And the answer is, anyway you want to! Especially if you’re looking for a great way to spice up your wardrobe. I freely admit that 40 is in the distant past for me , yet I wear something vintage almost everyday, and on many occasions actually go out in a head to toe vintage outfit. Imagine that!
But on numerous occasions I have had over 40 gals tell me though they love the look of vintage fashions, they’re afraid they are too old to wear it. Seriously? I constantly see women of a “certain age” wearing mini skirts with bare legs, tops and dresses with plunging necklines, distressed, torn, low rise skinny jeans, or a myriad of of other styles many would consider a younger look. In contrast, many of the clothes from past eras are classic, chic, feminine and sophisticated. In other words, perfectly suited for a “grown up”. So why this mindset about wearing vintage if you’re older is puzzling to me.
There are many articles online about how to dress if you are over 40, some of which include tips on how to wear vintage. As a matter of fact, this article, written by Jessica Cangiano, of the Chronically Vintage blog, and this one by Maggie Wilds of DeniseBrain Vintage Clothing are two of the most comprehensive I’ve seen on the subject and offers many great tips.
Many other articles I’ve read are based on what you can’t or shouldn’t wear if you are over 40. But these articles are based on only one person’s opinion of how someone else should look and dress. To me, fashion should always be about having fun and be a creative way of expressing your individuality. Whether you’re young, middle aged or older, you should wear what makes you feel good. And when you feel good, whatever you wear, you’ll wear with confidence. And you will radiate that confidence out into the world!
Sure, the possibility always exists that someone else may look at you and think “I would never be seen in that outfit!” People make judgments everyday about other peoples’ appearances. For instance, I think far too many Americans dress in a sloppy manner these days. I would much rather see a woman (or man) in a full on vintage outfit, than baggy sweatpants, T shirt and flip flops anyday! But those who enjoy dressing in such an extremely casual way, it’s their right to wear whatever the heck they want, regardless of whether I or anyone else approves.
So when you really think about it, vintage clothing is just another fashion option. And just like any fashion option it can be made to work for any age or body type. And though fashions from the past are being re-interpreted every season by designers, with true vintage clothing you get a distinctive, one of a kind look, cooler fabrics, prints and interesting design details that you don’t see in modern clothing and often much better construction. Also, if you’re like me, and loathe shopping in big box stores or the idea of looking like everyone else, vintage is the perfect solution for sure!
So what I’ve endeavored to do here is to feature some over 40 gals (including moi!) who regularly incorporate vintage into their wardrobe. My goal is to inspire women of this age group, who haven’t dipped their toes in the vintage pool yet, to dive in!
These ladies are all fellow members of the Vintage Fashion Guild and all over 40. So when it comes to vintage fashion, they know their stuff….. and they know how to wear it!
Jen Karpin has been wearing vintage clothing since she was 14! She owns Morning Glorious Vintage and you can see from these photos, she loves floral prints from different decades and does a fabulous job of styling her outfits.
•60s blue green floral silk maxi dress,
• In her wedding photo she’s wearing a polished cotton 50s floral dress. Accessorized with pink vintage cardigan, flower hat and Re Mix vintage reproduction shoes,
•At a country fair with her folks, Jen in a 1940s rayon palm tree print dress accessorized with 40s tilt hat and bakelite trimmed bag,
•Close up of Jen wearing a black floral 40s rayon dress with an illusion neckline.
Carrie owns Curio Vintage, which is an online shop at Ruby Lane and a brick and mortar store in Waltham, Mass. She wears vintage about 50% of the time. These two outfits were worn while on a Mediterranean cruise.
•The 1940s floral rayon gown was worn for one of the formal dinner nights on the cruise.
•And her favorite dotted 1950s cotton sundress worn for a day trip in Turkey! The wide brimmed 1970s Missoni hat shielded her from the blazing hot sun!
Here’s what Carrie has to say about choosing vintage pieces for her wardrobe.
“I mix decades freely, though often what is easiest is to combine things from one decade with things from another, which references or “revives” it (i.e. 70s does 40s suit with 30s/40s jewelry.) This works for me because I have an easier time finding things that fit than if I limit myself to a single decade, particularly an earlier one. For everyday wear 50s and later tends to be sturdier.”
On the about page of Sunny’s Etsy shop, Luna Junction , she states she is a purveyor of “Outside the box fashion”, which I think is an excellent way to describe her store and her style! Here she combined vintage with modern, feminine with masculine to create a very smart menswear inspired look.
•Alencon lace blouse from the 1950s
•Mens’ vintage trousers circa 40s/50s
•1940s ladies black suede oxfords,
•1980s Betmar hat
•Contemporary black jacket.
