Krabi, Thailand

Pin-Up in Paradise

Travel is my greatest passion. As much as I fancy myself as a vintage gal, I have no regrets about the ease of travel in the modern age. Recently I have used this to my advantage by flying to China and inter-railing around central Europe. However vintage is still a big part of my identity, not the stereotypical backpacker look of baggy pants and tie dye t-shirts. (Although I can appreciate that baggy pants in particular become a necessity when climbing volcanoes and lounging around on bumpy 8 hour bus rides.)

So back at the start of April I embarked on a 7 week adventure around Asia taking in Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia. An intensive session that I wouldn’t change for the world, well apart from getting on the flight home! My Mum’s first query when I said I was heading off with my backpack again was, but what will you wear? Only a few weeks previous I had had a clear out… I was missing scruff clothes from my life! I wanted to travel on my own terms, vintage style and all, whilst respecting cultures and religions. I found that vintage looks actually lend themselves to this and without further ado I would like to share my method for keeping it retro with a backpack.

My first and most controversial rule would be… ditch the vintage. I know, I know, that goes against the introduction, what In Retrospect stands for and just about any reader’s ethos; however let me just set a scene. Having climbed Mt Ijen and visited the sulphur mines, I stunk. Not just a grim trekking smell, but of sulphur. If you don’t know what this smell is like I can confirm that it attacks the senses and to really put it into perspective, for the entirety of my trek I wore a gasmask. So a pretty horrific smell. I have washed the layers and layers of clothes I wore on that trip 3 times and I still get a whiff of my trip.



Penang, Malaysia
Penang, Malaysia

At my most positive I joke that it’s a great souvenir but can you image that smell clinging on a vintage shirt? No thanks!

I know that was an extreme example but it puts into perspective what a person wants from a holiday. Nothing was going to stop me seeing the sunrise over Mt Ijen, which meant I would never consider wearing vintage that day. When you have to carry your life on you back, you do not want to take things that you don’t see yourself wearing regularly. But on a more serious note, who wants to damage or worry about their vintage goods whilst on the trip of a lifetime?

But there is good news! Reproduction is your friend. I took a couple of reproduction skirts and a dress with me and wore them plenty. Circle skirts are actually perfect for travelling, hooray! The length and non-clingy nature meant that I didn’t have to worry about locals being offended or giving them the wrong impression. With so many great reproduction brands in the UK, you really can keep up a respectful vintage appearance, despite the backpack!

Accessories also really helped. This comes back to carrying everything with you most of the time. I was on the move nearly every other day at the start of my trip so minimising what I was carrying was really important. Obviously choosing clothes that mix and match easily is really effective but packing a couple of bracelets and earrings that go with most of your kit really stretches out outfits. Take it from someone who’s had this experience, it can feel like such a luxury to simply wear a pair of dangly earrings at the end of the day after white water rafting! Plus a pair of cat eye sunglasses instantly has the ability to add class to an outfit, whilst looking vintage.

Hair styles also have a big impact. I actually found this a great talking point with locals too! Some would recognise it as a retro style and instantly engage me in conversations of old movie stars, asking if I was a pin up. Although I must relay a warning… despite taking it in good grace, the honesty that I experienced on my trip with locals meant that I was told on more than one occasion that my hair looked funny… cheeky! Being a dab hand at a victory roll I found that rolling up my fringe was an easy way to be out of the hostel quickly for early morning starts.

Gili Air, Indonesia
Gili Air, Indonesia


Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Not to mention how amazing it felt to have my hair off my face in such hot and humid countries. Head scarves were also heavily appreciated when hostel showers ran far too cold to face a hair wash.

What I haven’t mentioned yet is swimwear! I love everything about the seaside so naturally on this trip I visited some of the most gorgeous beach locations, including: Gili Air, Manjangan Island and Railay beach. Whether it’s actually vintage, a reproduction brand or even straight off the high street, there are a lot of high waist bikinis and vintage inspired swimsuits out there at the moment. Obviously I took full advantage of this and took three sets of swimmers out with me. I admit now that I really didn’t need to take three, I could have just taken the one however pre-trip I knew I would be spending a lot of time at sea so I really didn’t let my backpack space and weight stop me. I guess you could say that my one backpacking luxury was taking too much swimwear, which says it all about my love for the beach!

I think my final pointer should involve a lecture about sun cream but I’ll keep it short. Looking the colour of a lobster does nothing to complement a vintage look, or a non-vintage look for that matter!

So there you have it, my little guide to keeping a vintage styled look whilst backpacking. Have you got any tips? Let us know at


Amy Bliss is a published pin-up model and media graduate who loves attending retro festivals and writing. Keep up to date with her pursuits on or with her instagram @amyblisspinup