My Mom, looking awesome in her teal knit pant suit. My aunt convinced her to buy it at time when Mom spent very little on herself.

I have always loved this picture of my Mom with her 1970s bouffant hair and my youngest brother on her lap. She is wearing one of my favorite colors, a knit pantsuit which was probably one of the few nice things she owned at the time. She bought it at Ted’s, a dress shop in the small town where I grew up. Back in the day, the globe was dotted with such shops. I can’t remember seeing another bouffant again until the mid-1980s. Fresh out of college, I’d gone to work for Merrill Lynch where I met Loretta, a streak of lightning who could work circles around anyone. She was old enough to be my mother, a New Yorker who still wore her hair piled high on her head. Loretta’s bouffant was straight out of the 1960s, just like her heavily-painted eyebrows, eyeliner and cat-eye glasses. She was a beautiful woman with a Brooklyn accent. There is no doubt that Loretta had once rocked this look. Twenty-five years later, she wore it like a caricature of her former self. Studying Loretta, I made a note to myself: NEVER GROW SO ATTACHED TO A LOOK THAT YOU CAN’T GIVE IT UP. Here are three quick tips to help avoid what I call The Loretta Syndrome:

Every three to five years, go to a salon or a cosmetics counter and let someone else do your makeup. Better yet, visit more than one so you can average the feedback. Over time, trends aren’t the only thing that change. The geography known as your face will change too. You will wake up one day and find that your favorite technique no longer works on your face/eyelids. What once brightened your face looks brassy. Or what once set off your coloring makes you look dull and tired. It’s time for a change. Because of your own strong opinions about what works for you, you may need to spread your trust to a larger group of experts.

Subscribe, buy, borrow, or RSS feed content from fashion magazines and blogs. You don’t have to have your nose in them all the time or become a slave to fashion. Just peruse them three or four times a year. Everyone needs some visual stimuli to stay sharp. What you’re looking for is a mental imprint of the profiles, proportions, and shapes of current fashion. This will tell you when it’s time to purge your skinny jeans. Don’t rely wholly on major retailers as harbingers of fashion. Sometimes, they are sadly behind the curve. Example: Vogue began showing a 1940s trouser pant this winter, but they are nowhere to be found in stores yet.


Indy's Vintage Diva combines this 1950s sequined sweater with jeans. Available for $80 in the Bridal and Special Occasion Department of our site.

Beware of literal translations and extremes. If there is a signature look that’s interesting, timeless and looks good on you, go ahead and stake your claim on it. Buy favorites in the best quality you can afford and save them. Who knows? These could be the vintage clothes of the future. But when you decide to wear anything vintage, remember one thing: the look should be inspired from the past—not a literal translation of it. Nothing is more aging than clinging to the past. The older you are, the truer this is. No one loves vintage clothing any more than I do, but to wear them as they were originally worn can be utterly boring. Instead, try pairing the old with the new (or the new that’s old.) A 1950s champagne-sequined sweater may be great with jeans or a winter white trouser. To wear it as it was originally worn—perhaps over a vintage empire-waisted dress with a full skirt—is an extreme that looks both unimaginative and ridiculous. The trick is to bring vintage clothes to a place of modernity.

The moral to the story is this: it takes a while for clothes to become vintage. If what you once wore is now back in style, you may need to exercise some care if you think you’d like to wear it again, lest you become a caricature of what’s vintage. Now, if only I can take my own advice!