Three vintage insiders reveal their top styling tips (and regrets)
Words by Heather Gwyther
Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, all clothes carry meaning. On the extreme end of this are vintage clothes, which may well have lived several lives before ending up in ours. To wear something vintage is to wear a piece of history while instilling it with an entirely new meaning. It’s an alchemy that melds past, present and future to – at least if you’re wearing something from KOIBIRD’s debut vintage collection – thrilling results. But what does vintage mean to those who devote their lives to it? We spoke to three vintage insiders to find out.
RAFAELLA HUTCHINSON CO-FOUNDER, SCRUFF STUDIO
How did your vintage obsession begin?
My vintage obsession started with eBay. I was so young when I discovered it that I hadn’t really grasped the concept of actually having to pay for things. Being a child without recourse to funding eventually resulted in me getting banned from the site, but my second account has been going strong for well over a decade now! I also used to spend a lot of time on Brick Lane as a teenager, partly because it had the only off-licence we could find to sell us booze and fags, but mostly because I loved to wander round the big Beyond Retro and all the other vintage shops in the area – a healthier habit!
I love vintage clothes for their mystique and provenance. Call me a sappy romantic, but personifying inanimate objects gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. I like imagining what the piece might have been up to before we found each other. And the act of scavenging itself also brings me joy.
If I didn’t wear vintage my style would probably be slightly more boring and definitely less eco-friendly. A lot of new clothes are made as cheaply as possible and fall apart so easily, not to mention the human cost of fast fashion, which is why I tend to avoid them. You only need to see how long vintage clothes have lasted to see that they’re well made.
What’s the best vintage item you own?
It’s too hard to pick just one favourite vintage piece, but all of mine originally belonged to either my mother or grandmother. There’s a 90s Amal Guessous reversible silk bomber, a Louis Vuitton Vernis bag and a pair of Maharishi snopants. The material girl gene is clearly hereditary.
How should you style vintage clothing?
My main styling tip is more a wellbeing tip: when you look in the mirror, tell yourself you look hot even if you don’t feel it. When I’m sad I get ridiculously overdressed and try something new with my hair and makeup. It usually makes me feel a lot better.
I don’t regret anything vintage from my past aesthetically, but I do regret whatever item it was that caused the most intense and vile moth infestation I have ever witnessed. A valuable lesson learnt: get everything you buy from the floor of a flea market dry cleaned and buy some cedar wood rings to put on your hangers to protect your wardrobe!
"CaLL mE a SApPy ROmANtIC, BuT PeRsONiFYInG INaNImATE ObJEcTS GIvEs Me A wArM fUzZY FeELInG"
FREDDIE ROSE, CO-FOUNDER AND HEAD OF BRAND, VINTAGE THREADS CHARLIE OXLEY, CO-FOUNDER AND MANAGING DIRECTOR, VINTAGE THREADS
How did your vintage journey begin?
FREDDIE: I guess I got bitten by the vintage bug pretty early from my mum taking me along to charity shops as a kid. There were some absolutely mad ones up in Colchester and Mersea Island where I was brought up, and I always loved finding the wackiest stuff that I hadn’t seen in school or on TV.Vintage clothing for me is the perfect combination between self-expression and nostalgia. Each piece means something to not only the person wearing it but the person before them. I find that concept really fun, but at a time when fashion is quite rightly under a microscope, I also appreciate how sustainable it is. Vintage is also a way of reliving old memories. For example, last week I picked up an original 1999 Austin Powers T-shirt and a 1993 Mrs Doubtfire sweater, two iconic films that remind me of cosying up with my family back in the day.
What’s your favourite vintage piece?
CHARLIE: This is a tough question but for many reasons I have to go for my Prada Nero Tessuto nylon shoulder bag. We’re often in hot countries on buying trips and you can’t rely on pockets to keep everything secure. The multiple pockets on this bag give you the organisation needed to smash the day ahead.
