Vintage Here, Vintage There: How I Do Vintage

Vintage Here, Vintage There
Rubyellen of Cakies and I have been posting peeks into our vintage wardrobe each week for a few months now and have both really enjoyed this reason to put a little more effort into how we present ourselves. As a work-at-home mom it's really easy for me to go three days in a row without leaving the house and with something or someone always needing some attention it's easy to forgo a shower and throw the hair up in a messy bun one more morning (yes, I did that today!). Vintage Here, Vintage There has been my reason to create new ensembles, learn how to mix vintage with new pieces, find out how to dress for my body type, and how to have fun with my wardrobe again.

Two babies later and things were looking frumpy, ya'll! I didn't want to spend money on clothing that I didn't feel pretty in and was always telling myself that I needed to wait until I lost more weight to go shopping. So it was jeans and hoodies for winter and boyfriend tees and jeans in the summer. Boring.

A Reason To Dress Up
I realized that dresses were slightly more flattering than my usual uniform but didn't have the money to buy a ton of dresses at the mall or online. I'm thankful to live in a town where vintage clothing is still slightly available if you look long enough and hard enough in thrift stores. Thankfully the curated vintage shops also have a fantastic selection for those on a budget.

It's healthy to know what you can afford to spend on clothing each month so that when you come across something locally or online you can make a smart choice about whether to grab it or wait. Other than a couple of skinny jeans and a few sweaters for everyday home wear I haven't spent much on new clothing this winter. I have a collection of cardigans and tights from the last two seasons that are still in good shape so other than a new pair of snow boots and replacement black flats I'm being relatively thrifty. This makes it easier for me to feel confident about spending money on vintage pieces in town.

Thrifted Vintage Dresses
Here are a few examples of dresses (above) I picked up last week and what I paid for them to give you an idea of what I'm willing to spend on something. I don't run across vintage dresses that fit every week so I was over the moon when Mallory and I discovered a few on our recent venture out.

These three dresses are what I would consider everyday wear dresses. The two darker ones are pretty neutral in my opinion and could be worn with a variety of cardigans and sweaters in the colder months and on their own in the spring and summer. The floral dress is a little more fun but I wouldn't wear it quite so often since it has a memorable print. I paid between $9 and $13 for these three and other than a slight hole near the zipper in one and two of them needing hemming, they're quite the bargain. Even for Springfield!

The Special Parts
The navy dress was made of a slightly sheer fabric so I'll have to wear a slip under it but the sleeves were my favorite part! Usually I don't find local dresses that are that interesting for that price so I went ahead and got all three. If I find something at a thrift store I will pay up to $15 for it. Anything more than that at a thrift and I have to walk away unless it's amazing. Usually they aren't.

Found at the Red Velvet Dress Shoppe
The next three dresses are examples of dresses I'd be willing to pay a little more for because they were in such great shape, had interesting details and beautiful prints. Pardon the wrinkles but I had them in my trunk on the way home. I found these three at the Red Velvet Dress Shoppe last weekend and thanks to a gift certificate was able to take them home! They were between $42 and $48 retail at the shop. Had I been spending money, I would've purchased any one of these for that price for the reasons above but probably only one. The great thing about shopping in vintage clothing stores, whether it be online or brick and mortar, is that the selection is such much more dense, they've brought it all to you, and usually they are more unique items.

I've never paid more than $50 for a vintage dress for myself but up until recently have never really needed to. Since I've been focusing on building my wardrobe rather than filling in some gaps I would save that price range for something extra special. I'm in the market for something specific for Elsie's wedding in May and can't wait to not only wear it there but have a bit of a fancier dress for special occasions. It's probably one of the only times when the whole 'you can wear it again' saying will actually apply!

Thrifted Vintage Sweaters
Our local thrift shops tend to have a decent amount of vintage sweaters but I haven't started buying them until recently. I found the cream sweater above for about $1.50 at a flea market while visiting my in-laws and the other two at a local flea market for $9 and $11. The cropped one fits like a glove and is what I wore in my vintage post from this weekend. The blue one is a men's medium and I'll probably pair it with skinny jeans and boots one of these more relaxed days. It reminds me so much of California!

Etsy Purchases
When it comes to vintage for Ruby I am more willing to pick up anything I see that I love. I have had great luck in Springfield and the surrounding areas and always, always hit up a flea market or thrift shop on every single road trip we take. I'm thankful for a husband that appreciates not only the value of spending less on thrifted items that are unique but how much fun it is for me.

The three dresses above were purchased on Etsy over the last eight months. I have a ton of dresses favorited but really only pull the trigger if it's a special dress and less than $15 (ish). I tend to go for bold or bright colors, styles from the 50's and 60's, and nothing polyester. I have collected quite a stash of red, white, and blue but can hardly resist something in yellow.

Thrifted Locally
The two dresses above were found locally at thrift stores and are examples of things that seem to be plentiful (at least around here) and things that are kind of lucky finds. The pink dress is a pretty standard 1950's style with a peter pan collar and puffed sleeves. I rarely pay more than $4 for something local but only because they are rarely priced higher than that. The white dress has embroidery on it and was in mint condition. I think I paid $3 at Goodwill for that one.

