I’ve been thinking a lot lately about notions of style and fashion. There is a fundamental difference between the two and this is by no means a new discussion. Just google “style vs fashion” and you will find countless blogs dedicated to the topic and everyone has their own personal take on the difference between the two. So why not add my view to the mix. It was Yves Saint Laurent who said ‘Fashion fades, style is eternal’, Coco Chanel said ‘Fashion fades, only style remains’ and one time Editor-in-Chief of Vogue magazine (1914-1952) Edna Chase said ‘Fashion can be bought, style one must possess.’ I’m sensing a theme here. In the most basic terminology, fashion refers to what you buy, the actual objects themselves, and style is what you do with it, more how you wear than what you wear.
So given that this implies that style is free, why do we spend so much money on fashion? Unlike other articles I came across, I’m going to approach this from a vintage perspective. Now, we all know that a lot of authentic vintage clothing can be fairly pricey and if you are someone who is rather a novice at the vintage game and aren’t sure it’s for you it can be overwhelming. Coming from a (relatively) normal family we weren’t exactly rolling in money when I was growing up so my mother taught me the glorious thrill that can be found in bargin shopping. Digging around op-shops became my favourite past time (still is) and even as I grew, got a well paying job and could afford to spend more on clothes and shoes I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. As a vintage enthusiast with a penchant for the 1940s and 1950s I still find it difficult to part with a lot of money on a garment – despite how amazing it might be – and this is where style comes in.
Some of the nicest compliments I’ve received are on outfits that were sourced entirely from charity stores like Vinnies and the Salvos and in total probably didn’t cost more than $20. For me the key is in how you style the look. For a 1940s look, add some pin curls, a couple of victory rolls and some red lipstick and you’re in business. 1960s – a beehive, some dark eye liner and a pale lip and you’re good to go. And in this glorious technological age in which we live you can learn how to do almost anything on YouTube – that’s how I learnt to do victory rolls – and practice makes perfect. Still a little skeptical? Below are some shots I took of my outfits for the Lila Jean social channels. In these pics everything I’m wearing either came from a charity shop, used to belong to my mother or is home made (except for the purple boots, they were new and fabulous!). Now you might look at those photos and think I look like crap and like a person dressed from charity stores or you might see how easy it is to create a vintage inspired look through great style at a fraction of the cost of authentic vintage (here’s hoping for option 2).
Now I’m not saying I’ve never splurged on a piece of authentic vintage – I have – and I’m not saying you can get everything you need for a vintage look at an op-shop – you often can’t – but it’s a great place to start if you are just dipping your toe in the pool of vintage and aren’t sure if you’ll sink or swim. A few tips before you start:
- Do your research. Feel a particular decade might be for you? Read up on it. There are plenty or amazing vintage style books out there and lets not forget the internet. Find images of women or men who actually lived in that decade as there is nothing better than going back to the source.
- Visit vintage stores both in person and online. Check out what’s available and pricing and see what suits you. This also means you’ll know if that piece you’ve had your eye on is on sale.
- When in a charity store always try things on or if you can’t, always know your measurements and carry a tape measure. Otherwise you’ll be donating the clothes straight back.
- Always wash the clothes before you wear. Sounds obvious but it’s important. While most charity’s won’t accept unwashed clothes, who knows how many people tried that on before you.
- Check over the clothes thoroughly for any stains, missing buttons, pulled threads, tears etc. Unlike a vintage store where clothes are checked and repaired before going on sale, often due to the volume of clothes donated this care can’t be taken with op-shops. It is your responsibility to check, you will not get a refund.
- Practice your look. I know most people think style is inherent and can’t be taught but I’m not so sure. Try out a few looks, see what suits you and practice. Observe other vintage beauties you admire, see how they put together an outfit. But at the end of the day it’s what suits you.
- Be confident in what you wear. I know it sounds cliche but confidence is the key to great style. If you’re not comfortable in what you’re wearing people can tell. Stop caring what other people think and wear what you want.