How to Use Vintage Clothes to Look On-Trend

In the whirlwind of a new season’s arrival (and yes, there’s another one here with Pre-Fall 16), it’s all too easy to get caught up in newness. But there are ways you can tap into the moment’s top trends without buying the exact same thing as everyone else—simply shop vintage. We say simply, but we know it’s not as easy as swooping into Zara and scooping up a rail full of the latest goodies to make you look instantly bang-on. However, with a little know-how, a smidgen of effort, and a desire to look unique and individual (well, who doesn’t want that?), this can be your road to sartorial salvation each and every time the fashion mood switches up. 


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Vintage guru J.J. Martin on the streets of Milan.

There’s one woman whose vintage shopping and sourcing nous never ceases to impress me: J.J. Martin. She’s the striking Milan-based editor at large of Wallpaper* magazine. Her personal collection and major passion for luxe thrifting has turned into a business in itself; her site,, is not only an e-commerce hot spot stocking carefully edited vintage buys, but she’s also designed a new range of super-wearable dresses and separates using vintage prints in modern silhouettes. (Shop LaDoubleJ Editions here!)

So, if anyone can give you top advice on how to wear vintage clothes and look on-trend, it’s J.J. Keep reading to see—and shop from—her guidance…

WHO WHAT WEAR UK: What would you say are the trends you can most easily buy via vintage clothes and accessories right now?

J.J. MARTIN: There are always so many vintage trends on the new runways. Everyone is inspired by looking backwards—just look at Alessandro Michele at Gucci!

The trends that are easiest to buy into through vintage are richly embroidered pieces, lingerie looks, urban boho looks and full denim outfits. We have examples of almost all of these—some of my favorites are vintage embroidered denim shirts, an amazing Gianni Versace lingerie dress and robe, a wonderful orange linen dress with bright geometric thread embroidery, and our summer boho dresses and two-piece outfits. 



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Boho is still going strong in vintage circles—here's DJ Carlotta Tabaroni to prove it.

WWW UK: Are there any vintage styles or pieces that always stand the test of time?  

JJM: A Chanel jacket and handbag always stand the test of time. It’s pretty crazy how they never devalue in their price and they always remain quite modern. Another thing that stands the test of time are vintage patterns—that’s why we’ve started making new clothes with modern, clean silhouettes using vintage prints from the 150-year-old Mantero silk archive—the cotton hippie skirt comes in different vintage prints and is a wardrobe classic, so is a printed men’s shirt and the tunic dress. This is the easiest way to buy into vintage because the shapes feel very new.  



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Candela Novembre wearing LaDoubleJ's new collection.

WWW UK: The 1980s are coming back on the runway, but how would you suggest someone shops vintage for this in a modern way?

JJM: Nobody wants to look like a bodybuilder. What I love from the 1980s are the sharp-shouldered jackets that are embellished in some fun, fresh way (we saw a lot of this at Gucci, and also on the Louis Vuitton runways—we have some great vintage pieces from Chanel and Valentino to get the look). It’s best to wear these jackets with a slim, plain lower half, which you can do by wearing cigarette pants or skinny black jeans with a T-shirt, white men’s shirt and flat ballet slippers or tiny kitten heels.  



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1980s trophy jackets are making a comeback.

WWW UK: Do you have any tricks or tips for updating pieces to make them look more current?

JJM: The greatest thing you can do for yourself is to mix vintage items with new, modern pieces. I love a mannish white shirt with a 1950s printed skirt for example. But the easiest way to do this is with your shoe and handbag choices. Make sure they are not vintage if your dress or skirt is. Flat sandals or flatform shoes with a thick straight platform (not wedge!) are very modern and make vintage pieces look super cool; so does a clean, small handbag worn cross body. 



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Jeans always offset a vintage blouse nicely—follow Viviana Volpicella's lead.

WWW UK: Are there any particular lesser-known brands or labels from the past that feel right for now or you're finding customers are very interested in?

JJM: Some great under-the-radar brands that our vintage experts always come in and drool over are Heinz Riva, who was a Swiss designer working as a couturier in Rome in the 1960s (we have the most beautiful blue bell dress from him), and Falconetto which was an Italian brand founded by Ken Scott (Scott was an American working in Milan in the 1970s). We have pieces from both of these designers and their prints feel so fresh and right for now.

Pair this stand-out dress with a plain pair of flatforms.

This has definite Cher from Clueless vibes about it.

Add strappy heels and you have a very Rihanna-worthy going-out outfit.

Tuck this into high-waisted indigo jeans for a double-denim look.

Perfect for a wedding abroad—add posh flats, jangly earrings and go.

This will partner up easily with a white tee and cropped trousers.

The kind of print that photographs so vibrantly—take a selfie instantly.

Layer over last year's LBD and see it fly.

These are such head-turners; they're best worn with an updo.

Take this on your holidays and everyone will ask you where it's from.

Do you wear vintage? Let us know in the comments box below, and shop for more pre-loved fashion here.

Opening Images: Style Du Monde/Getty Images/Christian Vierig

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