May 13, 2014

How to build a vintage wardrobe on a budget


One of the most frequently asked questions that I receive is how one can can go about wearing vintage on a modest budget. As someone who lives on a strict budget myself, knows the value of a dollar something fierce, and believes deeply in making wise financial choices, this is a subject that's very near and dear to my heart. I've discussed it before in various posts over the years, such as 2012's Five ways to make your vintage wardrobe dollars go further, but with the tax season underway once more - a time when many of us tighten the reins on our spending significantly - now seemed like a great moment to delve into the topic again.

Though this question often comes from those who are just starting to wear vintage, or wear it on a more frequent basis, I believe that the following points will resonate deeply with most of us in the vintage fashion world, whether we're greenhorns or sourdoughs (to borrow one of my favourite terms from the Klondike gold rush days). Good financial advice and common sense serve us all well, no matter if we're on the budget of a humble student or a royal princess.



Before you spend a dime





First of all, you need to access your wardrobe in its current state, exactly as it is today. Is it chock-a-block full of nothing but trendy modern pieces? Are there some classic basics in the mix? Is it geared more towards spring summer/fall winter? Do you already own a certain amount of vintage, repro or vintage appropriate garments? (For tons of tips on how to get started with wearing and buying vintage appropriate clothes, be sure to see this post on the subject.)

Are you looking to transition your wardrobe into one comprised largely, or even entirely, of vintage pieces, or do you plan on keeping some modern ones as well? It's up to you and there's no right or wrong here. It grinds my gears something fierce that a certain attitude crops up sometimes in the vintage fashion world that says that if someone loves vintage fashion, they have to wear it all the time. It's not a uniform, it's a genre of clothing and you're free to wear it however often you want. If that means 24/7/365, awesome! If it means just on the weekends, when the mood strikes, the vast majority of the time, or any of other percentage of your days, that's absolutely a-okay as well.

Your wardrobe is not a job. It's not a burden, and goodness knows, it shouldn't cause you stress. It should be a joy - something that you wake up excited to greet when you through open the closet door in the morning, not a source of serious worry or pressure.

Whether you take all of your clothing out and lay it out to see, or just carefully study what's dangling on your hangers and folded in your drawers, write down or make a mental list of the pieces that you feel already work well for your own particular vintage style. Truly take a few moments with each piece, no matter how big (coats, dresses, pants, etc) or small (jewelry, scarves, hair accessories, etc), and examine it. How modern does it look? Conversely, how vintage is it or does it look? Could it be altered and/or styled to help give it a greater sense of the decade you're after?

Even if nothing, or almost nothing, that you currently own is vintage or looks the part, that doesn't mean you should donate the whole lot to Goodwill right this very moment by any means. This post is all about wearing vintage on a budget, and unless you're in a very good spot financially, chances are you won't be able to ditch one wardrobe and purchase another overnight. I would argue even if you did have the means to do so, you would miss out on a great deal of the fun that comes from shopping for vintage pieces and constructing a beloved wardrobe over time.

Let's assume for the sake of example, that you've gone over your current wardrobe with a fine tooth comb and have a few pieces that are either vintage, repro, or vintage appropriate already (and let's further assume that they fit you well, are in good shape, and that you love them). What are these pieces? Are they almost all variations of the same garment? Do some or all of them work together or are they hodgepodge of lovely pieces that don't really go with one another at all?

Next, think about the kind of lifestyle that you live and what types of clothing are best suited to it. Every gals needs at least a few fancy, extra special occasion pieces in her wardrobe, but if you're a stay-at-home mom, recently retired empty nester, active sportswomen or busy college student, it might not be too practical to stock your closet with little else but evening dresses and toweringly high heels, especially if you're just getting started with wearing vintage.

Do not confuse practicality with being boring, the two needn't ever be on in the same, if you shop for pieces that you love and which work well for your lifestyle. Think about the kinds of garments you wear most often, the colours you love best, what sort of climate you live in, if you travel often, if time consuming types of laundering or dry cleaning are going to be an issue for you, and if you plan to work towards a wardrobe that's all (or almost all) vintage/repro/vintage appropriate.

Once you've accessed your current wardrobe, thought about the types of garments need need (and which - and this is an important point - are becoming on you), and have a firm grasp on what decade (or decades) of vintage fashion you want to sport, you're ready to start shopping.


Show me the money!


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First of all, let's take a moment to stop and determine what your current budget is. Most of us have at least a moderately fixed amount of income that pour in each month. It may be variable, but unless you've recently experienced some major life changes (job loss, new job, gone from a two income family to a single income one, inherited a sizable amount of money, etc), chances are you can at least ballpark how much you earn and what percentage of that money you'd like to put towards your wardrobe in a given month (or year, depending on your personal shopping habits).

This number is not set in stone for the rest of time. In all likelihood, it will fluctuate over the course of time, but whether it's $25, $100, $250, $500 or more per month, believe me when I say, knowing what you have to work with, instead of spending on the fly and hoping your purchase doesn't put you in the red, is such an important element of responsible money management, as well as long term wardrobe planning.

