We all know that trends come and go, and right now we are welcoming a surge in everything from the large floral prints of the ’60s and ’70s, to the bucket hats of the ’90s.
So, what if the next trend is hidden in the wardrobes of those who lived through these past eras? Could there be the perfect flared leg jean that fits us just right, or maybe a hand-knitted jumper made with love?
I asked six vintage lovers whose style has been impacted by their parents’ wardrobes to share their stories. How do they style that well-worn denim shirt? Is there something they will never give up? Read on to find out.
Ella – Found Store
The amazing Ella curates vintage for her online store, Found Store, with a focus on natural textures, fabrics and colours. Ella’s Instagram is also full of dreamy vintage looks and ways to style her thrifted finds.
“I don’t own anything from my parents but I was given this Carla Zampatti Linen Dress from my Aunty. She purchased it from a Canberra boutique called ‘Gabby’s’ in the ’80s. I love the colour, fabric and cut so much that I prefer to style it very simply with some gold jewellery (including my Dad’s wedding band that I wear alongside my own) and sandals in summer. It’s so special to have something handed down to you from such an iconic Australian designer.”
Riley – Yoko Knows
Riley is the founder of Yoko Knows, an online store that dedicates itself to giving clothing another chance to be loved. Riley sources well-made vintage threads and homewares from all over, aiming to create a curated store (and Instagram) that inspires us to shop preloved.
“In true Canadian fashion, my mum was an avid denim-on-denim wearer in the ’90s. I have fond memories of her in full-length denim overalls, paintbrush tucked into her ponytail, flecks of paint dotting her fringe. I would give anything for those overalls – paint stains and all. I did manage to steal this denim shirt (possibly from my dad circa 1998) and have loved it for many years, in many places and seasons. An oversized denim shirt makes for an easy denim-on-white look in summer, as you can see my mum absolutely rocking at Disney World in ’96, or a classic ‘mum hits the park’ denim-on-denim look with matchy vintage Levi’s and tennis shoes.
This delightful ‘Barbra Sue’ cardigan belonged to my GG, my mum’s mum! She tells me that my grandpa bought it for her on one of his monthly business trips to Montréal when their kids were little (which says that it’s about 40-50 years old). I snuck this thing out of GG’s closet the first time I laid eyes on it, I would have been in high school. It went to university with me and sadly would have been worn with leggings and Ugg boots when I rolled out of bed late for class, and now lives with me in Australia. Hopefully these days I sport it in a slightly classier, albeit quite simple, fashion.
The wild thing about all of these pieces is that they are in near-perfect condition. This is due in part to my commitment to making things last but is a far greater testament to their quality. They were never intended to be disposable. I don’t know if Barbra Sue knew that her cardigan would be an heirloom – worn and loved and passed on to daughter and daughter’s daughter – but it certainly is. And I’m sure it will be passed to another generation yet, full of another lifetime’s worth of stories.”
Katherine – Yarn Yarns
Creating Yarn Yarns with her best friend Sophie, Katherine wants to spread her love of vintage everywhere. Via Yarn Yarns, you can buy everything preloved from a vintage suit to a classic trench. Katherine also offers the option to rent out some vintage styles for your next ‘80s party or ‘70s photoshoot.
“When my parents moved to their Lisdillon (Tasmania) farm in the 1980s, my Dad bought a long ‘80s sheepskin coat for my Mum in a Hobart store that sold odds and ends. My Dad tried to buy it as a surprise for my Mum, but it was so expensive that she had to try it on. They ended up calling the coat Madge. My Mum used to wear Madge with whatever she was wearing that day, it became her go-to coat during the cold Tasmanian winters.
It weighs a tonne but I love wearing it because of the history behind it. I also love its style and that no matter what decade you are in you can pair it with something contemporary or vintage from another era and it will look great. It is a timeless piece of history! I like to keep it simple and wear it with jeans, boots and either a t-shirt or a skivvy when cold.”
Kathy – Honey from the Jar
A fashion collector since her teens, Kathy inherited her love of clothing and its history from her mother and grandmother. She now runs Honey From The Jar, an online vintage store that also allows rentals for stylists or costume designers. You can find Kathy in-person every Saturday at the Fitzroy market with stacks of vintage goodies.
