Rebecca Earle Cotillion Bureau

How to Wear Vintage

Style Queue
Expert ways to make retro work for curvy women

Years of experience working with vintage fashion — and being a curvy woman herself — has taught Rebecca Earle how to make vintage finds work for women of all sizes. She is the curator of Cotillion Bureau, sourcing and displaying one-of-a-kind pieces. Here are some of her expert tricks and tips to make vintage your own:   

  • TURN MAXIS INTO MIDIS. Hike a maxi skirt up until it’s a midi and create a new waistband that works for you.
  • REMOVE BUTTONS from blazers and sew the button holes to wear it as an open coat. This works especially well with heavily textured fabrics.
  • WEAR UNDERGARMENTS THAT FLATTER. Many vintage garments were designed for vintage-style underpinnings. Don’t discount bullet bras that can help you fill out your top, or high-waisted panties that will help you avoid visible panty lines.
  • CAREFULLY REMOVE WAISTLINE DARTS to gain an inch or two around the midsection. This works best on a dress with a fitted top and gathered skirt.
  • FIND A DROP-WAIST DRESS and take the lower waistline up to your natural waist, or even an empire cut.
  • LOOK FOR MORE GENEROUS STYLES like kaftans, housecoats, and kimonos, then add a belt to give your new “dress” a silhouette.
  • KEEP AN EYE OUT for recent vintage that is a reproduction of older vintage; you will have a much easier time finding a variety of sizes from the 1980s onward. The 1990s did the 1970s extremely well, while the ’80s brought back the ’40s in a big way!
  • DON’T DISREGARD THE MEN’S SECTION. For casual pieces, the men’s department can be a gold mine! Look for button-downs, denim, and accessories.
  • CULTIVATE A RELATIONSHIP with your local tailor or seamstress. Many dry cleaners offer alterations services, too.
  • GET CREATIVE! Wear a robe as a jacket, wear a skirt as a strapless top, or a maxi skirt as a dress. There are no rules!

Cotillion Bureau and Lady Pickwick’s are co-located at 60 State St. in Portsmouth’s Bridge District.

Rebecca Earle Cotillion Bureau

Rebecca Earle, who goes by the handle PowerClashing on Instagram, gives new life to vintage deadstock bras by dyeing them fun colors. Her secondhand dress is from Paris, her tapestry coat came from a tiny antique store in Idaho, and the Swedish Hasbeens clogs are from Lady Pickwick’s. (photo by Jennifer Moore)

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