By thinking ahead to the amount of funds that you have not only in a given month, but for a season, half a year, or even a full year, you can better decide how you want to spend throughout the coming months. If you know that this is the year you're going to invest in a new vintage winter coat, it might be a good idea to put aside some or even all of your monthly clothing allowance for a while, until you've saved up the amount you need to make your purchase wisely, without having to rely on credit.

I'm not going to sit here and say I've never spent beyond my means in a given month, I have, but the older I get, the more I try very, very hard not to do so. I loath debt and love it when I can spend within my means and not have to stress about credit card bills, overdrafts, or if the money I spent on clothes should have gone towards something more urgent.

There may be times when spending beyond your monthly means makes sense, such as for an investment piece that you truly need, but try to only do so if you know for certain that you'll have the funds in your budget to pay off the item quickly in the coming weeks or months. Buying a $300 coat on your credit card today because it was on sale, may not end up being such a great deal in the long run if you incur $100, $200 or more in interest over time on it, because you bought it on credit.

When it comes to clothes shopping, as with all elements of life as an adult, you need to be your own accountant and banker. Ultimately, only you know what the right amount of money to set as your budget each month is, within the scope of what you and your family (if applicable) can comfortably afford. Do no sacrifice long term financial goals just to have a big wardrobe, it's not worth it for one red second, no matter how much you love fashion.

Once you have your budget in place, don't be afraid to look for ways to supplement it, if you feel it's on the particularly modest side. This could be selling/consigning some of your existing clothing, launching an etsy shop of any type that applies to your interest and talents, holding an annual yard sale, doing odd jobs on the side, dog walking, or any other (legal, of course!) way that you can think of generate a bit more income, if so desired.

There is no right or wrong budget for vintage clothing. Believe me, goodness, believe me when I say that I fully understand how, at times, it can seem like some of those in our circle are on almost non-stop shopping spree, whereas you're struggling to come up with $25 a month to spend on your wardrobe. It's easy to become disheartened with you're in the spot, but I encourage you to live for yourself and within your means.

You don't know the details of that other woman's life. She could be $30,000 in debt because of her spending. She may have a great job, live at home still, and have almost no bills (or debts) or other financial concerns to worry about. Maybe she buys, wears for a while, and quickly flips her clothing. She could be a professional vintage seller who has access to a large amount of yesteryear clothing and just keeps the pieces she finds for a song that she loves most for her own wardrobe. She might have been in your very shoes for many years and is just now able to start spending more because her circumstances changes. You truly never know. It's easy to judge or grow envious, but doing so gets you absolutely no where and isn't the healthiest or happiest of mindsets at all. Focus on yourself, your budget, your wardrobe and your life and you'll be on the right track.




Climb every mountain


 
While some of us are fortunate to live in a city with one or more vintage store that sell mid-century pieces, a fairly substantial number of us (myself included) do not. Though nothing beats trying on clothing in person, thanks to the good, 'ol interwebs, you are never more than a mouse click away from a world of vintage clothing.

In either case however, price is often an issue. Many brick and mortar vintage, secondhand, and antique stores are highly aware of the demand for the items they're offering and price accordingly, some go even further, specializing only (or nearly only) in high end items. For those who are looking to stretch their dollar, such shops can often feel discouraging or like a waste of time. Some may be beyond the scope of your current budget, but most will hold sales at least a couple of times of a year, and all are a great place to get a feel for what kinds of vintage items you may hope to find elsewhere, so don't turn your nose up at them immediately.


Certain vintage stores are more reasonably priced than others, both online (in the case of etsy and eBay shops) and off, and these are the ones you'll want to gravitate towards most of the time. Visit every vintage, secondhand, antique, consignment and used clothing store in your town and/or surrounding area, if applicable/feasible. Chat with the sales clerks, or if possible, the shop owner. Let them know that you love vintage clothing, what you're looking for, and that you're always open to scoring a great deal (aka, ask them when their next sale is going to be).

I have a business card for Chronically Vintage, which I leave with nearly all vintage and secondhand clothing sellers I encounter. I let people know that they contact me anytime if they have well priced items I might be interested in, and often maintain a rapport with such sellers throughout the year by visiting their shops, making purchases, and mentioning in some cases that I'm offering them free publicity on my blog by linking to them when I wear an item I bought from their shop in one of my vintage outfits (note: I do not, and would never, say this so as to try and entice someone to offer me a bargain, it's simply a friendly way of showing kindness in the hopes that it will in turn be shown to you one day).

As time goes on, mid-century vintage is getting harder and harder to find at reasonable prices both online and off. I fully acknowledge this point and know it all too well firsthand, but I can also attest to the fact that vintage bargains do still exist. Yard sales, flea markets, thrift (charity/op) shops, auctions, estate sales, clothing swaps, local classifieds (newspapers, Craigslist, Kijiji, etc) and eBay (and to a lesser extent, etsy and elsewhere online) can all still deliver a good deal sometimes. Patience, timing, using a wide range of search keywords (for more on how to make keywords really work for you, see this post), and a bit of luck will all go a long way towards helping you get the most bang for your hard earned buck.

