Retro Outfits for Women: As we look forward to more hopeful times, designers and fashion icons alike have dipped into the stylistic choices of yesteryear and brought them forward in a way that feels both nostalgic and wonderfully fresh. Yes, we are talking about the trends that we are seeing, both on the runway and peppering the catalogs of our favorite retailers.
Retro fashion has had a resurgence in popularity of late, from bold and shimmering colors à la disco era to old-fashioned paisley dresses to everything crochet. Bucket hats have been holding their own for over a year now and it’s not looking like they are going anywhere. These are just some of the trends that have been joyfully taking precedence both on the runway and off.
If you are wanting to bring some of that goodness into your own wardrobe – or you are just curious about what’s trending in this niche – this is the post for you.
Here’s a quick summary of all that we’ll be talking about:
What is a Retro Outfit?
Let’s start by talking about what such clothing is and what it is not. Retro clothing is not technically vintage clothing. It is totally new, modern clothing that is created in a way to reference the styles, motifs, or materials of yesteryear. It doesn’t refer to a specific time period or decade (although we are seeing lots of the ’70s-inspired looks right now!) but gives the nod to the styles in which that clothing was first worn.
What is the Difference Between Retro & Vintage?
Vintage clothing is an original item aged between 20 and 100 years that is authentic. You might find vintage clothing in your local thrift store or by rifling through your mom’s closet.
Retro clothing is basically new but mimics the old. It’s not original clothing pieces from the time it echoes, but it certainly imitates it. An example of this would be a pair of Levi’s jeans made in the ’90s versus a pair made today, that looks like it would have been worn in the ’90s
What are the Latest Retro Fashion Trends?
We did the research, so you don’t have to:
Tie-dye is everywhere in the fashion world, from Jimmy Choo’s tie-dye platform sandals to this Sea Tamara high-neck tie-dye top. But to keep it on-trend, avoid the highlighter yellow and neon green color scheme in favor of soft pastels.
Influencers and Instagram models have been rocking this trend. Even Gucci has created its high-end take on it.
Crochet had its heyday in the ’70s and it’s back for round two. From sheer tanks to sun hats, Gen-Zs have discovered the summertime favorite and have made it their own.
- 60s-style floral prints
If it looks like it belongs on your Grandma’s kitchen walls, you’ve got the right idea. Wallpaper florals are back and they are decorating the likes of midi skirts, chiffon dresses, and more.
- Thong sandals
The ’90s called… and they like what we are doing. These sandals are very similar to flip flips and they look great with all kinds of casual looks.
- Paisley dresses
These skirts are also trending in the fashion sphere and we’re seeing a lot of celebrities wearing them as part of their casual ootd.
Not it’s time to look at some practical and wearable retro outfits that you can try without feeling out of place.
Styling Tips on How to Get A Retro Look
Dressing retro just means utilizing the trends of yesteryear in a way that feels modern and nostalgic all at the same time. It can mean donning a full ’70s style outfit that your mom would approve of or it can mean bringing a few pieces into your look.
What decade you focus on is also up to you. The ’70s seem to be the most popular for style inspiration right now! Let’s have a look at these styling tips to get a perfect look.
18 – Go for Statement Making Bucket Hats with Minimalistic Dresses
When I came across this absolute STUNNER of a lady, I was bowled over. Not only is this a seriously stylish look I might possibly want to steal for myself, but it’s such a great example of how women of all ages can rock this style. Whether you’re a teen or in your fifties – this look won’t fail you.
You may not feel confident enough to wear tie-dye or a bucket hat, but you can definitely try this eyelet dress accented with hot pink accessories!
17 – Pair Wide Legged Jeans with Cropped Tees and Cardigans
Teens have been incorporating vintage styles and pieces for the last couple of years (the nineties fashion trends are having a full renaissance over on TikTok) so some of the trends of this year are no surprise to the younger crowd.
From Grandma-style cardigans to wide-legged jeans, here you can see how the Gen-Z gals are rocking these trends.
16 – Take Inspiration From the Streets of Fashion Weeks
When in doubt as to the current trends, all you need to do is take a look at what is being worn on the streets during Fashion Week. Here are a few highlights from Copenhagen’s Spring Fashion Week.
15 – Graphic Sweater + High-Low Skirt Combo
Graphic sweaters are also very much on-trend right now, and lucky for us, they can definitely be considered retro pieces! (Very ’90s.)
I love how this gal created a comfortable, casual look that is also uber-stylish by pairing a graphic sweater with a high-low skirt (there’s our wallpaper floral!) and white sneakers.
14 – Go for Baggy Fits
I love this baggier style of overalls (they look SO comfy) worn over a long-sleeved tee and paired with white sneakers. I’d take these over too-tight jeans any day.
13 – Paisly Print Anything is a Yes!
These paisley dresses look so light and airy (perfect for summer) and they come in the prettiest colors too. I love the idea of padding around in my house in these – they are a one-and-done look you don’t have to put much effort into and that’s a major score in my book.
12 – Make a Statement Bright Blue Jumpsuit
There’s something about this look that just screams “eighties” to me. It could be the bold blue or maybe it’s that subtle yellow stripe down the side. The belt over the zippered front and the elbow-length sleeves are another giveaway. This looks like a great outfit to wear to a retro-themed party or, you know, to visit your local Target because why not?
11 – The Wider the Pants, the Better
If there’s one trend I love this year, it’s the wide-legged pants one.
