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8 of the most unique vintage items you’ll need in your closet, and where to find them

As someone who grew up dressed as a strange mix between a young Leonardo DiCaprio and Carmen from Spy Kids—‘futuristic tomboy’ as I now like to call it—I always valued having basic, yet important, vintage pieces in my closet. That’s why I’ve listed 8 vintage clothing items you just need to include in your wardrobe, from the pair of Levi’s 501s that fit your bum perfectly to the iconic little black dress (LBD).

Now, hear me out: there are innumerable different types of unique vintage items you should consider adding to your probably (constantly) growing clothing selection. Because we all know that fast fashion is a big no-no and that thrifting is in, baby, I’ve been focusing solely on the best staple vintage pieces out there, and exactly where to find them. That being said, please feel free to add a little customisation to your wardrobe with a few extra spicy vintage accessories, such as 90s luxury sunglasses and a reliable pair of black boots.

Without further ado, let’s get to it, shall we?

1. A vintage band t-shirt

Okay, this one might sound a bit basic at first, but it’s a classic vintage piece I personally can’t live without. When you’re in a rush or simply can’t think of anything to wear, a good pair of denim jeans and a band t-shirt might be what saves you from going full-on loungewear—and no one likes a lazy outfit, am I right? We’re going for ‘effortlessly chic’ over here.

Go for a simple black t-shirt featuring one of your favourite bands if you’re not into colours, such as this Eagles one for example. If you’re not afraid of tie-dye, then this Pink Floyd gem might be the one! Try to avoid band t-shirts sporting the likes of The Beatles or The Ramones, just because, sadly, H&M jumped on the bandwagon in the mid-2000s and those two have lost their cool factor ever since.

If music is not your thing or you’re one of those people shaming others for wearing t-shirts of bands they’ve actually never listened to, then trade the band tee for a quirky vintage slogan t-shirt or one with a really obscure reference. Any fans of sprint car racing driver Steve Kinser? Nope? Well who cares, this one looks great anyway!

2. A funky shirt

You can’t get more OG vintage than with a funky retro shirt. Chances are, once you’ve bought one of these saucy numbers, you’ll never meet anyone wearing the same—the 80s produced way too many for two people to buy the same shirt now. You’ll find a wide range of possibilities when it comes to a shirt’s pattern depending on the specific era you tend to go for when shopping for vintage clothing.

Let’s say you’re a master of the kitsch. If so, a full-on Tiger King 90s shirt might be your thing. Personally, I can never say no to a 70s collar. I mean, look at this deadstock blouse’s dagger collar and floral pattern! If that’s still too out there, why not go simpler with this little pink silky number? It’s giving me The Little House on the Prairie vibes, and I’m here for it.

3. A plaid shirt

If you’re into unique vintage and never went through a Nirvana obsession, who even are you? If you have, then you understand the importance of finding the perfect plaid shirt. You don’t want its fabric to be too light, otherwise it simply won’t fall right when worn oversized. On the other hand, be careful not to buy one that is too thick or you might end up looking more like Bob the Builder than Kurt Cobain.

Colour-wise, it’s really up to you. Act all fresh wearing a darker green and blue shirt to a rough and rugged Western style brown and green one, there’s one to catch ‘em all!

4. A good pair of vintage denim jeans

My vintage denim collection is probably one of my proudest life achievements. Remember the Nirvana obsession mentioned above? Well, of course I went through it myself. And that’s also when I started obsessing in all the right ways over which pairs of jeans would be lucky enough to curve my bum perfectly. Long story short, I know what I’m talking about here.

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Of course, you’ve probably heard that you can’t go wrong with a good old pair of trusty Levi’s 501s, and the rumours are true. A bonus tip for you though, because it feels good to see people looking good: as much as I love 501s, there are other jeans that definitely deserve just as much praise too. For example, Lee Rider jeans make my flat pancakes look as bootylicious as they are in my dreams.

If 501s feel too tight for you, then try going for a pair of 505s instead—they offer a bit more room in the thigh and have a straight fit down to the leg.

5. A retro sports sweatshirt

This one is as easy as it gets: Nike, Adidas, Champion, Fila, Reebok, Ellesse—you name it, there’s a cool vintage sweatshirt from one of these brands with your name on it. If you’re worried about looking too ‘mainstream’, feel free to go for what I like to call the ‘new sweatshirt of gen Zers’, also known as fleece jackets and gilets. Patagonia and Columbia, you know the VSCO girl vibes.

6. A velour tracksuit

Paris Hilton in a full Juicy Couture tracksuit—need I say more? If her iconic fuschia pink set is too ‘chihuahua lover for you, let us not forget Eminem’s 2000s velour looks. Badass, right? Best worn outside the house white a little white tank top underneath the jacket.

7. A little black dress

Let me start by clarifying one thing: if you don’t wear dresses, just look for the perfect black t-shirt instead. It sounds dumb at first, but it’s all about the right cotton blend. Avoid any Fruit of the Loom post-90s, but if you do find a couple of true vintage ones, buy them, trust me.

If you do wear dresses though, then the LBD is a must-have. Actually, don’t even try to avoid it. Wearing close-to-nothing from time to time is a lot of fun, and a black slip dress or even vintage lingerie are a hot choice. I like to dress mine down with a cute pair of high-waisted knickers and some cowboy boots.