I've been collecting dresses for Ruby since I found out we were having a girl but most things that I fall for are in the 18 months to 3T range so she's just recently been able to fit into things I've had for months. I don't buy anything bigger than that but probably will in another year or so.

As far as shoes go, I rarely have luck. I've found three great pair of vintage shoes in my life that I've worn almost daily. Two of them are shown above (both pair of mocs) and the third were a pair of Frye boots that I sold while we lived in Seattle because they no longer fit my pregnant feet. The woven Trotters above are sure to be a spring/summer favorite and the green ones are just now making an appearance in the wardrobe. I think I paid $4 for both pairs of boots, $2.50 for the moccasins, and less than $10 for the other two shown above. I'm still learning about vintage shoe measurements but there is SUCH a good selection of vintage shoes online. Just type in your size and the style you're looking for and you've got at least ten to search through!

Ruby's Shoes
Ruby has four pair of vintage shoes, two of which she can wear and two that she'll grow into. The red ones above are mine from when I was a baby and are starting to get too snug. It's hard for me to justify spending a lot of money on shoes in general for kids at this age since their feet grow so fast but buying vintage for her online is much less of a gamble since most kids' sizing is standard and I can usually find something I like.

My Only Vintage Dress
Shopping online can feel intimidating if you aren't sure of your measurements. Elsie wrote an informative post here on how to find your measurements and I can attest to how helpful it can be to carry a tape measurer when making a decision about a dress! It's hard to imagine that a few months ago this was the only vintage dress I owned. I bought it for the print and the coloring and it even worked about five months into my pregnancy with Ruby! It's a little loose these days but it'll always be my favorite.

A few tips from experience:

* look often
* know what you're willing/able to spend
* know your measurements
* understand cuts that flatter your body type
* check it's condition (or read the description)
* only buy it if you love it
* expect to get what you pay for (bigger bucks usually equals better pieces)

A few of my favorite online shops for adults: Red Velvet, Bleubird Vintage, Adelaide Homesewn, Salvage Life, Dear Golden Vintage, Vested Bee Vintage, Girl Least Likely, Flour Clothing, Bloom Street Vintage

A few of my favorite online shops for kids: Frecklewonder, Lishyloo, 3RingCircus, Hart and Sew, OhSydney, MiskaBelly

Go see what Rubyellen says on this topic and check out her favorite links as well. I hope this was helpful! Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for finding the best vintage at the lowest price every time but I'm thankful that the search is half the fun! If you have any further questions feel free to share them in the comments section of this post and I'll try to get back to them either here or in a future post.



Angie said...

Thank you for this truly inspiring post! I mentioned filling frumpy all the time previously and when thrift shopping today. We kind of rushed the process, so I didn't look as long and hard. But I totally feel like you did before. It describes me perfectly, minus two kids. I'm definitely jeans and tees, and sweaters in winter. Plain jane. I loved this post! and of course love the others. :D xoxo angie @ angiedmac.blogspot.com

Laura said...

Thanks for sharing all of this wonderful information and helpful hints! I'm a big fan of vintage clothing too. I find it wasteful to buy new clothes when there are so many perfectly great pieces out there in need of a good home - and usually they have more character and originality anyway! I'll definitely have to look into the online shops you suggested since vintage shopping options around here aren't abundant - or always reasonably priced! Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post - I was surprised you've only been wearing vintage a few months; it's quite inspiring to hear as I've been buying vintage for years but still feel that my collection is measly in comparison to so many of the bloggers' I read!

Rachel - Firebird said...

A great post and loads of great tips. I'm a student and self-employed and could spend everyday in jeans and a hoodie. I *need* to make more effort more often. Thanks for being inspiring

BohemianDreams said...

Thank you for this very interesting message !!
It's unfortunate that in France there is not much vintage store, and the U.S. sites the charges are often too expensive.
I love coming to read.
Big kisses
Fanny http://bohemiandreams.canalblog.com/

Ashley said...

Fabulous post! You have definitely inspired me!

Gingiber said...

Thanks so much for posting this! I am at that place where I need to love wearing clothes again, and I am really going to try and find a few vintage pieces for myself.

Silke said...

What a wonderful post Rachel ! You must have put a lot of time and effort into gathering all those pictures and information. Thank you for sharing it with us !

margot said...

there's a store near me that has really awesome stuff, but it's SO expensive. i'm talking like 150-200 for a dress.
i think this means i need to come visit for a shopping trip.
just saying.

great post btw!

larissa bree said...

thank you so much for this post! It makes me feel a little less lost about buying vintage!

Unknown said...

This was sooo very helpful! I'm still learning to develop my eye when it comes to looking at vintage dresses/clothing and seeing what they could be. I recently came across a blog called A Dress A Day (I'm sure this is probably old news to you) but I think it's super cool to see how she transforms mumus into something hip and wearable. I'm loving your growing collection! (oh, sad story, bought Ella a vintage Xmas dress online...only to throw the box away with the dress still in it...*sob*) :)

Monkey Moments said...

