Vintage inspired everyday outfits

Putting a vintage twist on modern clothes

I’ve been on a bit of a vintage fashion kick of late. I also recently took on the challenge of Shopping my Shipping and have been inspired to find new ways of wearing my old clothes. So I thought why not have a go at putting these two interests together? It’s been really fun putting a vintage twist on my modern pieces, and finding new ways to wear items I otherwise don’t get much use out of. So I thought I’d share my experiences and some simple ideas for how to get more wear out of your wardrobe.

Liberty Print dress and simple white shirt

Full length photo of Helen wearing a knee-length pinafore dress with white buttons down the centre front, and patch pockets with a gathered skirt, in a white floral on blue pattern.  Underneath is a simple collared white shirt with the sleeves rolled up to te elbows.

I adore this print – I think it’s William Morris (or at least heavily Morris inspired), which is all your need to know. My sister actually bought this dress first, and I loved it so much I just had to get my hands on one. Slightly surprisingly it’s from FatFace – it’s not that much like most of their clothes. It had sold out online but I managed to track down the last one in my size at my local shop. I paid what was then an eye-watering price for it (to me at least), but I knew it was good quality, in a nice material and a style I loved, so I thought of it as an investment piece. I have got a lot of use out of it in the summer, but it’s not that easy to wear for the rest of the year. So it tends to hide at the back of my wardrobe waiting for hot days, which are usually limited in number in the UK. To give it a more vintage feel, and lend some extra warmth for cool spring days, I popped this simple white shirt underneath. Paired with my classic brown brogues, I think this has a pleasingly casual vintage look, and has enabled me to get way more use out of this frankly adorable dress.

1950s New Look inspired polka dots

Full length photo of Helen wearing a scoop-neck long-sleeved T-shirt with a long, over-the-knee circle skirt with white spots on a black background.

This is a pretty classic Dior New Look inspired outfit, toned down a bit for everyday wear. This skirt was a bit of an impulse purchase from H&M, but it’s a lovely weighty cotton, and for something quite bold it gets a lot of wear. It’s such a classic shape that you can get away with very simple pieces for the rest of the outfit. The top here is just a long-sleeved scoop-neck T-shirt from CottonOn, and the shoes are basic pointed heels from M&S. I’ll admit that I didn’t last the day in these, swapping them for my beloved black patent brogues. One little hang-up I have is that it kind of bothers me when blacks don’t match, so of the many black tops I have only a few of them suit this skirt. Bar that little bit of pedantry, this is a really easy to put together outfit that you can throw on in a hurry, but that still has a distinctly vintage feel to it.

Brigitte Bardot inspired skirt and Breton

Full length photo of Helen wearing a beige knee-length pleated skirt with a black and thin white horizontal striped top with half-length sleeves

Would it be a proper everyday vintage list if I didn’t work a Breton in somewhere? This loosely late-50s/early 60s inspired look leans on the kind of casual cool championed by the likes of Brigitte Bardot. There is a fun secret to this outfit though: the top is actually a midi-dress. It’s a close-fitting number from Zara that I hardly ever wear. It’s a perfectly nice dress, but it’s a little bit casual for work, and a little too form-fitting for a lazy weekend (which most of mine are), so it doesn’t see the light of day very often. The skirt may hold the record for my least-worn item of clothing. I bought it from Uniqlo, attracted by the colour and the nice pleated shape, but it’s got an elasticated waist, which means it doesn’t sit over many things that well. But it pairs perfectly with this dress, which is tight enough to hold its shape even in the face of all that elastic. The dress could be a bit more off-the-shoulder than it is here, but it tends to slide back up, so I generally just let it do its thing. A super satisfying outfit for me, and one that’s easy to replicate and pull off that casual retro fee. Bonus: this skirt has pockets! Illustrated below: my delight on rediscovering this fact.

Outfit as above but Helen has an excited open-mouthed look of delight on her face.

Pinafore dress and layers

Full length photo of Helen wearing a knee-length pinafore dress in thin white and blue vertical stripes, with a white short-sleeved polo shirt underneath, and brown brogues.

This dress is quite similar to the Liberty one, but I find it a little hard to wear, whatever the weather. Something about the neckline just feels a bit off. However, I think this dress does lend itself to some layering. So I’ve paired it with a slightly cropped polo shirt that is too short to go over most things, and then layered a cable-knit cardigan over that. This cardi is so old it almost counts as true vintage. I bought it from La Redoute when I was about 16! It’s been worn so much since then, but my wardrobe doesn’t contain much that matches with navy (as my Working from Home and Zoom outfits showed, I’m heavily reliant on black!), so it was good to be able to finish off this cheerful blue outfit with it. Altogether this look did feel a bit like a school uniform, but I think British school uniforms are basically styled like normal outfits of the 1930s and 1940s, so I didn’t really mind.

Outfit as above, with the addition of a navy blue cable-knit cardigan with faux-horn buttons down the front.

1940s/50s Office Look

Full length photo of Helen wearing a dark turquoise blue long-sleeved top with small white polka dots, A black circle skirt, and black Mary-Jane shoes.

Another outing for my trusty black skirt. This piece probably gets a showing at least once a week. This time it’s with this cute little polka dot top. Yes, you could add polka dots to gingham in the lists of prints I have a thing for. This top is actually a peplum blouse, which looks great over black jeans, but the proportions weren’t quite right to have it out over this skirt. So I tucked it in and paired it with my Mary-Janes for a more vintage look. The top feels fairly 30s/40s, but the skirt is more 50s, so I suppose you could call this a bit of a hybrid retro look. A good day-to-night look, this could carry you from a day in the office to a date in the evening – back in the days when we were allowed to leave the house! It’s a soft outfit with a very feminine feel, and it certainly gave an element of put-togetherness to my umpteenth day working from home.

So there you have it, my looks for taking modern clothes and giving them a vintage twist. True vintage is not only hard to find but can be prohibitively expensive, so it’s been great to find ways to use what I already have to get similar looks. We should all be trying to get as much use out of our existing clothes as possible, so if you can take that basic Zara piece and give it a new spin, so much the better! I’d love to hear your tips for making the most of your wardrobe, and how to give modern pieces a vintage look, so please do share them in the comments below!

Thank you so much for reading! I hoe you enjoyed this look at some of my wardrobe re-workings. Which was your favourite outfit? And which would you do differently? Please do let me know in the comments!


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