If I could time-travel back to the 1950s and still keep my Macbook and my women’s rights, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I don’t have a magical DeLorean, so that’s unfortunately out of the question. But I do like to incorporate small retro pleasures into my daily life. Here are a few ways I manage to feel old-fashioned and glamorous… but keep my modern luxuries, like free WiFi and Twitter.
Red lipstick is the most wearable type of vintage glamour, I think. It doesn’t necessarily scream pin-up girl or film noir star, but with the right outfit, it totally could. My favorite is by Sephora and simply called The Red. It’s soft and buttery and has really high-impact color. A red lip is an easy way to feel glam without actually putting in any effort. (My summer uniform is denim shorts, a t-shirt, and a red lip. The lip elevates the outfit from “soccer mom” to “girl who knows how to put together an outfit,” or so the cat-callers tell me.)
A vintage slip.
You could be clipping your toenails or feeling hungover or eating microwaveable pizza and not look glamorous. Or you could do any of those activities while wearing a vintage slip, and suddenly, you’re not just hanging around your apartment. You are lounging and you look fabulous. I work mostly from home right now, so I wear these all day, every day, and I’m a woman obsessed. You can typically find them for cheap at vintage stores (shout-out to Amarcord in Williamsburg, where I found the loveliest lemon yellow bullet bra slip for the same price as a fancy cocktail). This Mary Green slip at Journelle is also dreamy in a refined, ’90s kind of way.
A disgustingly fabulous dress.
Or for the gents, an extremely dapper suit. The ideal retro junkie outfit is one that looks authentic enough to make you feel like a vestige of another time, but not so over-the-top that it becomes a costume. 1950s-style sundresses are my favorite because they show off your bust, nip in at your waist, and have midi-length circle skirts that are perfect for twirling. Modcloth obviously has some gems; the line Bernie Dexter is also darling. While they don’t have the historical appeal of actual vintage, they’re more durable than the real thing.
A velvet, tufted couch.
My grandparents had one of these, but they also had a room in their attic dedicated to boxes of Vogue and Good Housekeeping magazines from the 1950s. The couch was made of scarlet velvet, and I liked to run my hands across the back of it to feel the velvet prickle the wrong direction. I’m shopping for a couch right now for my new apartment, and I’m desperately on the hunt for one that doesn’t cost more than a month of rent. I won’t link you to my very favorite one (because what if you buy it before I can convince myself to pull the trigger on it?), but I will direct you to buying this gorgeous specimen. I want to lounge on it while wearing a silk kimono and sipping a very strong sidecar.
A piece of art.
If I can’t go back in time to sit for an Andy Warhol portrait, I can at least own one. A print of his 1964 “Red Jackie” hangs on my wall. I sometimes refer to her as if she’s real. (“Jackie and I are moving into our new apartment next month.”) Pick your favorite artist from a decade past and see if you can find a print of their work. My interior decorating style is “things you could find at a rich old socialite’s estate sale,” so this fits my aesthetic well.
There’s absolutely no reason I should need an old-fashioned typewriter, and yet that hasn’t stopped me from spending several hours deciding exactly which one I want, should anyone ever happen to ask for my recommendation or ask which one I’d like as a birthday present. (Hint.) It would be this cherry red model from 1947, just like the one in my Twitter photo, because red is my power color and this seems like something Joan Harris would have learned to type on. I bet it makes a satisfying chunk-ca-chunk-ca-chunk noise as you type out old-fashioned love letters and mail them to Ryan Gosling-as-Noah-in-The-Notebook. Or that guy who never called you back after that one successful Tinder date last month. Either way.
An old book.
Reading material from whatever decade strikes your fancy is an excellent way to transport yourself back to that golden era. This summer, I’ve been making my way through The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath and counting my blessings that I’m a modern woman with no pressing need to get married (other than to satisfy my mother’s cravings for a Nice Jewish Boy and grandchildren).