The Versatility of Vintage

Both an alliteration and a fun fashion hack!

One year ago, I was frightened by the word vintage. Thrifting, Goodwill, second-hand shopping, the whole shebang. Wait, what?? 

When I was a mere 18 year-old, first entering the pits of college and living in a city (D.C., if you didn't know) for the first time, the idea of buying clothing that had already been worn freaked me out. Coming from a suburb of North Atlanta, I only knew Goodwill, or the southern-suburban version of Goodwill, to be more exact. What a scary place! I didn't know that good vintage finds existed. Yes, suburban Goodwills are filled to the brim with good (and cheap) buys, but that required the right amount of time, a ton of energy, and a specific mood that consisted of being able to be open to anything. Way too many requirements, if you ask me.

But then I went to Seattle this March, and everything changed. I learned that the certain art of thrifting actually wasn't that difficult to master—you just have to be really open minded and be willing to wear pieces in different, at times unexpected, ways. These are the things you're taught your entire life if you're raised by thrifting pros, but I wasn't so lucky. My mom was so unknowledgeable on the subject of vintage fashion that she even got rid of most of her wardrobe from the '70s, '80s, and '90s, assuming it would be worthless now. After some short-term anger at this act, I realized I was being a hypocrite—I don't even like vintage clothing. Why would I be mad at her for depleting her closet that was a thrifter's dream when I didn't even own thrifted clothing myself?

So—back to Seattle. This city is filled to the brim with thrift stores that charge you at reasonable prices (unlike NYC) and usually have excellent finds, unlike the suburban stores I was used to. My first official thrifted piece of clothing was my pair of vintage Levi shorts (which will be showcased below!), presumably coming from the early '90s, that started from way above my belly-button, just how I liked them, but reached to the very top of my knee caps. An awkward length, if you ask me. So my first thrifting lesson was applied—always be ready to tailor your thrifted pieces. The scissors came out, and I cut them myself that very day, transforming them from '90s mom to trendy NY summer blogger. I finally felt like a real thrifter, then the purchases kept coming. One vintage coach purse for only $3 and one black silk bandana later, I finally hopped aboard the thrifting train.

Living in New York this summer changed everything, too. It was a whole different game there—thrift stores practically raided the East Village, Williamsburg, and Bushwick, but each borough brought out a different kind of thrifting. Manhattan's was far too overpriced but carried designer brands (from Acne to Alexander Wang) and those it-pieces that every editor and blogger were wearing on a day-to-day basis. Bushwick was fortunately the opposite—similar to Seattle with the pricing, but a bit more East coast than PNW. Williamsburg fell right in between, where many shops were overpriced but held more of an artist vibe than a fashionista's. This plethora of options upped my vintage game even further, opening my world view to other outlets, like buying vintage through Instagram (which is an excellent invention, by the way). The opportunities to buy used clothing are endless these days, making me love the concept even more, and I haven't even mentioned how sustainable it is!

Yes, it's obvious that you can buy vintage practically anywhere these days, but what about how we wear it?

Vintage Dress bought at Antoinette Vintage. Shoes by Urban Outfitters (similar here).

Above, you'll see me wearing a midi, almost maxi, vintage floral dress that slightly resembles a mix of cool grandma and Little House on the Prairie. How tf am I supposed to style this without looking like the aforementioned persona? I could wear it alone with slides and embrace this lewk, ooooor...

Shorts are vintage Levi's (remember the ones I talked about a few paragraphs ago?).

I could wear pants! I hope you all were thoroughly surprised by my big reveal. 

Almost exactly one year ago I wore a dress with jeans for the first time and I felt a bit funky, but in a cool, sartorial way, and now, 365(ish) days later I feel like I've mastered the art of this technique. It usually only works with button-down dresses (at least to my knowledge), pairing this with high-waited pants vs. low will most likely look better, and showing a tad bit of skin makes the combo even more interesting. However, my main point isn't how to style dresses in a ~kewler~ way, but how to style vintage in a non-traditional manner. Unbuttoning more than half of the Grandma-esque dress just transformed antique into edgy. Where's my that was easy button? Oh, also adding shorts in the mix makes it socially acceptable, but this step is not the key in my hypothesis. The key really only lies in the dress—it was designed to be worn fully-buttoned, but altering this construct and only buttoning six of what feels like a million can do so much. No scissors or stitches required! Reworking vintage doesn't only mean cutting the hem of those vintage jeans or fixing some broken seams; it could mean just wearing a piece in a way it's not designed to be worn. This is when it gets kind of freaky: aren't there technically an infinite amount of ways to wear something that differs from its intended manner? 

Another perk: wearing lengthy dresses this way makes you feel like you're wearing a sartorial cape, making you feel so much more powerful than a typical dress.

How do you rework your vintage pieces? Comment your thoughts below!

Photos shot by Brisa, back when I was living in NYC.

I Finally Understand Sartorial Uniforms

My first time ever using uniform in the context of style!