Sunny’s says- “I’m not a purist. I prefer a mix-up. My take on vintage is that it’s not THAT you wear it, but HOW you wear it.”
Suzanne of Another Time Vintage Apparel/Bette’s Bargains Vintage is another creative dresser who knows a thing or three about mixing it up with vintage for a unique look.
•Black and white 50s full skirt dress in a very cool graphic print worn with a 1950s cardigan.
•1960s all lace “baby doll” dress over leggings. 70s designer belt and vintage 60s eyeglasses.
•1930s black silk bias cut gown with a 1920s kimono robe with embroidery and fringe.
Linn has an amazing collection of vintage costume jewelry that she sells here. She mixes authentic vintage into her wardrobe, and wears full on vintage for special events. Or course she wears vintage jewelry everyday!
•She loves wearing vintage skirts paired with modern tops/tees, like the outfit on left.
•At an event in a 1930s evening gown with jacket. She also pinned a vintage brooch on a modern purse.
•A magnificient vintage Alfred Shaheen Hawaiian dress worn to an exhibit of 50 Years of Fashion in Hawaii.
Laurie Pastor is the owner of Jazzbug Jam, an Esty shop selling vintage clothes and housewares. Here she looks polished and ladylike for a day of shopping with her husband at the Farmer’s Market in downtown Greenville, S.C .
•Authentic 1950s gingham check dress
•1930s bow tie pin at neckline.
•Carrying a 1950s purse and a colorful green striped modern tote.
•Gorgeous Peter Fox spectator slingbacks that go perfectly with her dress!
Maggie not only sells her fabulous vintage finds at DeniseBrain Vintage Clothing, but she is also a French horn player and teacher! So naturally many pieces in her personal vintage fashion collection are “horn themed”. A really fun way to celebrate her two passions! And her simple black vintage cardigan is the perfect canvas for her vintage horn brooch collection! A great idea if you have a bunch of vintage pins you want to show off and surely a conversation starter!
Nicole Jenkins is a fashion historian, writer, educator, costume designer and owner of Circa Vintage Clothing in Melbourne Australia. She has been selling vintage since the 1980s and her latest book is called Style is Eternal, where she offers women ways to transform their wardrobe from faddish to stylish.
Nicole is also an expert at vintage styling, including hair and makeup. These two photos feature her in two floral print dresses.
•On left she’s wearing a Saybrook rayon dressing gown, circa 30s/40s. Rayon from that period is silky and cool to the touch and has a lovely drape to it. And the style works beautifully for a modern day dressier type event.
•The dress on right is modern vintage inspired, paired with authentic vintage accessories.
Never underestimate the impact a stunning vintage hat will have on your overall look. It’s a surefire way to add some serious panache to any outfit!
Barbara, owner of Rue De La Paix, specializes in vintage millinery and also wears hats from her personal collection on a regular basis.
•Barbara on left in one of her favorite hats, from 1925.
•On right she is wearing a reproduction of an Edwardian suit worn with an authentic Edwardian jewelry, hat from 1913, and purse from late 1900’s.
And here are photos of me in a few of my favorite vintage dresses. Because I reside in Florida I often like to wear sundresses, especially vintage Hawaiian dresses and cotton dresses that were made in Florida in the 1950s and 60s.
I like to wear this style of fit and flared dress because it works for a pear shaped figure, which I have. I’m bigger in the hips than on top. So the full skirt disguises and gives you more of an hourglass look.
•Left is a 1950s blue floral strapless dress with white pique pleated bust by Alfred Shaheen. Worn with new denim wedge sandals.
•Middle is a burgundy and black silk print party dress worn with a vintage brooch and cranberry red patent leather 60s stilettos.
•On right is olive green, black and turquoise abstract print 50s Hawaiian dress in silky rayon by Kahala. Worn with black suede 40s peep toe heels.
So as you can see from the above, when it comes to being over 40 and wearing vintage, there are certainly no hard and fast rules. Whether you want to go head to toe vintage, mix up your decades or mix vintage with new, the options are endless. Once you decide to cross over to the vintage side, you’ll realize just how liberating it is fashion wise, and how creative you can be. You’re free to wear what you feel works best for you, rather than being stuck with whatever the “latest” trend is being sold in stores at the moment.
And, though shopping for the right vintage piece takes more effort than just driving to the nearest mall and choosing from racks of current styles, the effort is completely worth it. Just like those who hunt for beautiful, one of a kind antiques to decorate their home, the thrill of shopping for vintage clothing is all about finding that special something to add to your wardrobe, something with a history, something fabulous and unique that you know no one else will have and will last much, much longer than most of the fast fashion of today.
And I want to thank all the lovely ladies from the VFG who were kind enough to share their vintage outfit photos with me!