A 5'3 Perspective

The Dos and Don’ts of Scoring Chic Vintage Pieces – Guest Post


I am so excited about today’s post! This is my first ever guest post on the blog – written by the Queen of Vintage herself, my best friend Sarah [I wish she would write a blog so I could share it with you guys – but until then I am going to keep hounding her to post here]. Sarah and I have been friends since second year university and there isn’t a day that goes by where I am not in awe of her amazing style and clever comments. She is one of the smartest, funniest, most beautiful people I know and I am so grateful to have her in my life. She always inspires me to try new things, especially when it comes to style and hopefully she will do the same for you.

I can’t wait for you to read on because I know you will fall in love with her! Without further ado – welcome to the world of vintage through the eyes of Sarah.

Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Vintage inspiration happens more than you may notice in the world of fashion. The ubiquitous Gucci silk jumpsuit of Spring ’11, which was covered on several global titles and rocked by Olivia Wilde, Chanel Iman, and Camilla Belle to name a few, takes a nod from this little number circa 1953. A gorgeous vintage reference that works as a modern take!

I must admit, a little smirk always takes shape on my face when someone asks me “Where did you get that?! It’s vintage, right?” and I’m able to reply, ‘Why yes girl of course…and it was $30’ (although sometimes it’s more like tricked you, Forever 21 but thanks for noticing, or don’t even ask me what I paid!).

The old song and dance I always get is ‘only you could pull that off!’ which is either code for I’m looking fabulous or tragic. I’ll take the former and the compliment, but many people express to me they find vintage shopping daunting or ‘never find anything’.

From my experiences, here are some tips & tricks that may save you some exasperation and help you to have more of those euphoric, snagged it moments!


Dress for the hunt

Wear a flesh toned, smooth shaped bra and full-bum undies, with easy to take off and on separates.

You never know what you’ll find, so it’s best to be prepared with undergarments that will work with anything fitted, sheer, or delicate.

Vintage shows and pop up sales almost always have communal change rooms, or rather, a makeshift communal try on area with thin and flimsy curtains. If you’re comfortable shimmying your way into a body-con dress with your bum out in its full glory (been there), by all means werk that. I’m just giving you the facts!

Read the labels

Some stores and consigners have different definitions of antique, vintage, and retro.

I usually buy what appeals to me and fits, but if you’re a stickler on eras, inspect the typeface used on labels, read the washing instructions (dry cleaning hasn’t been around forever!), and look at the country of origin.

You may find tags with ‘Union Made’, meaning they were produced domestically before the outsourcing of production. But, just because an item was made overseas does not rule out the possibility that it is vintage; production in Japan became popular in the 60s, with Korea and Taiwan following in the 70s and 80s.

Try things on

Okay, this seems like a no-brainer, but I cannot stress this enough!

Some silhouettes that I intuitively would go for if found in a modern store come out looking busted in the change room, and a hot mess with no hanger appeal can often magically turn out to be a stunner.

Vintage clothes were cut in different shapes and use fabrics you may not be accustomed to wearing (think about it – Lycra® was first used in bathing suits in the 60s and didn’t really hit clothing until the 70s.)

Above all, do find pieces that make you smile and that you will wear!

Honey, find a good tailor!

Looking at old photos, you may wonder, how did these gals always manage to look flawless, when innovations in modern clothing should be making things easier!

Definitely going to attribute this one to tailoring. Many women were sewing their own patterns to specific measurements and if they had something store bought that didn’t fit, they mostly had the know how to cinch that shit up!

If you find the almost perfect item that is too wide through the body, too long in the arms or legs, or has some buttons you need moved, a tailor can handle that fancifully. I’ve had great luck with altering coats, tops, and pants.


Don’t have a closed mind

Do not dream up an impossibly chic and specific look and expect to find exactly what you’re looking for. This is not a bespoke situation so be prepared to do some digging.

Half the fun is in the find; sometimes you leave empty handed, and sometimes you’ll score big!

Developing your style may mean pushing outside of your comfort zone. I mean, not to get all T-Swift on you but being fearless and fashionable often go hand in hand.


I will not buy anything ripped, stained, or something that will lose its intrigue after being altered. You cannot expect vintage to be in pristine condition, but overly worn items are just not worth it.

I also will not buy anything with someone else’s monogram sewn in or vintage shoes as I’m a the higher the heels the better type of gal, but those are just my personal penchants!

Don’t get hung up on sizing

Unfortunately I find it can sometimes be hard to not get caught up in trying to fit into a number or a size; how many times have you read ‘it’s the clothes’ job to fit you!’ then flipped a few pages to see ‘are you bikini body ready?’. Not to go on a tangent about this societal contradiction, but sizing standards have changed drastically. Never be shy to ask a shop girl for help – they work in fashion – it’s their motivation to help their clients look and feel fabulous! I’ll never forget the first time I had my waist measured for a dress and wondered how it could possibly be that far off my hips! I blame the *shudder* low-rise jeans phase which haunts my high school past.

Again, here’s where the trying things on part comes in, as sizing can play tricks on us!

Don’t pass by!

Vintage items are of course in limited stock, and the good stuff won’t be around forever.

Unique (as in one of a kind, not as in a kind way to say ugly) pieces are snatched up fast but can also switch hands just as quickly, so become familiar with how often your go-to spot replenishes their offerings.

If you don’t believe in serendipity, you may just start. When you least expect it, you may find a multitude of to die for items, and when you’re really on a mission (and not on a budget), you may be met with a wall of no, no, no (not the Destiny’s Child type though since that’s not quite vintage).

Finally, don’t bring a friend who’s the same damn size as you unless you’re more diplomatic than I am (kidding – kind of).

Less talk, more shop, please.

The accessories department is a great place for the amateur to begin their endeavor into vintage chicdom. Embellished and metallic evening clutches are usually easy to find and in much better condition than other types of more frequent use purses on display. Statement jewellery is another fantastic way to start incorporating vintage into your everyday looks. Costume jewellery just feels that much more special when it’s vintage!

Shops to frequent in Ottawa & Toronto


Upside Dive on Queen east– hurry, they’re closing L

Common Sort – east and west end locations

Gadabouts – more pricey but they know their stuff up and down the block!

Absolutely Vintage Sale at Maple Cottage (twice annually with several vendors – cash only)

Bungalow & Flashback – both in Kensington Market

Act Two – uptown on Mount Pleasant


Young Janes – just outside the Byward Market

Ragtime Vintage clothing – Flora St in Centretown

For cities without a thriving vintage scene, you can always check out:

Antique stores and markets – they usually at the very least have jewellery

Estate sales – not to be morbid, but this can be a treasure trove

Online retailers

So there you have it. Thanks to ellepottsie for letting me go on, and I hope you’ll be inspired to seek out the thrill of the find!

Sarah serving (and drinking) Manhattan realness in a 70s sequined evening dress.

The 5’3 wonder herself giving us a whole lot of leopard in a bracelet length swing coat (the alterations cost me more than the actual coat!) with vintage bow and heart drop earrings .

Sarah having a major Mad Men Moment in a late 50s dress by Mr. Mort and vintage gloves.

Author: ellepottsie

I'm a five foot three recent commerce graduate and marketing enthusiast. Recently I've noticed that life is a little different when you're closer to the ground, but maybe that is just my perspective!

3 thoughts on “The Dos and Don’ts of Scoring Chic Vintage Pieces – Guest Post

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