Disposable fashion works just fine when you’ve got loads of disposable income; but when you’re a style maven who loves couture as much as you love cash in the bank, vintage clothing — pieces 25 years or older — may be your best option.
“Fashion from the early ’70s and older is crafted more with care, particularly pieces made in the U.S. or Europe, and not mass produced,” says Marjorie “Dree” Harper, on-air fashion expert for HSN and owner of online vintage boutique theurbancollection.com. “They age well — there’s tremendous value in that — and often you’re getting one-of-a-kind heirloom pieces that may actually increase in value over time.”
Still Shopping. Harper’s online store hasn’t seen a dip in sales, despite a downturn in the economy, suggesting that despite tightening pocketbooks, women still want fashion, and if they shop smart, they won’t have to sacrifice style.
“Women like to be complimented on being resourceful and creative, plus the thrill of a good find is invigorating,” she says. “What holds true about vintage is that it constantly recycles itself, so you can save money and still look the part of having a modern style.” She points to Hervé Leger bandage dresses, which can set you back a cool $1,200, but her site regularly carries similar bandage styles from the ’80s, which fly off the shelves for less than 100 bucks.
Personal Style. To start building your collection, Harper recommends creating your own lookbook from online images or magazine pages of outfits you love, which can serve as a guide when you’re shopping.
“Certain styles, like lace-up boots, slouchy leather bags, or off-the-shoulder minis are always fashionable and they all exist as vintage options,” she explains. “Then use the styling guides to help you modernize the look.”
Mix & Match. The key, she says, is to never go head-to-toe with an era, rather use one key piece paired with modern accessories or staples, like tie-dyed black-and-white jeans with a solid chic contemporary blazer.
Here is Harper’s spring 2009 hot list, plus tips on how to mix in their vintage counterparts in a way that’s on-trend rather than “lost in time.”
1. FUR. Whether faux or real fur is your thing, get your fix for less on the vintage scene. “A beautiful fur can add instant glamour, whether over a cocktail mini or with ripped jeans and boots,” says Harper.
LOOK FOR: She points to ’50s and ’60s for those with the best craftsmanship and highest quality. For real fur, prices vary, but for faux, around $100
2. FLAPPER-CHIC. The jazz-age reincarnation started a season or two ago and is still thriving.
LOOK FOR: To recreate on the cheap, think fringe dresses, tank-style sheaths and drop-waist beaded numbers in styles from the ’20s, ’40s, and ’80s. “Keep the styling simple and pick tasteful shades like champagne, nude, dove gray, pale pink and steer clear of multicolors,” Harper explains. “Halston rocked the look in the ’80s and you can still find his pieces for significantly less than current styles out there, plus they are very well made.” While you can find knocks offs at Forever 21 in the $35 range, you have to consider that labels like Halston are still in good shape after three decades, making him a good investment.
3. THE QUINTESSENTIAL JUMPSUIT. Chloe, Bottega Veneta, Dries Van Noten, Proenza Schouler,— they’re all over the runways this spring with fresh incarnations of the classic—with present-day prices, some topping a grand.
LOOK FOR: “Vintage styles are endless, and because they’re one-piece, they’re easy to accessorize with a modern shoe, belt or jewels,” says Harper, who loves ’70s YSL and ’80s Tadashi versions of the trend, which can cost under $100. If the look’s not you, consider taking the jumpsuit to the tailor to turn the bottoms into shorts a la a romper or cutting off sleeves to give a modern twist. Still, you won’t likely top $100.
4. GRAPHICAL TREATMENTS. Chanel, Oscar de la Renta and Christian LaCroix are decking spring runways with prints, just like Pucci did in the ’60s. “They’re always in style and very hot for spring, especially in black and white,” Harper says.
LOOK FOR: “Vintage graphic tops work well with high-waisted shorts or trousers, or pair a graphics mini with a slouchy blazer.” The point, she says, is to let the piece be the focus and your modern accessories the supporting cast.
5. OTHER WORLDLY. Tribal, ethnic, Native American and global-inspired styles are always “in” and fashion labels like Anna Sui, Cavalli and Etro come to the table each season with a new incarnation. LOOK FOR: Harper likes bohemian maxis from the ’70s, harem pants from the ’70s and ’80s and ethnic tunics with chic embroidery. “You can wear the looks season after season and simply change the jewelry and shoes,” Harper says. To rock the trend simply, just add a graphic scarf to a tank or blazer. The best in vintage print: Oscar de la Renta, Alfred Shaheen and Malia. For the native American look on the cheap, go for inexpensive Navajo handbags, turquoise jewelry or feather-adorned tops or skirts.
6. TRUE ROMANCE. Ruffles, tiers and lace are still romantic decade after decade. And this season Preen, Zac Posen and Luella Bartley take center stage.
LOOK FOR: Recreate their looks with ’40s and ’50s styles, such as lace or ruffled skirts. Ruffled dresses were the rage in the ’60s and ’70s, which are longer and need only a quick trip to the tailor to modernize. Harper also points to Betsey Johnson’s ’80s florals. Romantic styles look best when paired with masculine pieces as balance, like studded bracelets or menswear trousers, all of which may be basics in your closet.