Kristy Kernan. Photo courtesy Lion Brigade Vintage.

Spotting and styling vintage clothes with Lion Brigade Vintage

One scroll through Instagram and you’ll see the evidence: the past is back—in fashion trends, that is. From flared ’70s jeans to the return of ’90s slip dresses (and let’s not forget the ’80s revival owed partially to the scrunchie-loving nostalgia of Stranger Things), what once was lost will surely be found again. No one knows this better than Kristy Kernan, the curator behind Lion Brigade Vintage on Etsy and in the Second Story shop in New Orleans’ Merchant House Company, who wears and sells the trends of yesteryear as if they never went away in the first place. And as many of us can attest after hours spent fruitlessly perusing the endless racks of thrift stores, it often pays to have an expert’s help with finding diamonds in the rough.

Kernan, for example, has been thrifting her wardrobe for more than 25 years, deciding three years ago to turn vintage clothing into a full-time career when she realized just how many pieces she had amassed over time. A background in sewing and design doesn’t hurt, either, and makes shopping secondhand more of a hobby than a chore.

“Not everybody is made to go looking for clothes at thrift stores all the time because you’re not always going to find what you’re looking for or what you like,” says Kernan. “In that case, it’s best to go to someone who curates that vintage clothing for you.”


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In terms of Baton Rouge storefronts, she says, that curator is Time Warp.

“The owner, Josh, has been a good friend of mine, and he really knows his trends, his fashion, his vintage history,” Kernan explains. “They do fun editorial shoots and the staff has a good eye. They’re the place to go if you feel overwhelmed looking for pieces in any old thrift store.”

Then there’s the matter of deciding what you like in the first place. That means assessing your color palette and your existing wardrobe—anything that exemplifies your desired aesthetic or wardrobe goals.

“For me, personally, I’m drawn to prints and bold color and also graphic black-and-white mixtures,” she says. “Those will catch my eye before anything. So I do have to remind myself to be patient sometimes when I go through racks, because it would be easy to miss something in a nice fabric like cashmere or silk or good classic pieces—things that I might have overlooked normally, but that would probably go with a lot of different things in my wardrobe.”


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Still, Kernan says one of the cool things about vintage and vintage curators is that no two styles are alike, with different people in the community constantly swapping ideas and influencing one another’s tastes to create something totally new out of something old.

“My style is focused on creative expression and bold movement, for example, but I have a real good friend, Lori Virdure— she’s also from Baton Rouge and sells with me in at Merchant House under her brand Vinti—who has more of an elevated style of quality vintage: a lot of textures, classic neutrals, that kind of thing. It’s basically the opposite of me, but she’s definitely influenced my style a lot.”

In terms of making sure that an influence of style doesn’t translate into a look book straight out of a time machine (unless that’s what you’re going for, of course), Kernan recommends letting the rest of your overall look rest more firmly in the current decade.

“I don’t often shop modern, so most of my clothes are vintage,” she says, “but I recommend doing current makeup and current hair, or a different style of shoe, to bring a look more into this decade. If you’re doing ’60s hair with ’60s makeup and ’60s clothes, you’re going to look like you’re from the ’60s.”

So next time you see that bucket hat you’re thinking of pairing with that cardigan and combat boots…maybe leave the lip liner and butterfly clips for another day.

Follow @inRegister on Instagram for more style inspiration.