Winters Past

20th Century Fashion from Deco to Disco

September 20, 2018
by Winters Past

Victorian Finery

Last week was a  stellar one for vintage hunting. Among other things, I was lucky to find a dozen Victorian undergarments, all in the softest cotton and all white.

antique Victorian chemises

antique Victorian treasures

The Victorians, bless their repressed hearts, actually knew a thing or two about seduction.  Like slowly unwrapping a glorious gift, getting undressed was such a slow, laborious process that one would think it heightened their anticipation.

These garments were worn in strict order underneath one’s actual clothing. The first layer next to the skin was a pair of bloomers or pantaloons. Then came a chemise, which was either a loose cotton top or gown. Next was the corset, then one or two petticoat skirts or a crinoline over a hoop skirt. Then, at long last, the dress. Can you, in your yoga pants and flip flops, imagine wearing all that?

Those Victorians did not stint on embellishing the layers that went under their clothing. There are pin tucks, pleats and all manner of hand made lace.

antique Victorian chemises

These pieces are far to pretty to hide under other clothes! While some are more obviously night gowns, others are great as dresses.

antique Victorian chemises

September 11, 2018
by Winters Past

Reimagining the Eighties: Subversive Prairie Style

I learn a lot about clothes and style from watching how my customers wear vintage. Recently I’ve noticed an interesting thing: some very stylish, fashion-forward ladies have a fresh, modern take on those iconic  70’s-80’s Victorian peasant frocks. You know these dresses. They have high necks, puffy shoulders and leg-‘o-mutton sleeves and they evoke a Hasidic/Amish homesteader in a Laura Ashley fever dream.

I began to notice this micro trend popping up in social media land. The “Mary Shelly on the Prairie” aesthetic is a self-aware play on femininity, especially when paired with chunky bold shoes and natural hair. They look fresh in a good-weird way and they’re surprisingly sexy, like this:

Modern prairie style vintage dressing

Modern prairie style vintage dressing

Subversive Sister-wife Style

My inner feminist nerd is intrigued. These dresses are the opposite of short, tight and low cut styles designed for an unevolved man’s idea of sexiness. Perhaps a woman who owns her own body might choose not to display it for the male gaze but rather chooses to dress for her own enjoyment. Self-possession carries it’s own sexiness.

Maybe the true insurgents are the ones wearing ruffles.

1980s Laura Ashley style

Christina Ricci as Wednesday Adams, Chloe Sevigney as a sister wife, Sissy Spacek in Badlands, Elaine on Seinfeld, Princess Diana and Courtney Love all play with subversive ideas of  femininity

But I digress. Back to vintage clothes. To paraphrase Freud, sometimes a dress is just a dress and these dresses are off-kilter, playful and funky.

So, if you’re feeling like the love child of  Jane Eyre and Laura Ingalls Wilder, I’ve got your frock.

Updated take on prairie modern

Updated take on prairie modern

September 5, 2018
by Winters Past

Art Deco Exotic: Egyptian Woven Metal Shawl

Last week I was able to acquire some really wonderful 1920’s beaded dresses. So exciting! More on that later.

Lets talk about another amazing piece I was able to get with the flapper dresses, a woven metal shawl in geometric patterns. It’s flexible, sinuously draping over the body in a sexy and exotic way. So what is it?

1920s Egyptian Shawl

Fine metal shawl from the 1920s 

It’s a mesh fabric that’s been hand embroidered with  thin strips of metal threaded into a pattern.

Called “tulle bi telli” which means net with metal in Arabic, it’s also known as “Assuit”, after the town in Egypt where it was made.

After King Tut’s tomb was opened in 1922, there was a craze for all things Egyptian. The geometric designs echoed an Art Deco aesthetic while evoking a mythological otherness. Westerners loved their fantasy of an exotic Middle East filled with harems, hashish and sheiks. This was a common theme in silent movies.

Tulle bi telli shawl

Tulle bi telli goes to the movies

In film, Assiut cloth represented luxury and symbolized a bohemian lifestyle.  The cloth is not ancient;  it dates back to the British Occupation of Egypt in the 1880’s.  It reached a peak in the 1920’s, when starlets evoked unbridled, foreign sensuality in Assiut get ups.

