One of the conversations I love to have with fellow vintage lovers is about their style pre-vintage. As it turns out, most people I know used to belong to another distinctive  tribe or scene before they discovered vintage, from hip hop to mod-inspired, from metal to grunge.

Personally, I’ve been hugely obsessed with the Sixties since I accidentally watched the Beatles’ A Hard Days Night film aged 13, which caused a long-term love for all things British, mod and – eventually – psychedelic. Saying that, as I grew up in the Southern German countryside where vintage was firmly ‘dead people’s clothes’ territory and without even as much as a second-hand shop in sight, I mainly dressed according to another musical style I liked: grunge.

BjorkMy sartorial style icons at the time were definitely Courtney Love’s band Hole with their love for Thirties tea dresses, mod-ish black and white and peter pan collars paired with messy hair and bright red lips.

Accordingly, I spent most of my teenage years in black  Doc Martens Mary Janes, corduroy trousers paired with my mum’s old T-shirts, some very dodgy knitwear and my hair either worn down or twisted into  little knots, as spotted on Bjork. If this sounds cool, it really wasn’t, I mainly looked awkward and not quite sure of myself, which is pretty much how I felt.

It was only when I moved to London in my Twenties that I really got into vintage and could finally get hold of the Sixties gear I’d been dreaming of .

Interestingly, in recent years my style has changed again, and I now rarely wear vintage every day.

So what’s your pre-vintage style story?

19 Responses

  1. Liz Tregenza

    I’ve written about this very topic before, it is fascinating to me that most people I know who are inot vintage (in a big way) come from an alternative “school” of dressing. I’ve always just dressed a bit differently, for example colour clashing clothes, tons of chunky beads worn layered up over EVERYTHING i wore and trusty converse with everything and anything. I discovered vintage to wear when I was around 15 and that was where it really began although still I’m not an era specific kinda gal, and love to mix it up as much as possible!

  2. Maja

    I was a real hippie chick with long indian skirts, costumized indian men shirts and home made dreads, either that or all of the above but black – black hippie perhaps 🙂 But I’ve always loved old movies so it’s not surprising that I ended up being a 30-50s chick 🙂

  3. Rocketblast

    I was a goth from the age of 14 to roughly 23/24 when I had a little ‘sparkly’ phase (silver, stars, sequins with everything), a bit grungy (Hole, L7, Babes in Toyland – YES!), a bit punky, then rockabilly, before really getting into vintage-inspired looks, mostly 1940s, now leaning more towards 1930s. I still dabble in most of those other looks occasionally though – you can take the girl out of the goth, but you can’t take the goth out of the girl :0)

  4. Nora

    I was “very confused” pre-vintage. I wanted to fit in and be cool that I really didn’t have any clear style. Honestly, vintage has made me confident about myself and really it’s also because everyone in the vintage community is so lovely!

  5. CherryT

    Well, I had good grounding as my parents brought me up with a love of rock n roll (esp Buddy Holly). Wasn’t really into a scene as such, until I hit 15 years of age, when I first heard the Stray Cats (yes, it’s that long ago!). So I delved deeper into the scene, and have been a rockabilly chick ever since, and yes, the Stray Cats are still my favourite band 🙂 xx

  6. MissMillie

    Oh, I love hearing about people’s sartorial development! I can very much identify with Lena’s story. I was obsessed with the 60s in my early teenage years and used to wear my parents’ clothes mixed with baggy cardies from the only second-hand shop in the small Swedish town I grew up in. Think it looked more grungy/skater girl than 60s. Liquid eyeliner took some time to master … Moved to London in my early twenties and amassed lots of 60s mini-dresses, then moved on to my 70s hippie phase and then gradually developed a more 30s-50s style with a splash of Edwardian.

    Not wearing vintage all the time as it isn’t as easy to find good stuff these days and I’m also a lot more happy to mix different eras even if the long hippie dresses are now gathering dust.

  7. Jodie

    I concur with Rocketblast. You can’t take the goth out of the girl. Even my vintage style includes red lips and black hair.

  8. Sesame

    I was 15 when I, inspired by the movie American Beauty, decided to express myself through the clothes I wore. I started off a bit punky, but soon got into grunge. I became a little bit more lady like with 17 when I stared to dance away every second Saturday night at a club that was more chic, but I still wore my hair long and wild, my lips red and my eyes painted black. With about 20 I got into some sort of 80’s trash, occasionally with a touch of punk. I mixed it up with a little bit of chic à la Sex and the City and I more or less kept that look (though slightly modified as I grew older) until I started to dress vintage two years ago.

    Oh, with 23 I had a phase when I would wear a mini skirt with opaque tights or leggings, flats, coloured leg warmers and a tank top in a matching colour under a half open sweatshirt! I wore that every day, in different colours, for half a year or so, as I thought that was a very practical style.

