Building a rockabilly wardrobe can be time consuming on a budget. It is less time consuming to go to a store or online site with strictly rockabilly or vintage pinup wear, but far more expensive. Most of these staples and suggestions are from Ross Stores, Target, or thrift shopping. If thrift shopping is not for you, try a discount store in your area and some of these suggestions can help you find some pieces intended for current trends but still fit the bill for rockabilly essentials.
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Rockabilly prints and patterns
Some common prints can be found to start building some of the basics of a wardrobe. There are some tricks to altering pieces to fit rockabilly style (later in the post). Keep an eye out for some of these prints or embellishments to pieces: anchors, nautical stripes, leopard or cheetah prints, gingham, bows, floral, polka dots. Additionally, I choose pieces with lace, or unusual prints that I like the cut so it works. If you do not like certain print or color, don’t get it just because it seems rockabilly. Many people like skulls an cheetah print, but I can only take it in small doses. Do what works for you.
Also, when choosing solid colors, common rockabilly colors are red, black, navy blue, and white. No one is limited to these but if you check out some pictures on Pinterest or on a search engine, these will be common.
Pattern cuts and necklines
When looking at dresses or tops, there are some popular cuts. Some are a little more modest than others. Sweetheart necklines commonly have sleeves or a halter tie but show more of the chest. V-necks have a bit more modesty and can be very flattering while offering more coverage. High necklines are also a vintage look. These can be a wide neckline, high neck with a key hole (not pictured), or a collar is added. What matters is that a top or dress is fitted and flattering. Many of the vintage or rockabilly cuts are flattering on all sizes.
I live in cold weather, so I will start with those items. When looking for a jacket, peacoats are an inexpensive way to get a vintage look. They are fitted at the waist, can be long or waist length, and have the A-line cut. Some added looks for coats are a waist tie, or a faux fur collar.
A solid colored cardigan in one of the colors that are common in rockabilly (navy blue, white, black, red), cardigan with a print (see prints and patterns section), or with embellishments are a great way to keep warm if you have that warm weather piece you still want to wear.
Some staples for casual wear are a pencil skirt, A-line skirt, capris, and what is now called skinny cut jeans. The difference in fit for the pencil skirt and A-line skirt is a difference in preference. An A-line skirt flares out from the waist, which is shaped like an upper case A. A pencil skirt is fitted around the hips and either flows straightdown or becomes more fitted around the knees. Usually the length is modest, from just above the knee to below the knee for a rockabilly or vintage pinup look.
Jeans or pants are usually fitted to hug the figure, hence the skinny jeans. Jeans that fit tight around the ankle are flattered by heels or flats. Jeans, shorts or capris for the rockabilly look are usually high waisted, but in the interest of finding an option that is less expensive, this can be covered by your top. Perhaps one or two pairs of high waisted capris, shorts, or jeans are a good addition to a rockabilly wardrobe, but these are more specialty and will not commonly be found in thrift or discount stores.
Rockabilly dresses can come in the prints or patterns, or cuts or necklines (see earlier in the post) as discussed. They do not necessarily need to be strictly vintage or specialty for rockabilly. Look for the the prints or cuts discussed, but what is really important is that they are fitted at the waist, and have a pencil or A-line skirt that goes to the knee area to give you that rockabilly look. Both of these dresses (pictured) were found at Ross Stores, not a shop designated for vintage or alternative clothing. A flattering cut is the most important part of the look, so try them on if you can.
Embellishments, alterations, additions
Paired with a print or embellishment (patch, buttons, iron on design, embroidery, lace, bows, etc.), a plain solid piece can be transformed into a unique rockabilly piece.
If a waistline is not fitted, important to the look), add an elastic or fitted belt to the waistline. Add pins to a cardigan, top, or dress to add a little something extra, but not permanent. Add an applique or iron on patch, or sew on bows, beads or lace to add a permanent embellishment to your piece. The possibilities become endless when you are willing to alter a piece to make it your own.