Not Always Vintage: Finding Freedom in Your Style
I honestly love each and every one of the clothes in my closet. I routinely evaluate what I have, and if there is anything that I don’t like anymore, out it goes. Life is really too short to wear clothes you don’t love! I’ve been wearing vintage style for several years now, (as I have mentioned before- sorry for being a broken record) and I would say that most of the clothes I have are vintage inspired, though I do have some “hold overs” from my pre-vintage days, which are still hanging in my closet because I like them.
Sometimes I just really love certain things, even if they are not “vintage” in style. I absolutely love fashion, and am inspired by so many different things. I love to watch the runway shows of designers like Valentino and Zac Posen (although both of those designers do tend to have more romantic styles anyways). I read the blogs of several non-vintage fashion and sewing bloggers, because I am interested in fashion as a whole, not just the vintage niche. I am always inspired by cultural and ethnic fashions around the globe. I read Vogue occasionally, and find their editorials to be so interesting and beautiful, even if I wouldn’t wear the clothes they choose. And in all of these fashion interests, I love to seek out the vintage details and inspirations in those things, whether they are a silhouette, a fabric choice or a special little detail.
You can often pick out the details inspired by past eras in the fashions we see on the runways and the stores today. Even the 1950’s styles, if you look closely, drew a lot of inspiration from the 1800’s with the corseted/waist cinched silhouettes, full skirts, and sometimes even floor length skirts that give more of a historical look. The 1930’s was another era that took inspiration from previous eras, with the rise of the “southern belle” style that gained popularity with the release of the movie “Gone with the Wind”.
However, when it comes right down to it- a lot of the fashions we see around us, just don’t fit into the 21st century idea of “vintage” which generally encompasses the years of the early 1900’s to the 1970’s (although technically the 1980’s and 1990’s are now vintage, though I wouldn’t class them as such in my mind, but I leave that up to you to debate over!) Fashion is constantly evolving though, so it just makes sense that we would be inspired by a wide variety of fashion styles, not only vintage styles.
Sometimes I think that, because I like vintage styles, I have to wear them all the time. I have to “vintageify” every outfit I wear, and always ensure that the period details are correct. But lately, I have come to realize the obvious: there is no need to feel that because you love vintage style you can’t branch out and wear other styles too. The fashion police aren’t holding you to a specific style 24/7!
In fact, I believe that if you love each and every garment you own, even if it doesn’t fit into a specific “style niche”, it will be an expression of your own unique style.
For me, the majority of my wardrobe takes cues from eras past, but sometimes, along comes something that just doesn’t fit in with the rest of my wardrobe. This African Dutch wax dress is one such garment.
This dress is not really vintage in style. Well, it does have a bit of a “prairie” style (hence the wheat field background for these photos!) but the African fabric print totally turns the “prairie” look on its head. It doesn’t look very vintage to me at all- and yet, it is still feminine in it’s shape and pattern. I like it because it is fun, bold, ethnic and colourful. I picked it up at the thrift store a few years ago, and when I got it, the entire bodice was smocked with elastic, including the sleeves. Some of the elastic had broken over time, and it got to a point where it was too unraveled to wear, so I unpicked the entire thing to redo it. I pressed the pieces, and discovered that it had not been cut from a pattern originally, but was actually draped and cut in place, which left some very wonky and crooked pieces! There was a lot of fabric, though, so I was able to recut a new peasant style bodice, smock the waist, and gather the top edge and sleeves with elastic.
Every time I wear this dress, I think to myself, “I could really use a whole bunch more of these” (though I haven’t sewn them yet!!), as this dress is now my go-to for days when I want to be comfortable, or just run around in fields getting my hem “6 inches deep in mud”. I love the long length of this dress, and it is so fun to wear a casual long dress, rather than saving long dresses only for fancy occasions. Because seriously most of us just don’t have enough occasions to wear a dressy chiffon and satin floor length dress, but we definitely do have enough occasions to wear a cotton floor length dress!
The colour choice of this dress is so vastly different from everything else I own. I don’t actually like orange. As in, it is actually the last colour I would ever choose for anything (unless it is a mustard hued orange). I don’t think I own anything else that is truly orange. (Ok, I just went and checked- and the only other thing is a vintage granny square scarf with a touch of 70’s hued orange in it!) So, it is really strange to me that I have this dress, and yet- I love it! It is one of my favourite dresses, and it is in constant rotation in my wardrobe. This kind of dress is one that speaks for itself. I just add some easy flats, and some jewellery and really that is all it needs. It doesn’t need a hat or a scarf, though of course I could add that if I wanted to. So, does this outfit look very vintage? No, not really. But is it still “me”? Yes, definitely.
Contrasts are OK in fashion. Fashion is always changing, and we ourselves are always changing. What we love one moment, might not be what is inspiring us in the next. That is the nature of fashion, as it always has been. Today, we have the choice and the ability to decide what our own personal style will be! My hope for you is that you won’t ever feel “boxed in” by fashion, but will feel the freedom to dress in a way that makes you feel most like “you”- whatever that may be, and even if it changes day to day. 🙂
So, what garments in your closet don’t really ‘fit” with the rest of your wardrobe? Do you struggle to dress in one style all the time, or do you branch out and try new things? Do you tend to lean towards more true vintage looks, or more modern. . . or neither?
