Actress Elliot Miranda talks about how vintage fashion finally made her feel comfortable, confident, and beautiful. And while she’s always appreciated the styles of different eras, everything clicked when she cosplayed as Agent Peggy Carter.
What made you want to start dressing up in vintage outfits?
I've always loved vintage fashion, especially the style of the 1940s. The look of that era is just so classic, elegant, glamorous. I don't think I can pinpoint a very specific reason that made me want to dress like someone out of a black and white photograph; I think the potential has always been there. I have folks in my family who have a love affair with the 1920s, '30s, '40s, and '60s, who swing dance, who throw Mad Men-themed parties, who listen to Billie Holiday, who drink old-fashioned cocktails, who collect vintage hats, who take me to vintage shops. It was only a matter of time for me! I'm also a huge history buff and I'm fascinated by the stories fashion can tell.
What was your fashion sense like before?
I honestly had no idea what I was doing before. I wore a school uniform for years, so by the time I got to college in the U.S. and was allowed to dress myself, I was basically lost. I never knew what to shop for, I had no idea what styles worked on me, what colors suited me best, or what my size actually was. I tried to latch onto whatever was trendy but I never felt completely comfortable or happy no matter how hard I tried.
When did you start changing your style?
Just a couple years ago, actually! Despite how much I loved vintage fashion, I never thought I was "cool" enough to pull it off. There was this little vintage boutique in my college town that I used to visit all the time, just to look at all the beautiful dresses and hats and gloves on display. I never bought anything and man, do I regret it now. But I remember thinking: "No way I could ever wear any of that."
But when I moved to the Philippines, I got into cosplay (another thing I thought I wasn't cool enough to do). But more specifically, I cosplayed Agent Peggy Carter (yes, from Captain America) for the first time—and it all clicked into place for me. The absolute confidence I felt when I was dressed as her, this bold and brave woman from the 1940s, and the way I stood taller and felt like I could do anything…I mean, who wouldn't want to feel like that all the time? That was the moment I was like, "Screw it, I'm done trying to be what I think the world wants me to be. I'm gonna do the thing. I'm gonna do this for me." I felt happy. I felt beautiful. That was it.
But it did take time. There was a definite learning curve, especially when it came to hair and makeup because those are what really pull the whole thing together. It took me over a year of practice before I got my hair to do the curls, waves, and victory rolls that are so emblematic of the era. And while I've finally gotten to a place where I feel pretty good about all this, I'm still learning and practicing and growing. But it's so much fun! And as I've gotten more confident with how to dress vintage, I've actually gotten better at dressing myself in general. You know how at the end of Devil Wears Prada, Andy finds her own personal style that's a middle ground of how she used to dress and how she had to dress? I feel like I'm there.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Old Hollywood actresses like Marilyn Monroe, Katharine Hepburn, and Audrey Hepburn, among many others. I love reading about them, learning the tips and tricks their makeup artists and hairstylists used. And Peggy Carter! Seriously! She can save the day and still look fabulous? Come on. Gigi Melton did a stunning job on the costumes for Agent Carter and that's where it all began for me. Honestly, a lot of TV shows and films have incredible costuming and I draw a ton of inspiration from those too—Mad Men, Downton Abbey, The Crown, Call the Midwife, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries…the list goes on. I also love looking at old photographs because you get a sense of what real people wore on any given day. And I follow vintage fashion bloggers on Instagram and YouTube because damn, they are #goals.
Are there vintage styles you don't like or you found didn’t quite work for you?
Oh, sure. But I think with fashion in general, you learn what flatters you best and what doesn't. I love anything from the 1920s until the mid-1960s, and it's a lot of fun to explore all the different trends through those decades. I think the '40s and '50s suit my shape best because those eras embraced curves. But folks back then, just like now, came in all shapes and sizes! So I don't feel like there's a decade closed off to me, so to speak. It's just trial and error!
Do you find that you spend more to put together your vintage attire?
I don't think I spend any more than someone would on a contemporary wardrobe. I just pick out different things! In fact, I find shopping so much easier now that I'm looking for very specific kinds of clothes instead of just wandering around like I used to. But don't get me wrong, I kick around in t-shirts, jeans, and sneakers, too! The vast majority of my stuff is actually modern. But just like you might choose to spend a little more on a nicer brand, I might choose to spend a little more on a vintage piece. And I think vintage clothing, when I can find it, is truly worth the investment. The craftsmanship is often much better than the stuff made nowadays and thrift stores can be a lot cheaper than hitting up the mall!
Where do you buy most of your clothes?
Uniqlo is one of my favorites! Almost all my staples are from there. The thing is, you don't have to wear real vintage clothing to dress vintage. That would be so difficult! So I like to keep an eye out for things that look vintage but are actually from a department store or thrift shop. There are tons of companies out there that make vintage reproduction clothing, too. It's all in the silhouette of a dress, the kind of fabric, the pattern on a blouse. You can evoke whatever time period you want if you pick out the right things and put them together the right way. It's a lot of fun to mix contemporary and vintage pieces and it's a way of adding your own personal flair, too. My other favorite places to look are Etsy and eBay! I've found some amazing vintage handbags for a steal while browsing online. And the kinds of underthings folks wore back then are hard to find here, so online or overseas really is the way to go if you want a girdle or stockings or petticoats. But that said, I try to get secondhand clothing if I can—there are a lot of stuff out there that deserve a second or third life, and it's far less wasteful and damaging to the environment.
How do people react when they see you walking down the street or when they meet you for the first time?
Sometimes, people stare. Sometimes, people will notice my red lipstick and ask if I'm going on a date and it's like, oh, no, I just like red lipstick! I've never had anyone say anything outright mean, but I definitely get some looks and some questions (once I was looking at hats and the person next to me asked if I was off to have tea with the queen). But I get compliments, too! Dressing like this isn't too unusual abroad but even when I'm back in the US, people might do a double-take. Like last summer, I was taking an UberPool and the woman sitting next to me told me she loved my hair and asked how I did it. It's really lovely when people strike up a conversation because they'll talk about their favorite old movies or that I remind them of their grandmother when she was younger, or that they've always wanted to dress vintage, too!
I think one of the difficult things to navigate is the criticism that getting all dressed up means I care too much about what people think, or that it's vain and shallow, or that it's a waste of time, or it's impractical. But that isn't true, at all. I fell in love with this in a very real and honest way, and it's become a form of self-expression just as much as acting or writing can be. I've never been happier or more comfortable in my own skin. The women of the 1940s slapped on red lipstick and a sensible pair of heels and did their duty during the war. So I sure as hell don't believe a woman in this day and age should feel she has to sacrifice her femininity to be taken "seriously." Whatever you feel, you know? You do you, girl.
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