5 Essential Vintage Items for Your Closet

Be modern -- go for vintage!
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Every woman has several trusted pieces in her closet that she turns to again and again to complete a pulled-together look. A cropped jacket, a nice sweater, a good purse -- these classic styles can often trace their roots to icons of vintage fashion. Many of these wardrobe basics recall fashions of the twenties, when Coco Chanel introduced flattering, comfortable and practical clothing for women. Most of these pieces are still as fashionable now as they were back when they made their debut.

True vintage clothing made by fine designers can be found at vintage shops or online, but you can also find beautiful items based on these designs in your favorite stores. These wardrobe staples turn up in fashion magazines and favorite catalogs every season, reinvented by designers from Prada to J. Crew in this season's colors, sophisticated fabrics and updated sizing.


Read on and learn more about five essential vintage items for your closet. They'll add extra fashion mileage and effortless chic to your look.

5: A Cropped Jacket

A classic cropped jacket is a great basic item rooted in haute couture that lends a sophisticated, feminine touch to any outfit. Make it tweed, boucle, collarless, or with a contrast trim, and channel your inner fashionista.

Originally made famous by Coco Chanel, who paired it with a matching skirt, today's best-dressed ladies often don a cropped tweed jacket to add polish to a simple T-shirt and jeans. The jacket also works for the office with a dressy blouse or sweater plus pants or a skirt. Add several long necklaces, and you've got a chic yet timeless corporate look.


Today's versions may feature frayed edges or beautiful trims, and you'll find a rainbow of beautiful colors and fabrics that work for all seasons. Gorgeous cropped jackets can be found at every price point, in every store from Kohl's to Barney's.

4: A Little Black Dress

Despite the name, the little black dress comes in a variety of shapes and sizes.
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A little black dress is one of fashion's most iconic pieces, and every woman should have a couple of flattering, versatile styles in her closet. The dress has a long history as a wardrobe essential: it was identified as the shape of the future in a 1926 issue of "Vogue," when the fashion bible featured a drawing of a sheath by Coco Chanel and predicted it would become a uniform. Who can forget the image of Audrey Hepburn in a LBD designed by Hubert de Givenchy in "Breakfast at Tiffany's"? Many fashionable women, including Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Penelope Cruz and Michelle Obama have made the LBD their go-to staple.

Today, the little black dress goes from the office to dinner in styles suited for every season and climate. Look for a great fit, quality fabric, and timeless design for a dress that will earn its keep, season after season.


3: A Cardigan Sweater

A cardigan sweater is a go-everywhere, do-anything essential for your closet that traces its fashion roots to the sweater girls of the 1940s and 1950s. The cardigan was named for James Thomas Brudenell, the Earl of Cardigan, in the 17th century and was designed to keep fishermen warm on gloomy days, but it became a trend that took off when movie star Jayne Mansfield showed off her famous figure by wearing a buttoned-up cardigan sweater. In the 1960s, Jackie Kennedy Onassis seemed to throw a cardigan over everything from her famous sheath dresses to capris.

Practical and pretty, a cardigan is handy for those days when you don't know what the weather will be like or what kind of chill the air conditioning will bring. It adds instant versatility and respectability to a tank or sleeveless top.


Every cardigan collection should start with sweaters in black and white; choose luxurious lightweight cashmere if your budget will allow, or high-quality cotton. Once the basics are covered, add your favorite colors. Beaded embellishments or sequins take the cardigan from everyday to special occasion. Cardigan lengths and shapes range from the traditional round jewel neck that hits near the waist to longer, hip-length V-neck versions, as well as swingy and cropped variations.

2: A Great Handbag

Every woman needs a handbag to carry everyday essentials -- wallet, lipstick, cell phone -- but a great handbag has the potential to elevate any look and become your personal signature. Some vintage looks are tried-and-true classics, including the Hermès' top-handled Birkin bag; Chanel's quilted leather, chain-handled shoulder bag, and most any handbag with a Louis Vuitton monogram. Investing in a quality designer bag is worthwhile -- if your budget can take the hit -- because you'll carry it season after season. Consignment or vintage stores or online sites like eBay are great resources for classic bags at excellent prices.

No matter your budget, a beautiful handbag inspired by the great vintage designs can be found at your favorite department store or boutique. Whether you choose a shoulder bag or a hand-held tote, make sure the bag holds your essentials and suits your style, and you'll enjoy seasons of great looks. Classic black is always right, but brown, camel or cream are just as versatile. You could also choose your favorite color and treat it like a neutral. No matter what the color, a classic handbag is a must for any modern fashionista.


1: A Trench Coat

There's something mysterious and so very chic about a trench coat -- which makes sense because they were originally made for soldiers during World War I. A buttoned, belted, and collared topper helps pull together any look, and it's practical in almost any climate. A khaki Burberry coat is the crème de la crème, but if you'd like to give the look a personal twist, try a cropped version or one in basic black or a brighter color. You'll love the finishing touch it adds to any outfit, whether worn over a little black dress for a holiday cocktail party, or tossed over jeans and T-shirt to dash out to the coffee shop.

Now you know how it should look, but how should it fit? A trench coat should fit in the shoulders and flatter your natural waistline, or you'll end up looking like you're starring in a spy movie.


Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Alfano, Jennifer. The New Secrets of Style: Your Complete Guide to Dressing Your Best Every Day by the Editors of InStyle. Time, Inc. 2009.
  • France, Kim and Linette, Andrea. The Lucky Guide to Mastering Any Style. Melcher Media. 2008.
  • Grove, Andrea. "Fall Vintage Shopping." Elle.com. October 8, 2010. (May 18, 2012.) http://fashion.elle.com/shopping/2010/10/08/fall-vintage-shopping/.
  • Fritz, Maura. "A Short History of the Little Black Dress." Real Simple.com. (May 18, 2012.) http://www.realsimple.com/beauty-fashion/clothing/dresses-skirts/little-black-dress-00000000046948/index.html.
  • Siegel, Andrea. Open and Clothed: For the Passionate Clothes Lover. Agapanthus Books. 1999.
  • Wikiel, Yolanda. "The Best Cardigan Sweaters for Your Shape." Real Simple.com. (May 18, 2012.) http://www.realsimple.com/beauty-fashion/clothing/sweaters-tops/cardigan-sweaters-00100000068282/index.html.