Dutch Wax Dress: Thrifted
Necklace: A gift from a friend years ago
ps. I would like to assure everyone that no wheat fields were harmed in the making of this post 🙂 This is our neighbours field, and I did not tramp down an area to stand in- it was already squashed flat from the day before when he was out in the field in his sprayer. Also, I wore this long dress, and boots, to make sure that I wouldn’t get any potential chemicals on myself 🙁 And, in case you have ever wondered what it would be like to run through a field of wheat in a long prairie styled dress, let me assure you that it looks a lot more romantic than the reality actually is. In reality, it is nearly impossible as the wheat is planted so close together, that you actually just end up tripping and stumbling around. Oh, well. The pictures turned out nice! 😉
September 20, 2016 @ 6:46 am
Totally agree to all this – but my whole love of vintage style is always to borrow elements, and really I’ve never been one to dress head to toe in an authentic look. But that has made me feel like a total fraud for calling myself a vintage blogger, so I do consciously think about it when I plan my outfits now in a way I wish I didn’t!!
September 20, 2016 @ 10:33 pm
You have great style- and I don’t think you are a fraud for calling yourself a vintage blogger. Many people who dress “modern” don’t wear everything that comes off the runway, and instead mix it to make it their own, so I definitely think that applies to vintage too. “Inspired by” counts in my book!
September 20, 2016 @ 8:48 am
This is seriously the best article I’ve read all year!! I can relate to it on so many levels. I am all for only wearing what you truly love and ditching any thing you haven’t worn in ages or don’t love. I love to mix modern pieces with vintage ones. I also love fashion and am inspired by all the magazine editorials and runway shows. There’s just so much fashion and style inspiration everywhere. And your these photos are just breathtaking!! The perfect dress for the background in the photos. Love it!!
September 20, 2016 @ 10:35 pm
You do such a great job of mixing modern and vintage! And yes, there is too much good fashion out there to be boxed in to only one thing 🙂
And thanks so much- it was a fun photo shoot 🙂
September 20, 2016 @ 12:43 pm
It’s always good to leave yourself wiggle room with style. When I was much younger I dressed head to toe in Laura Ashley and I must have looked like an extra from an Edwardian drama! For me it’s better to have an ethnic or retro inspired look now than fuss about getting a period style perfect although I enjoy the bloggers who do.
September 20, 2016 @ 10:39 pm
Looking like an extra from an Edwardian drama isn’t a bad thing! 😉 But, yes, each person has to decide for themselves what they love and are comfortable with. I like the way you put it “leaving some wiggle room”.
September 20, 2016 @ 11:42 pm
Loved this post and agree with you about the freedom to enjoy vintage style fully and not worry about mixing up the era . Wearing clothes you love your way gives you personal style.. I am always mixing my eras and giving a 1950’s twist to the outfits I put together. I used to follow fashion when I was a teenager – wearing white boots, miniskirts and vinyl coats! Now I love to just put my own stamp on what I choose to wear, relax, and enjoy it. Your photographs are marvellous! Best wishes Elizabeth xx
September 21, 2016 @ 10:53 pm
Thanks Elizabeth! Yes, I agree- fashion should be something you enjoy, not something to stress about whether you are “doing it right”. And yay for mixing eras! That way you can choose the best of each 😉
September 20, 2016 @ 11:56 pm
Superbly well said, dear Nicole. I was nodding up a storm from start to finish. I share your intense of love of fashion in general – not just the vintage side of the spectrum – and read/watch a good many things pertaining to more contemporary styles as well. Even if I’m not keen to sport most of them, they can still be very inspiring and I feel that the more you know about a topic (i.e., fashion) the better you can appreciate and embrace it in whatever ways your heart currently feels pulled towards.
xoxo ♥ Jessica
September 21, 2016 @ 10:56 pm
Yes, you can definitely enjoy and appreciate many different fashions without having to sport them all! Thanks for sharing your thoughts too Jessica 🙂
September 22, 2016 @ 4:07 am
For years I struggled to find my style, I’m there now but I have vast swathes of time which I call my wilderness years. I still have clothes from years back which I hang on to, because like you, I like them x
September 22, 2016 @ 10:49 am
It can be hard to find your style for sure, (I had plenty of years in the “wilderness” too!) but I am so glad you have found your signature style now!
September 22, 2016 @ 4:37 pm
Nicole, I enjoyed the article and the pics. Beautiful dress! You have a real talent for refashioning. 🙂 My wardrobe needs more variety. I used to try different styles and now I “play it safe.” I am definitely going to try new (or not-so-new things). I just finished a ’70s style dress. And as for what it’s like to walk in a wheatfield, thanks for satisfying my curiosity. 😉
September 22, 2016 @ 6:31 pm
Oh- I love the 1970’s- a 1970’s dress sounds fun! There’s nothing wrong with playing it safe- but it’s definitely fun to branch out and try new things too. Good luck with trying out some new styles, Annabelle 🙂
September 30, 2016 @ 3:48 pm
These photos are wonderful! I adore them. I too regularly re-assess my wardrobe, and get rid of anything my fickle tastes no longer love. I hear you about the vintage pressure, sometimes I just want to wear leggings..!! x
October 3, 2016 @ 9:25 am
Haha! Yep- vintage pressure- that really we are putting on ourselves! Break free and wear your leggings when you want to 😉