Friday, December 14, 2012

Retro wardrobe essentials

Getting into the vintage/retro "lifestyle" is the most exciting & liberating thing I've done in the past couple years.

To me it's not just about fashion, beauty & overall appearance... it's about matching my lifestyle to my nostalgic soul. 

But wether your reasons for adopting that retro look come from deep down or just because you find that beautiful : it can be a little overwhelming at first. 

It can even get trickier when you are on a budget.

I thought that it would be a good idea to write a "guide" for ladies who just set foot (or are planning to) in the "vintage" world, to help them building a retro wardrobe without overspending. 

The key is to buy "smart". Few quality pieces that won't let you down & you'll be able to wear over & over again :)

It's also important to favor "basics" at first because they will allow great versatility in your looks & will go with basically everything :)

Ok that's enough for bla-bla now onto the wardrobe stapples guide !: 

let's start with Fall/Winter clothing :

You'll need clothing to keep you both warm & glamourous during the cooler months of the year.

black pencil skirt: 
Pencil skirts instantly brings out your curves with still being practical & everyday looking. 
Emphasizes your waist & hips but the knee lengh make it perfectly wearable for about any occasion. 
Can be easily dress up or down.
Can be worn all year round (depending on the thickness of material). Cotton sateen or good quality stretch bengaline are perfect.

I recommend the retro pin up girl clothing (PUG) pencil skirt & the Mode Merr perfect skirt but you can buy one from about any retro brands ! Just make sure it can be washed easily.   

Colorfull sweater :
it's the perfect retro top for cool weather. Chose one with a fun color that looks good on you. Pastel such as baby blue or pink were very popular but a bright red or turquoise are equally authentic ! 
Chose one that is rather form fitting, not too bulky but warm & with a round or V neck. 3/4 sleeves look very retro. If it's long, tuck it in your pants/skirts or wear a belt to emphasize that waistline. 
A bullet bra underneath will give you the most vintagy sweater girl figure ;). 
You can buy one about anywhere ! 

Black cardigan :

A retro girl always need one good quality button down black cardigan.

It's usefull to layer on top of your sweater/shirt for those cold days & also during the summertime when the temperatures drop down at night. 

Chose it with full sleeves, a round collar & rather form fitting & shorter than hip lenght. 

Like your colorfull sweater... very easy to find in any shop ! 

50s jeans or 40s swing pants :

When the weather is really chilly & activities require to wear pants the best is to invest in a good pair of retro looking pants. 

If you're more of a denim girl than a pair of quality dark blue high waist/straight leg 50s jeans will be perfect.

If you prefer something a little dressier than go for 40s swing pants with a high waist & wide leg (it exists in a variety of fabric) 

For jeans I recommand Freddie's of Pinewood & Vivien of Holloway for swing pants :)

Black swing/full skirt :

Get the ultimate mid century silhouette with a full skirt that will make you wanna twirl ! 

Chose black for endless possibility. 
The perfect lenght should be between the knee & calf.

I Like PUG Doris skirt because of the luxurious black sateen fabric & belt loops. 

But you can find a suitable one from Bettie Page Clothing, Mode Merr or even American apparel, as long as it sits at waist & not below :)

dark winter coat :

In order to remain pretty & warm outdoors you'll need a winter coat that will go with everything in your wardrobe. 
Therefore it must be dark (black, brown or grey...) & minimum knee lenght for your legs to stay warm even when you're wearing a skirt or dress. 
I like when it's fitted on top, accentuates the waistline & then flares... 
Excellent quality & thickness is needed so be prepared to spend at least $150. It should last several winters so that's worth the investment. 
Vintage fur, faux fur & wool are the best fabrics. 


Spring/summer clothing : 

With the warm days coming you'll want to rock those cute dresses reveal a little more skin. But always in  the best of taste ;)

Cute summer dress

Nothing screams "pin up girl" better than a sweet, colorfully printed summer dress. 
Get crazy ! It's supposed to be a fun & girly look :) 
Polka dots, flower prints etc... look very 50s. 
Halterneck swing skirts is the ultimate summer look to me but short/cap sleeves are also very beautiful & a little less revealing. 
For fabric you should look for cotton as it's breathable in the heat. 
Any vintage/repro shops have some of these... here's a Vivien of Holloway 50s circle dress

Light summer top :

A light & feminine top will be a breathable & cute look for summer. Choose a cute color that will go with all your bottoms separates.
Off shoulders, halternecks & strapless tops are very authentic.