Any vintage outfits that you regret wearing?
CHARLIE: You can’t have any regrets when you’re being sustainable in vintage drip.
"YoU CaN'T HAvE AnY REgREtS WhEN YoU'Re BEInG sUSTaINAbLE In ViNTaGE dRIp"
How would you describe your vintage style?
FREDDIE: Most of the time I like to keep my style fairly relaxed, but that all goes out the window as soon as I get to a festival. Over lockdown we stumbled across a couple of absolutely insane tracksuits from the 1992 Olympic Games. One was Snickers and the other was Mars, both of them still had the original shop tags in and were part of the sponsor outfits for Mars’ activation at the games. Me and Charlie (my co-founder) donned them at last year’s We Out Here, and that’s been my favourite vintage outfit to date.
What are things people should look out for when styling vintage clothing?
CHARLIE: Firstly, colour tones. Have an idea of the jacket or sweater you want to wear and match up the trousers and shoes in a similar tone. If you’re going for an oversized fit, make sure to get the right trousers and jackets to create this look. Nobody wants to see skinny jeans with an oversized hoodie. In my opinion, Nike and Adidas should never be paired together, even if it’s just socks!
Tell us about your new store?
FREDDIE: Our flagship Covent Garden store is the perfect expression of our style and what we love about vintage clothing. There’s no better feeling than someone popping in and picking up their first ever vintage piece or trying a new look because they’ve happened to swing by your store, that’s something that will always get me going and is one of the most satisfying aspects of doing what we do. We sell such a wide variety of 80s, 90s and Y2K pieces, so it’s really fun to see what pieces people pick up and how they style them.
ALICE LOCKSPEISER FOUNDER, MAGPIE VINTAGE
How did you first get into vintage?
I first got into vintage clothing when I moved out of home and lived in Australia for a few years. I was working in bars and didn’t have loads of disposable income, so I would always get my clothes from charity shops and car boot sales. I've always loved dressing up and expressing myself through what I wear. When I was a kid we had this amazing fancy dress box full of old vintage clothes that I would march around the house in!
What does vintage offer that contemporary clothing doesn’t?
I think vintage clothing gives you freedom that contemporary clothes can’t offer. I love that everything is found as a one-off, it allows for more expression with styling.
What’s your favourite thing about vintage clothing?
Everything! I love that my clothes have had a past – you can feel it in the fibres and the way they’re constructed. It's so nice to imagine what they’ve been before and the things they’ve lived through and to know that they’re being re-loved and reworn by so many people is a great feeling. I love that, by default, you can’t follow the crowd when you’re wearing vintage as no one else will have the exact item you’re wearing. It's not an exclusivity thing, it's about not wanting to conform and be part of a mass crowd.
Do you have a favourite vintage outfit?
I’m not sure I have a rock solid favourite outfit, but one piece that I always feel great in is this beautiful dress from the 1920s that’s full-length blush pink silk with puffed shoulders. I love wearing it with a hoodie underneath and a bomber to modernise it.
"I'm DrEsSInG FoR Me AnD ThAT's aLL ThAT MATtErS"
What are things people should do when styling vintage clothing?
I really like mixing eras and clashing evening wear with more casual pieces. My personal style with vintage is to not look like you're recreating a specific style or genre,I would never wear things entirely from the 1950s, for example, as I think then it can veer into looking like fancy dress.
What’s your favourite vintage era and why?
I’m obsessed with the 1920s – the general decadence, the fabrics used and the intricacy of their construction is really admirable. The fact that there even are pieces still knocking about from over 100 years ago fascinates me, and I just love mixing them with more modern pieces and bringing them into a new era.
Any styling vintage styling tips?
I'm a big fan of dopamine dressing and just wearing what makes you feel good. Sometimes I have little self-conscious moments where I feel like I'm overdressed or look a bit too eccentric, but I remind myself that I’m dressing for me and that's all that matters!