Once again evoking exoticism, tulle bi telli was worn by performers in the late 20th century:

Tulle bi telli shawl

Lauren Hutton, La Streisand, Bianca, Lenny Kravitz, Souxie  but no Banshees, and that guy from Queen who is not Freddy Mercury

Modern designers periodically rediscover the sexy drape of assuit fabric like these runway lovelies:

assiut in modern fashion

Drapey metal Assiut fabric in modern fashion

August 26, 2018
by Winters Past

Exploring Early 60s Style

I recently had a photo shoot with Micanopy portrait photographer Aimee Van Gelder. I dressed in vintage outfits from three eras including the early 1960s, while Aimee did her thing with lights, backdrops and poses.

For my early 60’s look, I chose a vintage sleeveless dress with a jewel neck. It had a full pleated skirt. My hat was a straw boater & I donned some ladylike short white gloves.

early 1960s style

Early 1960s style

In this hat I felt a little bit like Marlo Thomas in That Girl. It was a fun, easy to wear look that-sans gloves-I’d  wear right now. Of course, exploring this style made me go down the rabbit hole of fashion research

From start to finish, the 1960s was a decade of dramatic change. As with all eras, the tenor of the times is reflected in the clothes.

Social change was happening very fast in the 60’s. It was really like three mini decades compressed into a 10 year span.

So lets look at the early 60’s, which was really just a rather conservative extension of the 50’s. The styles were ladylike and proper. Mini skirts hadn’t happened yet. Ladies were still wearing hats and gloves.

early 1960s style

If June Cleaver was your role model, you were in luck

The waistline was at the waist. Dresses were either full and swingy or a slim pencil/sheath cut. Prints and colors were more muted and classic than the 1950s. The early 60s were the calm before the storm!

August 17, 2018
by Winters Past

A Short Post About Vintage Shorts

The fashion pendulum is forever swinging. One style gets popular and you see it everywhere until a few innovative people start sporting it’s polar opposite. After a while, that once-fresh style gets too popular and the old look cycles back into favor. Statement necklaces give way to dainty necklaces. Baggy jeans give way to skinny jeans and back again.

Right now, the innovative ones have adopted a high waisted look. Right now, my customers want a waistline at or above the natural waist in jeans, shorts and pencil skirts.

Mid century vintage shorts sport a high waist so they definitely fit in with that look. With that in mind, I recently asked my Etsy model Angela La Muse to show us vintage shorts from the 40’s to the early 60’s, the heyday of great high waisted shorts. The Betty Grable bombshell look is her specialty, so she was happy to oblige.

We started with the 1940s because it is really the first decade that women wore shorts. In classic pin-up style, the silhouette is high waisted and rather short. Some have trouser detail like pleats, cuffs and pockets. They close at the side or back.

vintage 1940s shorts

Vintage 1940s shorts

In the 1950’s, leisure culture in America really took hold. Think about the suburban casual lifestyle from the decade that gave us the patio, the lanai, grilling, and pool parties. The Miami/Palm Beach aesthetic was new and fresh. Along with that came shorts of many styles.

In the 1950’s the shortest length was the short short, followed by an above the knee Bermuda, below the knee pedal pushers and the capri which is somewhere between a short and a pant. Other cropped pants or long shorts were known as pedal pushers,  clam diggers, and toreador pants.

vintage 1950s shorts

Vintage 1950s shorts

In the early 1960’s, shorts were still high waisted but came to the knee or below.

vintage 1960s shorts

Vintage 1960s shorts

By the mid to late 60’s, the style pendulum had moved to hip huggers and cut offs, and these high waisted beauties had to wait for the next style cycle to make them fashionable again.

August 10, 2018
by Winters Past

We Will Never Be Royals (but we can wear hats like them)

Yesterday a friend told me about a lovely tradition she established for herself: she has saved a favorite clothing item from each decade of her life. Brilliant!

I can picture a few of my own stellar wardrobe items I would love to still have, especially some of my clothes from the 80’s. I was a young adult then, with a bit of discretionary income and time, so I was more indulgent with myself.

My mother’s most fashionable era was the 40’s, her own young single adulthood. I love to look at photos of her wearing trim little suits, red lipstick and a great hat, worn at an angle. Perhaps this is why I really love the 1940s tilt hats and, when I find one, I think of my mother.

