Pinup on ANY Budget!

In this post I’d like to examine the opinion that “dressing pinup/vintage is expensive” or “I love that look but I could never afford that dress”. I come across this idea often, both in real life and seeing comments on social media. And while that certainly COULD be true, it doesn’t have to be. Let me explain!

Apples with apples, and quality over quantity.

I agree, that most vintage and vintage reproduction clothing costs more than your average chain store at the mall. But most women I know who don’t wear pinup or vintage style clothing don’t shop exclusively at lower end shops! They shop at higher end chain stores like Max, Decjuba or Country Road, make the occasional splurge on a NZ or overseas designer item and supplement their wardrobe with basics from cheaper chain stores or fun places like Kmart. And that to me is comparing apples with apples… and I think the cost would be pretty similar, or even less expensive to wear vintage style (especially if you follow my handy tips below!).
There are also the women who fall into another camp and I used to be one of these! The exclusive thrift, budget and sale shopper! Now thrifting is an awesome way to find unique and quality clothing at ridiculously cheap prices. I did find however that with budget and sale shopping I ended up getting caught in a cycle of buying something cheaply (since that was all I could “afford”) that might not be great quality, or wasn’t quite right in fit or otherwise… and either not wearing it or having it fall apart or look tatty after only a few washes or one season. So I’d rinse, and repeat… It took many years for me to develop the self control to be able to resist the sale and save up for a better quality yet more expensive item! And it might not even be that more expensive… but it was still hard to pry those extra few dollars out of my hard core budget minded wallet! There was still that voice in my head “surely I could find this cheaper somewhere else….” But when I gradually changed my habits it was a revelation and I actually spend less rather than more – because I bought things that lasted, and that I really liked to wear! I’ve also discovered that with careful and creative shopping… you don’t have to spend a lot to have a great wardrobe πŸ™‚

Here are some tips, a quide if you like to building a pinup wardrobe… no matter what your budget!

1. Shop smarter when buying new! Join online communities and mailing lists

Love a particular vintage reproduction brand, or have your heart set on a particular dress or fabulous pair of shoes? Make sure you follow brands you like on social media like Instagram and Facebook, and join mailing lists. Most popular brands like Pinup Girl Clothing, Collectif and Wheels and Dollbaby have very good sales a few times a year, even 30 or 50% storewide, as well as individually reduced items. Many brands also offer loyalty discounts to return customers! Shopping on the other side of the world can be an advantage too, since we can exploit the end of season sales being the opposite season πŸ™‚ Warning, all that exposure to all this pinup goodness can be a double edged sword… see Number 5 below!

2. Have fun exploring new sources – genuine vintage, thrifting, swapping, 2nd hand repro and chain stores!

I think one of the most fun things about dressing in vintage style is how many different sources there are out there! And for me, there is something very satisfying about finding something really unique, or nabbing a super bargain. There is great genuine vintage out there, if you can find something in your size! Online, on sites like Etsy, and in vintage stores and boutiques, curated vintage garments are a treasure trove of unique pieces, often at very reasonable prices. Quality of genuine vintage is, of course, often excellent, since the garment has already withstood the test of time! Thrifting is one of my favourite things to do. By thrifting, I mean looking through charity shops and markets, getting a bit down and dirty sometimes… trying to uncover a treasure! Obviously this requires more time, to sort the wheat from the chaff so to speak… but this is one way you can find some true bargain gems. Swapping with friends or online groups is an alternative too, especially if you have items that are too big or small but in good condition. Quality vintage reproduction brands can be bought second-hand online – through facebook groups and sites like Trademe and Ebay. Often, you can pick up something in near new condition, or even with tags, at much less than the cost new. Just be careful to check feedback on sellers… although I have been lucky and never had an issue. Last but not least, keep an eye out for vintage styles in unexpected places! Often chain and department stores have good basics like cropped cardigans and blouses, very cheaply. Malls can be good sources for cheap and cheerful accessories too!

PhotoGrid_1407826471015This is an example of an outfit put together from many different sources! The felted beret is locally made from shop called Wintergarden, and was a deal at $20. The striped top is from Kmart, the pussy bow blouse underneath is from a mall chain store, the white vinyl belt is from Pinup Girl Clothing (I always add a few accessories when I do an order from PUG), the skirt is Rock Steady (and I got it on sale at Rita Sue Clothing) and the shoes are Mi Piaci, bought from their outlet store at DressMart and were 70% off! Most of my outfits are a hodge podge of vintage, vintage repro, chain store and thrifted pieces πŸ™‚

Β 4. Maximise what you already have

I’ve touched on this in a previous post… but I’ll say it again! Accessories are a pinup girl’s best friend! Instead of buying a new outfit, go “shopping” in your own closet. Try putting together pieces in new ways and colour combos you haven’t tried! Follow fellow vintage lovers on social media for a wealth of inspiration! If you are like me, there are probably things lurking in your wardrobe you haven’t worn in a while and almost forgotten about… all they need is a fresh look πŸ™‚ I am always amazed at how something like a printed skirt can be worn so many ways by changing shoes, belts, cardigans, scarves and jewellery! Try mixing patterns and prints and pairing colours in new ways! If you have items that don’t fit anymore, look at alterations, which can be surprisingly inexpensive. Even if you are not sewing inclined (like myself), outsourcing works too πŸ™‚ If you love the fabric of a dress but it is too small, think outside the box, it might make a nice skirt!


