I recently saw an interview on PopSugar with Eric Daman the costume designer for The Carrie Diaries. During the interview, Daman discusses his concept for costuming he show in the spirit of the 80s without going completely vintage. He's using modern pieces that would have worked in the 80s and mixing them with actual vintage pieces. This got me thinking about how often costumers must do this when working on period pieces and how hard it must be for independent filmmakers who have little to no budget.
If a film is set in the last 20 years, it's fairly easy to find enough low priced pieces in vintage stores, at swap meets or at yard sales. But what about a film set in the 40s? Not only could the cost of the pieces be exorbitant, the condition of the clothes and the sizing could make it even more complicated. Delicate fabrics will no longer hold up to normal wear and tear. Sizing has changed significantly over the years, and changes in food technology have made us bigger and taller than ever before. And the challenges become even more complex as you go back in time. Who can really afford or even find a piece of Edwardian clothing?
The solution has to be the perfect balance especially when your film budget does not include the cost of bespoke tailoring. If you are making costume choices yourself, research the basic styles of the time period. Visit vintage stores to check on availability of clothing from the period and general pricing. Once you have a good feel for the types of pieces that are available and what you need, try swap meets and yard sales for better prices. You can also look for manufacturers who were in business then and are still in business now. Levi's has been making jeans since 1873. If you can't find an actual vintage piece that fits your need, look to retailers of vintage-inspired pieces like ModCloth or vendors on Etsy. The Victorian Trading Company has several Victorian-inspired choices. The one thing to always remember is to make sure a modern piece has some detail to tie it to the period. No one wants to see Winston Churchill in a beanie.