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how to make vintage clothing work for you…

Oh Joy | How to Make Vintage Work for You

Oh Joy | How to Make Vintage Work for You

I have always loved the idea of vintage clothes because it's a great way to incorporate unique pieces into your wardrobe that you can't find just anywhere. But it took me many years of buying vintage (and not wearing the vintage pieces I bought) to realize that I just don't have the body type for vintage clothes. I have some friends (like Bri and Jen) who can wear it so well right off the rack. But vintage always tends to be too large or too small on me in certain areas. So, I finally figured out that if I really love a piece, I can make most of them work with easy alterations. A simple hem, cut of the sleeve, or taking in here and there, and it's instantly so much better…

Oh Joy | How to Make Vintage Work for You

Outfit 1: I loved the pattern on this skirt the instant I saw it, but it felt a little too formal with its length. By hemming the skirt just a few inches above the knee, it became more playful. Paired with a casual tee and jacket, the skirt is now the star of the outfit.

{Vintage skirt from Salvage Life, tee from Madewell (past season), denim jacket by Citizens of Humanity, vintage belt, shoes by Anthropologie}

Oh Joy | How to Make Vintage Work for You

Outfit 2: I'm telling you, these vintage patterns get me every time. This skirt was clearly way too big when I bought it, but the pleats and the pattern won me over. By simply shortening it (just above the knee is my favorite length) and bringing it in an inch on the sides, the skirt now fits like a glove.

{Vintage skirt from Salvage Life, chambray tee by Crewcuts (past season), vintage belt, shoes by Anthropologie.}

Oh Joy | How to Make Vintage Work for You

Outfit 3: The color of this skirt just blew my mind! It was way too long and had frumpy written all over it, but I knew I could make it work. I kept the length a little longer here to fall just below the knee, and now it's a flirty skirt that can be dressed up or dressed down.

{Vintage skirt from Arsenic Kitty, top by Boden, jacket from Anthropologie, vintage shoes.}

Oh Joy | How to Make Vintage Work for You

Outfit 4: This top screamed out my name with its fruity print and blast of color. But the fit was much less desirable. It felt too poufy as a long-sleeved top, so I decided to have the sleeves cut into a simple short-sleeve blouse and the sides brought in a bit. Now, it's a top with a summery punch of color that I'll love for years to come.

{Vintage blouse from Wear It Well Vintage, shorts by Whit (past season), sandals by Kate Spade (past season).}

All of a sudden, these frumpy pieces with patterns and colors that I love turned into well-tailored pieces I can actually wear. So I encourage you to think twice when you see a piece that isn't quite right. I spent about $15-20 on each of these alterations at my local dry cleaner. If the changes are pretty simple with a shortening of the hem, sleeves, or sides (and not major repairs), it's so worth having a great piece that's totally unique and totally you!

{Photos by Casey Brodley for Oh Joy}

72 comments

  1. Great post Joy! I’m a huge fan of wearing vintage. A little hemming goes a long way. I actually just hemmed one last night for my own before/after blog post!

  2. Thanks for the inspiration, Joy! I’m a big fan of discovering vintage fashion, but I’m so petite that I often have trouble finding pieces that work for me. I really need to find someone to do alterations! 🙂

  3. Thanks for the inspiration, Joy! I’m a big fan of discovering vintage fashion, but I’m so petite that I often have trouble finding pieces that work for me. I really need to find someone to do alterations! 🙂

  4. Thanks for the inspiration, Joy! I’m a big fan of discovering vintage fashion, but I’m so petite that I often have trouble finding pieces that work for me. I really need to find someone to do alterations! 🙂

  5. Thanks for the inspiration, Joy! I’m a big fan of discovering vintage fashion, but I’m so petite that I often have trouble finding pieces that work for me. I really need to find someone to do alterations! 🙂

  6. Thanks for the inspiration, Joy! I’m a big fan of discovering vintage fashion, but I’m so petite that I often have trouble finding pieces that work for me. I really need to find someone to do alterations! 🙂

  7. Thanks for the inspiration, Joy! I’m a big fan of discovering vintage fashion, but I’m so petite that I often have trouble finding pieces that work for me. I really need to find someone to do alterations! 🙂

