How to Make a Vintage Dress Modern & Hip

22 Aug

The first hint of fall trends crept into this summer evening outfit with a cable knit vest and a wool fedora. See how I made this 70-year-old dress look modernly fashion forward.

{How to Make a Vintage Dress Modern & Hip}

It’s hard to believe that a 70-year-old dress could still be worn with modern fashion relevance, but then again, this happens to be my dress — and, one of my absolute favorites!

This printed silken chiffon dress is from the early 1940s/late 1930s. The fabric is so very thin and a delicate example of how to move with lady-like grace, which I failed to do the very first time I wore it, ruining this mint. (CLICK to read the story)

As a result, the dress’ hemline was taken up to wear it is now — making it a fun and flirty length. But what makes this dress come alive is the mix of tones — gold, sparkly jewelry with grey and silvery tones; And, it’s mix of textures and layers — the light airy dress contrasting the heavy and ruggedly durable cardigan vest and fedora.

{Here are the details}

How Much for “How to Make a Vintage Dress Modern & Hip”?

$2 Gold 1970s Purse (Salvation Army, Englewood, NJ)
$2 Vintage Gold Snake Belt (Steeple to People Thrift Shop, Honeybrook, Pa.)
$2 Men’s Vintage Fedora (Goodwill, Thorndale, Pa.)
$3 Gold Beaded Necklace (local variety shop, Union City, NJ)
$5 Grey Gable Cardigan Vest (thrift store, West Chester, Pa.)
$10 Gold Costume Rings (clearance sale, Arts Echo, Manhattan)
$30 Sage Kitten Heel Wrap Heels (clearance shoe sale, Manhattan)
$45 Printed 1940s Day Dress (Malene’s Boutique, West Chester, Pa.)

What’s the Take-Away?

Contrast is king!

Regardless of summer, fall, or the tween of seasons, the trend continues to be “mixing it up” for a perfectly rich contrast.

For us vintage lovers, and anyone who loves to be unique, this means that mixing vintage with modern apparel naturally creates the first layer of contrast. But you can take that contrast a couple steps further. Here’s how:

1. Mix Metals: Whether its gold, silver, copper or brass — find ways to blend your necklaces and bracelets.

2. Clash Tones: Break the traditional rules — wear black and blue, gold or silver/grey, or black and brown, or brown and silver/grey, or pink and red.

3. Harmonize Textures: The greater the tactual difference, the greater the dramatic flair — combining the rough & smooth: suede with silk; tweed with chiffon; corduroy with lace.

Why I Broke the 'Cardinal Rule' of Vintage

CLICK to see another Styling of this 1940s Dress

{Bonus} Marry Functions: Step beyond the “fashion cast system” and unite the formal with pedestrian — think: dressy day frock with casual cardigan; tuxedo jacket with jean shorts; sequin tank with cotton button-up.

Before I decided on the grey cardigan vest with this dress, I was playing with a couple shirt options — one being a cotton gingham.

I love the idea of playing down a dressy dress with some sort of plaid or even flannel shirt (belted or knotted at the waist) as an extra layer of warmth that’s a stark fashion statement.


{Robin Recommends} BathTub Gin

That type of style mix-up is kind of like the effect that Stone Street Coffee Shop has.

Initially it looks like a cool little place for a cup of joe (mine was stellar – bar none!), but then to the keen customer, it becomes so much more … like a gin joint, rich with plush art deco inspired design.

The experience of opening a secret paneled door and entering into a hidden world within — something two out of three coffee customers miss (which I observed & counted with a smug grin) just adds to the speakeasy experience.

To my fellow New Yorkers, and visiting Big Apple lovers, I highly recommend checking out BathTub Gin.

Before the word spreads and all the alligators & their barbeques scuff up the joint!

The up-and-coming Chelsea hot spot has been secretly in operation since late July … but mum’s the word! (CLICK here for details)

PS~ If you haven’t signed up for my newsletter, then you’re going to miss out big time! I will be sending out details on where you can purchase elements of my looks so you can create your own! So what are you waiting for?  CLICK HERE


3 Responses to “How to Make a Vintage Dress Modern & Hip”

  1. Dawn August 22, 2011 at 3:58 PM #

    Beautifully accessorized, Robin! I love how you combine all those textures for a completely fresh and hip look. Kinda reminds me of that old Stevie Nicks song, “Leather and Lace”.

    Great and clever save of a vintage masterpiece.

    I’ve seen that gold foldover bag in many thrifts throughout the years, lol…who knew it could look so stylish?

    The dress looks fantastic on you. The old “watercolor” colors suit your complexion and hair perfectly. Delicate and elegant. And did I mention I WANT those shoes????

    PS: You have GREAT legs!!


  2. Thrifty Vintage Chic August 22, 2011 at 10:03 PM #

    ah, a great song!! And thanks for the legendary reference!! 😀 YES, it is so funny how you’ll see similar vintage items in thrift shops and it (to me) seems gaudy and chintzy but then, if looked at from the perspective of being bold and fun, then a new possibility unfolds!

    Yes, the print of this dress is so incredible … and I saved the remnant material from what was cut away to repair the dress with its new hemline — I mean, it would have been a crime to “throw away” such history! And, the shoes … probably my favorite shoes yet! And, it makes my day to hear that I have great legs … like every women, they are a work in progress!



  1. How to Wear Vintage Styles for Business Success « Thrifty Vintage Chic - October 7, 2011

    […] $0 Tweed Pompadeur (gifted) $3 Pale Pink Large Fishnet Stockings (Daffy’s) $5 Wood Necklace & Bracelet (Easy Pickens, Union City, NJ) $5 Vintage Christian Dior Silk Scarf (Goodwill, Chelsea, NY) $5 Vintage 1960s Wool Knit Cream Dress (thrift store, Chester Co., PA) $30 Retro Sage Kitten Heels (closing sale, Manhattan) Also in this post […]


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