotis, 28
Edmonton | Adventures in Fashion

The prospect of incorporating vintage into your wardrobe can be daunting for those who have never done so, but there’s no reason why you can’t take baby steps when trying out the trend. Head-to-toe vintage looks can be difficult to master, especially when trying to keep one foot rooted in contemporary style as you nod to decades past. That’s why I think accessories are the best way to incorporate vintage into your look; it’s a fun, inexpensive way to add dimension while still ensuring a one-of-a-kind appeal. Because really, in this tangle of mass-store offerings, isn’t a little dose of individuality exactly what we’re all craving?

When trying your hand at vintage fashion, nothing beats a great bag or piece of jewellery, with scarves, sunglasses and shoes coming in at a close second. Your local thrift and consignment stores are ripe with options, with garage and estate sales — as well as antique shops and auctions — scoring high on the hidden treasure–potential list. So next time you have the option to dig around a thrift store bin or check out your local antique dealer, you never know what you might find; maybe even a little YSL clutch for $4 like I did… May the thrifting odds be ever in your favour!

Vickie’s wearing: Dress and blazer, H&M. Belt, vintage. Shoes, Zara. Leather clutch, vintage Yves Saint Laurent. Watch, Michael Kors.