7 Tips for Finding and Styling Vintage Apparel

What to look for and how to wear your second-hand finds.

Image via Shutterstock/LoloStock

Buying vintage clothes and accessories can be a great way to transform a bland look. Take a basic outfit, throw on a chunky vintage accessory, and bada-bing-bada-boom: you’ve got style. To help local women find their way in the world of vintage, on Sunday, May 17, DC Style Factory owner and chief stylist Rosana Vollmerhausen is hosting a workshop called “How to Glam Clothes from Past Decades into a Modern Wardrobe.” The two-hour workshop will cover everything from how to shop for vintage goods to what pieces work best with a modern wardrobe.

Shop Around got in touch with Vollmerhausen to find out her top tips for a savvy vintage shopper.

Look for jewelry.

“Jewelry is the easiest and most fun way to bring vintage into your wardrobe, in my opinion. Vintage jewelry is often higher quality than a lot of modern costume jewelry, and it’s also often much less expensive.”

Check for quality.

“What we are really looking for is clothing from eras past that feels high-quality, stylish, and special. We do recommend inspecting vintage clothing for any fading, stains and rips to make sure it is in good condition.”

Don’t overdo it.

“Pick one vintage garment for your look and pair with modern pieces. For example, I just bought a psychedelic pink, mint green, yellow print short-sleeve jacket that could easily go very wrong. But I have worn it with a white t-shirt, army green cargo pants and nude peep-toe heel booties–it’s grounded by the boyishness of the rolled cargo-style pants and brought into 2015 with the nude peep-toe booties. The key is, you don’t want to look like you stepped out of a time machine.”

Start small, and add as you go.

“Try some vintage jewelry and work that into your wardrobe. One of my first vintage pieces was a large copper square pendant necklace from the 1970s that was etched and had tassels hanging off it. I wear it with a simple t-shirt, boyfriend jeans and metallic sandals. The outfit would otherwise feel very blah, but I slip that vintage necklace on and all of the sudden it’s a look.

Pass on the pumps.

“Avoid vintage shoes. Shoes today have better comfort and construction.”

Wear one vintage piece per outfit—unless you can get away with more.

The rule of thumb is one piece of vintage per look, but some vintage garments really do look like they could be bought today. Modern designers borrow from the past all the time. If a vintage piece is simple and has a classic silhouette, then there is no reason you couldn’t pair it with another more statement-making vintage piece.

Ready to start shopping? Start here.

“Amalgamated Classic Clothing and Dry Goods in Del Ray, Legendary Beast on U Street for jewelry, and PollySue’s in Takoma Park for party dresses.”

The vintage styling workshop will take place at Amalgamated Classic Clothing and Dry Goods, 1904 Mt. Vernon Ave., Alexandria, on May 17 from 2 to 4 PM. Purchase tickets here.

Associate Editor

Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.