  8. Thanks for the inspiration, Joy! I’m a big fan of discovering vintage fashion, but I’m so petite that I often have trouble finding pieces that work for me. I really need to find someone to do alterations! 🙂

  9. Thanks for the inspiration, Joy! I’m a big fan of discovering vintage fashion, but I’m so petite that I often have trouble finding pieces that work for me. I really need to find someone to do alterations! 🙂

  10. Thanks for the inspiration, Joy! I’m a big fan of discovering vintage fashion, but I’m so petite that I often have trouble finding pieces that work for me. I really need to find someone to do alterations! 🙂

  11. Thanks for the inspiration, Joy! I’m a big fan of discovering vintage fashion, but I’m so petite that I often have trouble finding pieces that work for me. I really need to find someone to do alterations! 🙂

  12. Great ideas! I’ve found many items at vintage stores that I love and I’ve saved a lot of money doing so. Gotta save money to finance my travel habit! 🙂

  13. I love how each of these little alterations made a huge difference in how these pieces fit and look! These are all great vintage pieces and great finds, too!

  14. I actually prefer most of the pieces in the before images. Ironically, even though they’re vintage, they look much more current before. The skirt length right above the knee just looks 40-year-old mom to me. 🙁

  15. Great post! Love the transformations!
    But my favorite part is your quote about the pink skirt:
    “The color of this skirt just blew my mind!” Love it and I totally know that feeling!

  16. How about “How to Make Vintage Sewing Machines Work for You”? I inherited 3 or 4 when we bought our house – the previous owner generously left us furniture he didn’t need in his new retirement apartment. And I have a massive pile of things to make alterations to!

  17. Hi Melanie,
    I use Hyperion Cleaners on Hyperion in Silver Lake. They are fine with simple alterations but I wouldnt take anything that needs more then a hem or a bit of sizing up/down there.
    Best!
    Joy

  18. HI Joy! Love your blog!! inspired to do some thrift shopping! I especially loved your blog on splurges for your 30’s. =) Hope you, Bob, and Ruby are enjoying Paris!

  19. Wow this is so great!!!!
    I always hear people say that tailoring is really a must but you have definitely proven it with this post!!! awesome

  20. these pieces are solid! I love the idea of wearing fun vintage but I too feel like I don’t have the body for it or the style, but I think this will give me some inspiration down the road!

  21. I love the before and after pics. You can really so how something so simple as hemming the skirt, or shortening the sleeves really transforms a frumpy vintage piece into something modern, fresh, and wearable.

  22. I am always nervous to chop up a piece that I love because I’m afraid of ruining it. Do you practice first? Do you have any tips for a newbie? I feel like I always end up settling for the so-so version because I’m afraid to risk wrecking it.

  23. I have to admit, my heart lurches a little when you cut off vintage. I love authentic wrote a fictional novel and blog (girlinthejitterbugdress.com) BUT…you really do look adorable! I love the green skirt the most. What era is each garment from? I hated the pink skirt (80s?), but cutting that made it totally wearable! Do you have any tricks for getting the hem straight?

  24. That last blouse looks like a million dollars just with the alterations you had done! Love this post, thank you! From another girl who loves vintage but never knew how to wear it!

  25. Your post is awesome, sometimes a little re-design goes a LONG way with vintage! I am the owner of a local vintage boutique in a college town and the fashion design students participate in our “vintage re-design” program, and often times amazed at their talent. Thanks for sharing.

  26. I noticed this throughout your blog (which I really do enjoy) but “its” when used in the possessive form actually doesn’t have an apostrophe. I hope you don’t mind my pointing it out. I would personally hope someone would tell me if I were making the same mistake. 🙂

  27. Hi Claire,
    Thank you! Yes, thank you for pointing out! I knew that but its one of those grammar rules that I tend to miss a lot 😉
    Best!
    Joy

  28. This was an amazingly helpful post! I’ve always wanted to pull off vintage clothes (because, like you mentioned, I love the patterns!) but I have the same issues as your “before” photos. Thanks for the great visuals and ideas!

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