Just as it never hurts to let those with applicable shops know who you are and what you're looking for, don't be afraid to let the people in your life know about your love of vintage clothing either. From relatives to friends, coworkers to classmates, members of your place of worship to your hairdresser, local junk dealer (yes, they still exist in some communities), elderly neighbours or those on your softball team, it’s a good idea to simply share that you love, and wear, vintage clothing with such folks. I have been blessed to receive several fantastic gifts, completely for free, over the years because someone either had vintage items they no longer wanted or knew someone else who did, and passed them along to me.

Many people who are not into vintage themselves and have no desire to try and sell items online, are often all too happy to give things away or sell them for pennies on the dollar, so long as they know they're going to a home where these pieces will be loved and appreciated. In some cases, you may even be doing someone a favour, as they might not have space to store the items, need to downsize, or are getting rid of things after a loved one passed away. If someone gives you something as a gift, be sure to thank them with a email, letter, or small present in turn for their thoughtful generosity.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again, when it comes to sourcing vintage clothing, leave no stone unturned, nor avenue unexplored. The world, thankfully, still houses a substantial amount of vintage items, and there are some well priced pieces out there just waiting for you to find them.



To the dressing room!


Okay, so you know what you want/need, you've got your budget in place, you are aware of what your area has (or doesn't have) to offer in terms of local shopping options, you've spent time looking for vintage clothing online and now you're ready to start shopping.

When you're new to vintage, it can be tempting - and all too easy - to just start buying anything from your favourite decade in your size, simply because it's old and will fit. I get this for sure, but shopping with a plan in place and a list of items you need to help your wardrobe blossom is a far smarter approach, and one that's likely to lead to much less buyer's remorse in the long run.

If you're looking for wardrobe basis, don't be afraid to explore vintage appropriate options. Many can do a stellar job of looking the part of vintage, but may cost you substantially less. I am not biased at all on this front, and believe firmly in the power of utilizing ever avenue your have at your disposal to build a wardrobe that allows you to put together vintage looks, whether all of the pieces included in them are true vintage or not.

Classic pieces aren't called classic for no reason. There are items on the market that are, in some cases, almost indistinguishable from the same versions of them that existed 50, 60, even 70 or more years ago. Five examples would be: traditionally styled pearl jewelry, saddle shoes, leather driving gloves, fitted cardigans, and pencil skirts that hit below the knee. I'm not saying they're dead ringers. Fabrics, styles, cuts and construction techniques can, and do, change over time, but the overall look of some of these kinds of pieces (and many other fashion classics) makes them no-brainers for the vintage lover on a budget.

When you find a vintage piece you love, but which is beyond your budget or what you're comfortable spending on one garment. Go searching (online and off) to see if you can find something similar for a fraction of the price. I've done this time and time again over the years and it has lead to some of my best bargains and most beloved items of clothing.

I know that there is a certain "keeping up with the Joneses" mentality in the vintage and repro world, much as there is (heavily) in the fashion realm as a whole, but remember that you don't have to break the bank to be stylish or happy.

One of the greatest joys of vintage clothing is that, often, it affords you the chance to build a wardrobe of pieces that are unlike those that anyone else is wearing today. Savour the individuality of vintage fashion and the fact that it gives you an incredible sartorial voice all your own.

It's totally okay to buy repro and popular vintage appropriate pieces (such as those on sites like Modcloth), but don't feel like you have to stock your wardrobe with nothing but repro or the same kinds of styles of vintage clothing that your favourite bloggers are wearing. Be your own muse, no matter your budget.



Seven quick tips for building a vintage wardrobe on a budget


 
-Hit every thrift store sale you possibly can. Ditto for yard sales, flea markets (swap meets), and estate sales (not all estate sales offer bargains, but sometimes you can really luck out on vintage deals there). Don't shop buy just for the sake of it, but rather use these discounted clothing sources to help you pick up some of the items that your wardrobe is missing/needs more.

-Mix genuine vintage with repro and vintage appropriate pieces. We've covered this above, but it warrants saying again, because I truly believe it's one of the most cost effective ways to build (and keep growing) your vintage wardrobe. Should you happen to sew and/or knit (which, unfortunately, I do not), be sure to include homemade garments into the mix, too. They're repro that you make at home yourself - talk about handy and awesome!

-Make the genuine vintage or repro piece you're wearing the star of the show in your outfit. Compliment it, if so desired, with vintage hair and make-up, to further create a period appropriate look, if that's what you're in the mood for.

-Host a clothing swap with your friends and/or relatives. Even if the people you invite aren't into vintage, they might have some vintage appropriate pieces amongst their offerings that would work wonders for your own wardrobe (while at the same time helping you unload some of the garments that you're no longer wearing).

-Accessories are your hard working, wardrobe expanding friends! Our foremothers know this well, and it's an approach to dressing that can help stretch your wardrobe something fierce. Think costume jewelry, scarves, shoe clips, gloves, hats, wraps, handbags, dress clips, stockings, and shoes themselves as a means of stretching the number of outfits you can get out of your vintage clothing.

