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Retro girl in a Modern World ~ Top 6 Comments/Questions I get about how I dress from people

For some of us ladies, dressing pinup is like coming home. It’s just the right fit, it makes sense and it feels good. But I can’t pretend that we don’t live in a very modern world with a very different appreciation of the fashion aesthetic. Before I got back into full time corporate work, I was kind of sheltered from just how strangers perceived me, but as I now work in the heart of the Sydney CBD, commuting on public transport regularly I’ve begun to understand that most people have no idea what’s going on when I’m in their vicinity. In a world where fashion trends are far from what I love, I can kind of stick out like the elephant in the room. I know this is something a lot of beginner pinups have expressed they find intimidating about dressing pinup/vintage/retro so with last week’s top tips for beginners post being so popular, I thought this post could be a great way to continue my beginners series!

So today I wanted to share some of the more common experiences I’ve had with people in regards to my look, how I’ve handed it and the motivation for these comments. I hope you all find it helpful!

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  1. Why are you so dressed up?

This seems to be the single most common question I get asked by just about everyone. Strangers. People who don’t know me well enough to know this is my look or family who don’t see me regularly. In a world where looking casual is the aim, I’m well aware I’m constantly perceived as overdressed by pretty much everyone with my petticoat, back seamed stockings and red lips. I learnt early on that these comments have nothing to do with me personally, but more their projection of their own beliefs and how they view themselves. For example, most times this question is politely curious. Though I’ve noticed certain demographics can be rude about it. I find people lash out because they feel by you overdressing you are highlighting their state of self-perceived under dress and feel attacked. When in reality, I don’t give thought to anyone else when I choose my look other than myself. There is nothing wrong with dressing up if its what you want, just like there’s nothing wrong with dressing down either.

It can be hard but its important that you remember that you dress for your own enjoyment and that there’s nothing wrong with dressing outside the norm of fashion trends. Its an expression of self after all and not everyone feels at home in modern/fast fashion styles. When comments are polite I generally just let them know this is just how I dress and negative ones I tend to ignore. You don’t have to justify your style to anyone.

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2. Are you going to a play/races/wedding/some sort of special event/work at any store with a possible retro vibe?

This question is probably my favorite for comical reasons because I get it even when context would indicate that’s not the case. I’ve gotten this in shopping centres, while I’m doing my groceries, waiting for the train, on the train, while eating my lunch in the park near my world, walking through the city, at the service station. You get the idea. Most people perceive that I’m dressed up because I’m going somewhere which requires smart casual/formal dress. Its their way of trying to understand why you aren’t dressed like everyone else I find and this comment pretty much always comes from a place of curiosity, even though if I have a shopping trolley full of groceries its kind of obvious I’m not off to a wedding in the immediate future (see actual photo of me glammed up below, being papped by my partner after being asked a few times where I was going that day lol).

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In this instance I tend to politely explain to people that this is just how I dress. No I’m not off anywhere, I’m just doing everyday things. I imagine to them I look like the modern equivalent of a Disney princess doing something completely ordinary like a grocery shop. But the reality is this is just me and this is what I dress like.

I also find too if there is a store of any kind that has a slight retro feel in any way, people will automatically assume you work there. I’ve had this numerous times with a store here in the Sydney CBD to the point I’ve had women come up and just start talking to me about stock coming into the store soon while I stand in line to buy my lunch, only for them to get flustered and embarrassed when I have no idea what they’re talking about because I don’t actually work that the store. I get this even when I’m not wearing clothes from that particular shop. In this instance I try and just be as polite as possible as they’re generally pretty embarrassed when you say you don’t work there. This comment normally follows on from my first one and I get the two as a pair.

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3. Are you wearing a costume?

How often I get this one really depends on the outfit I’m wearing. When I go for the more dramatic looks, I definitely have this question thrown at me. I find a big part of this question comes from not understanding that pinup is actually an everyday fashion and I can kind of get why people who aren’t exposed to our community would think that. I mean a quick look on costume box.com and you can find an array of retro themed costumes and accessories, lending themselves to the super stereotypical poodle skirt diner girl to more grease stylising. Most are surprised when I explain its not a costume, they’re my clothes and this is just how I dress. I find with this comment most people don’t mean offense, they just don’t understand.

