How to Stop your Vintage Outfit Looking like a Costume

Everyone has their own style, especially when it comes to wearing pinup or vintage. Everyones uniqueness, style and personality is what makes the vintage community so exciting because we can express ourselves through our clothes. However, as someone just starting to wear vintage or the pinup style, starting out can be a little bit daunting and along the journey, there are many mistakes to make. I will never tell someone what not to wear, frankly, my opinion holds no merit over other peoples wardrobes or styles, but I have been asked countless times by those just starting to dress vintage “how do I avoid looking like a costume”? Today, I will be sharing my opinion on what I think teeters the line between ‘vintage look’ and ‘vintage costume’.

I’m going to start by saying that everything I list below should be taken with a grain of salt. If something I say below is your favourite thing about dressing vintage, then embrace it. We are all different and that uniqueness should be embraced. We can’t all dress the same so as you go through this list, you don’t have to apply everything I say. I do some of the things I will tell you to avoid so as long as you are dressing your true vintage self, that’s all that matters.

Choose a style that suits you the best
There’s not one ‘vintage style guide’ because vintage can mean so many things to many different people. As you experiment with vintage, find a style that works for you and do it well. It’s easy to want to mix styles, vibes and decades but by keeping your look simple and consistent, your wardrobe will be easier to develop, style and expand.
I’d recommend either going true vintage (as much as you can within your limits) or styling yourself in reproductions in a unique style to you (think rockabilly, geekabilly or modern pinup).
I’d also recommend finding things about your body that you love and embracing and accentuating them. We spend so much time hiding our perceived flaws so use vintage to bring out what you love about you. Power to you honey!
-It will take time to develop your style and it will change over time. Don’t ever feel boxed into one style and feel free to experiment. Mix decades, colours and prints! Mix true vintage with reproduction and figure out what works for you best.

Fit is important
Once you have your style that you wish to embrace, make sure the items you buy fit you. I know this can be a challenge for many (myself included) but fit really is super important to stopping your clothes look like a costume. When you buy a halloween costume, most of us don’t care if it looks a little too big or is a touch too tight as it’s only for one night. So when it comes to your daily clothing, if it fits well, it’ll look high quality and not like a costume.
I’d recommend taking the time to learn how to alter vintage clothing, finding a seamstress you really trust and knowing your measurements well. You want your clothes to fit you just right.
I’d also recommend looking for clothing pieces are are close to original vintage styling as possible (this is mainly for those shopping for vintage reproduction). Keep an eye on hemlines, skirt lengths and necklines.

Fabric and material is your friend
I completely understand that starting out in vintage brings about limitations; one being most likely budget. Cheap fabric can look, well … cheap. In some cases you can get away with it (you’d be shocked how little I have paid for some of my items), but if it looks really cheap (and feels cheap), it’ll make your look look like a costume.
Don’t break the bank for your outfits but feel the garments you want to buy and ask yourself ‘is it timeless?”, ‘will it last?’, ‘is it easy to maintain?” (eg. will it pill or fade with wear and washing). If the answer is no, maybe leave it.
Remember that your wardrobe should not break your budget. Personally, I’d rather save up for a few really stunning outfits instead of spending more on lots of little itms that don’t really have the best quality. We should all be aiming for our outfits to be sustainable and something that can be worn time and time again, not just once and then thrown away.

Avoid cliches
A decade goes for a long time so don’t narrow yourself down to one style per era. In the 1920’s, fringe flapper dresses were not worn everyday. In the 1950’s, poodle skirts were not worn every day.
I’d recommend researching, Pinterest is a great place to start, the different styles, trends an fashions that your preferred era or decade had to offer. Save looks that you are drawn towards and use them for inspiration. Look at the colours, prints and fit of the clothes as well as their grooming. There’s no better resource for vintage inspiration than vintage photos.