I’ve been anti-skinny jeans for years (I have worn them under protest only) and the fact that the rest of the world is finally catching on thrills me to no end. (Don’t worry, we can still be friends, even if you are an avid skinny-jeans wearer!)
Here’s a fantastic wide-legged pants look, paired with a baby blue print tee, round, tinted sunnies, and some fantastic gold hoops.
10 – Give Your Tie Dye Tops a Knot
I’m not a fan of tie-dye myself, but if all tie-dyed tops looked like this, I just might convert! This breezy summer top is a great example of the trend. What to wear with it then becomes the next question. Some high-waist jeans are an obvious option but I also like the idea of wearing this with a denim midi skirt.
9 – Experiment with Different Types of Tops
Anything style-wise from over 20 years ago is technically eligible for retro status. Whether that’s ’40s style slacks or ’90s style jeans.
So here are a few examples of pants you can try. I think they look best with a vintage-looking top so that can be a blouse, a knit sweater, or a floral button-down.
Footwear is also fun to play around with. You can try two-tone mules, patent white booties, or little kitten heels, just to name a few!
I LOVE the detailing on this puff-sleeve blouse!
And these jeans are pretty fantastic.
8 – Flared Plaid Pants are a Win-Win
Here’s a ’60s-inspired look that makes me want to rock some plaid pants myself! Also, check out Cute Outfits with Flare Jeans.
7 – Layer with a Biker Jacket
If you love a look with some edge, this is the one for you. I love the juxtaposition of a beaded necklace (which echoes a pearl necklace, of course) with a belted biker jacket.
Not only is it super flattering and gives this curvy lady the gorgeous silhouette, but paired with a bold print skirt, some slight cat-eye sunglasses, chunky strappy heels… And girl? You’ve got a winner.
6 – You can Rock Padded Shoulders
Wear a shoulder-padded sweatshirt with bright green joggers! I love how she styled this look, finishing it off with some block heel mules.
5 – Pairs Your Basics with Bolds
In case you haven’t guessed, the basic, in this case, is the denim skirt and the polka dot top adds the bold factor. Together, these two work perfectly for a retro vibe.
4 – How About a High-Low Skirt and Knotted Top for Picnic Day?
I think this is just the cutest picnic outfit ever!
3 – Crochet Bikinis are now a Thing
If you have been wanting to try the crochet trend, here’s one way to do it. Combine it with the bucket hat trend and you will have nailed 2021 fashion. Great for poolside tanning or days at the beach.
2 – Bring Some Sexiness to Your Look with Slits
At first glance, this might not seem like the most retro look. But I wanted to include it because it is a great example of how you can give any outfit an old-school touch in a really subtle way. After all, this might be your first time trying out the trend. Maybe you feel like you want to experiment a little before diving all in! If that’s you, then check out this sweet summer ensemble.
What gives it the retro vibe is the fact that it’s a boho dress (which we’ve already discussed is very on-trend right now) and it includes a couple of key accessories. Namely, some funky tinted sunglasses and a cute, woven, basket-style purse. We’ve got some silver jewelry as well, with a fantastic monocle pendant necklace. Super chic!
1 – Keep it Simple with a Boho Summer Dress
Finally, here is another example of a boho-style dress that I am so in love with. The pretty detailing really lets this dress shine; the stripes are fun, and they are vertical, which is a plus in my book! (Horizontal stripes will always seem risky to me: they have the tendency to make you look quite wide, which may or may not be a goal you particularly care for.)
I also love the round (but not totally bottle-cap) sunglasses that have a whiff of the old-school about them.
Bonus Read: Celebrity Inspired Looks
You know we love talking about the latest celebrity style, so here’s a quick look at all the celebrities who have been rocking old-school looks lately.
We’ve carefully chosen retro hairstyles and retro outfits that you can easily replicate using items from your closets.
Justin & Haily Beiber in Baggy Fits
Kendall Jenner in 70-s Style Retro Trainers
Naomi Campbell in a Multi-Colour Suit
Kendall Jenner’s Brown Puffer Jacket
Kirsten Dunst in Retro Inspired Suspenders
January Jones in Shoulder Bob with Blunt Bangs
Lizzo’s Bob Layered Haircut
Lilly Collins in 70s Style Layered Flick
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What shoes to wear with retro outfits?
The shoes you wear with retro outfits vary, depending on where you’re dressing for and what you’re wearing. But these Banana Republic sneakers are so fun with an innate “throwback” vibe to them. It’s an easy way to make a dressy look seem more casual as well, perfect for days when you might be walking around a lot.
Q. Where can I buy retro style clothing?
While there are specific vintage-inspired clothing brands like Unique Vintage or Modcloth, the great thing about this trend is that we see our everyday favorite stores and brands adopting the style as well and putting out their own takes on it.
When you want a retro-exclusive shop full to the brim with vintage styles, Simple Retro, a lovely clothing brand started in New York City, has lots to choose from. If you are like me, you will fall in love with the whimsical photo styling and lovely clothing styles, too!
Here are a few other places you can find such clothing:
- Urban Outfitters
Are you in love with this trend yet? If so, which of these are you most excited to try? Let me know in the comments below!
R.H. Elias is a freelance writer, aspiring author, and freelance transcriptionist. She is a homebody all the way and loves curling up on a cold, rainy day with a good book and a warm cup of tea. Her favourite pastimes include reading, writing, and watching period films. She currently lives in Puerto Rico.