One of the many things we love about travel is how it presents us an opportunity to see things differently. Fashion is one of those things I often admire and wish I could replicate… especially when I see vintage style blended seamlessly with modern style. These women always look so put together in a way that seems natural and not overdone (or like it took a lot of work). I aspire to someday be that at ease with my own fashion identity.
In the meantime let me introduce you to Jeanie Tavitas. She’s a San Antonio native, former fashion/shopping writer for SAEN, writer/editor and crazy about cats lady (not just her own cats, but all cats). Jeanie is one of those women who’s fashion sense I admire so I asked her if she’d share some of her secrets with us and she agreed.
L: Women are often told to find their style and own it because that’s the essence of their personality but in all honesty it’s a lot easier said than done. What advice can you give young women (and older women still trying to find theirs) about finding their style?
J: I think a big part of finding your own style is first knowing that you dress for yourself – not for anyone else or to gain acceptance from others. Second, wear things that bring you joy and that fit the body you have — not the body you wish you had or used to have. I wear pieces that I love, not that everyone else necessarily likes. And the size on the label doesn’t mean a thing — what matters is that the item fits you and feels comfortable on. It’s not very stylish if you’re constantly tugging, pulling and readjusting.
L: You are a vintage clothes lover but in reality when I see your outfits I don’t see “vintage”. I just see a well put together, awesomely styled woman. How do you manage to incorporate vintage finds into your wardrobe and still make your outfits look fresh and trendy?
J: Thank you! Many vintage pieces I choose are timeless in style, meaning they don’t necessarily have characteristics that scream what era they’re from so it’s simple to coordinate them with modern items. Plus, I’m not a fan of matchy-matchy – matching your belt to your shoes to your handbag, etc. In my opinion, that’s what dates an outfit. Also, if one of the items I’m wearing is a real conversation piece then I keep everything else simple.
L: Why vintage? There are lots of cute, inexpensive items out there to keep us trendy so why go through the trouble of buying vintage?
J: Vintage pieces have a story; I love imagining where they’ve been. Also, vintage items were typically made here in the U.S. from higher quality materials and attention to detail was paramount — I’m referring to the way the garments were assembled. They were made to last, provided they are well-cared for. From the machine- or hand-stitching to the print where it meets up with itself along a seam, great care was taken to make sure everything lined up just so. These are the kinds of details that are mostly found only in couture or designer items today. I’m not saying current clothing isn’t well-made. I just prefer to wear something that I won’t see on someone else when I’m out and about. Even when I’m inspired by someone else’s fashion choices, I wear it my own way, put my own spin on it.
L: Good vintage can be hard to find. What are some of your favorite local sources?
J: Sadly San Antonio doesn’t have much in the way of vintage. Although, if you’re willing to spend time combing through the racks and bins, Goodwill and Boysville Thrift are good options. I scored a Carmen Marc Valvo vintage cocktail dress ($18) and Oscar de la Renta silk trousers ($12) in one trip!
L: What if, like here in San Antonio, there are not many local stores… how else do you recommend someone shop vintage? Etsy, ebay, other online sources?
J: I do most of my vintage shopping online via Etsy and Ruby Lane. I just find the sellers are more honest and knowledgeable. It helps to read the seller reviews and look at a shop’s overall inventory to get an idea of their credibility. Vintage is technically defined as being at least 20 years old so many shops just sell everything within that time frame. While I do buy some vintage from the 80s, I mostly seek out true vintage – items from the 1960s and earlier.
L: What kinds of things should one keep in mind when shopping for vintage clothing?
J: Vintage is not new. That means the item has been worn before, either a little or a lot, so there may be flaws, stains, odors or other signs of use. If you’re squeamish about “wearing someone else’s clothes or shoes,” vintage isn’t for you. But if you’re lucky, you may find a vintage piece that’s new/old deadstock, which means it was never worn and may even still have the tags! But for the most part, the item was worn and loved by someone else. It has a past, but it also still has a lot of life left in it.
Also, most vintage is final sale. You can’t return it or exchange it. And there’s only one so if you wait to buy it, you may lose it. More importantly, there is no standard for clothing size — KNOW YOUR BODY MEASUREMENTS. And always, always measure a similar item you already own to compare fit. Most sellers have no problem providing measurements, and if the item doesn’t list them, then ask. But be specific, for example: bust (armpit to armpit), waist (natural or x inches down from garment armpit), shoulders (back seam to back seam), length (neck to hem or shoulder to hem), sleeve length (shoulder to wrist or armpit to wrist). For shoes: insole measurement is more critical than outsole, as is the width of the shoe at the ball of the foot.
L: Any items that are easier to incorporate than others?
J: Items with classic lines or details that never really go out of style — A-lines, block heels, tailored pieces — all of these characteristics are timeless and transcend fashion eras.
L: Any we should stay away from?
J: That’s really a personal choice. I say that because I have some pieces with details that make it more obvious about the era they come from, but those details were done in a classic way so they blend more easily with modern items.
L: And how do we know if it’s a good deal?
J: You know it’s a good deal if you’ve seen any and all flaws and you still love it! My mom always told me if you can wear it with at least three other items in your closet (not including shoes), then it’s worth buying. Mom didn’t lie — I still use her rule of thumb today every time I shop. Also, if you’re familiar with a particular designers details and you find an item that seems to match up in every way and the price won’t break your budget, then it’s a good deal. I recently discovered I absolutely love vintage Coach bags (NYC-made, 70s and earlier) and Gucci bags (sans logo), scarves and shoes. The quality is amazing and they’re truly made to last a few lifetimes.
I don’t know about you but I’m ready to good vintage hunting right now… I’d drag Jeanie with me but we are similar in size so I wouldn’t want to have to fight over a good find. 🙂 Also, aren’t those examples from her collection just adorable? I hope you enjoyed the tips and are ready to give vintage a try. Are there any tips or preferred vintage shops you want to share with us? Would love to hear how you own your style and/or incorporate vintage into your wardrobe.