But that’s just me. The point is that a little black dress is a great piece to have for literally any occasion. Going to a fancy event? LBD. Need to wear something timeless yet versatile? LBD! Once you’ve found the right one, all you need to do is accessorise it the right way depending on which occasion you’re wearing it for.

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If you’re more of a ‘classy’ lady, then you might want to go for a longer length such as the one you usually can find on dresses from the 90s. Who doesn’t love a Kate Moss moment? Or, as Marylyn Monroe once said, “Keep it classy, never trashy, just a lil nasty.” Just do you.

8. A fluffy coat

Whether you’re team fur or faux fur, vintage has everything you need to fulfil all your fluffy coat dreams! Recently, we’ve seen the likes of Saks Potts and Charlotte Simone bring Penny Lane coats back into fashion. Of course, I became obsessed with the necessity of finding one that doesn’t cost £1,500 and so I turned to the world of unique vintage!

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Rokit’s Amber coat is a reinterpretation of the classic Penny Lane coat you know made using vintage fabric and different recycled coloured furs. Could you say no to that little number? As if!

Because all good things have to come to an end, I’ve decided to stop this list at 8. This doesn’t mean you should stop your quest for the best unique vintage pieces here. There’s so much more to explore (and buy) from the cult leather perfecto to the preppy-but-sexy varsity jacket. Whatever you decide to go for next, just remember: it’s all about making an iconic vintage clothing item yours. That’s the only thing that makes your style unique in the first place.

Why are platform shoes making a soaring comeback?

As we begin to step out of lockdown fully and ease into the old normal, platform shoes have skyrocketed in popularity. Tracing the evolution of the ugly dad sneaker to the practical slip-ons and fluffy slippers sported during the peak of quarantine, the rise of the platform shoe seems to be inevitable. Whether it be a trainer, a sandal, a chunky formal shoe, or somewhere in between, the elevated style is certainly making a comeback. As we begin to re-enter our old stomping grounds, platforms allow us to do so with the accessibility and comfort we found in quintessential quarantine footwear while also boosting outfits’ wow-factor one step at a time.

Platforms offer more stability than soaring stilettos, while still allowing wearers to feel like the main character. Reflecting their eye-catching nature today, the shoe originated in 220 BC when ancient Greek actors would wear a similar style on stage to denote how central a character was. The footwear was adopted by many different regions and cultures for the next two millenniums, and first introduced to modern Western audiences with Salvatore Ferragamo’s iconic rainbow shoes. Initially designed for Judy Garland in 1938, the shoe captured the attention of fashion lovers for its multicoloured suede layers and dazzling gold straps. Since then, the style has been embraced by myriad designers, ranging in boldness and functionality.

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In May 2021, Alice Newbold, Vogue.co.uk’s Senior News Editor, wrote an article following the trend’s emergence within Autumn/Winter 2021 collections across an array of brands. Fashion giants such as Loewe, Versace, Prada, and Simone Rocha have all taken to the trend, releasing their staggering renditions on catwalks and in campaigns recently. While towering platforms have always been a staple for fashion houses like Vivienne Westwood, the designer’s classic, sky-high Ghillie shoes have been making a comeback as well. First made famous by a fall by Naomi Campbell in the 90s, they have recently been spotted on Dua Lipa at the Brit Awards. While the average wearer isn’t reaching for these eye-wateringly high shoes for a night out, platforms of more conservative heights still grant their owners a bit of pep in their steps.

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Of course, the most versatile, common iteration of the contemporary platform is the trainer. Boosted in popularity by the Spice Girls in the 90s, sneakers such as those from the legendary Buffalo brand, and others following in their footsteps, began gaining traction towards the end of the 2010s as the trendiness of the ballet flat began to die out. The platform trainer’s comfortable wearing experience paired with stand-out silhouettes have been adapted by seemingly everyone, finding potent examples in Eytys and Converse. Even Crocs has taken to the trend, expanding its demographic through a number of high-profile collaborations, the most famous rendition of which being Balenciaga’s 2017 take on the shoe.

While platforms can be viewed solely for their playful, emotive styles—especially as we begin to have collective fun again—the voices behind DietPrada have a different impression of the trend. Back in January, the famous trend-spotting and setting Instagram account invited its followers to think back to a time of Alexander McQueen’s nearly satirical ‘Armadillo’ boots and Lady Gaga’s countless red carpet appearances in gravity-defying shoes.

The time in question was the early 2010s, the period immediately following the financial crash of 2008. Elizabeth Semmelhack, Creative Director and Senior Curator of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, has written extensively on the ebbs and flows of heels in all forms in her book Heights of Fashion: A History of the Elevated Shoe. In 2010, the expert told CNN that “we have entered a moment of heightened impracticality in footwear.” Referencing the rising trend of heels during the Great Depression in the 30s, the oil crisis in the 70s, and the aftermath of the dotcom bubble burst, the shoe historian notes that they could also represent “a greater need for escapism.” 

That being said, the re-emergence of these attention-commanding footwear styles may not be signalling the beginning of another recession as DietPrada is suggesting. Instead, as we become acquainted with post-lockdown life, platforms can be seen as a spirited reaction to the past 18-or-so months of quarantine. Likewise, they can be viewed as a way of embracing the escapism now associated with the newly exuberant world outside of our homes. While embracing the fashion comforts and shortcuts most found with life at home, platforms also allow wearers to celebrate their footsteps on the tarmac, crowded tube platforms, and sticky dancefloors.