Back when I was just a simple schlubby college student wearing ill-fitting jeans and hoodies and daydreaming about pretty pinup clothes, cost was definitely a major hurdle between me and the aesthetic I wanted to achieve. At that time, I didn’t think it was one that I would ever overcome, but hey – look at me now! I do wear vintage/pinup attire every day, and I didn’t win the lottery or anything. I’m totally against the predatory lending practices of our modern age, and I don’t carry any debt (apart from my student loans, boo) and pay off my credit cards every month. So here are my quick and dirty tips for achieving vintage style on a budget.
A caveat: The idea of “budget” means something different to all of us. Things that are easily achievable to me may not be to everyone, and things that are prohibitively expensive to me is nothing to someone else. These are only tips from my own experience.
- Don’t rush. Sure, we all want to have exactly what we want right now, but you don’t get a trophy for acquiring the most stuff fastest. Be patient, save up, wait for sales. I owned ONE Pinup Girl Clothing dress for many years, and you better believe I loved that dress to death and wore it to every single special occasion. This is definitely one that’s gotten the better of me with all the limited releases lately, so it’s worth reminding myself: slow down.
- Mix in non repro. Reproduction 40s/50s/60s clothes are a specialty style mostly made by small manufacturers. They’re always going to be expensive. Personally, I tend to buy more skirts and dresses from repro brands and mix in vintage-inspired blouses from places like Target or New York and Company (when they’re having a super good sale) to complete the outfit. We’re lucky that a lot of retro styles (especially pussy bow blouses) are pretty trendy right now. You don’t need head-to-toe repro to be legit – it actually can be more fun to mix in an unexpected piece so you don’t feel like you see yourself coming and going (as my mom would say) all over Instagram.
- Don’t buy it if it doesn’t fit your aesthetic. If you really want to commit to a ~vintage aesthetic~, stop buying clothes that don’t go with your wardrobe. This is the one tip that I would say really made my full-time pinup/vintage look possible. Obviously you can wear whatever you want, but this keeping this in mind does so much good when I’m tempted by whatever random pretty is on the rack at Target.
- Consider cost per wear. Yeah, stuff at Forever 21 is cheap. But that’s because stuff from Forever 21 is cheap. If you find a brand you like with quality fabric and solid construction, those pieces are going to last a lot longer. It also makes me happy to know that I’m supporting mostly women-run businesses and ethically produced clothing.
- Work the accessories/layers. You can really transform a piece with different cardigans, scarves, brooches, etc. One dress (like the Havana Nights, perhaps?) can quickly become several outfits thanks to the power of accessories. I always make sure to add to my rainbow of cardigans when there’s a good sale!
- Think about your monetary vices. We all have them! Personally, fashion definitely is my major vice. I don’t eat out much, I don’t smoke, I don’t even buy coffee regularly. My “fun” money goes to helping me achieve my aesthetic, because that’s what makes me happy. You certainly don’t have to make fashion your priority – but keep in mind what the other things you choose to spend money on are when you’re feeling like you don’t have the budget for new clothes!
My personal favorite “budget” brands are probably Hell Bunny and Lindy Bop. These both offer nice quality, fun pieces at a cost that’s more in line with “mainstream” fashion than the more high-end repro brands.
And finally, no clothes are ever worth going into debt over. Make good choices!
What are your favorite tips for being fiscally responsible while also looking fabulous?