Advice for Looking Retro Sharp

Dec 04, 2012 at 6am

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San Francisco doesn't offer enough occasions to get all dressed up, but we like to think our formal dance series with Dusty Stax is a damn good excuse to get all fancy without being all fussy about it. We encourage guests to raid the closest – either their own or that of their favorite thrift and vintage shops – before hitting the dancefloor for a celebration of old soul and girl group classics. As a special feature before Saturday's Winter Wonderland formal, we asked one of our favorite local style hounds, Calivintage, to give us her advice on putting together a slammin' retro look. – Editors

With the Winter Formal right around the corner, I thought I'd offer a few tips and tricks for dressing-up vintage on this most opulent of occasions. Living in the Bay Area means you're probably well-versed in the art of thrift and vintage foraging, but for those of you who are feeling intimidated, I'm here to help. Buying vintage is an excellent alternative to expensive boutiques or fast-fashion chains and boasts brag-worthy qualities like "eco-friendly," "one of a kind," and "a total bargain." One only needs a push in the right direction to get started. 

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Dress for the History Books

There's no need to start rummaging through library archives to research historically accurate accessories, but I do find that it helps to pick an era as a reference point for your ensemble. Go all-out screen siren in a full-length gown, a fur stole, and a bold red lip, channel a Mad Men muse in a flirty '60s-inspired mini dress and a perfectly coiffed up-do, or go '50s bombshell with a bold red wiggle dress and costume jewels. 

Don't expect vintage to be perfect. Keep in mind that some of these pieces have lived much longer than you, and as a result, they may have a few flaws. Don't let a small tear in a seam or a musty smell deter you! A quick trip to the cleaners or a few stitches with a needle and thread are pretty much standard. I usually factor in the cost of a few quick alterations when considering the price of a piece that doesn't fit quite right. 

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New Fabric, Classic Style

When all else fails, buy vintage-inspired! Sometimes that perfect vintage piece just isn't in the stars, or even if you do find a stunner, it might not be your size. Many vintage dresses were tailor-made at local department stores, and alterations aren't always an option. Designers like Lauren MoffattRachel Antonoff, and Dear Creatures are heavily influenced by days gone by, and brands like Stop Staring!Bettie Page, and Bernie Dexter craft stunning vintage reproductions.

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Favorite Haunts

La Boutique (also pictured) will be co- hosting a holiday pop-up shop in partnership with The Bold Italic on December 6. If you're on the hunt for a fancy frock, I'll be selling this lace dress along with a small selection of sweet '60s and '70s dresses curated especially for the event. 

Other good spots: Pretty Penny (pictured), Mercy VintageStatic VintagePainted Bird, La Rosa Vintage, Thrift Town, and ModCloth.com, (Full disclosure: I work there).

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