Adding Retro Flair to your stories! (and life)

“The story has a vintage feel to it …” My husband said. This was about a year ago, he had just finished reading my manuscript for “A GIRL CALLED MONSTER”.  The book was still rough around the edges, but full of heart and passion. I’d poured everything I had into this story, and this was the first time I realized my vintage aesthetic was apart of that package.

“It takes place in modern day…I mean Dr. Frankenstein reads from a Kindle!” I argued thinking about the technology and dialogue. He laughed a little bit, shaking his head.

“The clothes, the hair, the outfits…it might be modern, but there’s still a vintage vibe going on.” He insisted, and I realized he was right, and I was glad.

These little touches help shape the world. They connect with the characters and the setting.

So, since I accidentally added a little bit of retro flair to my Young Adult novel, I thought I’d share some tips for adding it to your world in general. Let’s break it down into three categories: music, style, and setting.

Music

Songs referenced in my story include “Putting on the Ritz” and “Always” by Frank Sinatra, played on an old radio. Filling my character’s ears with the classic songs helped set a tone for me, and I feel increased the chance that my reader might have heard them before. At home, my favorite Pandora stations are “Annette Hanshaw” and my Bonnie Lou album.  I also love http://kilafm.com/, a website that broadcast’s old radio shows. It gives you that feeling like you’ve stepped right back in time.

For modern artists, I love PMJ and have been really digging The Punch Brothers. ("This Girl" is my all time favorite song by them!)

Style

As a modern twist to cardigans and circle skirts, my characters also sported bright hair, tattoos, and piercings. (A little love note to my psychobilly days.) I love mixing typically hard looks with something softer. They also made the perfect friends for my Protagonist. She’s a Frankenstein character covered in stitches with shocked white hair. If anyone was going to encourage her to embrace and explore her differences, it was going to be them!

To practice this in real life, I think it’s fun to mix the horror and novelty prints (you can find them from brands like Hell Bunny and Lindy Bop) with true vintage cardigans and accessories. Mix and match new and old!

I’m also partial to swapping out my flannel pajamas for vintage nighties if I want to feel a little fancy around the house.

Setting

From the old salon to diners, and square dancing down to the lavish details of Dr. Frankenstein’s study, you instantly have an image of a place frozen in time. Honorable mention to Twin Peaks, and Riverdale who are also great examples of media leveraging a small town to get a cozy old school feeling with dark undertones.

In modern life, we can add this in by exploring the small towns in our cities, the little dinners we drive past. (Two of my faves here in Florida are Lester’s, which my husband and I discovered by chance, and Johnny’s which we bop into before comic book shopping.) If there’s nothing local, no shame in Steak and Shake to grab a bite with your date or your gal pals.

For a blend of new and old if you’re in the central Florida area, “The Glass Knife” is such a delight! It’s got a bright clean feeling, but very art deco! We swooned the entire time   Sipping our coffees, it was easy to picture dining around starlets of days past.

…Going to have to go back there with my faux fur shawl.

No matter if vintage is a new love, old flame, or you’ve been going steady for years, I hope this little guide has inspired you to put on your favorite shade of red lipstick and take on the day with a retro pep in your step.

xo Paige Lavoie