The 1940’s was a great hat decade. One of the most flattering styles was the tilt hat, which has no brim or a very small one. It’s generally worn a little bit forward and to one side.

To illustrate their allure , here is the patron saint of 40’s tilt hats, Bette Davis:

Bette Davis in 1940s tilt hat

She’s got Bette Davis hats

In the modern world, the heir apparent of the sassy tilt hat is Kate Middleton. Behold her ability to look like she’s having a great time in each of these beauties. She may never be the Queen but in my book she’s the queen of modern headwear:

Kate Middelton vintage hats

Kate Middelton’s hat game is on point

New on the scene is Meghan Markle, who also knows her way around a great tilt hat:

Meghan Markle in hats

Meghan Markle in hats

The royals are wearing new hats in the style of vintage ones. My preference, of course, is for true vintage, like these:

modern women wearing vintage tilt hats

Modern women wearing vintage tilt hats

Like Bette Davis, these modern ladies know that a smaller hat worn at a tilt is a great look.

July 27, 2018
by Winters Past

Vintage Mexican Fashion, Frida Style

Frida Kahlo. What are you picturing right now? Braided hair, flower crowns, long embroidered dresses and, of course, the unibrow.

Kahlo developed an absolutely unique, artfully created look that erased the line between her art and her personal style.

Here is a pretty cool garment I recently acquired that made me think about the artist’s “traditional” dress and how she made a statement with it.

vintage Mexican dress at Winters Past

Satin and lace dress with floral embroidery

It’s a Tehuana dress and it’s from the town of Oaxaca in southeast Mexico.

Frida Kahlo famously wore this style and painted portraits of herself wearing it.  Here is some of Frida’s wardrobe from an exhibit:

Frida vintage Mexican dress at Winters Past

And a few photos of her wearing this style:

Frida Kahlo in traditional Mexican Tehuana dress

Frida Kahlo in traditional Mexican Tehuana dress

Kahlo was very conscious of image and symbolism as well as aesthetics. She knew she commanded attention with her personal style and she used this to  express her thoughts about Mexican culture to the larger world.

On another level, it was also a feminist statement. Oaxaca has traditionally been a matriarchal society where women ran the marketplace and the economy, so she adopted their clothing style as a symbol of female power.

She also wore long skirts to disguise her physical disabilities, which she revealed in her paintings but not in her public life.

Kahlo’s clothing was a part of her art, and still commands attention 50 years after her passing.


July 22, 2018
by Winters Past

The Secret Life of Clothes: Hippie Shirts

Most of the time when I buy things for the shop, even men’s things, I buy them from women. I rarely get the garments’ backstory from a man’s viewpoint. However, this week, I got a dozen pieces from a man who really wanted to tell me all about his shirts. So here we have the next installment in occasional series I call The Secret Life of Clothes, and this time its about a guy who had sentimental attachments to his old hippie shirts.

This 72 year old man saved his shirts from the 1970s in the back of his closet for 40 years because they helped him remember a specific period of his life.  In the 1970’s he had been married to the love of his life, a creative and volatile woman named Zoma. She sewed well-crafted snap front cowboy shirts and “ethnic” pullover jackets for him, then she broke his heart.

vintage 1970s mens shirts

Upper left: “I wore this one to a bar with my big white cowboy hat. A big biker dude grabbed me and took my hat. It took my wife and I both to fight him off, but we got the hat back. She was a tough one-she didn’t shy away from a fight.”

Upper right: “I got this shirt when I was in Guatemala. As soon as we got there, a civil war broke out. We had to hide in the hills for weeks”

Lower left: “We were in Mexico on the motorcycle . I got this leather vest with snakeskin trim. She got a matching halter top.”

vintage 1970s mens shirts

Upper Left: “We were going to a concert. My wife grabbed the bedspread right off the bed, made me a shirt and a skirt for herself and we matched.”

Upper right: “I called this one my special shirt. I only wore it when I was taking LSD”

Lower left: “After my wife left, I moped around the house for awhile  and then I started to go out again, I wore this shirt because the ladies seemed to like it”

Lower right: “I had this shirt made for me in Hong Kong”

Me: “What were you doing in Hong Kong?”

