Looking good has never been more challenging. You want to keep up with the latest looks but stay within a small clothing budget? Buy vintage and make your own statement.

You’ll get more for your money and purchase things that are flexible, attractive and well made. In today’s economy, where clothes and other necessities compete for disposable income, that’s a smart idea.

This spring, designers replaced body baring with subtlety. Shorts and short skirts show some leg but remain appropriate, and jewelry is more sporty than flashy.

To escape being a fashion victim, try mixing shorts and skirts with embroidered peasant tops from the ’60s and ’70s. If jeans are your thing, pair them with a ’60s gingham button-down Country Western shirt.

When considering vintage, it’s also wise to look at your existing wardrobe and see where something old can add something new. Let’s say you have a lot of jeans and T-shirts. What could you buy to dress them up? If you have less than $25, you could pick up a nifty ’70s blazer or polyester shirt at a thrift store.

A whole new world will be opened for you if you find one collectible you like. When I attended the Vintage Fashion Expo at Santa Monica’s Civic Auditorium on May 10 and 11, the most versatile trends were sheer ’50s blouses, painted flower pins, belted ’70s sweaters, bowling shirts and “preppy” canvas hats.

“I love vintage clothing because the workmanship was so much better in the past,” offers Karie Bible, model and tour guide for the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Once you’ve accumulated a few vintage pieces you’ll realize why they’ve survived and appreciate their ability to class up contemporary clothing. A blouse made in the ’40s is constructed better than one made of a comparable price today because the standards were stricter then.

Of course, it’s possible to find items made just as well today. You just have to be selective, so you don’t end up with a closet full of costly mistakes.

Designers often look to other eras for inspiration, and you can do the same when coordinating with your vintage finds. Marc Jacobs and Paulo Melim Anderson (Chloe’s designer) were so influenced by German auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1970s and 1980s films in Fall 2007 that they recreated them on the runway. Mysteriously alluring, their models looked like they’d stepped out of The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant and The Marriage of Maria Braun in face-framing hats and over-the-knee skirts.

While Jacobs and Anderson chose film, you might be inspired to create your own style from a book, TV show, celebrity or other source. My favorite is the Japanese fashion magazine Fruits, where all of the models are photographed as quirky individuals reinterpreting various looks.

Whichever route you take to adding extra verve to your wardrobe with vintage, remember that continuity and convenience are your goal. You may spend less, but you don’t have to dress like it.