Simple ways to look modern when wearing vintage

This time a year ago, I would never have given wearing vintage clothes a second thought.

I had long been stuck in a t-shirt and jeans rut and I knew I wanted a change, but nothing about knowing how to style an outfit comes naturally to me. Thankfully, this was around the time Pinterest began to fill our lives with so much inspiration (and envy!) that overhauling my wardrobe suddenly became much more accessible – even to a non-fashionista like me.

I soon discovered the world of collecting and wearing vintage clothing, and I immediately loved everything about it! In the same way that I love older homes, I love clothes from decades gone by because they offer a sense of character, history, and style that is hard to find on the racks at the mall. However, it soon became obvious that unless I wanted to look like I had walked off the set of That 70s Show, I was going to have to step up my styling!

Today, I want to share some tips I’ve picked up along the way. I’m aware that some readers of Simple Design are far more qualified than I am to speak to this, so consider this a beginner’s guide – from one beginner to another.

1. Collect Inspiration

For some people, styling clothing of any era is a natural-born talent. I am not one of those people, so I rely heavily on inspiration from others to figure out what looks right and what does not.

If you are starting to dip your toes into the polyester pool of vintage clothing, it’s really helpful to collect visual inspiration. Pinterest, of course, can be great for this. Unfortunately, I’ve found that the Pinterest app on my phone is a little bit unreliable when I am out shopping, so I keep a couple of notes on Evernote filled only with pictures of people wearing vintage looks that resonate with me. I can pull those up far more easily on the Evernote app, and it’s incredibly helpful to have that visual reminder.

2. Mix One Vintage Piece with One Modern Piece

Wearing a vintage piece of clothing along with at least one modern piece is the ultimate easiest way to begin wearing vintage!

Veronika of Tick Tock Vintage does this incredibly well and the end result gives her a unique style that is fresh and modern, but at the same time, has an unmistakable vintage flair:



3. Incorporate On-Trend Accessories

Sometimes, particularly when wearing a vintage dress or other head-to-toe vintage look, all you need is one bold accessory to immediately update the look.

Here, Kendi of Kendi Everyday adds a wide belt from Anthropologie to a vintage dress:


Elsie of A Beautiful Mess is another champion of styling vintage clothes. Wearing bold, modern striped tights with a floral print vintage dress creates a powerful statement:


For a more understated approach, consider how Rachel of the Etsy shop Eleven TwentyEight styled this 70s sundress by drawing on a current trend – the statement necklace:

(dress available here)

4. Pair Vintage Styling with Modern Clothes

Perhaps you aren’t quite ready to begin filling your wardrobe with vintage pieces from days gone by. That doesn’t mean you have to sit out the vintage trend altogether!

Inspiration abounds for ways to create a vintage look without darkening the door of a thrift shop.

Elizabeth of Delightfully Tacky added a handmade crown of flowers to her bcbg dress and created a breezy Flower Child look:


With her center-parted straight hair and denim + denim top and bottom, The Styling Dutchman Annebeth pulls off “laid-back seventies elegance” with completely modern pieces:


Finally, a vintage-inspired dress from a currently-popular clothing line paired with a sweet scarf evokes a darling vintage look for Tieka of Selective Potential:


As you can see, there are lots of ways to be imaginative and creative while trying to find your vintage-wearing groove. By focusing on a modern look, incorporating vintage looks into your fashion vernacular will help you feel less costume-y and more timeless!

What challenges have you overcome and what victories have you experienced in styling vintage looks for yourself? Who or what inspires you to blend the vintage and modern to create classic looks?


Megan Tietz wants you to join her on the front porch for some long talks and iced tea. She lives in the heart of Oklahoma City with her husband, two daughters, and twin sons. Catch up with her at Sorta Crunchy and join the conversation in her Facebook community.

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  1. I’m pretty clueless when it comes to fashion so I always appreciate step by step instructions with pictures. 🙂 Thanks!

    • Oh, Steph! I am the same way! I have to have pictures or I can’t grasp a concept. Glad to know this helped!

  2. Love love love all these looks. Adorable.

  3. Great tips! I just love the surprises that you can find when thrifting. It’s amazing how one new piece can rock your wardrobe in a whole new direction. ~K

    • There truly ARE so many surprises to be found, aren’t there? Such a thrill in finding a great new-to-you piece.

  4. Love these tips, Megan! The photos are great. You know I love to shop thrift stores for clothing bargains, but now I want to stretch out of my comfort zone and play around with vintage pieces.

  5. Oooh, I have some new style blogs to check out! Under the modern accessories category, I think current shoes can help integrate vintage pieces into a modern ensemble so it doesn’t look like a costume – unless, of course, you’re donning teal paisley hostess slippers that belonged to your grandmother in the 1960s…:)

  6. I’ve not yet hopped on the thrifting trend…but after reading this step by step post, I feel like I could!

  7. This makes my heart so happy! My heart races when I find a good vintage piece and then I start thinking about all the ways to style it. Some vintage pieces can be altered a little to update it, which makes me grateful for my sewing machine.

  8. First of all – you ARE a fashionista! These tips are great for beginners and non-beginners, because I don’t think there’s any woman out there that couldn’t always use some inspiration. Another ‘win’ in the Thrifting Is Awesome category – thank you! 🙂

  9. Thank you so much for the step-by-step guide! I would love to incorporate more vintage pieces to my look, but I always end up overwhelmed and not sure where to begin, plus, I’m afraid I’ll look like I came straight off Mad Men or That 70’s Show, and that’s NOT what I’m going for! Thanks again for making this simple!

    • It can be quite overwhelming. I think taking it slow and simple to start with makes it so much more approachable!

  10. my sister is the queen of this–her wardrobe is probably 80% secondhand and she always looks amazing. (did i ever link you to her magical vintage nyc wedding? cuz you would love.) i am not able now with my little ones to comb through thrift stores (or any stores!), but someday again…

    lovely eye candy, megan:)

  11. Loved this.

    Do you find most of your vintage clothes at thrift/consignment shops?

    I really want a pair of those high-waisted denim jeans that Veronika is wearing. So flattering.

    P.S. Next post, we want to see pictures of YOU in your favorite vintage finds. 🙂

  12. I loved all of the outfits

  13. Jennifer says:

    I love mixing vintage into my wardrobe. I just opened a vintage Etsy store, ServingUpFabulous, come by and take a look if you’re interested! 🙂

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