There is a wonderful magazine called Vintage Life. It is full of glamorous ladies with perfectly rolled hair and rouged lips, they eat dainty vintage sandwiches off dainty little vintage china plates, they drive vintage cars and have vintage partners who grow period facial hair and wear waistcoats and braces.
The clue is in the magazine's title: vintage isn’t just pretty dresses, oh no, it is a way of life.
A “way of life” sounds scary. It suggests having to redecorate and constantly ask the question “is this authentic?”. It also hints at having to eat “vintage–inspired food” (Spam!) and listening to the Puppini Sister all of the time. It sounds a lot like signing up to a relatively trendy historical reenactment society. And there I was simply searching for tips on winged eyeliner…
No half-arsed girl would sign up for any society or way of life other than the half-arsed one (even that would be pushing it). But that doesn’t mean that she can’t have some vintage fun!
Vintage hair experts will tell you that it is all about the victory rolls and pin curls. These require patience, dexterity and a good working relationship with gravity. Assuming that these are somewhat lacking, may I introduce you to the heated rollers? Whack these in for thirty minutes (ideal for honing your Nora Batty impersonation), then remove, brush out and tease into shape. Twist and pin sections behind the ears to create instant forties glamour.
This video provides a useful tutorial on low maintenance forties hair using heated rollers:
Don’t worry about spending a small fortune on vintage style cosmetics – you probably already have all of the essentials in your make up bag.
Two words: red lipstick. Hardly groundbreaking but it is the cornerstone of most vintage make-up looks. It needs to be perfectly applied – I recommend using liner and a brush to give that polished finish. There honestly is a red lipstick for everyone and once you’ve found it you’ll want to wear it forever.
One word: eyeliner. Not the sloppily applied smudgy stuff, vintage eyeliner is precise and with an artful flick. This is hard because, again, it demands manual dexterity. There are stick-on eyeliner tapes available, like Eye Rock’s Designer Liner but the idea seems a bit weird, rather like walking around with bits of washi tape dangling off your eyelids. Alas, there is no half-arsed shortcut to perfect retro eyeliner. Instead, view it as a vital transferable life skill. Practice and it will pay dividends
Vintage shopping is supposedly an art form. It requires attention to detail, knowledge of period features and sizing as well as a keen eye for labels. Screw all of that – look for things that are so lovely that they make you weak at the knees. Be impulsive! But remember to check for rips, holes, jammed zips and nasty sweat marks. Set a budget and try everything on. If you think sizing is erratic in 2012, prepare yourself for things getting even more screwy.
If you get stuck with anything, ask the shop staff. The people who work in vintage shops LOVE their stock and love talking about it, they also often know a thing or two about accessorizing. Vintage accessories consist of things that can seem intimidating to our modern fashion mindset : gloves, brooches and hats – but these are the things that can make or break a look. The same applies to underwear. What Katie Did specialize in forties and fifties style lingerie and “foundation garments” (ahem). Whilst a bullet bra may seem rather extreme, think of it this way: wear it under a simple jumper and you’ve instantly gone from slobby girl to sweater girl.
If you don’t want to brave the vintage store or fair, check out sites like 20th Century Foxy, Tara Starlet and Vivien of Holloway for pretty but pricey vintage repro pieces.
Image va Gbaku's Flickr