-Ask for clothing (or gift certificates for places you love that sell clothing) for your birthday, holidays, or anytime someone wants to give you gift of your choosing. I do this each year for my birthday and Christmas with my parents, usually put the birthday money my dear maternal grandma gives me towards my wardrobe, and have long instilled in my sweet husband that clothes (or gift certificates for them) are always a winning, hugely appreciated presents for any occasion. I've been able to splurge on some of my favourite investment pieces over the years (such as my wonderful Jitterbuggin pinafore dress) because of thoughtful monetary gifts from loved ones.

-Embrace the fact that, like Rome, most vintage wardrobes are not built in a day. I completely get it. You want to have a super swoon-worthy vintage wardrobe right this very instant, but good things take time. My moderately sized wardrobe is rife with garments I love, that fit me well, are in good shape, and often coordinate well with one another, and it took years to get to this stage. I have spent more hours than I could ever count scouring eBay and etsy for deals, visiting thrift stores (and yard sales), and saving up funds, when needed, to purchase bigger ticket items only when I could do so in financially responsible way.

One's wardrobe is a never-ending work in progress, and there will always been pieces that I want or need to add to mine, and in each instance, I'll do so with my budget at the forefront of my mind. The thrill of the hunt - of finding a killer deal - is a ton of the fun of vintage shopping for me, as I know it for many others as well. Enjoy the process - you'll likely never start from scratch again (unless your weight shifts dramatically, and even then, you'll still be able to hold onto some items such as hats, jewelry and possibly shoes), so savour these formative days while they're here.




Now what?


 
As your vintage wardrobe continues to expand, go back periodically and access what its strengths and weaknesses are. What are the glaring wardrobe gaps that you'd like to fill in the coming months? Are there any pieces that you no longer like, that don’t fit, or which you've otherwise have changed your mind about? Why not sell them online (or locally, if applicable) and put that money towards buying something that you want or need more in the moment.

Though it can be (very!) hard to part with vintage clothing, if it just isn't right for you and you're not going to keep it as a display/collectors piece, it is better to pass it on to the next owner, who can hopefully give it just the kind of love it deserves. I've sold many vintage garments and accessories from my personal wardrobe over the years, and am certain I'll continue to as time goes on. Some pieces will remain in my closet, I believe, for the rest of my days, but others are shorter term visitors, whom I'll remember fondly, but am happy to see bring joy to another vintage fashion lover when I say good-bye to them.

Keep your wardrobe in good order. By this I mean, both well organized (no one wants to have to buy a third basic black skirt because you couldn't find the two they already own) and in tip-top shape from a mending and tailoring standpoint. Small issues such as loose buttons, dropped hems, or tiny holes can often be remedied in just a few minutes for little to no cost at home. By nipping such problems in the bud as they occur, your garments will last longer, thus cutting down the number of new pieces you need to buy, thereby saving you money in the long run.

As time goes on, and your wardrobe blossoms, you may find you need to shop for a smaller number of pieces each year. You might also notice, that if such is the case, you have more money to spend on the individual items that you do buy, and can then start looking more towards some of the vintage investment pieces you've been daydreaming about for quite some time now.

Your personal style and your wardrobe will likely always continue to expand over time. You may be crazy for the fifties for a few years then decide that you're all about the 1930s for the next two, before heading into a phase where it's all sixties, all the time. Some items will see you through multiple decades that you enjoy wearing, others will work best in the context of their respective time frame, but all will be a magnificent part of your collective vintage wardrobe that you built with love, forethought and sound budgeting. With a bit time and effort, before you know it, you'll have the kind vintage wardrobe that inspires others who see you to want to start their own.

47 comments:

  1. This is a great guide! I am currently experiencing some "wardrobe stress". Trying to figure out what I really like instead of buying the same things over and over has been a challenge. I definitely find it easier to style others and pick out awesome pieces for my shop. It's a weird conundrum. I have been trying everything I own on, and tossing what doesn't work, while replacing pieces I love, but just don't fit anymore (there's LOTS of that). I like to blend vintage and modern to create unexpected looks.
    Browsing style blogs, both vintage and modern, has been a huge inspiration!
    -L A

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  2. Great article, thanks for the tips! One of my biggest barriers is simply not having the time to go shopping for clothes (I go maybe once a month or once every couple of months at the moment) so I think I miss out on a lot of the best bargains! I can't wait till my degree is over and I don't have to work weekends anymore.

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  3. This is exactly what I've been doing! Trying to figure out when I wear vintage, so this article came at a great time for me! I think I'm more of a weekend/ shopping wearer so I want pieces that will fit that. On a daily basis it's just not going to work, although I do try and at least do my hair, after all ones hair should always look good when cleaning out the kitty litter.

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    1. I'm delighted to know that this post's timing was serendipitous for you, dear Debra. I think (in general, I mean here) that there's this strange unwritten pressure verging on being a rule that people who like/love vintage have to wear it all the time. That's crazy, IMO! Of course, if you want to, and many (myself included) do, that's wonderful, but if not, then that's great too. Vintage isn't a uniform, it's a form of self-expression through our wardrobe and can be sported as frequently or infrequently as desired.

