There are people who are into vintage. Then there are people who don’t just adopt the look of a different era (or eras) but make it their POV. Darah, 25, visual merchandiser at Forever 21, shares why she got into DIY-ing her own vintage, and how she does waist training for the perfect '50s pin-up look.
A family of vintage lovers
“I was dressing like a Japanese Lolita - it’s a doll-like look with Victorian and Edwardian influences when I was 13 - until my mother inspired me to dress in ’50s vintage-style. She used to sport a full-blown Marilyn Monroe hairdo because she really liked the actress, and even owned a few dresses inspired by that infamous white dress. I inherited my mum’s sundresses and my grandma’s floral kebayas, and started wearing them.
I also used to watch old movies with my dad. He is a big romantic at heart and has always loved old music and movies like Roman Holiday and Gone with the Wind, and would make the family watch them with him.
My look: ’50s Bettie Page pin-up + ’60s Happy Days meets 2017 urban
I started experimenting with this ’50s-meets-’60s style at 15, and it became an everyday look - even on lazy days - three years ago.
I like to mix things up by adding some urban elements like sneakers so the look isn’t too cookie cutter pin-up girl, and is still practical for my physically demanding job.
I DIY my own vintage - and make a business out of it
I didn’t grow up with a lot of money, so the idea of making my own clothes has always been very appealing to me. I think it is also a very ’50s thing; you have to make do with what you have. At 12, I picked up some rudimentary sewing skills from my mum and hand-sewed my first skirt: a lace-trimmed, black and white, polka-dotted dirndl skirt lined with neon pink tulle, which I was so proud of I wore it all the time, and still wear now.
I picked up more sewing skills when I studied fashion merchandising and marketing at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. And it has helped me in my small gig of making clothes for others. I have made customised floral crowns, dresses, skirts, and even wedding dresses for my customers. I can do them with my eyes closed - it’s that therapeutic for me.
I even made my own wedding dress. I was a pin-up bride in a full-skirted, ’50s-style number. I spent less than $100 on the materials.
The best DIY hair colour
I bleach and colour my own hair myself of with the help of my husband, or sometimes either of my two brothers. It is time-consuming but inexpensive. I use the brand La Riche Directions from the UK because it is cheap (less than $10) and, most importantly, vegan.
Old curtains are good for ’50s-style clothes
They are usually made of heavier, hard-to-wrinkle materials, so they are easier to work with than regular cotton, and generally don’t require ironing - always a plus. I use them for full skirts, wiggle dresses and flared dresses. I have tried drafting pointy bras, but haven’t been successful yet.
Waist-train for a smaller midsection
A tiny waist was the ideal body type in the ’50s, and although I do not think a small waist is necessary for the pin-up look now, I like the look. So I have been seriously getting into waist training: for a year now, I have been wearing a corset almost every day - the steel boned kind, not the Kim Kardashian latex kind.
Do research before you get or wear one. You can’t just buy one and put it on, because a corset needs time to mould to your body. I got mine second-hand from a US brand called Timeless Trends. The cheapest ones go for around US$60-$80 (S$83-$110), but custom ones are US$300.
Wearing a corset also weakens the abdominal muscles because it takes the place of the core muscles to keep the torso up. So I do planks and squats to strengthen my core and the rest of my body.”
Photography: Zaphs Zhang, assisted by Angela Guo
Styling: Bryan Goh
Hair: Christian Maranion, using Jose Eber Styling Tools
Makeup: Christian Maranion, using Inga Cosmetics & Kat Von D
This story was first published in the August 2017 issue of Her World magazine.