Vintage-inspired on a budget.
September 11, 2012 7:05 PM   Subscribe

Who sells non-costumey retro dresses for reasonable prices? I dig '50s style dresses in particular, and have a hard time finding them aside from ModCloth.

I love a 1950s (Rockabilly-Lite?) look, but have a hard time finding good stuff online or otherwise.

I own a couple of A-line dresses that I like from ModCloth, Hepcat and Soda Fountain, and would love to find more stuff along the same lines. I also like "wiggle dresses" (though I have no idea how they'd look on me). I'm looking for stuff to wear on kind of an everyday or casual-ish "going out" level. Dresses, separates, and accessories are all welcome. (Shoes too, if you insist, though I need a new pair of heels like I need a hole in the head.)

Who carries this kind of stuff on a fairly consistent basis, aside from ModCloth? While I like the two dresses I have from them, the quality is just OK. Is ModCloth really my best option here?
I find a lot of stuff I either feel is too expensive (I'd like to stay at or below ~$100 mark for a dress, for example, if possible... unless you can convince me otherwise based on quality) and/or too costumey (stuff obviously intended for pinup photoshoot type things).
posted by jorlyfish to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (23 answers total) 102 users marked this as a favorite
Bettie Page and Stop Staring are kind of the king of this sort of thing. Tons of cute stuff on etsy, too.
posted by mollymayhem at 7:10 PM on September 11, 2012 might have stuff you like, although the fit of their dresses can be hit or miss.
posted by sarahnade at 7:14 PM on September 11, 2012

Try some of the following: Ruche, eShakti, Unique Vintage, Shabby Apple, Boden.
posted by Mizu at 7:14 PM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]

Mizu -- nice!!!

I have decent luck by walking into Forever 21 and trying on tons of dresses. The fit there is hit or miss, but they tend to stock clothes from particular themes (Mod, 80's, cowboy, what have you) and you can walk out of the store with a few great vintagey finds for under $50, or much less.

Right now they have some super cute vintage style sundresses, at least in their California stores.
posted by kellybird at 7:29 PM on September 11, 2012

If you can sew, or have a mom or someone who will sew for you for free, you can buy vintage patterns, or the newly released vintage patterns that Vogue Patterns and some of the other pattern companies sell, and have dresses sewn for you for under $100.
posted by orange swan at 7:33 PM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

There's a store in Seattle called Diva Dollz and they specialize in vintage inspired clothing. The store is a bit costumy, but if you don't do the hair, make up, and accessories, it's just pretty. They're opening another store in New Orleans. I don't know if they do shipping though.
posted by ethidda at 7:43 PM on September 11, 2012

Haha, kellybird, thanks. I have all these on my bookmarks because that's pretty much the only dress shape that fits me, flatters my figure, and that I feel comfortable in. I'm on my other computer with even MORE shopping bookmarks, so let's see, there's...

Plasticland, AJ Rumina, parts of ASOS, parts of Dorothy Perkins, parts of SheInside.

That should do you for browsing for a while. The thing is that currently that shape of dress is having a bit of a moment. The other day I bought a nice a-line grey dress at H&M for $50, fully lined and everything.
posted by Mizu at 7:44 PM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Here are the Forever 21 dresses. (That link is just the casual selection.) You really have to try them on, though, so a store is best... or order a ton and return them. Look at those prices though!

I bought this one and it's awesome, bright orange and looks great. I also have this longer dress and people have asked me if it's vintage.

They also have great colorful retro shoes...
posted by kellybird at 7:46 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Trashy Diva, also.
posted by mollymayhem at 7:46 PM on September 11, 2012

pinupgirl clothing!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:47 PM on September 11, 2012

incidentally, I have ordered from there, and the dress I got was really well made. (this one in black). A nice thing on their website is that they tell you the model's measurements, so you can compare them to your own and get an idea of how the item will fit you.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:55 PM on September 11, 2012

I've heard really good things about the etsy store heartmycloset. They do custom-fitted dresses in a big variety of styles straight outta Joan Holloway's closet. I'm fairly sure they also still do custom designs, too. Only just in your $100 budget, though.

