Building Your Vintage Style Winter Wardrobe

Dressing Vintage in the cold times of the year seems to be an enigma for many. On one hand, you wouldn’t think twice about what you should wear in the cold if you were just wearing modern clothing, but somehow that ingrained knowledge doesn’t seem to translate over when vintage clothing is put into the equation.

Instead of allowing yourself to get stressed over the unknown, let’s revisit the concepts that are not so foreign to us, as well as take a look at what your personal clothing requirements are.

What do you need your clothes to do for you?

Where do you spend most of your day? Inside? Outside? Upside down? (wait… I think that’s from a book…) That is the first factor in narrowing down and building up your vintage wardrobe. You must determine what you need your clothes to do for YOU. I’ll put it into an example here:

I need to go outside and shovel snow so, I will need clothes that keep me warm and are easy to move around in. If I were going to throw on modern clothes, that would probably consist of some long johns, jeans, boots, a long-sleeved shirt (or a few), a sweatshirt, and a jacket. I’d also most likely have a hat, scarf, and gloves. The key now is to evaluate that outfit and replace each applicable item with a vintage or repro version of it. Starting at the top is a hat. While your modern version may have a bright rainbow pompon, a retro one may have a different shape and color scheme. You can knit or crochet your own, or find one on Etsy or eBay that suits your style. The same goes for scarves, and gloves haven’t changed that much in design over the years, but rather material. Leather or slender gloves made of thinsulate are my personal favorites.

Now we move to the jacket. It is easy to get swept away by all of the beautiful swing coats and princess coats that you can find for sale nowadays but sometimes you need to think purely about practicality and realize that practical items DID EXIST back in the 1930’s-1960’s.

Wool peacoats and sherpa lined bomber style jackets were absolutely worn back in the day and if I were the one picking out a jacket with vintage flair, knowing that I was going to be doing something less than glamorous, I would opt for a lined wool or leather bomber jacket.

I would layer up on long-sleeved cotton or wool shirts under it and probably top it with a wool cardigan or sweater. Moving down the body, we come to pants. If I would opt for jeans in modern day, there is no reason I couldn’t opt for its vintage counterpart of high waisted denim pants. Under said pants, I would once again layer up with cotton or wool long johns and cozy socks.

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On my feet, I would wear Duck boots- a utilitarian style that has been around since 1912 and has been a popular option since then for messy jobs. L.L. Bean is an excellent company to find these boots.

Say you are not the one that shovels the snow. Say you work from home or in an office and you don’t have a particular need for the more “utilitarian” style clothing. Say you live the type of life that allows you to just dress beautifully but you don’t want to freeze during the times you do venture outside to commute, or the heat is not quite set high enough in your office building. Again, the layering concept is the same. This time, you should truly assess your undergarment choices.

double layered tights

Longline bras without mesh, girdles, and underwear made of cotton are great choices in the winter. You may not feel that these foundation garments would add a lot of extra warmth but they definitely do. (Now is the time to think back to that one summer when you were saying “oh my God, I’m so hot in this girdle”…) Put over that a thin cotton shirt and a satin slip, and you already have 3 layers of clothing to keep you warm before even getting dressed. Over these foundations, you will add your outer layers- be it a blouse or a dress, and over that still a knitted cardigan.

long johns under trousers

If you wear trousers, you can add a thin pair of smooth thermals under them. Assuming you are wearing a skirt or dress, you can look for wool stockings or tights that you can wear over nylons to avoid the itchiness. Alternately, you can look for fleece lined tights in the color of your choice, as well as fleece lined leggings if you want a more opaque coverage. Layering your tights is also an excellent alternative. Fleece lined tights first, topped with knit cotton tights is fabulous for keeping your legs warm. A long coat can be used to finish off your ensemble and keep the wind at bay.

long skirts to keep the wind out

Pay attention to the length of your winter wear, as a skirt that is long enough (say mid shin) coupled with warm tights or leggings can be just as warm if not warmer than pants. A cute pair of wedge booties that go to the ankle or higher will help keep your feet warm as well.

You don’t need a lot of vintage or repro clothes to get you through the winter. Keep in mind that we own far more clothes in modern day than men and women owned in the 30’s-60’s. By sticking to a color palette and picking items that can be paired with multiple things, you will be able to create a very large set of combinations.

Start by figuring out your needs, and try styling your modern clothes in a vintage way, then fill in the gaps.

Have more specific questions? I’d love to hear from you!

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