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Tips for Wearing Vintage Clothing

It's remarkable to see the impact The Great Gatsby has had on designers in recent seasons -- it started even when the movie was just announced. While current designers and collections offer many options for those of us enchanted with these styles, we can also go right to the source. Here are some more tips for shopping vintage.
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If you've flipped through May's magazines you will know that the fashion world is waiting with baited breath for this weekend's release of The Great Gatsby. The classic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald has been adapted by Baz Luhrman (of Moulin Rouge fame) and, if the trailer is anything to go by, it will be a visual and style spectacle.

It's remarkable to see the impact this one movie has had on designers in recent seasons -- it started even when the movie was just announced. Chanel Haute Couture, Oscar de la Renta, Miu Miu and Alexander McQueen are just some of the designers inspired by this era. Flapper-style dresses, dropped hemlines and luxe deco-inspired jewels started to make a big impact on runways that trickled all the way down to stores.

Now, with the release of the movie, Tiffany & Co. unveiled a new collection of jewels inspired by the latest adaptation...including the ring-to-wrist pearl and diamond stunner worn by Carrie Mulligan on the current Vogue cover.

But Gatsby isn't the only show on our screens making us nostalgic for the style of times past. Downton Abbey, now going into its fourth season, can be credited with some of the recent ladylike and romantic style motifs, delicate lace and long sleeves; a more restrained style sensibility characteristic of the decade just prior to the roaring 20s. So, from post-Edwardian Britain to 192's New York, it's definitely a throwback moment for fashion.

While current designers and collections offer many options for those of us enchanted with these styles, we can also go right to the source. On a recent trip to New York, I went searching for some authentic vintage finds. The appeal is quickly apparent; not only can you find something truly unique and beautifully made, but there's also a sense of history and character to the piece. I love the idea of mixing a vintage piece of clothing or jewelry with my more current and contemporary pieces.

Sometimes, I even think about their original owner -- wondering how differently we're wearing the same piece, how different our lives are. There's something magical and mysterious about the connection to a woman you know nothing about other than that you wore and loved the same piece of clothing or jewelry and that somehow it has lasted all this time.

But there's another reason to think about shopping for a vintage piece; it is both ethical and green. I'm not saying that I'm only ever going to wear vintage clothes... but shopping occasionally for vintage is a small way of buying something lasting and special. Two of the stores I loved in New York were Melet Mercantile and A Second Chance.

But, of course, you don't have to travel to New York to find amazing vintage finds! Websites like 1stDibs have an entire vintage fashion section and, of course, there are finds to discover on eBay and Etsy too. If you're shopping for vintage designer items, authenticity and condition will be key. Although, you might happen upon a lucky find, vintage designer items are just as likely to give you sticker shock as new ones!

Here are some more tips for shopping vintage:

(1) Follow your heart and your style: When you're submersed in that vintage shopping experience, it's easy to lose sight of your own style. Remember you're not looking for a period costume, but for something that can be incorporated into your existing wardrobe. For me, this means sticking to my trademark palette of black. Think about how you'll wear the vintage item, how you can update it (with either complementary or juxtaposing items). Vintage is one area where you can really follow your heart and make that impulse purchase because if you wait, you'll never find that item again.

(2) Ignore sizes and embrace alterations: We all know that sizing has crept up in recent years. This means that what was a size 6 in past decades may be significantly smaller that what we call a size 6 today. If you're buying online, ask the seller for waist and bust measurements to be confident the item will fit. If you're buying in person, be sure to try on. Most vintage store-owners can also make recommendations about where small repairs and alterations can be made on a piece too. Don't rule out a little bit of tailoring to get that perfect fit!

(3) Make a statement: With so many options for great basics in every style, shape and colour today, look specifically for something DIFFERENT when you're shopping vintage. Seek out bold accessories and embellished clothing, like beading or lace work. Your vintage piece should be a conversation starter... and one secret you'll gleefully share!

Vintage style is not just something to admire on the silver screen. With a little exploration and experimentation, you can give a vintage piece a new lease on life, a loving home and in the process, give yourself a new fashion outlook!

I'd love to know what past styles and decades inspire you and what your favourite vintage sources are... feel free to share in the comments below!