Making Vintage Modern: How to Look Chic in Second-Hand


My latest outfit shoot was photographed by Ashley Erdman by the Water of Leith in Stockbridge, and features a 90's lace slip dress layered over a roll neck top, worn with burgundy chelsea boots and a classic biker jacket.


I love shopping vintage and retro. It's ethical, it's affordable, and it's so much more original than the high street! But for me, I like to style vintage pieces in a way that is totally 21st century, not kitsch and dated or worn exactly as it was. The underwear as outwear trend continues to be one of my favourites this year, and layering always looks chic, and practical in the unpredictable Scottish summer weather!


My favourite vintage clothing store in Edinburgh is called Carnivale, which is where this beautiful lace slip dress is from. It's a classic 1990's underwear piece, so because of it's sheerness, I layered it over a simple black ASOS cami dress (just seen), and underneath I wore a ribbed black roll neck top also from ASOS, and accessorised with a faux leather jacket from Rosy Penguin and classic Chelsea boots from Tod's at Harvey Nichols.


The bag is one of my favourites. It's a vintage brown leather piece, which is completely convertible; you can wear it as a backpack, shoulder bag or a cross-body bag. It's from Godiva Boutique, another wonderful Edinburgh shop selling vintage and retro fashion along with independent UK and international clothing brands. The brown belt worn around the waist to give the outfit a bit of shape, is a classic old charity shop find.


So why shop second hand? For me, the benefits are endless, but here are just a few reasons to love vintage and retro fashion:

  • The ultimate in ethical fashion- there are no new consumer products, simply recycling and upcycling old ones!

  • Supporting small independent local businesses!

  • Saving old clothing from going to landfill, reducing waste!

  • On a student budget like me, charity shops are a brilliant way to save money!

  • Trends always repeat themselves, so vintage is always in fashion!

  • Most finds are one of a kind so no one else will be wearing the same!

  • The hunt for the perfect vintage piece is so much more exciting than mass-produced, chain store fashion handed to you on a plate!

  • Often vintage clothes are better quality, from the days before cheap fast fashion and sweatshop production!

  • Vintage clothes come with a past life, a story, a life cycle to continue on with your own adventures!


As I said, to suit my style- which I like to think is minimalist and modern, vintage clothes have to be styled with other pieces and in innovative ways. Here are some styling tips to make second-hand pieces look chic:

  • Invest in classic, timeless pieces that won't age, like black dresses, leather accessories, trench coats, leather jackets and silk scarves.

  • Don't fear the shoulder pads- you can always unpick the stitches and remove them from tops and dresses.

  • Mix and match vintage, high street and designer pieces to keep things fresh.

  • Layering is key- a classic white shirt or black turtleneck will look sharp and chic layered under vintage dresses and dungarees.

  • Keep hair and make-up modern to tone down the vintage vibes.

  • Stay simple with accessorising; stick to minimalist jewellery, classic shoes and bags, and perhaps a statement scarf or jacket to make it pop.

  • Little tweaks can make a big difference, like rolling up sleeves to reveal the lining of a jacket, shortening the hem of a 'frumpy' skirt, adding patches or pins to a jacket, or changing the belt on a dress.


Thanks again to Ashley for taking these snaps between downpours of rain last week! You can check out her work here.