Sunday, May 10, 2015

Vintage For Beginners: One Dress Three Ways!

So... I got a haircut.
Hey guys and gals! It's been a long, long time since I last posted, and I realize I have some 'splainin to do.  Things have changed a ton in the last six months: I live in a new city, I have a new job, and for the first time in a long while, I'm feeling really good about where I'm headed.

So, to 'splain.  There are a number of reasons I took a hiatus from blogging, which I'll get into more deeply over the next couple posts, but long story short, I took a break because blogging had become something I wasn't looking forward to, and that, in fact, I sort of dreaded.

Why? Well, one major reason is that when I started Little Heap, my original idea had been that I'd be sharing with you all real outfits I was really wearing.  The thought was to show how vintage can be truly wearable, which was, I suppose, something I was proving to myself as much as to anyone else.  That's all well and good, but the trouble started this summer when I was no longer able to wear vintage on a daily basis.  I adapted my blogging concept to show you guys clothing I was finding through my job in wardrobe (the "Decades" project), but since that was a short-term job by design, I was soon faced with a problem.  Not only was I having to work at a job that made wearing delicate/older pieces impossible (hey there retail gig), I also didn't have any alternatives to show you all.  Since I wasn't actually wearing vintage anymore, it felt inauthentic to dress up in it, photograph it, and then change back into black, modern, work-appropriate clothing. Inauthentic and sad, actually.  So instead, I stopped altogether.

I would love to have been one of those types of people who can keep her chin up and persevere until good times roll back around, but I didn't want to put up uninspired posts, or feel jealous by peeking into the lives of people who were able to keep on chuggin' along.  So this, combined with some other factors I'll get into later, is why I pretty much dropped off the face of the blogging planet.

But! The past couple months have pretty much turned things rightside-up again: since March, Kate and I moved to Philly (well, very close to Philly anyway), we've both landed new jobs, we've signed on a new apartment (it has a clawfoot tub!), and by and large, things are lining up for old Liz Lemon.

So with new energy floating around thanks to all the change in the air, I'm hoping to get Little Heap back up and running. First up, a post idea that had been rattling around in my head for a while-- a sort of "Vintage For Beginners" post, taking a vintage dress and styling it three very different, totally wearable ways.

One Dress Three Ways

Hiatus aside, I love vintage.  The clothing, the accessories, the hairstyles, everything.  I wear vintage as often as I can, but I’ll be the first to admit, it’s a hard style to get into. It’s expensive, and it can be tricky finding a piece that fits, thanks to often non-stretch fabrics and distinctive silhouettes, particularly with clothing from the 1930s-1950s.  And if you’re not necessarily into the head-to-toe vintage look, it can be tough to figure out how to get a vintage piece into your wardrobe’s rotation. Once you put in the hard work of investing your time and money to find a piece you love, the last thing you want is to stall out on ways to style it.  But I firmly believe vintage can be fun and flattering on everyone, from boyish shapes to curvy, from androgynous styles to full-out femme, so to help you figure out just what to do with that vintage dress you found, I’ve put together three easy ways to style it.

The Dress

This 1930s dress is a bit of a visual doozy.  From the diagonal, Asian-inspired neckline to the puffed sleeves, from the loud floral pattern and stripe switch-up halfway down (the dreaded horizontal stripe!), it’s got a lot going on.  At first glance, you might think, No way. No way can this work. But the unique details on vintage pieces are some of the best parts of wearing older styles, whether it’s shoulder pads or hand-beaded appliqu├ęs.  So let’s figure this thing out.

Work-Appropriate Casual Friday

For a boyishly-shaped gal like myself, stripes can be a serious pitfall.  If they’re horizontal, they tend to stretch out the line of the body, creating a boxy effect that camouflages curves.  To rein in these horizontal stripes, I layered on a button-up over the dress, and kept the neckline of the dress open.  The solid color breaks up the busy pattern, and the knotted waist creates a defined waistline.  Now, the stripes create the illusion of more curves, not fewer.  Black oxfords anchor the look and help keep it casual yet office-appropriate.  If you’re into accessories, try a colorful brooch with neat texture or a cool shape, to stay at the level of the pattern and keep the attention near your glorious face.

Lazy Sunday

A slouchy sweater and lace-up boots are all this dress needs to get cozy.  Choose a noncompetitive, basic color, and load up on bracelets to keep basic from getting boring.  With a high neckline, I like to wear a longer pendant necklace, just to create a sense of balance.  Brown, slightly busted lace-ups lend a boho vibe that complements the floral pattern of the dress. 

Full Vintage, Date Night

Of course, if you’re feeling fancy, nothing’s more fab than a full-vintage look.  Button up that neckline, add a pair of pumps, and swipe on a bold lipstick.  Bonus points if you can rustle up gloves and a whimsy.  The solid belt at the waist defines the border between the diagonal and horizontal stripes of the dress, and presto change-o, the stripes are now flattering.  The puff of the sleeves creates a classic 1930s silhouette by widening the shoulders just slighty, and combined with the figure-hugging cut of the dress, this silhouette maximizes both boyish and curvy figures.  The noir-esque veil adds the distinctive touch of drama that makes wearing vintage clothing so freaking fun. 

After seeing this admittedly crazy dress styled three different ways, I hope it’s clear: whether you want to stick to office basics or knock your date’s socks off, you can’t go wrong with vintage.  


  1. Great looks! I really like all three styles that you've chosen here.

  2. Welcome back! This is a great article to highlight the versatility of vintage.

  3. I adore vintage. I particularly like a small store called Hornets at the back of Kensington in Church Walk, London. There are also a great thrift shop (Trinity Hospice) on Church St itself. Dressing up is so much fun and I am a very 'tweedy' person :-)

  4. I adore vintage. I particularly like a small store called Hornets at the back of Kensington in Church Walk, London. There are also a great thrift shop (Trinity Hospice) on Church St itself. Dressing up is so much fun and I am a very 'tweedy' person :-)

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