Andrea wears a vintage beaded dress from the 1920’s.
We recently visited our good friend, Andrea Kaplan, in her Baltimore consignment shop, Love Me Two Times, to learn more about vintage clothing. Andrea has been collecting vintage clothes since the 1980’s and she has several vintage racks in her shop. Here are some of Andrea’s tips for buying and wearing vintage:
Know your body type. Different body types were popular in different decades and women were generally a bit smaller. Ignore the size tags in vintage clothing because they are completely different from today’s sizing and there is no formula for conversion. If you are skinny and have a flat chest you are more likely to fit in clothes from the 20’s or 60’s. In the 20’s flappers were rebelling against the stuffiness of the early 1900’s and got rid of their corsets and cut their hair into short, androgynous bobs. They even wore special bras to bind their breasts. In the 60’s, Twiggy popularized a similar androgynous look with the pixie cut and mini skirts over her bone thin body.
In the 40’s, women like Joan Crawford and Lauren Bacall were statuesque and wore dresses with nipped in waists with big shoulder pads. This look reappeared in the 80’s and is starting to come back again.
If you are very curvy with an hourglass figure you should try looking for pieces from the 50’s like fit and flare dresses. Marilyn Monroe exemplified this look. Women celebrated their curves and they weren’t obsessed with working out and muscles like many of today’s women.
Know what to look for. You have to carefully inspect vintage garments and check the seams and the buttons and the fabric. Don’t buy anything that’s dry rot or threadbare because you can never revive a dying fabric. Silk is an example of a fabric that tends to disintegrate if it isn’t properly cared for. Another fabric to avoid is polyester, which was very popular in the 70’s, because it traps odor. Deodorant wasn’t used by the masses until around the 50’s- women used to wear dress shields- so you should always check a garment’s underarms for perspiration stains. This is one reason that original silk jersey Pucci dresses from the 60’s are so covetable when they are in good condition and not covered in perspiration stains.
Make it your own. You must have a good tailor. Good fabrics are very alterable. You can add shoulder pads to a vintage jacket to add structure or alter something to hug your body. The best way to make a vintage piece look modern is to tailor it to your figure and reinterpret it to fit your personality. Also, you should never wear head to toe vintage unless you are going to a costume party. Instead, mix and match a vintage piece with modern pieces and high and low end pieces.
Know where to shop. Ebay is a wonderful resource if you know what you are doing and often has better deals than sites like 1stdibs. In New York City, New York Vintage has a wonderful selection of wearable and costume pieces in amazing condition. In LA, The Way We Wore has some of the best vintage I’ve come across, as does Relic in London. Paris is famous for its vintage but its extremely expensive. Also, charity shops in London tend to have a nice selection of high-end vintage. And of course, Love Me Two Times gets high-end vintage pieces in amazing condition all the time. We’ve had pieces by Ossie Clark, Pierre Cardin, and YSL. We had a very collectible piece by Irene who was a studio designer for MGM from 1950-1962 and had a salon in Neiman Marcus. That dress was nude with a black lace overlay and it was simply exquisite. Right now we have a gorgeous black beaded gown by Bob Mackie in perfect condition that looks like something Cher wore. We also have a stunning 1920’s flapper gown made of beaded mesh from a Parisian label called Bab-La Robe de Jeunesse. Dresses from that label start at $1500. But we also have vintage pieces starting at $20.
Photo by Miss Gilley.