Vintage looks for the modern era

By Brady Collins | Contributor

Everyone finds a path to their own personal style. For some students at Duquesne, that path has involved vintage clothing. Anna Osiol, a sophomore music education major, said it only took one encounter with vintage clothing to get her searching for pieces that would open up a new door of self-expression.

“High-waisted, neon-orange jeans from the 80s with no stretch,” Osiol said. “That was my first piece of vintage, and I loved them. I had to wear them for ‘Footloose the Musical’ in high school, and they literally changed the way I thought about clothing.”

McKenna Lohr, a junior forensic science major, said that older styles have helped her gain the confidence to express all sides of her personality.

“[Vintage clothing has] allowed me to be much more daring with my clothing choices,” Lohr said. “I used to have moments of self-doubt walking across campus in unique outfits, but over time, I cared less and less about how others perceived me.”

Second-hand clothing is easy to find in Pittsburgh. A short walk down Carson Street in South Side can bring you to Highway Robbery Vintage, Three Rivers Vintage and Buffalo Exchange. Highway Robbery and Three Rivers Vintage offer highly curated collections of clothing for both men and women. Buffalo Exchange is a consignment store that features a few eclectic racks of vintage clothing.

On the occasion you find yourself wanting to explore Shadyside, you can find Eons Fashion Antique and Hey Betty; both of which have particularly expansive collections.

If your budget is tight, take the advice of Kennedy Jason, a sophomore music therapy major.

“Ask the store if they have any discounts, particularly for items that have rips or stains,” Jason said. “See if they have loyalty cards. It never hurts to ask.”

If you’re nervous to try your hand at bargaining right away, thrift shops such as Goodwill and Salvation Army often have quality vintage items interspersed throughout the store. While these thrift shops are not curated for eye-catching pieces, you can come away with great finds if you have enough time and patience to scour the racks.

It’s also possible to come across great finds without shelling out any money at all. Family members and friends often have clothes from past decades they are willing to part with.

Everyone has their own personal tastes, and the vintage clothes they select reflect that. Osiol prefers classic, feminine pieces as well as “anything high-waisted.” Jason gravitates to “anything oversize, like giant sweaters and jeans with a good bell bottom.” Lohr’s favorite items are blazers, “especially ones with shoulder pads,” and structured skirts from the 80s. Unanimously, everyone loves a good jewelry table.

Integrating vintage pieces into your wardrobe is not as difficult as some may suspect. It’s important to make remarkably unique or colorful pieces the focus of the ensemble. Pairing funky prints with neutrals or a monochromatic look can go a long way in making the outfit look balanced.

Jason said she also also plays with contrast in shapes and cuts.

“If I’m wearing an oversize sweater I’ll cinch it at the waist with a belt or wear it with skinny jeans or leggings,” she explained.

One of the benefits of wearing vintage is the level of quality as compared with garments at average retailers today. Sweaters and flannels that are upwards of twenty years old are not pilled, and vintage Levis are still intact without the wear and tear that you would expect. A major factor has to do with the use of more natural fibers in decades prior; vintage jeans are made of 100 percent cotton and not a cotton, lycra, spandex blend.

While wearing vintage is rewarding, it comes with certain challenges. First of all, clothing sizes can be difficult enough to decipher nowadays, but the system was entirely different in decades prior. For instance, a women’s size 10 at popular retailers in the 1950s is equivalent to a size two at popular retailers today.

Fortunately, at stores like Highway Robbery, price tags list what modern sizes the garment will likely fit. Employees at vintage stores tend to be knowledgeable about size differences as well. When left to your own devices, it’s best to just try it on.

“A lot of people need to get over the fact that someone else wore it,” Osiol said. “So what? That’s the history of it. Each piece has a story, and you get to continue that story.”

Wearing vintage is a social experience as well. While it of course allows you to stand out as an individual, it also allows you to feel more connected to those around you.

“I get compliments from people my age who have never seen a similar piece, but I also receive compliments from people much older who recognize the style of the piece I’m wearing as something they have worn at one time,” Osiol said.

Wearing vintage will allow you to express yourself beyond traditional barriers, and that may just lead you on a path to self-discovery. With so many stores across Pittsburgh, it may be the right time to start that journey.

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