      Thank you very much for your lovely comment,
      ♥ Jessica

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  4. Thank you so much for this timely post! I am just getting into vintage clothing and while I do have a few true "vintage" pieces, most of what I own are timeless classics with a vintage feel. We have several thrift stores in our area, but the only vintage shop we had went out of business. While I can often find classic style pieces, I have a difficult time finding "true" vintage. I am also still trying to decide which era suits me best. I love the fashions of the 40s and 50s but I also love clothes that have an "Edwardian" feel as well. If I try to purchase clothes from all of the eras that I appreciate, I would have a budget that I cannot afford. The other item that you commented on was what to do with your current wardrobe. I have "modern" pieces that I truly love and do not want to part with right yet as I transition to a vintage wardrobe so I currently mix those pieces with my vintage or vintage feel pieces, but sometimes I feel like I am not part of the "vintage community" because I am not wearing "all vintage, all the time". However, as you stated in your post, there really is no right or wrong way to wear vintage and, in my humble opinion, if we all wear vintage the same way, that really defeats the purpose of wearing vintage, which is to develop our own sense of style and not follow the "trends". Again, thank you for this timely post.

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    1. You're wholeheartedly welcome, dear gal, many lovely thanks in turn for your wonderful comment. I'm sincerely sorry to hear that you feel you're not a part of the vintage community because you don't sport vintage threads all the time. I really feel that if one loves vintage, regardless of if they wear it ever or not, you are part of the vintage community (you're certainly part of the Chronically Vintage community!!!) and that you should feel as welcome and at home as those who opt to don vintage all the time (or very nearly so).

      Big hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

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  5. Dear Jessica,

    You have written a very encouraging post. Money, of course, is my biggest issue, but my fluctuating weight greatly hinders my purchasing vintage items. The idea of planing my wardrobe can help with both problems. If I find something I know I can wear repeatedly, styling it with other pieces and accessorizing it creatively, I can enjoy a vintage look; which is all I am looking to achieve. I could have a small selection of items I love most, and even keep the same types of items in two sizes, if need be. I love your way of wearing vintage. You've really got me thinking...so many possibilities!

    ♥Hope

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  6. Really helpful and detailed post, thank you! I'm slowly developing a wardrobe that I love by just adding items I love when I find them. Will definitely be following some of these tips though!

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    1. I delighted to know that you enjoyed this helpful post, Hayley. As I mentioned in this post, a great vintage wardrobe, like Rome, wasn't built in a day. There's an appealing beauty to taking your time and gathering up items over the months and years. It's a perpetual work in progress, too. I doubt there's any vintage clothing and accessories (and jewelry) fan who would ever feel like she couldn't add another piece (even if it meant parting with an existing one to make room for it). :)

      Thank you very much for your comment,
      ♥ Jessica

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  7. Such wonderful advice! In my experience estate sales/yard sales/garage sales can be fantastic sources for vintage pieces, but they are super rare! Going to sales requires dedication and patience- don't give up because you didn't find anything the first time! I've been going to sales every weekend for almost 8 years and it takes a lot of work (getting up at 5 am is not so fun). I've found a lot of really amazing vintage pieces over that time period, though, so they have totally been worth the effort! :-) Also, make sure to do tons of research and take the time to hunt for the great bargains before making purchases because sometimes making snap decisions can sting- you and your wallet will be happier in the long run! It's really the thrill of the hunt and finding the great deals that is a big part of what makes wearing vintage a lot of fun! Great post!
    -Melissa

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    1. Terrific tips, Melissa, thank you very much for sharing. Health (and weather - this being Canada after all) I've been going to yard sales as often as possible since I was a child (no joke) and truly adore them to no end. So few yield up wearable vintage items any more, but every once in a blue moon you'll find something (even just a wee brooch, say) and it stokes your collecting/sourcing fires once again and suddenly you can go at 'er with renewed passion and/or energy, even if you come up empty handed for months at a time.

      I really hope some of your amazing vintage yard sale (et al) finding luck rubs off on me this spring and summer!!! :)

      ♥ Jessica

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  8. Can I just say how much I appreciate this post? Especially this part: "Believe me, goodness, believe me when I say that I fully understand how, at times, it can seem like some of those in our circle are on almost non-stop shopping spree, whereas you're struggling to come up with $25 a month to spend on your wardrobe." I have a shoestring (half a shoestring?) budget, and I also enjoy vintage style and vintage blogs. I love seeing all the outfits and new finds, but it can make me feel discontent, too.

    I'd advise the budget-minded to keep in mind your last point - it can take a long time to build a wardrobe, and you don't have to buy every vintage item that crosses your path. If your budget is $25 a month, it's $25 a month, and maybe you can't afford even that cheap vintage find. That's okay! I've had to walk away from more than one so-so vintage piece, but in the end, I usually haven't regretted it. And that means I have more money to spend on the really amazing piece that shows up later. (Sometimes. And then sometimes I don't, and that's okay too. It's just clothes.)

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  9. Really awesome advice you've got there, thank you for this. I appreciated the reminder that clothing should be fun, not stressful; I love getting dressed, and getting too worked up about how much I need a particular piece just makes it less enjoyable. Slowing down and building my wardrobe carefully, piece by piece, means that I'll love everything in it.
    <3
    Jessica, cakesandcakesvintage.blogspot.com

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  10. Fantastic and interesting post! I think there is a lot to be learned here, whatever type of wardrobe you're building.