Mostly because I used to think the concept of a uniform is complete bullshit. Why would you want to follow a strict formula for dressing yourself when instead you could wear whatever the hell you want? I like the latter option better. With my opinion disregarded, the term has been used when discussing fashion ever since people started writing about fashion. I always viewed it, both in writing and real-life, as a cop-out—in writing, it would be the easiest route to dissect someone's style, and in real-life, it would be the easiest route to get dressed in the morning. Here are some examples in the media that always pissed me off:
And a whole. Lot. More. Just google "style uniform" and the results are endless. This isn't necessarily a critique of those publications, as all three of those are three of my favorite fashion websites. They're simply writing what their audiences want, as everyone and their mother seem to find the style uniform as the most groundbreaking thing since sliced bread. My love for them aside, I just couldn't agree with their statements. I always felt that the smartest way to dress is to do the opposite, and wear anything that feels right to you, sans all the uniform bullshit and fashion rules and overdone trends, etc etc etc. People like Leandra Medine enforced this in me, but then other people like Courtney Trop with her relaxed yet sophisticated LA signature look and Alyssa Coscarelli with her sartorial NYC look usually featuring classic bottoms (hello, Levi's) and super funky and usually vintage tops seem to have their shit together by (mostly) following the uniform route of dressing, and something sparked within me. 

Maybe I didn't entirely disagree with uniforms after all! Apart from the influencers I saw on IG that were killing it with their outfit recipes, I truly began to understand the concept when I saw many people in the CMG office this summer follow outfit recipes as well. One would base their outfits around their favorite pair of Levi's every single day, one would always show up in a thrifted midi dress with mules, and another would always have this sleek, London style, which varied upon outfits, but always consisted of her leather jacket and some form of slides. This might sound like stalking to some, but I'd rather call it "seeking outfit inspo," or more accurately, "outfit stalking." Then something within me clicked. 

You can have more than one style uniform! Who knew. 

And I don't mean just two or three or ten. I mean, like, an infinite amount of style uniforms. 

Only a select few have a single uniform and honestly, that's just boring. Ten can be boring, too. But in reality, in almost everyone's wardrobes, lies an infinite amount of uniforms. How mind-blowing is that! Before I get too tenth dimension on you all, I'm going to stop with all the infinite nonsense because even my brain doesn't know how to process that correctly. Instead, I'll approach it in this way: it's not about the number of uniforms you have, it's about how you approach your everyday look. I used to, and still do to an extent, approach my look by waking up, looking in my closet, and picking out what felt right. Easy as a slice of cherry pie, but also, what if you have no clue what feels right? Enter the uniform. 

Inside the tiny, or large, depending on who you are, sector of our brain that is reserved for all things personal style/self-expression is an infinite amount of style recipes. Reserved for those who aren't in the correct creative mind to pull an outfit out of literally nothing. We go running to that place when we need a crutch or need help from our imaginary fashion fairy god mother. It's like the more personal and private version of scrolling through Who What Wear or the style board on someone's Pinterest—it's not copying one's outfit, it's taking fashion schemas that we're already familiar with and remolding them to make them our own. For example, if I woke up one morning wanting to embody a nonchalant French girl who hates accessories and loves easy (but dressed-up) shoes, enter one style uniform: a statement midi + mules. Another example: if I woke up another morning being in a pants + t-shirt mood but really didn't feel like putting on jeans, enter a uniform consisting of a graphic tee and colorful trousers. And so on. Lately, especially this past summer in NYC, I've felt more of my outfits falling victim to being a sartorial uniform, which is almost necessary in a city where style is a requirement. Although I've left the city, I still feel the impact! So commence a style uniform I've just recently invented, perfect for those end-of-summer blues:

a. the jeans that are glued to my legs all summer (and fall and winter and spring), even in the hottest of days, because apparently I'm a jeans kind of gal now

b. a v minimal top, preferably one that is easy to tuck into above jeans and does not require a bra, but also anything that's way cooler than a plain white tee or tank

c. some kewl shoes!! ones that make those jeans POP

d. a layering piece that is my go-to jacket this summer and can be worn three ways: arms inside arm-holes, arms outside arm-holes, or tied around the waist

And voila. An outfit is formed. 

Jeans are vintage Levi's. Bodysuit by Reformation. Shoes by Creatures of Comfort (similar here). Jacket by Madewell.

I thought this would be a one-time ordeal after I bought these jeans, as I've never been a jeans person, well, ever. But the uniform concept really stuck! Ever since I copped these bad boys, I've worn them at least three times a week. Laundry has been happening more than it should be. There are many wonders of this new approach to dressing, or the sartorial uniform approach—you can do it in oh-so-many ways (imagine this instead with a cropped wrap top, a jean jacket the same shade as those pants, and grandma pumps!!), and it's only one of a katrillion style uniforms you have. You can wear the uniform more than once (which is what makes it a uniform, yes?), but you don't have to wear it every single day. Sounds like the best fashion compromise ever: when you're too lazy to actually produce an outfit with no help whatsoever, but don't want to be an outfit repeater, delve into your secret stash of uniforms that will always save the day. This one happens to be at the top of my list, as it's perfect for that transition into fall fashion when it's still hot outside. And it also is a friendly reminder that wearing the same piece more than once is actually a good thing. Why would you purchase something if you're only going to wear it a few times a year? 

So yes, after too much research, philosophical thinking, ranting, and even pulling evidence from my own sartorial decisions, I finally understand the style uniform. Do you finally get them, too? Or did everyone understand them all along, and it just took me this long?

Photos shot by Venesa.