Vintage women were real women too; You can be casual.
When you think of vintage and pinup grooming, you might instantly think of victory rolls, red lipstick and winged eyeliner. Although these styles were from this era, it’s not practical to think that the average woman dressed and groomed like this everyday. You can absolutely tone it down and dress in a more casual way. There’s nothing wrong reaching for a soft pink lip balm or avoiding the eyeliner all together. You don’t have to style perfect hair everyday and can just let your hair be natural with a simple style. Believe it or not, a ponytail can be enough for a vintage vibe.

Tone it down a little; put down the kitchen sink.
When putting your outfit together, you don’t have to put on an every single garment you own. You don’t always need to add a lot of accessories and not all your clothing has to be bold.
I’d recommend choosing just one statement piece (or perhaps two) and then everything extra being simple. Look for accessories you can use to accentuate colours with (such as hats, belts, gloves, bags or a scarf) and you don’t have to wear an accessory on every body part. I always believe you should take one item off. Your statement piece can also be a part of your grooming wether it be red lipstick or epic victory rolls. What I’m trying to say is keep your look simple; less is more.

Makeup and hair shouldn’t freak you out
We aren’t all able to produce perfect hair and makeup every day. We all have limitations that pose challenges to us. You don’t have to go out of your way to master perfect vintage hair and eyeliner. If you can’t do it, then don’t. It’s also unrealistic to think that you have to wear red lipstick and eyeliner on the daily to be considered apart of the vintage community. You can save certain things for special occasions. For daily looks, perhaps choose something as a statement, perhaps lashes, or a bold lip but you don’t have to beat your face to perfection.
You don’t need to have a new hair style everyday; in fact, I’d recommend find a few styles that work for you that you are comfortable with and sticking to them. Don’t be intimidated by photos of vintage and modern pinups with perfect hair; we all have different hair with it’s own challenges and it’s ok to not be perfect.

Comfort should be key
Its easy to go overboard when it comes to dressing vintage which can get very uncomfortable very quick. You don’t need to wear a corset, petticoat, stockings, girdles every single day. Heck no! Comfort is key!
I’d recommend dressing for your lifestyle. If you’re super active and love hiking, research vintage looking boots and hiking styles. You absolutely have to feel like yourself when you dress in vintage (or any style for that matter). If you feel that your outfit is too much, then tone it down. If you’re struggling to stay comfortable with a girdle or corset, take it off. If any part of your outfit is driving you nuts then it’s not for you; you can either alter it (find a way to make it more comfortable such as adding padding) or size it to fit you better.
Quick fixes that I go to to make vintage more comfortable:
-adding a slip under my dress to avoid it being see through or itchy
-finding a lipstick that doesn’t smudge when I go Godzilla on my lunch
-adding a hat pin or some bobby pins to a hat to stop it falling off
-adding gel pads to stop my shoes giving me blisters
-wearing a hairnet to stop my hair frizzing on a humid day
altering my clip ons to stop them hurting.

Confidence makes the outfit
People will always look at you, we are drawn to things that are different or unique, so if you dress vintage, you will most likely get looks. Just embrace the fact that you are unique and you are living your true self. Don’t take notice of people looking, their comments or actions. Just be confident in who you are and that will bring you power.

Some people will still call it a costume, and that’s ok.
The more you dress and embrace the vintage style, the more you learn. Not everyone has the knowledge you do when it comes to vintage clothes so you will still have people ask you “are you going to a costume party?” or “are you in a play?”. I get these questions and more very often and you just remain kind, polite and explain you dress in the vintage style and you love it. Most of the time, people are just curious and these interactions can be really wholesome, uplifting and empowering. If you do however have a negative experience, stay safe and walk away.

Wearing vintage can be overwhelming but what I really want to say is wear whatever works best for you. My biggest tip would be to keep your look simple, work to your strengths and skills and show your personality.
Your style will continue to evolve and change as time goes by so it’s ok to look back and cringe (I know I do) because of all the fashion mistakes we make. But just figure out your unique style, embrace it and have fun. It’s only fashion after all.


Note: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions and thoughts expressed are solely my own and not influenced in any way. There are no affiliate links and I do not benefit from any link clicks or purchases made.

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