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  11. Wonderful post and so thorough! I have to say as someone on a fixed budget and a growing family, being patient and taking my time have been unbelievably helpful in this. Also, having a few hats and shoes as neutrals with everything is huge for me. I can't say I never envy anyone's amazing wardrobe online, but I've learned that having a few pieces I really feel good about and love to wear keep me from feeling too bad about it. Allowing myself to focus the budget on what makes me happiest with my wardrobe keeps the coveting away, too. I really like kitschy plastic brooches, so I'm more likely to spurge in that area than even for a dress. It truly should be fun, and that's the best advice you gave, having fun with your wardrobe.
    Thanks for such a lovely post, again I enjoyed it and learned from your wisdom and experience.
    Sarah

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  12. Jessica, you are a very wise soul , such great thoughtful ideas. Dressing however you choose to do it should be a joy and never a chore. My own style is a mix of older not classically vintage from my own wardrobe, some new and when I can find it here a little classic vintage, specially hats. As an older woman(60) I love pretty vintage but some just isnt right for me so I have learned to select carefully. You are an inspiration my dear.

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  13. I certainly agree that your wardrobe should be a source of joy, not a burden. My "vintage collection" is merely a few of my great-grandma's necklaces. I honestly don't have room for anything else in my wardrobe right now (and I do love everything in it) so I simply admire vintage styles from afar. :)

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  14. This is a great article. I am no were near as organized as you but I am trying. Ive always loved clothes but for years I didn't really know my look. I liked full on vintage but lacked the confidence to wear it and NYC vintage shops are earth shatteringly expensive we are talking 50 dollars for a pair of gloves in some. As I started shopping online I discovered repro and esty vintage shops I can afford and your blog has been a great source. I make a list of clothing items I like and take photographs of outfits I love or pin the pinterest. I even photograph and save images from old movies. I definitely work to spend within my budget. My top priority money wise is always my pets and there needs come first. However, my wardrobe is my numberone frivolous expenditure. I prioritize it over decorating my home and with so many pets I rarely travel. When my coworkers take a trip to Europe I think that's the money I might be putting into my wardrobe BUT it brings me a lot of happiness!

    retro rover

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  15. Wow, LOADS of great thoughts. I am terrible at analysing my wardrobe and staying focused when shopping (vintage and otherwise), and I am a sucker for pretty dresses that I don't have the need for! But I will keep trying.

    You are so right about mending and keeping things in good condition, organised and ready to wear. 90% of the times that I think I have nothing to wear, the reality is that I haven't done enough hand-washing in a while! I'm currently determined to start two things: 1. Actually mend/alter the things waiting for mending/alteration, and 2. Wear all the things I own! I've been shopping a bit recently and some items are still untried. Poor things!

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  16. I love this post!

    Isn't it ironic that you're writing a post about wearing vintage on a budget, when most of us long-time vintage wearers started buying second hand because it was cost effective! How times have changed...

    Lisa.

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    1. Great point, lovely Lisa! Indeed, that certainly does have a distinct note of irony to it. Long, long gone (by and large) are those glorious halcyon days not just easily affordable, but downright inexpensive, vintage. Oh, for the 1990s again (on that front at least)!!! :)

      ♥ Jessica

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  17. This is a fantastic post! Incredibly written and a great resource for anyone striving for a great vintage wardrobe regardless of if they've been collecting for one year or twenty.

    I was absolutely guilty of buying anything I could find from the 50s/60s that was in my size when I first started getting into vintage clothing, so I had this bizarre hodge podge of a collection. Definitely not the way to go! Fortunately, a lot of those pieces go with the basics I've built my wardrobe on now, so they do get some use these days.

    Cheers!
    Jenny

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  18. Jessica this is a really great guide! I'm slowly building my vintage wardorbe so these tips came in rather handy, thanks.

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  19. This is really good advice for anyone starting or refurbishing their vintage wardrobes. I've only been wearing vintage style for about a year (although obssessed my entire life with all things mid-century) when clothing became available in vintage styles for curvy girls (or should I say, become available in Australia). It has been a struggle sometimes not to blow my entire pay check buying clothes to match my new wardrobe. After much trial and error I have found what suits me and as much as I love 30's and 40's fashion it just doesn't like me. However, give me a 'new look' style dress, crinoline and cardigan/ shrug and suddenly I feel and look like me!! My challange at the moment is trying to transplant some of these looks into winter; working out if I can wear skivvies or shirts under dresses and deciding if cotton is really the right thing to wear in Canberra in winter! I was recently given a sewing machine and it's become my goal to learn to sew so I can make some lovely winter appropriate clothes that don't make me feel frumpy. Whenever I despair that my wardrobe is not vintage enough or not growing fast enough I'm going to re-read your post!

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    1. That is truly touching thing to be told, my lovely dear. I'm immensely glad to know that you derived so much from this post and that it will serve you well in the future, too.

