How to Work Vintage Pieces Into Your Work Wardrobe

Add a vintage flair to your wardrobe with these tips!

how to work vintage pieces into your work wardrobe

A string of pearls drips from the dressing table; diamante clasps on silk clutches glisten in the morning sun; colourful crystal brooches spill out of tiny ornate evening bags. A little girl sits, wide-eyed, in this sea of sparkling treasures, pondering which of grandma’s boxes to rummage through next.

We were all that little girl once, enchanted by charm bracelets and hypnotised by shining bags and clutches. The truth is, we’re still that little girl really. We’re still breath-taken by beautiful jewellery and lovingly crafted bags; the perfect vintage piece still has the ability to capture our hearts and our imaginations.

The trouble though, is that that’s often where the heirlooms our mothers and grandmothers cherished and passed on to us stay – in our hearts, our imaginations …and at the bottom of our jewellery boxes gathering dust. We’re just not entirely sure how, or even if, vintage accessories have a place in our modern wardrobes. Zara Gallagher, owner of vintage store Otterley & Hester, feels they absolutely do.

‘I love modern fashion. I’ve picked up the odd piece of vintage clothing to mix with high street pieces and I love the idea of the perfect vintage dress, but I never seem to find one that is the right fit’. Jewellery and bags on the other hand? ‘The beauty of vintage accessories is that they’re ready to fit straight into your wardrobe!’

Otterley and Hester, Zara explains to us, are two wonderful women who she imagines to be stylish, strong, fun and intelligent. They had loved life, lived it fully, and kept all the incredible accessories that had been with them during the good times. We, then, are the modern Otterley and Hesters, able to channel their vibrant spirit by adding a little signature vintage style to our modern outfits.

Zara is the first to admit that vintage is often too quickly associated with musty smells, Goodwood and a full on ‘50s look. She’s nonetheless determined to highlight their charm: ‘I want to spotlight these accessories and introduce them to a new market by showing people how these items can be styled with modern trends’.

Indeed, so many of our modern trends are in fact based almost entirely on a bygone era – we can barely move for 70s flares, fringing and floppy hats on the high street this season! So perhaps for those slightly wary of wearing vintage, current trends are a great place to start: ‘discerning women will seek out the original sources…our vintage ‘70s leather saddle bags have been very popular!’

Popular culture also plays a huge part, with the popularity of period TV shows like Mad Man encouraging women to become more adventurous with their work wardrobes and take inspiration from past trends. With that in mind, we couldn’t help but ask Zara for a few pointers to help us dip our toes in to the magical world of vintage at work.

A corporate boardroom meeting

‘A classic gold plated vintage Trifari collar looks great teamed with a simple shift dress. In this situation you want to avoid distracting jewellery, and these subtle collars will add elegance and style’.

A sunny client breakfast 

‘A pretty vintage bracelet will show off a tan and sparkle in the sun. When you’re sitting and eating with a client your hands are on show, so choose a bracelet that is interesting and stylish!’

Casual Friday at the office 

‘A ’70s vintage leather saddle bag really complements the big denim looks this season. These bags develop a wonderful patina with age and are practical, with a secure buckle fastening (rather than the faux buckle and stud fastening on many modern copies)’.

The first day of a new job

‘Carrying a quality classic 1950s or ’60s handbag will make you feel more confident and create a great first impression. These are stylish, grown up bags which signal that you are to be taken seriously. Choose one that will go with most outfits and become your signature bag, such as a luxury Mappin & Webb lizard skin handbag in black or a neutral shade’.

From desk to after-work cocktails

‘Pin on a statement sparkling brooch and you’ll feel ready to party.  There are so many beautiful vintage brooches and these are often overlooked. They look great on a lapel but there are many other ways to wear them, for example button up your shirt and wear one over your top button, use a brooch to fasten an edge to edge jacket at the waist, or a little cardigan at the neck. I’ve used then to replace a missing button on a coat and worn them on a wide piece of ribbon tied on my wrist!’

Press events and networking

‘If you are having to carry around a large bag, keep a small vintage clutchevening bag or metal mesh purse with you to carry your essentials while you check in your large bag. At many events people are often looking for ways to initiate a conversation and an unusual bag always catches the eye and is an instant ice breaker and talking point. Choosing a few keys vintage pieces will help to get you noticed in a crowded room and make you more memorable after the event’. 

And so, our chat with Zara fresh in our minds, we’re off for a magical rummage through Otterley & Hester’s vintage treasure trove – come and join us at!

Anouszka Tate

Anouszka is a print journalist and radio & TV presenter with a penchant for sarcasm and tongue in cheek wit. Most importantly she’s YCB’s Features Editor. When she's not busy being all career driven she'll be baking, working out or making lists. Sometimes she wishes she had been born a decade earlier, and male, so that she could have been in a 90s boy band. Follow her on twitter and instagram @anouszkatate for vital updates on the above things summarised in 140 characters / in photo form.

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