Ah, the history of fashion. We all look back rather nostalgically at those classy cloche hats of the 20’s, the fabulous full-skirted frocks of the 50’s, and the shocking shoulder pads of the 80’s. So many of us wish desperately that society would allow us to wear one of those elegant dresses the lucky women in Jane Austen films get to wear, but alas, modern fashion seems intent on baring as much skin as possible.
Yet there are those of us who have determined that we shall remain true to our well-dressed predecessors and uphold the idea that less is not always more. Or we just like pretty dresses.
Either way, making the decision to buy vintage white dresses is not always easy, especially when you’re a student and have to work part-time jobs to pay for your tuition fees apart from your other regular expenses. I am one of these poor suffering souls, and I have come up with a few ways to make it easier to at least pretend that you’re living in a different era.
Don’t underestimate your mum
Remember when you used to dress up in your mum’s clothes and parade around the house in a wacky array of colours? Remember how there was that one dress that you secretly quite liked? I don’t know about you, but I used to spend a lot of time going through my mum’s box of old clothes, and there was one dress I always adored. Clearing out my room the other day, I found the box and rooted around in search for that dress, and to my delight it fit perfectly! I’m wearing it as I write this now. It’s a midi-dress from the 70’s which would have cost me about £40 in a shop, but which I found for free.
Expanding on that, don’t rule out your grandma’s clothes. Odds are she was a pretty fashionable woman in the 50’s, and you might find some absolute gems in her collection.
Browse the charity shops
This is something I say tentatively. The charity shops closest to me are in the least nice part of the city, and most of the clothes there are out-of-date, low-end high street shop castaways. But if you happen to be in a nice, more expensive location, odds are that people donating to charity shops will have some fantastic clothes that are lying forgotten in a dark corner just waiting for you to find them.
eBay is your friend
You may very well browse eBay already, but it took me a long time to realise its potential. Whilst searching for cloche hats, I found dozens of people selling handmade and vintage hats for fantastic prices. The great thing is that those “vintage-style” hats are a great deal cheaper because they’re only imitation, yet you can still pretend that they’re proper vintage.
Search for boutique shops
When I’m not at University, I live near an old city, which is a great place to look for vintage or vintage-style clothes and accessories. Admittedly, prices tend to be higher than online, but you can find exquisite pieces to add to your growing collection. You can also take advantage of their sales, which are often generous.
Browse the online vintage shops
I could spend many hours scrolling through pages and pages of websites offering thousands of vintage clothes. I’ve found some fantastic websites that sell things you’ll never find in a shop. The only thing I’d advise is to have a rough idea of what you’re looking for before you start browsing: Don’t buy something vintage just because it’s vintage. There are some websites that do have some great clothes, but many more that you’d never actually wear, but could be tempted to buy simply because they’re a whole lot cheaper.
Keep an eye out in high street shops
There are a surprising amount of clothes in high street shops that have been inspired by vintage fashion, which makes them much more affordable and you don’t have to worry about the fabric being delicate! No, they’re not proper vintage, but a lot of them look pretty convincing: Yesterday I was wearing my 50s-style skirt bought for £18 from New Look, and a cheap shirt from Topshop, and someone asked me why I was dressed up as Audrey Hepburn!
The possibilities really are endless, and the Internet especially has made it so much easier to find exactly what you’re looking for. So, go! Storm all the shops near you and trawl through your mum’s wardrobe until you find the perfect item. A word of warning, though: Don’t tell her you think her clothes qualify as vintage – she will not take kindly to that!
Written by Helena Sheffield