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4. Compliments

I’m very grateful that on a whole, most of the comments I get from strangers on my look are compliments and most actually come from women. While some of my outfits get this more than others, its generally women who stop me to tell me I look lovely and occasionally the more mature gentleman. Oddly I very rarely get compliments from men my own age on my look. I think its because my style is so far outside the norm. Compliments are always lovely and can definitely make you feel nice, especially if you’re nervous/new to pinup and not used to the attention. One comment I get a lot from more mature women that always makes me a little sad is that they wish they could dress like I am. It can take a lot of guts to step outside the trends and make yourself visible. It also takes a lot of guts to approach a stranger to offer a compliment. So while I can sometimes be completely caught off guard, I always thank them and wish them a wonderful day.

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5. Negative comments

Sadly, as I said earlier that sometimes people’s projections onto you mean you sometimes get negative comments. Most of the negative comments I personally receive are from men my own age or middle aged/mature women and most come from a place of finding my style absurd/ridiculous or generally not understanding why I dress the way I do. Please try not to let these negative comments get to you and stop you enjoying your look! Remember, their comments are a reflection of who they are not you and you aren’t obligated to carry their baggage for them.

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6. It must take you hours to get ready

Rounding this post off with the last one I get a fair bit of! As a seasoned pinup, my morning routine of a decent shower, MUAH, foundations, picking my outfit, getting dressed, packing my bag and taking photos for my social media accounts takes me around an hour. But I’ve been doing this for years, so I’ve got my routine and I’m in practice. There’s a common misconception that pinups take forever to get long, but I’ve brushed out a set and done my make up faster at the gym than a woman doing modern waves with a straighter and a more modern make up look. People are always surprised when I tell them it doesn’t take me that long though I always add I’ve been doing it for a long time. Like anything, practice makes perfect and as you get better timing becomes quicker. I personally love getting these comments on a second day updo as I like seeing their confusion when I say its ‘yesterday’s hair’, before explaining that I scarfed it for wear the day after too. I find these questions again come from a place of curiosity and they’ve lead to some fun conversations with people, especially on the train to and from work for me.

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I hope you’ve all enjoyed this blog post and that its maybe shone some light on the kinds of feedback you’ll get from strangers in regards to how you dress! As I’ve said a few times, please just remember not to take any negativity on board and just focus on the positive. I love how the way I dress can brighten people’s day and its such a powerful thing when you think about it!

Til next time!

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6 thoughts on “Retro girl in a Modern World ~ Top 6 Comments/Questions I get about how I dress from people

  1. Honestly constant comments on what you choose to wear is so exhausting! I dabble in pinup more than anything (because I love too many styles to commit to one for most of the time!) but am definitely a chronic over-dresser. Whilst I don’t feel ‘right’ or feel like me if I don’t make an effort with my hair, makeup and outfit, it’s a bit exhausting to constantly stick out! My favourite (i.e. worst) has been my lecturer/tutor announce rather loudly that ‘it’s a lab, not a fashion show’ and that ‘outfits need to be practical for the task at hand’ as if my choice of pencil skirt, stocking, kitten-heeled boots and blouse was going to prevent me from examining soil under a microscope…. You always look amazing and your choice in styling is killer xxxx

  2. I really enjoyed this post. I don’t dress nearly as well as you but even little vintage touches sometimes attract comments – although, with a few exceptions, usually favourable! I smiled at some of the prejudices your stories revealed – most of them harmless compared to other prejudices, I suppose. Kx

  3. Hi Missi,
    I love your blog. I was just wondering if you had any recommendations for clothing items that are a must have, sort of like vintage wardrobe basics. Also do you have any suggestions on how to become involved and get to know people in the ‘pin up/ vintage’ community.
    Thanks,
    Hannah.

  4. This is such a great post! I just started a new job and though I’ve been dressing pinup for about two years now it can be hard when negative comments come my way!! Most people think it odd how I dress until they get to know me. Everyone is beautifully and wonderfully made and the pinup style is so beautiful and eligant.

  5. Yes I find to it’s usually only the older generation, comment positively on how I look/dressed at the supermarket or down the street! The younger generation generally just look at me, but don’t say anything! Touch wood I’ve never had anyone say anything negative to me about the way I dress, but then again I don’t have to catch public transport in a major city! 🙂

    1. I agree Camilla, the older generation certainly do appreciate it – as do tiny little girls! They stare at you wide eyed as you go past – it’s lovely 🙂

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