Shorts :

A nice pair of high waist shorts are a must for summertime outdoor fun ! 
Chose it quite short but with a rather wide leg for modesty.
A cotton sateen or denim fabric is nice.  

White shirt

A classic white shirt is a wardrobe stapple for any season. Worn tuck in a skirt or pants, it's a classic look that can take you from day to night with the right accesories. It can even be worn during the cooler months paired with a cardigan. 
You can chose a very classic cut or have fun with collars : peter pan, pussybow, deep neckline...
Here is the PUG Doris top, classic & sexy.

Black capris :

capris pants are a must for casual yet sexy springtime outfits. With a high waist & slim legs it will put your dangerous curves on display ;)
Here are the Deadly Dames Capris.

White cardigan or bolero/shrug

During the warmer month there are still days when you need to add warmth to the shoulders/arm. 

A cute white bolero will look great over most of your summer dresses & tops. 

Here is the PUG white ponte bolero

Chose a classic cardigan for a more conventionnal,covering look. 

Swimsuit :

It's not because you're tanning on the beach or lounging by the pool than your retro look has to fall appart ! 
Vintage style swimsuits are so cute & fun ! 

You can buy some from What Katie Did, PUG clothing for examples but my personnal favorites are the Vintage Suits by Mary

(I own this cute hawaïan number myself !)


Dresses : 

Regardless of the time of the year there are 2 types of dress, every retro girl should own... 

Dark wiggle dress

the wiggle dress hugs your every curves from top to bottom. 

It's a celebration of the feminine form. 

While it's definitely on the sexier side, it can be worn to a variety of event with it's modest knee lenght & by choosing a rather dark color.

Can be a day or evening look. 

Can be worn both during summer or winter with a cardigan on top. 

Evening/formal dress

Thanksfully for us girls, there are a variety of occasions when we can play dress up & unleash our inner hollywood star ^_^.
A good "nightime" dress is a lot of fun because you can go bolder on everything ! 
It should be sexy, elegant, glamour & feminine... 
Fabric such as satin, silk, velvet, taffeta, lace.. are a must :)
There's a lot of possibilities for shape, but chose something you feel comfortable with.
Here's the Vivien of holloway sarong in red satin.  


Lingerie : 

One of the great joy of embracing the vintage look is the beautiful boudoir lingerie... It will make you look & feel good.

Black lingerie set : 

classic, sexy & necessary under dark fitted clothing. 

Thongs & G strings were only meant for burlesque dancers & strippers back in the days so follow the path of your granny & chose a full cut brief.

There are many gorgeous retro lingerie brands to shop from... my personnal favorites are What Katie Did & Secrets in Lace. 

Make sure your lingerie fits nicely, that your breast are fully supported & the panties don't feel too tight. 

Light lingerie set :

a white or peach lingerie set works great under light colored tops & dresses. 

Here this VERY retro looking bra : the bullet bra
It gives that authentic pointy breast that perks under blouses & sweaters.

A suspender belt is as sexy as it's usefull ! Personnaly I HATE pantyhose & nylon stockings are a must to wear. 

Here's the harlow set from What Katie Did.

Seamed stockings

Wether you chose authentic fully fashioned or modern stretchy ones, you'll have divine sexy legs that will turn men crazy ! 

You can buy them from lots of lingerie shops... but my favorite place to buy stockings from is stockings HQ

for authentic luxury nylons have a look at secrets in lace ones... 

White petticoat : 

Not only it is the cuttest thing on earth but it'll give your circle skirts & dresses that extra puffiness it needs for that perfect 50s look. 

Chiffon ones are the prettiest but I also like crisp cotton ones for breathability during summer.

Nice & fair priced chiffon one from secrets in lace here

Shoes : 

No outfit is truly complete without shoes so here are 3 stapples you'll need year round.

