Sunday 1 March 2015

How to make vintage fashion work for you...by Dawn O'Porter

Rachael Dove

Published 02/06/2014 | 02:30

Dawn O'Porter
Dawn O'Porter
Hollywood couple: Dawn O'Porter with husband Chris O'Dowd

Don’t disregard an item just because it’s not the right size or shape — buy it and alter it to fit.

Buy clothes you love

Vintage is timeless and, if you give it a go, you will rarely get bored with your wardrobe. I think a lot of people spend money on clothes they don't love, and there is a throwaway culture that encourages us to change our look every six months. Vintage fashion is about creating a sense of style that is different to everyone else, and buying pieces that you want to keep for ever. Be unique and invest in quality.

Get to know your tailor

Don't disregard an item just because it's not the right size or shape – buy it and alter it to fit. Use your imagination: if you find a dress in a fantastic pattern, but completely the wrong size, perhaps it could be transformed into a skirt or a blouse? If a brilliant shirt has a rip or stain on the arm, could it work sleeveless? I can tack a hem if I need to, but, for construction work, I take my garments to the tailor, who is the man in my local dry-cleaner. It's worth spending extra on making the piece fit perfectly. I recommend keeping the excess fabric for seam allowance when making a garment smaller, which means that the garment can always be taken out again if need be.

Find silhouettes to suit

Always try on vintage clothing, and, if you are shopping online – I love eBay and www.junosayshello.com – make sure you know your full measurements. I'm an apple shape, which means I carry most of my weight around the middle. My go-to outfits are shift and empire-line dresses from the 1950s and 1960s that skim flatteringly over the tummy. For pear-shaped girls, pretty much anything A-line will look great, as it hides weight around the hips and thighs, or try a Dior New Look-inspired silhouette from the 1950s, with a defined waist and full skirt. A 1950s wiggle dress or a pencil skirt that accentuates the waist are brilliant for hourglass figures – a tight fit avoids a frumpy shape. A skinny frame can carry off the androgynous flapper look from the 1920s better than any other shape. Partner a loose dress with big heels for glamour.

Styling plus-size and petite shapes

For women who are size 16-plus, 1940s tea dresses are great because they are loose-fitting, but feminine. Buy trousers that fit you perfectly from the high street, and find a boldly patterned 1980s shift top to wear for a daytime look. Fabrics such as silk and jersey drape flatteringly over curves – look to Jean Muir's designs from the 1960s for inspiration. For petite girls, coats from the early 1960s are awesome, as the sleeves are three-quarter length and the detailing is minimal. A late-1950s hostess dress that gathers at the waist should fall around the knee on petite women. There's nothing better than wearing a 1970s maxi dress in the summer. If you are plus-sized or petite, avoid looking swamped by lots of fabric by choosing one that is slim-fitting and follows the shape of your body.

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