Him: “I have no idea”

vintage 1970s mens shirts

Upper left: “She tapered this one so it really fit me. It was my favorite shirt. It’s nice to have clothes made just for you.”

Upper right: “I called this one my ‘power shirt’. I wore it when I needed a little extra, you know, power”

Lower left: “I got this one when we backpacked across Indonesia”

Lower right: “This was the last shirt she made for me.”

July 11, 2018
by Winters Past

Vintage Sleuth: How to Figure Out How Old It Is

Did you read Nancy Drew books when you were kid? Just like the intrepid girl detective, I enjoy a good mystery and a little sleuth work now and then.

Since I want to know the age and background of every piece in the shop, a little detective work is in order. I thought you might want to hop into my metaphorical convertible roadster and go along for the ride.

Let’s solve the mystery this dress I recently acquired. So pretty, right?

It’s a shirtwaist style lace day dress with impeccable detail.  What fancy mechanical buttons!

vintage 1930's lace dress

How old is this vintage lace dress?

Let’s look at the overall style and cut. It has a waistline at the waist, a metal side zipper, a gently flaring hem and a light shoulder pad.

These features lead me to think it’s from the late 30’s to early 40’s. Why?

Well, I know that zippers started to be used in clothing in 1935, so it was made after that. Zippers moved to the back in the late 50s and were made of nylon after 1965, placing our garment well before that.

If  it were a WW2 era dress, roughly 1942-1947,  the shoulder pads would be broader and bolder, so it’s probably not from those years.

A late 40’s or 1950’s dress would have an exaggerated fit-and-flare silhouette with a dramatically wide hem, placing it earlier than that.

Now lets search Google for a “1930’s 1940s lace day dress”.  Here are a few, all listed as being 1930s:

vintage 1930's lace dress

Pretty similar to our dress

Now let’s look up the label, which reads Frillon Lace.

Woo Hoo! Jackpot! It’s the same dress in a different colorway.

But wait! Is that an advertisement for our dress from 1938?

vintage 1930's lace dress

The photos shoe someone online posting a similar dress with an ad for it from 1938

Mystery solved, case closed. Let’s have some Tollhouse cookies straight from the oven with a glass of cold milk to celebrate.

July 4, 2018
by Winters Past

Vintage Turquoise and Silver Jewelry

This photo of Princess Grace from the 70’s is just about perfect. The hair, the caftan, the pose, yes!

Now focus on just her squash blossom necklace. It’s bold, obviously, but she wears it so well.

vintage squash blossom

Grace Kelly mixes cultures with ease

Now feast your eyes on actress Vanessa Hudgens in a simple white outfit and a huge fabulous squash blossom. Yowza mama!

vintage squash blossom

Actress Vanessa Hudgens

Native American jewelry is gorgeous and popular but not so easy for me to find. However, I do have an occasional visitor to the shop, a Navajo man from New Mexico, who sells older pieces for his extended family. I buy from him whenever he’s in Florida.

Last week I was lucky enough to have a visit from him and was able to acquire this beauty:

wearing vintage native american jewelry

Antique Navajo squash blossom necklace                                                                                   

There is a lot to learn about this jewelry and I pick up bits and pieces from him. One interesting thing I have come to understandand is that most US turquoise mines are tapped out, so the only way to see the full range of American turquoise is in vintage jewelry.

My seller knows which mine each piece of turquoise comes from based to the color and the “matrix”,  which is the pattern caused by copper in the stones. These Navajo rings that I bought last week show some of the varieties turquoise comes in.

vintage silver rings

Antique Native American rings, including white turquoise, top left, and one with a badger claw, top right

Here’s a superb necklace now in the shop featuring turquoise from the Royston mine in Nevada. It was made by the tribe known as Santo Domingo (but who prefer to be called Kewa).

vintage turquoise

Handmade Turquoise Disc (Heishi) necklace

Now let’s look at some modern ladies wearing vintage Native American jewelry with relaxed ease. Like Princess Grace and Vanessa Hudgens, they keep the rest of the outfit simple and neutral, letting their jewelry take center stage.

wear vintage turquoise and silver

wearing vintage native american jewelry