      Happy learning to sew (that's a very admirable undertaking),
      ♥ Jessica

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  20. Thank you for this terrific post! You put a lot of work into it, and there are so many wonderful tips and helpful advices.
    My passion for vintage goes back to my childhood, but it became significant for me about 6 years ago. And it's still changing. I was a weekend or shopping kind of vintage wearer, but now vintage is intruding into my daily life too. So I definitely need more pieces in my wardrobe, and I mean: everyday clothing. So this post is great to read!
    Unfortunately, in my country (Switzerland) there are only a few or almost no charity shops, no thrift stores, no garage or estate sales. Flea markets offer mostly 60s or 70s stuff, which is not what I like. I doubt there is much left from earlier decades. Did people throw away everything? Vintage wear (40s or 50s) is not a common sight, and if I dress in my vintage style outfits, I get a lot of astonished looks. People maybe think I escaped from a museum. ;-)
    Fortunately I am able to sew my own garments, but as soon as it comes to the accessories, I depend from foreign sources. It need a lot of time to add these items to my wardrobe, but only by being patient I am able to find affordable offers. And you are so right, accessories can change the look of a garment so much! Once I read that Audrey Hepburn had, before becoming famous, only 2 or 3 blouses, having no money to buy more, but about 20 scarfs - which made the impression she had a well-equipped wardrobe.

    ♥ Doris

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  21. Insightful, precise, honest and complete.
    Four words to describe this post.
    Any and all questions of a potential vintage-wearer are here. There are quite some mindful (and personal) opinions that keep the mind in budget-course. And plus some much needed reminders to those who tend to plunge into shopping-mania every now and then.

    Honest opinion?
    This post should become a booklet. Truly, you ought to do it, Jess. Put this one together with your other posts on vintage - and make it a "beginner pack" booklet on vintage.

    Hugs
    Marija

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  22. What a splendid article, dear gal! This is just what I need in the moment, where I'm starting almost from the zero and have such a small budget. Very complete in advice and I can start organizing my ideas for wardrobe. You are so smart, Jessica! Thank you! :-)

    Miss Beta

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  23. I love these posts! I've mentioned before that I don't wear vintage, but really love vintage fashion! These posts are inspiring. The world of vintage fashion is indeed intimidating when everyone (your lovely self included) is so impeccably dressed and period perfect. Thanks for the tips!

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  24. Jessica, this is such an excellent post, and by following these rules myself I've also slowly built up a respectable vintage and vintage-appropriate wardrobe. It *has* taken a long time, but thoughtful shopping (don't ever buy just to buy!) and saving has gone a long, long way and doubtless will continue to do so.

    Of course, I'll admit that being a passable seamstress and a dogged, creative mender helps, too—I've bought a few vintage dresses for next to nothing because of things as simple as dropped hems, broken zippers, and broken cocktail gown straps! Thus it is worthwhile for all of us, I think, to take after our grandmothers and great-grandmothers and at least learn the basics (or have a good tailor in mind, or offer to bake cookies or weed the garden of a seamstress friend if she's willing to make the exchange). Appliqueing is another handy trick to have up one's sleeve. I grab my mending basket, turn on a favourite old movie or TV show, and mend away! It saves money, is actually relaxing, and of course gives one a sense of accomplishment and connection to our proudly thrifty past.

    Also, you are dead on about the bargains still to be had. I've not bought anything for several months and had some dough in the kitty—and in the past week picked up *two* vintage dresses for under $30 each (I believe they really average out to roughly $26.50 apiece), and that includes shipping! Not thrift-store prices, but still pretty good!

    I *do* wish we could do some sort of online swap. There's a lace cocktail dress in the basement I'm too short for that would require a complete tear-apart, which I'm not willing to do on a vintage dress older than I am! ;)

    Great post. I hope others follow your advice, Jessica, because it is encouraging and very wise—especially regarding that budget and being patient with one's progress!

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  25. I always love your posts on wardrobe building :) I wish they were around when I started out.

    Definitely agree about keeping your clothing in good condition, especially mending before washing.

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  26. Nice post! I totally agree that a wardrobe is always a work-in-progress; I take an annual look back at mine to see what I've bought, what I've worn and wear any gaps might be. Charity/thrift/op shops are my destination of choice; I've got so many nice pieces there for £1.50-£4 (and even a few genuine vintage pieces!)

    Things would be terribly boring if a wardrobe came into being all at once. Hunting out great pieces is part of what makes them such fun to wear.

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  27. This is such a great guide !
    Even if I know myself and how I can negociate (not always With sellers but mainly With myself!) i know sometimes we all use to think its hard With no budget or its hard if we dont have one thing vintage From the start. Its great What you express because its true vintage is everywhere so you should be throwing away good basic tops or more classical pi├Ęce when it could be reused.
    Thanks again for one lovely article Jess.
    Xxx

    Love From Paris,
    Lorna

    HTTP://lornasharp.blogspot.com

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  28. What a long and fabulously well written post this is. I really enjoyed reading it all. I wish you would make a follow up with a list of online sellers who has affordable prices. I'm a modern size medium and it is really hard to find vintage (fifties) clothes in my size, if I do it is so unresonably priced that I would never buy it. I also have the VAT and tax issue to consider and add to my budget, ough. Therefore, I have mostly repro clothes in my closet, it is also easier to take care of and I don't have to be afraid ruining or wearing it out. It is the style I love, so repro is OK with me. But I do search for the authentic repro, not the over-the-top rockabilly items, which are not my style. Thanks again, dear. :)

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    1. Hello dear Sanne, that's a terrific idea (a follow up post with some online sellers who tend to have affordable prices on vintage or vintage style offerings) which would tie in nicely with my monthly 25 Vintage Deals Under $100.00 post series. I'll certainly start brainstorming on that post and plan for it later in the year.