Medium heels black pumps

Every woman should own a pair of comfortable black shoes with a medium sized heel for everyday. 
The heel should be between 2" & 4" high according to your confort & experience level.
Always look for round to oval toes.
T straps & staps in general were quite popular in the 40s/50s/60s...  

Open toes summer shoes :

Wether it's a slip on style or slingback, a shoe with open toes look super cute for summer. 
Any colors are fine but my personnal favorites are white & gold for this time of the year.
Chose a low to medium heel, suitable for walking.

Flats ! :
A good pair of flat shoes are very usefull for running errands or when you go for a day long walk with your beau.

They conveniently fit in a handbag in case you get tired of wearing your heels too ;).

Because it's not always about being glamourous but practical too !


Accesories : 

It's a fun way to add a nice touch to any outfit. Be creative !

a purse/handbag

If you only can afford to buy one, take black as it'll match any of your outfits & will look very classy. 

The size depends on your needs of course but be carefull of VERY big bags, they tend to look too bulky for your delicate approach on fashion ;). 

My favorite designs are Lux de Ville bags...

A belt :

A really big part of the mid century look is the way the waist was cinched & emphazised. 

You'll need a belt to accentuate your waistline & give that hourglass figure.

Gloves :

Gives a distinguished, ladylike touch to any outfit. 

chose them light, both in color & fabric for summer... & dark, long & lined for winter.

A hat :

Not only they're an elegant way to fake a perfect hair day but they're also very usefull when it's windy or cold or to protect you from the sun. 

It'll bring out your facial features/make up & make you feel like a true lady ;). 

You can chose anything from berrets to nightime fascinators depending on your style.

Sunglasses : 

When you gotta be out in the sun & you don't wanna lose an eye :D 
Cat style sunglasses are so much fun ! Jackie O type ones are very cute too.

Here are Tres Noir ultralux ones. 

Hair accesories : 

Flowers, bows, jeweled combs... there are many cute options to spice up your hairdo.

My favorite hair flowers are from Belle Blossoms :)  

Scarf : 

Isn't this lady looking glamourous ?! 

It'll protect your fabulous hairdo from the wind while you pretend you're a movie star trying to go downtown incognito ;)

If you feel silk & chiffon are too sleepery try a plain bandana instead. 


I hope you liked my little "guide" & that it was helpfull :)

Please send me any questions you may have & I'll answer them gladly. 



  1. Well done. I just bought my first pair of satin gloves and I love them.

    Miss Stacy Blaise

    1. Gloves are wonderful accessories ! so underated sadly...


    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Any suggestions on a midweight coat? I have a long super warm one,but what about those warmer days?

    1. For spring or fall I'm a big fan of trench coats !

      I own a black one & I'm considering buying a classic beige one. It's just perfect for cool & sligthly rainy weather.

      Sometimes I play it "juveline delinquent" style & I wear a bad girl black perfecto jacket :p !


    2. What a great idea.I have a hip length brown one I thrifted. Here in Colorado,most people don't wear coats,just hoodies or the like and it's very hard to find something nice.Also,I wouldn't want it too warm as our temps fluctuate wildly.Guess I'll keep looking...
      BTW-Through your post I discovered Mode Merr-what cool things they have!I ordered the Flirt skirt in the Sacred Brocade and the Eye Candy blouse with red trim.I ha never seen this site and was thrilled!

  3. And don't forget the dress clips and sweater guards!

  4. Just got my first wiggle dress, and I LOVE it! I got a ton of compliments and I felt so incredibly classy. c:

  5. I inherited my grandma's gorgeous off white lace/fishnet wrist sinched gloves. I'm not sure what to wear to accomidate the gloves. I thought maybe my black pencil skirt and thick yellow butterfly bel. but I'm still not sure of the shirt to wear... :c please help

  6. I'm trying to start with a pin up style, but for a daily base. It's hard to find things like these in my country (Brazil) and it get's really expensive to buy in £.
    With these guide you gave me great ideas to look for a little more. Thank you so much for these tips, first time I find a blog that really helps me!