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October 2000

by Gabby

Retro Chic

Everything is Retro these days. Five years ago we were making fun of what we used to wear in the 70's. Fifteen years ago it was the 60's fashions."Thank goodness bell bottom jeans went out of hips are big enough!" "Can you believe we used to wear those atrocious platform shoes???" "I'll never wear a mini-skirt! With my thunder thighs?"

Well, guess what, folks. Minis are back in style. Platform shoes and bell bottoms are back in style. Basically, fashion runs in cycles and in about 5 years we can expect to be wearing huge 80's style shoulder pads and teased up hair all over again. Nowadays, everything from linen Civil War gowns to Day-Glo disco wear qualifies as the mode du jour.

Bargain hunting for used fashions can be a fun hobby. You don't even have to leave the comfort of your home. Vintage clothing, consignment bargains and thrift-store finds can be hunted down online. Here are some tips for happy and successful secondhand shopping:

Size matters
Age will change the shape of a garment, and different eras suit different body types (consider 1900 big-busted, small-waisted garb vs. 1940s strong-shouldered looks). Match sizes to your own measurements and consider your body type when purchasing items online. If you’re hesitant, stick with one-size-fits-all items such as baggy sweaters, draw-string skirts and bowling shirts.

Be wary of wear-and-tear
Just because it’s been worn doesn’t mean it should look worn (or smell worn!). Read item descriptions carefully and be cautious with sites that don’t divulge product flaws. Some sites even offer a grading system to classify their stock’s condition.

Get hooked on classics
Building a wardrobe requires a foundation. Start with basic pieces and accessorize from there. If you’re going for a Dallas socialite’s high-powered '80s look, then pink Chanel suits and buckled Bally pumps are a must. The Hermes scarves, Louis Vuitton bags and Gucci baubles can come later.

Seek quality
A well-made item will stand the test of time. Look for marks of quality workmanship, such as full linings, covered buttons, welted buttonholes and hand-sewn appliqué.

Let good taste be your guide
If something was tacky then, it's probably still tacky now. Follow your own fashion muse and stick with styles that suit you.

Now that you have an idea of what to look for, let's go shopping! Check out these great sites for shopping for retro fashions online:

The Cats Pajamas: This Pennsylvania-based vintage clothing store provided costume items for Titanic and Little Women films. This site includes sizes with hip and bust measurements, great photos and thorough write-ups.

Laura’s Designer Resale Boutique: Fine designer clothes culled from stars’ closets and Hollywood’s tonier boudoirs.

The Paper Bag Princess: Stunning (and costly) vintage couture.

Tastefully Bizarre: Vintage selections are more tasteful than bizarre. Still, amusing sections include Orange, Shocking Pink and Turquoise (although curiously, all photos are black and white).

A Victorian Elegance: This site is very honest about its stock’s condition and state of cleanliness.

Vintage Vixen: Vintage fashion shopping gallery includes a size chart for different eras, fashion history and clothing-care information.

Happy Shopping!