I am totally going to get dressed today! Temporarily in a wheelchair and I think I have been in jammies since Sunday!

SarahB said...

I ABSOLUTELY love this post!! I have recently been checking estate sales. kinds of weird, but they have a ton of great stuff.

Thank you for this post! Im sending people your way!!


 Amy said...

All such good advice. I find I struggle the most with thrifting budgets. I've just had the most incredible luck this winter and have spent WAY too much on vintage pieces, but I couldn't help it! They were all such incredible finds, and I couldn't bear to let them go. I figure, if you love it and you know you'll work it, then go for it! These pieces are so unique, and you just have to remember that it's an investment. :)


Ana said...

Thank you for sharing this amazing post Rachel! Loved it!!

DianneCS said...

LOVED this post! I have never been to your neck of the woods so I really like hearing tales of thrifting, junking, going out, and just general living. Thanks for sharing!

ringmaster said...


Rubyellen said...

good job! i love everything you talked about and i can't believe you found those three dresses at the thrift! seriously, you are my thrifting inspiration!!! and body type... totally forgot to talk about that! must add that in now!

Holly said...

Thanks for all the advice! I live in Seattle and was wondering what your favorite spots to find vintage were when you lived here. Any recommendations?

RachelDenbow said...


We were pretty poor in Seattle and with a new baby and working 7 days a week, we didn't get out much to thrift. We DID hit up the Fremont market regularly but other than that, I don't know of ANY.

Oh, but that Fremont market. My favorite Sunday afternoons were spent there.

sarah {on the brightside...} said...

i love all of those vintage finds! so lovely! i love vintage shoes, but i can never find any for my "big feet"... :(

& btw- i am having a winter giveaway on my blog right now, for a hand-knitted scarf!

to enter go here: http://thebrightsidestudio.blogspot.com/


Jenni Austria Germany said...

ah, ah, ah! the cardigans are my favorite.

Anonymous said...

love this!

i promise to always keep my prices low!


Alyssa Bee said...

Oh boy- now I'm itching to hit up my local thrifts! Such a great, informative post. Wondering if you take the time to handwash all of your vintage- or if you're okay with putting things in the washing machine?

Unknown said...

Thank you for your very informative posts. I'm a newbie thrifter (for vintage garb that is), and so far it has been VERY exciting. I LOVE the hunt!

Anyways, I have question for you. I do most of my thrift store shopping at places like goodwill & southern thrift, and don't hit up flea markets /antique stores that much b/c most of them aren't so conducive for my bulls in the china shops (my three boys - 6, 4, & 1). As you know, when your at goodwill you really have to dig to find something unique! With that being said, how do I know if something is actually "vintage," or just a new-age replica of something vintage. It seems as though a lot of designers are re-inventing the vintage look!

Sandra Winfrey

Unknown said...

so informative! thanks for all the helpful tips rachel! i think i need to start hunting for my first vintage dress now.

thursday said...

I loved this post Rachel! I've been feeling the same way about my drab wardrobe lately. Jeans, tshirt, yawn. When I go thrifting now I keep a keen eye out for vintage dresses that I can add to my regular roster. They're not the easiest thing to find. I'm also searching for shoes and boots and other accessories to fill out those pieces and make them not seem like the exact same outfit day after day.

Thanks for the food for thought. Even though I've been a thrifter my entire life I can't say I've always focussed on finding really interesting pieces of clothing.

suzy said...

Such a wonderful post! I could talk or listen to others talk vintage 24/7. I just love it!
When I had Elton I wore trackie pants every day. Every single day.
Every single day felt like Groundhog Day.
To me, it is so important as a Mum to take the time to throw something on that makes you feel special, not only for yourself but also to break the quiet and sometimes lonely routine of Groundhog Day.
I had a comment from another Mum "why would I dress up for when I just clean or do kid stuff?"
My answer was well because I am worth it.
I am not into saving dresses anymore for good. I wear them now. Every day is a good day. Even the crappy days. :)
As a Mum it is vital to feel good about yourself. If you feel good then you will be a better Mum.
Plus vintage for me is a godsend. Gone are the days of my old body. I have a different one now and vintage clothes are so flattering. The best tip I learnt from shopping vintage is to try and belt everything. You automatically lose kilos.
Thank you Rachel. You are a top Mum!

cedargirl said...

OK, this was really helpful and something I didn't even know that I needed to know! Thank you for sharing. I feel like I had a session with a personal shopper (or what I THINK it's like to havea personal shopper, lol). I am totally in the post baby# 3 frump zone and working on it!

virginia said...

oh so darling! love this post and all your cute things. stumbled on your blog today, and think its just the bees knees. xoxo

The Design Boards said...

Such a great and informative post, thank you for sharing!!!

Anonymous said...

What a massive post! Thank you so much for taking the time and effort that went into this. All the practical, hands on information is really helpful. And thanks for the link to Elsie's post. Given me a lot of food for thought -thanks!

Louise said...

This guide is sooo useful, thank you so much. I've spent a good hour going crazy on Etsy checking out your favourite vintage stores :)