      Big hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

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    2. Ooh, that would be lovely. And if you did, I would not steal anything from you, since we don't use the same size. ;)

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  29. This is a fabulous article, you have covered so much, so wisely. Lots and lots of really helpful information here. I am in the midst of a wardrobe crisis myself. I have some lovely vintage pieces but have gained weight and can't fit them comfortably. Whilst I am working towards fitting them again it was helpful to be reminded that I have some vintage appropriate pieces that could plug the gap for now.

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    1. Thank you sweetly, dear Kate. I'm deeply happy to know that this post spoke to you so much. Vintage appropriate offerings get two big thumbs up from me for that reason, and many others, as well - same for vintage accessories, the bulk of which rarely stop fitting if one's weight fluctuates.

      ♥ Jessica

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    2. So true about accessories. That may be why I have a rather large brooch and scarf collection!

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  30. Fantastic as always, Jessica! I can't agree with you more about "Rome wasn't built in a day" mentality. I have been buying vintage pieces {or vintage inspired/rockabilly pieces} for two years now and finally have a good idea where I want my wardrobe to go. {Which I'm going to reveal later on my blog.} I have very little in the S/S and F/W department, but those little items I know I can run to with fast and cute looks with a great vintage look and that also compliment my figure and that are just...me.

    I don't usually buy vintage unless it's online, there are zilch stores here in TH, so I rely heavily on vintage inspired, repro, and the occasional vintage score. I really do need to add a lot of missing pieces to my lacking wardrobe, but that all comes with time and much effort, and of course a whole lot of fun.

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    1. Thank you very much, lovely Sean. I can't wait to see your exciting wardrobe direction unveiling! There is so much to be said for a blended or fashion wardrobe, as I've come to refer to mine in recent years, that mixes old and new with repro to create a general picture of sorts that you're trying to convey with your outfits. Even if genuine vintage was still easy to find and affordable around these parts, I wouldn't turn my back on repro and vintage appropriate items. Doing so seems like limiting yourself needlessly on the 21st century fashion front (as in, we have all those options available to us in this day and age regardless of which decade we opt to dress from).

      ♥ Jessica

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  31. This is so helpful! I love vintage clothes and fashion but working in a legal job I've got to stick to more traditional clothing items the majority of the time. I like that this post says your wardrobe doesn't have to be 100% vintage, and that's ok. I also like that you explain that it's ok not to spend a bucketload of money on building the vintage wardrobe - girls like me need the reassurance that it's ok not to spend all your money (on putting it on credit!) just for clothes. It's definitely meant to be a gradual process.
    Thanks for this post!
    www.adventuresofvintagebarbie.com

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    1. Hi Simone,

      Thank you very much for your great comment and for raising that truly important point. I agree you immensely and know that there is a massive element of "keeping up with the Joneses" involved, for some people (though certainly not all), with wearing vintage - especially with epic rise of certain repro/pinup girl brands, most of which are anything but budget friend. Great style need never cost an arm and leg and can be achieved with a few fantastic core pieces, lovely (inexpensive accessories), the occasional investment piece, and a good dose of creativity.

      Many thanks again & have a wonderful summer!
      ♥ Jessica

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  32. Truly enjoyed this piece...felt some was talking about me, I know it wasn't, but it was relatable. Sign of a good writer.

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    1. What a touchingly lovely compliment, dear Stephanie. Thank you very much. I'm delighted to know that this post on vintage wardrobe budgeting really struck a chord with you.

      Big hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

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  33. So, i love this article....my boyfriend is into the rockabilly scene, so dressing vintage is my thing....my staple is my black cigarette pants and my cardigan....i work in an office, so wearing a sweater year round is ok....luckily my go to pants were given to me....i wear them every day....i usually pair them with a pair of red flats....most of my other stuff has been made, or thrift shopping....last piece i got was a cutes a line dress that was a repro for 15 bucks! Love it! This will help lots of lovley betties shopping for vintage! Good job sweets!

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    1. Hi Stacie, thank you very much for your fun comment on this post. I always sincerely appreciate it when folks comment on (somewhat, in this case) older entries, too (aka, not just my absolute newest posts). How awesome that you and your BF both enjoy sporting rockabilly/vintage styles and the scene itself. So often it's just one person in a couple who has a passion for such. I'm sure that a mutual love of such only strengthens your bond.

      Way to go on finding a repro dress for just $15. That's quite the deal for sure. I hope lots of other budget friendly rockabilly/repro/vintage styles come you way, too.

      Thanks again & have a fabulous rest of the summer, my dear,
      ♥ Jessica

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