Even though retro seems like a timeless trend, it’s a relatively recent phenomenon. Before the 1960s, much of what we consider vintage now would have just been trash. Shops in Swinging London started selling second-hand furniture that was only a couple of decades old but still had plenty of charm. France helped propel the term “retro” in reference to fashion during the 1970s. Now, people apply the description to styles that date from the 1920s to 1990s, which includes fringy flapper dresses, mod skirts and riot grrl band concert shirts.
If you don’t want to drop thousands on an early 20th-century vintage outfit or hundreds on a twenty-year-old baseball shirt, the online stores listed below sell reproductions at price points much more accessible than vintage clothes.
This Burbank, California, store offers items categorized by decade, from the 1920s to the ‘70s, plus sections for wedding and prom. While most retro stores tend to focus on specific eras, Unique Vintage carries cocktail dresses, pencil skirts and rhinestone headbands. The price points are mostly in the double digits, with some of the more intricately beaded dresses costing between $100 and $200.
2. Stop Staring
If you ever wondered where Zooey Deschanel gets her swing dresses and red polka dot outfits, Stop Staring is at least one of her sources. The Los Angeles shop’s celebrity clientele list includes Christina Ricci, Meg White, Chloe Sevigny, Eeene Cervanka, Sarah Silverman and, yes, even Kim and Khloe. The online selection focuses on ’40s and ’50s-inspired ensembles — skirts, dresses, blouses, swimsuits and formal wear, in a wide variety of sizes that many other retro stores don’t stock. Designed in-house, the clothing prices tend to be between $100 and $200.
Teresa and Mandie Becker, the L.A. mother-daughter team behind Heart of Haute, create original designs based on mid-century style. Their A-line skirts and mod girl dresses will probably impress almost all retro design fans (except hardcore purists). Plus, if you don’t see a piece you like in your size, most items can be made to order. Heart of Haute’s use of splashy fabrics with floral, swirling and geometric patterns makes their dresses more distinctive than standard retro fare. The company also has an extensive collection of bridal and formal wear. Most of the prices range between $100 and $200.
Our pick: Beverly Dress in May Flowers, $110
Love retro style but don’t want to appear as if you just disembarked from “The Love Boat”? ShopRuche adapts classic fabric patterns and shapes into modern looks. The floral dresses and skirts could be worn in a casual office or summer festival. The rompers and jumpsuits take inspiration from freewheeling, ‘70s California design. The selection also includes plenty of basics that can be adapted to a variety of outfits. Most items are under $100. Many of the items are made with polyester fabrics. Sizes range from XS to XL. There are also discounts for first-time buyers.
Our pick: Hummingbird Floral Mini Dress, $52
If you just want to get something cheap and fun, Anarchic Fashion has a grab bag of reproduction pieces from various eras. However, if you appreciate ‘80s punk and new wave pieces, it’s one of the few retro sites that focuses on that time period. The Day-Glo Sleeveless Biker Vest could have easily been worn by one of the Go-Gos at their height. High waisted silver leggings are a disco-era staple. Anarchic Fashion’s collection also includes a 60s-style embroidered jeans and an Art Deco–inspired “awards” dress. Keep in mind, some of the pieces only come in one size. Most pieces are under $60.
While Blue Velvet Vintage offers clothing from “deco to disco,” it excels with a collection of early 20th-century style dresses. Since the company mixes its own clothing line along with pieces from other designers, there are several pieces you may not find elsewhere. The Blue Hawaiian Coquette Halter Dress is perfect tiki bar gear. Their silver-based sequin flapper is hand-loomed and much higher quality than the standard costume gear. The rose print draped neck with a French bias cut will make you look like you just stepped off of a 1930s Pullman car. The quality tends to be a little higher than many retro shops, and prices can be anywhere from $85 to $300. Sizes include small to 2XL.
Our pick: Deco Leaf Print Dropped Waist Dress, $142
7. Bettie Page
As you might expect from the name, Bettie Page clothing takes its inspiration from the 1950s dominatrix pin-up famous for bustier tops and riding crops. However, Bettie Page (the fashion line) is more about frilly edges and western piping than leather and lace. Yes, there are corsets and lingerie, but there are also vampy, ’50s-style tops with off-the-shoulder and V-neck cuts. In addition to electric colors, they also offer several of their pieces in Miami pastels and bold prints. Anyone who wants to make a poolside statement should check out their collection of halter top, one- and two-piece suits. You’ll definitely see the reason why Bettie Page was BUST’s “Matron Saint.” Skirts average around $65, dresses are a little over $100 and swimsuits are usually somewhere in between.
Our pick: Swatch Princess Seamed Bandeau Sheath in Green and White, $98
Pin-Up Girl Clothing builds on classic forms like halter and netti dresses with bright colors and bold-patterned fabrics. The swimwear section has fun with leopard print and fishnet fabrics. The Pinup Couture Plus section offers many of the company’s swing, wiggle and cocktail designs in bigger sizes. Pin-Up Girl Clothing even has retro maternity dresses. To accent those classic looks there are shoes — platform, stiletto, pumps and even kitten heels. Dresses range from $100 to $200, swimwear is $75 to $125 and shoes are $50 to $65.
Stop by Steady Clothing if you want to get outfitted for a greaser drag race. Bowling shirts, V-neck shrug sweaters and pencil skirts are the main offerings. This company takes rockabilly lifestyle seriously, including pomade, speed jackets and Sun records sweatshirts in its collection. One particularly cool option is the ability to design your own ’50s-style bowling shirt — it could definitely come in handy for dressing up as one of the Pink Ladies or starting a doo-wop group. Steady Clothing also has several shirts and jackets for guys. Size options range from small to 4X.
Our pick: Betsy Tie Top in Navy, $36
Focused on 1950s rockabilly style, this is a great stop if you just watched Grease and decided that Rizzo and Sandra Dee are your new fashion icons. Flared skirts, capri pants and white gloves are all on the menu. The accessories section deserves a browse for its atomic pink purses, wicker handbags and numerous neck scarves. Prices range from $65 for tops and $145 for a flared dress with an wisteria-style appliqué embellishments. Depending on the item, sizes may include XS to 4XL.
Our pick: Dice High Waist Shorts Gingham, $80
top photo: Mad Men
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