A Vintage Lover's Guide to ASOS

I am an equal opportunity shopper. If I like it and it's in my budget, I'll buy it, no matter where it's from. I'm an avid online shopper and a bargain hunter, and I've been buying stuff from ASOS regularly for years now.

I'm sure that most of you are already familiar ASOS, but for those who aren't, they're a British online retailer known for their absurdly wide variety of clothes - you can get everything from 2 for $10 cotton camisoles to $500 designer dresses, and I'm pretty sure about 75% of the stuff on there is permanently on sale.

ASOS can be a frustrating site to use. For starters, it's huge. I was looking through their selection of sale dresses for this post, and there were 12,000 of them. I tried to narrow my focus a little bit by only looking at dresses under $70, and there were still 10,000 plus. The search functions on the site aren't great either, although they're better than they used to be. Part of the problem is the idiosyncratic way that they describe things. If you're looking for a dress with a drop waist, you might find it under "drop waist dress," "drop hem dress," "peplum hem dress," "pep hem dress," "smock dress," or a number of other terms.

Use different search terms to find items you're looking for - "prom skirt" or "prom dress" will pull up a lot of 50s inspired items. "Drop waist," "drop hem," "smock dress," and "peplum hem dress" will turn up 20s inspired items. "Broderie" and "embroidered" items also have a lot of vintage flair.

When people ask "how do you find things like this on ASOS?" the honest answer is just that I spend a lot of time looking. It's one of my go to time wasters when I'm bored, since time can really fly by while I'm idly browsing through the dresses, planning out potential purchases or just seeing what's out there. So if you have some time to kill, honestly, that's my best tip. It's like going to a thrift store, except you don't have to leave your house. It's kind of amazing what you'll stumble across sometimes. I found both of the 20s inspired dresses that I picked up there that way, and when I was browsing the shop for this post, I found a tabard style dress that literally made my jaw drop when I saw it because it was so unexpected.

If you have the time, just take a few minutes to browse through the sale items. My favorite finds are always the ones that I just stumble across.

One of the best ways to successfully shop ASOS, or any high street store, for vintage appropriate pieces is to pay some attention to current trends. Recently, a couple of big trends were slip dresses and micro-pleating; slip dresses might be part of the 90s revival, but they were also very popular in the 1930s, and micro-pleated dresses from Fortuny were making stylish waves from the early 1900s up into the 1940s. There are also still plenty of full-skirted, knee length dresses and skirts making the rounds, so if you're more into 50s styles, they've got you covered from that front as well.

It pays to pay attention to what's going on in mainstream fashion. What goes around comes around, so this year keep an eye out for strong shoulders (very 40s), nautical stripes, delicate pleats, and shirtdresses. 

While some brands will come out of left field with their cuteness, there are a few brands that ASOS carries that are pretty reliably retro. Yumi and Trollied Dolly always have some cute prints, and Trollied Dolly tends to also have a generally 1950s shape. I did a post not too long ago about Horrockses, and while I know the reaction was mixed, since the dresses aren't cotton anymore, I still quite like them. Another brand that I really like (although I haven't actually purchased anything from them yet, so take this with a grain of salt) is Sister Jane, who tend to do kind of a modern take on vintage styles. Some of their blouses right now would look amazing with a skinny black pant or slim fitting skirt, in a late 40s, early 50s kind of mode.

It also helps to keep an open mind about what you're looking for. It can be hard to find a specific item that models a specific era, but you might be surprised by how easily some items incorporate into your wardrobe. The way that ASOS and other high street stores style their clothing can make it hard to see the vintage bones underneath, but after a while you start to see how, for example, a shift dress with a pleated hem could look really 20s, especially if you pop a peter pan collar blouse underneath, or take the slightly wonky sleeves off.

You'll have more fun shopping ASOS if you're looking for "a dress" or "a skirt," rather than something really specific.

Also, it's worth it to make an account and favorite items that you're interested in. If you see something that you like but it's listed as out of stock, favorite it anyway - I pretty regularly see items come in and out of stock, so you might still get a chance to pounce on an item that you really love.

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Because I know that not all of you have the time to sort through their huge catalog, I've rounded up some of my favorite vintage appropriate items below, all under $75.

ASOS Cami Paneled Midi Swing Dress - $58
A bit on the revealing side, but I think this works really well for a daring early 30s look. 

Y.A.S. July Dress In Mono Stripe - $45.50
Depending on how long this is on you, this could work for either a casual flapper or a mod, 60s does 20s look.

ASOS Tall Tea Dress in Velvet - $37.00
This dress reads as 40s perfection to me.

Closet Stripe Off the Shoulder Dress - $64
Adorably 50s for spring and summer.

Moon River Cinched Waist Dress with Lace Embroidery - $28
This reminds me a lot of those gauzy 1920s peasant dresses.

ASOS V Neck Ruffle Midi Dress in Vintage Floral - $45
I may be off base with this one, but this really looks like later 30s or early 40s to me. I think the right hat would really help to sell it.

Maya Cami Dress with Beaded Scallop Hem, also available in Petite - $45 and $63
As far as beaded flapper dresses go, this is pretty basic, but it's cute.

Unique 21 Button Front Dress with Pep Hem - $25.50
You could put this on Etsy and tell me this was from the 60s and I wouldn't doubt you for a second.

Zacro Dress with Micro Pleats - $46
While this dress doesn't sit neatly in any particular era, I think it could work really well in the 20s inspired ensemble.

ASOS Cape Layered Midi Dress in Pastel Floral - $37
This one strikes me as so 30s. I think it could make for a really lovely spring ensemble, maybe with a tilted straw hat.

Warehouse Lace Column Dress - $62
This is the one that stopped me in my tracks when I saw it. The tabard style is really unusual and really 20s. I might actually have to get this one... 

ASOS Ruffle Front Maxi Dress in Wallpaper Print - $24
Another beautiful bias cut slip dress that gives me a serious 30s vibe.

ASOS Sapphire Wide Fit Pointed Heels - $21.50
With their low, cone heel and almond toe, these would work really nicely with a 50s inspired outfit.

ASOS Harmonise Heeled Sandals - $48
How freaking cute are these? I would love to wear them with a 50s Barbie kind of outfit.

Paper Dolls Velvet Knot Heeled Sandals - $53
Another lovely pair of 50s appropriate heels.

Paper Dolls Elvie Nude Sheer Patter Block Heels - $43
I think these could look really great as an update on 20s or 30s style heels.

Sister Jane Short Sleeve Double Short Sleeve Shirt in Metallic Nude - $48
I've gotten really into these kinds of tops with sleeve details, and I think they add a lot of interest to a slim fitting skirt of pair of pants, kind of like Lauren Bacall in How to Marry a Millionaire.

ASOS Midi Prom Skirt in Pink and Wine Stripe - $26.50
If you're looking for full, 50s inspired skirts on ASOS, "prom skirt" is the search term that I would recommend. I like the unusual color combination on this one.

ASOS Tailored Pencil Skirt in Graphic Check - $27.50
You can't go wrong with a cute pencil skirt, and at this price, if the fit isn't quite right you could easily get it tailored.

ASOS Tall Tulle Prom Skirt with Multi Layers - $42
While a tulle skirt might not be the most authentically vintage item, it's so pretty! And it's a fair bit cheaper than most petticoats. ASOS has a ton of these in different colors and slightly different styles.

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I could probably keep going, but I think you get the picture.

So, how do you guys like to shop "high street" shops, as the Brits put it? Also, I'm thinking of doing a regular roundup of items ASOS, H&M, etc that I think are vintage appropriate - is that something that you guys would be interested in?