“I have some nice accessories from my mother’s wardrobe, but due to a difference in our sizes, I only have a few actual clothing items that fit me well from Mum. I also have a few things of my Dad’s that I wear regularly. Mum worked in one of Melbourne’s first Recycle stores, Elaine’s in Balwyn, back in the ’80s and ’90s. She got these wonderful French Irene Van Ryb high-waisted pants while she worked there (they were recycled), and a beautiful cashmere Fendi scarf, both of which I’ve utilised in this styling set.
I love these pants because they connect me to not just my mum, but the thrifting cycle. I always feel like when I wear them, I take on a bit of my Mum’s style, which was very classic neutral. Plus, they’re made from a wool blend that never seems to age! She wore them second hand for 30 years and I’ve been wearing them for 12 years.
I picked up this dramatic Zara blouse at Sacred Heart Op Shop in Preston one weekend. It has these wonderful full balloon organza sleeves and a ribbed bodice so it’s fantastic for adding drama to any basic bottom. I also utilised Mum’s gorgeous coffee coloured pearl set, a patent leather Cue belt that I’ve been wearing for 20 years, and a brass finish chain belt to ‘double belt’. It’s a styling trick to add a bit more texture and chain belts are amazing for that as they can slip through the holes.
Wearing the same pants and this stunning Hugo Boss silk shirt which I thrifted. I added the beautiful brooch which belonged to a close friend’s Mum, and this fab Chantal Thomass cincher. I’m loving these Sandler ‘90s square-toed boots with just about everything right now!
Dialling it down for a more casual day look with this textured vintage linen blazer, ‘80s polka dot bodysuit, patent lace-up brogues and Fendi scarf from Mum. Or mix it up with a neutral trench for winter. This look goes anywhere and you can team it with a plain white or cream tee instead of a turtleneck, and replace the woollen trench for a lightweight cotton trench and some stylish sneakers during Spring.”
Suz – Past Tense Vintage
Suz shares a deep love of vintage with her loyal customers via her Etsy store Past Tense Vintage, sourcing preloved natural fibres for everyday wear. Suz spends hours thrifting and her Instagram shows her dedication to re-homing forgotten garments.
“My mom has always worn natural fibre clothing in loose, flowy silhouettes. In my teens and early ‘20s on a journey to find my own way, I experimented with many different styles, often following fleeting trends. Steadfastly, but somewhat subconsciously rejecting her way of dressing. As I grew and evolved, I naturally began to replicate her effortless vibe often borrowing things from her closet. These linen overalls from the ‘90s layered with a hand-knit jumper (made by her) are something she would’ve worn regularly in her ‘30s, inadvertently teaching me to look stylish in the most comfortable way.”
Jenny – Radio host/YouTuber
I discovered Jenny after she shared a reel that showcased all the clothing her mother had saved for her from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s – lucky her! She had some real finds and the cutest story behind them.
”This red blazer was from the ‘80s. My mum purchased it in her mid ‘20s when she was on her first holiday. My parents had just immigrated to Australia and travelled to Hong Kong to celebrate their new citizenship and life. My dad purchased this gorgeous red blazer, a leather bag (which we still have as well!) and a watch for her as a souvenir of their first holiday together. I like to style it with a similar red plaid skirt and black boots or loafers. Also, pairing it with a beret makes it look so chic and Parisian! I would go to Paris one day with my mum and wear this outfit!”
All these stories have inspired me to ask my parents about the fashion choices from their youth. I do remember the fuzzy ‘80s style jumpers my father used to wear and I can recall pictures of my mother in her floral skirt and top on her wedding day. I have always found it amazing how our clothing can hold memories of past times, helping us to connect with those who wore it before us.
Is there something in your wardrobe that sparks a memory of a loved one? Have you tried giving it a new lease on life? I’d love to hear about it and help you incorporate it into your wardrobe.
By Jenna Flood
ASI Sustainable Stylist
Jenna studied her Masters Certificate of Professional Styling with Australian Style Institute and is now a Personal and Editorial Stylist based in Melbourne. You can find more of Jenna’s articles here or follow her on Instagram @ironicminimalist