Here is an outfit based on aΒ dress that I found at a thrift store. I loved the tattoo print, but the bodice was much too small… actually it consisted of 2 triangles that wouldn’t have covered my nipples! So I simply cut off the bodice and… instant skirt! Confession… I didn’t even sew it, I just fold over the top and wear a belt… lazy!

The cardigan I’m wearing I bought on sale at a shop at my local mall, and added the cute iron on pink sequin cherries from a craft store!


5. Don’t get carried away (This is a biggie!)… Have a “wish list” and be organised

I think one of the reasons it is so easy to spend a lot of money wearing vintage style is that it’s seriously addicting! There are just so many beautiful vintage brands and designers and I am always discovering something new. And there are so many beautiful pin up loving gals as sources of inspiration, it’s very easy to get caught up in seeing something new and fabulous and “needing” it. I think there is also a feeling that we put on ourselves, that we have to wear something unique and different every day… and if I wore a different dress every day that would get seriously expensive! I got into a very bad shopping habit in this way, and one of the tricks I have learned is to make a “wish list”. Look at what is in your closet. Sell, swap or give to charity what doesn’t fit or you don’t wear. Make a list of items you really want or love… that would either be a super wardrobe staple, or maybe just something beautiful you want for a special occasion. Planning out what I REALLY want instead of impulse buying is something I found really helpful! Just because that dress looks fabulous on someone else, or is on sale/limited edition/don’t have a flamingo print dress in my wardrobe… doesn’t mean I need to buy it. Sounds simple right!? For instance, here are a few things on my wishlist at the moment… and I’m not going to rush out an buy anything (or everything!) on it. BUT I may keep an eye out and use some of the tips I’ve mentioned to get my hands on something on that list – eventually. And if it’s in the budget… which at the moment, means probably not for a long time!



The items on my wish list aren’t all specific items! Some are basics, some are just things I love! They are – something in harlequin print and/or a Jenny dress from PUG, a black wiggle skirt like the Kinky ruffles skirt by Deadly Dames, a playsuit for summer like this adorable pineapple print on from Glamour Bunny, a novelty print skirt in something cute – love this foxy print from Hell Bunny, a Monica dress from PUG, a summery frock like this Watercolour print swing dress from Stop Staring, a pair of BAIT shoes in coral, a brooch from Luxulite and Modcloth’s cropped cardis, in several colours πŸ™‚ Well a girl can dream right!

6. Be practical… but not too practical!

I just had to pop this one in here! There is definitely something to be said for trying to be practical. Choosing items that will be able to be worn with a maximum number of other pieces in your wardrobe, and that are great foundation pieces is a very good idea. However! I can’t say how many times I’ve ended up with something I liked, rather Β than LOVED because I over thought things and bought something I thought would be more practical in my wardrobe… and sure it probably was. I have plenty of lovely things I wear all the time because of this! But there is also a magic in having something in your wardrobe that’t NOT practical. Something special you just absolutely fell in love with… just because… even if it didn’t match anything you already owned. Because you know what? You will probably wear that a lot too… simply because you love it. So be practical… but trust your instinct πŸ˜‰ Although if you do this too much, you will end up with a shopping problem! Delicate balance…. ah first world problems…

7. Start local, and keep going back!

If you are just starting to build your pinup wardrobe, or want to dabble by just getting something fabulous for a special occasion, I can’t recommend enough going into your local (or nearest) pinup style boutique, if you are lucky enough to have one! This is a great way to try on a variety of brands and styles, see what suits and fits you, and buy something you really love. Living in Auckland we are lucky to have the amazing Rita Sue Clothing, which has recently moved to St Kevin’s Arcade in downtown Auckland. I bought my very first Pinup Girl Clothing dress here, and while shopping online can be great, you can’t beat “real life” shopping… and being able to talk to and have help from ladies who have knowledge and passion for vintage clothing and lifestyle! Often they can order in a size or colour and you never know, you might just make some new friends in the vintage community πŸ™‚

Hope you enjoyed these tips! And if you would like to see my daily outfit posts, follow me on Instagram… I post what I’m wearing and details there most days!

Natalie xxx

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