How To Build A Vintage Wardrobe: Part 1 Introduction

I’m excited to be starting this new series today on how to build a vintage wardrobe and tips for creating a unique style you can call your own by incorporating vintage finds into your everyday style. Over the next few months, I’ll offer styling ideas and examples while sharing some of my favorite finds and best scores over the years.

This introduction is about where to begin to shop and questions you may want to ask yourself before venturing out to find vintage clothing treasures that you’ll come to love and cherish for years.

If you’ve ever been interested in collecting vintage clothing or you’re just looking for one or two items to add to your closet, please subscribe for updates. I hope you will find this series useful.

Vintage shopping in Madrid

Step 1: What is Vintage?

Technically, an item is vintage if it is older than 30 years. Some sellers, such as Etsy, consider items 20 years old (1990’s) vintage but generally, it is 30 years so anything pre-1989. Retro means anything considered “out of style” or bygone pop culture or fashion trend. Something retro can also be vintage. Anything older than 100 years is considered an antique.

My great-grandmother’s cardigan.

Step 2: Finding Inspiration

I find inspiration in many places. My paternal grandmother’s wardrobe was my original inspiration. I loved playing dress up in her bedroom, and was truly drawn to the styles, and textures of her 1950’s thru 1970’s wardrobe and accessories. I still love playing dress up and it’s no doubt why the pursuit of vintage finds is one of my favorite pastimes.

Movies are another great place to find inspiration as are style icons from the worlds of fashion, film, music, and art, past and present. I love to flip through vintage fashion books, stream old movies, and scroll through an infinite number of images of old Hollywood icons, artists and rockstars from some of my favorite decades in art and entertainment.

An example of 70’s style from the ABBA Museum, Stockholm, Sweden.

Step 3: Where To Shop

Your Grandparent’s Closet
If you’re lucky enough to have a grandparent with great style, now is the time to raid their closet. It doesn’t hurt to ask if they are willing to let some things go. The first vintage item of clothing I ever owned and wore was a cream colored lace blouse that belonged to my great-grandmother. I wore it with great pride as a teenager during the lace-heavy early 80’s. Sadly, it no longer fits but it always has a place in my closet. My grandmother and great-grandmother also passed down to me some beautiful costume jewelry pieces.

My first vintage item was my great-grandmother’s blouse she gave me as a teenager.

Yard Sales & Estate Sales
The more effort one has to make locating vintage finds, the cheaper it will be. You will find your best bargains at garage sales, yard sales, and estate sales. You’ll never know what to expect rolling up to one. Many will be a bust but I have found some of my most loved pieces at yard sales. If you’re willing to spend a couple of hours on an early Saturday morning, you could hit the motherload.

Thrift Stores
Budget-friendly thrift stores are one of my favorites places to source vintage. Over time, you will learn what to look for, and how to identify vintage clothing by the style, fabric, and label. You have to be in the mood to flip through the racks but if you take the time, you can walk away with some amazing pieces that you’ll keep for years.

eBay & Etsy, and other apps
I’m a long time eBay user. I opened an account in 1996 using my dial-up modem soon after they launched and have been scouring the site for vintage ever since. It’s a great place to get deals. I also sell quite a bit on eBay. I’ve bought clothing items from Etsy as well as jewelry and home decor. Apps such as Poshmark and Depop are also good sources.

Vintage Clothing Stores
There are many vintage retailers that only sell vintage. Throughout my 20’s and 30’s, I had a few honey holes in my town that I frequented for years building up my wardrobe. The prices can be decent depending on the store and area. A quick Google search will list the vintage retailers nearest to you as well as their ranking by customers.

Antique Stores
Antique stores and antique malls mostly sell furniture and housewares but don’t dismiss them. You can find stunning vintage clothing items and jewelry in an antique store. It’s a fun outing. Grab a friend some weekend, get a cup of coffee, and roam the stalls. It’s even better on a rainy day.

Vintage Clothing Fairs & Markets
To shop truly curated collections, vintage clothing fairs offer the highest quality clothing, designer and non-designer, selections. However, it comes at a price. These collectors are selling at top dollar. I frequent several fairs and tend to save my budget for really rare finds not easily found anywhere else.

I keep my vintage items separated on rails from the rest of my closet so I can easily mix and match when putting together an outfit.

Step 4: What To Look For

Whether you are the kind of vintage lover that wants to adopt an entire retro look from a particular decade or you just want to supplement your contemporary wardrobe with a few vintage pieces, there are numerous options. Myself, I prefer the latter usually marrying one or two vintage pieces (at the most) with current fashion trends.

Here are a few categories and suggestions of items to be on the hunt for. My collection represents most of these. Watch this space for examples and styling ideas in the weeks to come.




Jean Jackets

Leather Jackets


Graphic Tees

Shoes and Boots

Jewelry and accessories


Choose a Favorite Decade. 1960’s mini dresses, or maybe 1970’s wild prints and bell-bottoms.

Statement pieces such as beaded or embroidered blazers and jackets.

Statement Coats

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“How To Build A Vintage Wardrobe: Part 1 Introduction”

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