    I’m glad I found my way to vintage, however, and considering the fact that I’ve always loved watching old movies it’s strange it took me that long 🙂

    From what I’ve heard, many people that dress in vintage today come from an alternative scene, that is, chose to dress more unconventionally before. It occurs to me that dressing vintage for many is a way to underline their differentness in terms of a discontent with the image that media and mass production projects of our modern society. To me, it is a way to advocate glamour and substantiality as well as to convey real femininity in contrast to today’s image in the media of how a woman should look like.

    ~ Sesame

  9. Megan S.

    It’s nice to read about everyone and their journey to vintage. I had always been interested in anything from the past. When I was in 5th grade I was really into ABBA and I had my Mom feather my hair each morning before school. Later on I was really into the Clash (still am) and my style was influenced by the 70’s and 80’s. Right now I am in love with the 60’s mod look and am furiously collecting pieces from that era, and whatever else I can get my hands on ( I love it all!)

  10. Perdita

    I was very 60s-Britpop-revival, then 70s disco revival in my teens! Both looks were more a combination of new indie clothing and vintage/repro, and to this day I still have that balance in my wardrobe, but am more open to a wider range of decades now. But day to day, I am just as likely to be in black skinnies and a band t-shirt or (my new go-to) a retro dress over leggings as anything else.

    I’ve found it odd how in recent years people have started assuming Vintage is a ‘destination’ (i.e. you start with a few items then get more and more ‘vintage’ until you’re a purist to one decade… preferably 40s-50s and that’s the ‘aim’) – there are very few long term enthusiasts like that really. It seems to be a media stereotype designed to sell magazines and how-to stuff to teenage girls. It makes me a bit cross because as well as getting patronising comments myself, it sets the whole style up as something impossibly complex which will take years to ‘achieve’, not just some nice old clothes!

  11. Lindsay Lane

    I was a goth from age 13 to 17. Then I was thoroughly into the fifties and on my 22nd I discovered the 1930s and 40s. Since then I am a nostalgist.

  12. jacquie

    I was goth, then punk, skater, then hippie, then raver, then edgy normal…every phase had touches of vintage…Mad Men gave me the release to go full time!

  13. Irene

    At 15 or so I had a short goth phase, but then I fell in love with Japanese Lolita fashion and dressed that way for 6 years or so until I felt I needed to “graduate” to a more mature style, and then it was 50s full skirted dresses all over! I’ve also come to love 40s and 30s fashion, although they’re not the most flattering for my body type so I don’t wear them too often.

  14. Helga

    I’ve loved reading all these comments!
    I was into New Romantic, then got a bit punky before finding Goth in my late teens……that’s when I started wearing any 60’s/70’s black frocks I could find, and I also made my first very concious vintage purchase of a thirties velvet cape, which I still have. Have stayed fairly 60’s/70’s, but wear a lot of 50’s styles now as well. I couldn’t ever be a purist, it’s all just too beautiful!

  15. Dee

    I have tried everything to try & fit in.
    From jeans & tshirt girl, to punk, to goth wannabe & even indie. But I always loved the pin up style, just didnt notice I had the curves till I was 22. Me and my husband dress smart and for any occasion. I will have my down days only due to me listening to what horrible people say.
    I am a rock & roller at heart, always was, I just now love to dress up in my vintage wear 🙂

  16. kSto

    Ok, I must be the oldest person on this site. I came of age in the ’70s in Southern California and mixing vintage pieces with modern ones was a “thing” at my high school. The ’50s were vintage to us, so jeweled sweaters with jeans and cotton shirtwaists with huarache sandals were very popular looks. Vintage Hawaiian shirts and swim trunks were big finds too, as were snap-front cowboy shirts, knotted at the waist. American Graffiti came out about that time so I wore my drill team uniform saddle shoes when I wasn’t wearing cowboy boots.
    I have continued incorporating vintage pieces into my wardrobe ever since. ’60s shifts and suits were so much better for work attire than ’80s ‘power suits.’
    Even today, I have vintage 70s and 80s pieces for work. Silk tank tops from the 80s are great for hot summer days. ‘Off duty,’ I am a sucker for all things military surplus. It fits my tall bony frame really well, the colors suit me and it lasts FOREVER.

  17. Whitney

    I’m with Nora, I really had no definitive style before vintage. I had some murky idea of what I wanted my clothes to look like, and eventually that meant trying for better quality, but it wasn’t until I found vintage clothes that everything clicked. Half my love for vintage is just the fabrics–I’ve always hated the alternately flimsy or way-too-thick feel of modern clothes.

  18. Denny

    I’ve always had a hard time finding clothes that fit – I’m a petite 5′, with “brickhouse” measurements of 35-20-35. My style didn’t develop until I found boutiques that carry cuts and fabrics that flatter my figure. Eventually I began to lean toward the curvy, Marilyn Monroe styles of the 1950s. I even took up basic sewing so everything fits like a glove. I love that I can now express myself much more easily through my style, and not fuss with clothing that doesn’t fall correctly on my frame. On top of that, I feel much more like a lady!