I find that the truly vintage etsy stores generally lean a little too much into costumey, but the vintage-inspired clothing shops are often perfect for this kind of thing.
posted by sonmi at 8:04 PM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Have you considered buying REAL vintage dresses on etsy? Much, much cheaper and the clothes are often of higher quality than anything you'd find new.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:22 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I got a floral teadress from Trollied Dolly. They're UK-based but ship internationally.
posted by pink_gorilla at 8:30 PM on September 11, 2012

I endorse heartmycloset, aka oriental_treasure on eBay. They make things exactly to measure. The fabrics are equal or better than Modcloth's.
posted by amber_dale at 9:09 PM on September 11, 2012

I got a great dress from Stop Staring about 2 years ago, but I'd mostly recommend their dresses for night-time going out occasions, they're pretty figure hugging.
posted by nerdcore at 9:25 PM on September 11, 2012

I love this look too and have had very good luck getting the real deal for good prices on Etsy. Keep in mind that New Look shirt-dresses are often shown with full crinolines, which makes them look more old-fashioned/costumey than they need to. Something like this, for example, seems at first like you'd have to be Betty Draper to actually wear it, but will look perfectly sweet and modern sans crinoline and with a modern belt. I always get tons of compliments when I wear real vintage instead of vintage-inspired.

Finding the right dresses on Etsy can be time-consuming, though. Try a search for "50s dress", and make sure you know your measurements in advance so you can quickly rule out dresses that won't fit. To get you started, here are just a few shops that I happen to have come across that might offer the kind of thing you're looking for:

Raleigh Vintage
The Vintage Studio
Sally Jane Vintage
Forever Lovely Vintage
Vint Condition
SIB Vintage
posted by ootandaboot at 9:48 PM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, I really want something from HeartMyCloset - if that's the same lady as TopRunway - but I'm waiting until I've lost a wee bit of weight as my measurements will change. I've heard good stuff.

Fever Clothing are a bit retro, but I didn't think the quality was worth the price when I tried their stuff on. If you're smaller/less busty than I am, you could try Joy. I have some items from Vivien of Holloway, but as you say they can feel a bit costumey for daily wear (lovely for weddings or nights out, though). However, I have worn their gingham dresses for trips to the beach.

Get Cutie do dresses that have different fitting options for different bra sizes andf some of their styles are based on vintage patterns. It might be just outside your budget, though. It's another place I'm going to look at in the future because I love some of their prints.
posted by mippy at 3:56 AM on September 12, 2012

Watch places like Lands End and Talbots for great shirt dresses and "fit and flare" dresses. Ann Taylor and J. Crew sometimes as well--any store that specializes in "ladylike" clothing does a good job of bringing that silhouette into modern times.

I do a lot of my own sewing as well because a lot of the places that do "50s retro" do it just a little too cheesy for me, I'm not a cosplayer.
posted by padraigin at 7:59 AM on September 12, 2012

Response by poster: Wow, lots of great stuff guys. I have a lot of browsing to do! :)

I've had hit-or-miss luck with Forever 21 in terms of quality (some stuff falls apart after like 2 washes, other stuff I've had for years) but I'll have to give them a second look.

Unfortunately sewing is not an option.. don't think I know anyone handy with a machine.

And lastly, I will take a look at actual vintage dresses... The sizing changes and whatnot will just be a little something extra to navigate.
posted by jorlyfish at 2:14 PM on September 12, 2012

I've gotten some modern versions of the wiggle dress at The Limited. I was surprised that they still exist.
Anyway, I like this one as an example
posted by rmless at 3:03 PM on September 12, 2012

Here's a quick guide to taking your own measurements, if you haven't done it before. I actually find it's slightly easier to deal with sizing in the context of vintage clothes because you give up any assumption that the size is supposed to mean something! It's not like modern sizes are so reliable...using your actual measurements is the most accurate way to learn if something you're buying online will fit. I just know my chest and waist off the top of my head, and that's pretty much all you need to know (unless it's a wiggle dress, in which case you also need to know hips).
posted by ootandaboot at 4:24 PM on September 12, 2012

Saw some nicely made things like this at Stein Mart recently, although maybe a little more 60’s inspired. It’s a popular style at the moment.
posted by bongo_x at 7:11 PM on September 17, 2012

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