Winters Past

20th Century Fashion from Deco to Disco

May 2, 2019
by Winters Past

Vintage Prom Dresses

I recently read an article about people in other countries having “American” themed parties in which they tailgate and drink beer from red Solo cups. Apparently these cups are hard to come by outside the US but they show up so often in Hollywood movies that they seem exotic.

It lead me to wonder what other commonplace aspects of our culture don’t easily translate in foreign countries. How must monster trucks, Velveeta cheese, high school football, Halloween and the practice of tipping our servers appear to people abroad?

Which brings me to prom. There are so many teen films that feature this uniquely American iteration of a high school dance. So what is prom, anyway?

Apparently the word “prom” comes from the promenade dances common at debutante balls in the 1800’s. By 1900, the big dance became an event for college seniors and by the 1920’s it became an afternoon tea dance common in high schools. Prom as we know it became a very big deal across the US after WW2.

Now let’s have a look at vintage prom fashion by the decade. First, the 1940’s. This was not a swing dance event; ballroom dancing was considered a more proper style for young ladies. Girls wore demure-prim, even- long slim gowns with puffy sleeves and a wrap to cover any scandalously bare shoulders:

vintage prom dresses

It was during the 1950’s-the era when teen culture came into it’s own- that prom fashion really exploded. A high school girl typically wore a full skirted dress with a tight bodice and it was often (gasp!) strapless. Hems were tea length, puffed out to there with layers of crinolines. Girls wore long gloves and tulle and taffeta galore. Behold:

1950s prom dresses

The 1960’s brought a raised empire waist and a slimmer full length skirt, often in pastel tones. The lack of tulle was compensated for by big-and I mean big– bouffant hair:

vintage prom dresses

In the 1970’s, there were two overlapping styles, one a little slinkier in polyester, often with a short bolero jacket. Boogie on, reggae woman!

The other had more of a sweet floaty prairie girl/garden party vibe. Here’s to the Ladies of the Canyon:

vintage prom dresses

Now, on to the 80’s. Oh, 1980’s, you era of decadent excess! Oh decade of both punk and Reaganism, when sweet maximalism ruled, how we reviled you before we embraced you! In retrospect, we love your drama, your strapless wonderment, your oversized puffs, your high-low hems, your huge bows, your ruffles, your sequins, and your metallic iridescent sheen, sometimes all in a single dress!

vintage prom dresses

And, sweet Lord, 1980s, your prom hair! Your gel, your crimps, your perms, your bangs and shags and layers, how they confuse us still!

And can we please take a moment of silence to appreciate the wild creativity of 80s accessories?

Whew! I’m verklempt!

Let’s come back to earth with some photos of prom dresses from the shop.

Stay tuned for a post on prom accessories, coming soon.

April 26, 2019
by Winters Past

Stay Cool, Stay Vintage

Here in central Florida, we have two basic seasons. There’s the one where it’s cool in the morning but warms up enough so you can sit outside by afternoon. And there’s the other one, where it’s already hot when you first wake up and stays just plain hot all day.

Oh, and did I mention the humidity? If Eskimos have 100 words for snow, Floridians must have just as many ways of talking about humidity. Like, it’s close, muggy, musty, sticky, damp, or steamy. It’s like a steam bath out there. You get the idea.

Right now, we are about at that tipping point where the pleasant, lovely season transitions to to the rather hot one. So faced with the wall of heat and mugginess, how do we stay cool and wear vintage in the summer?

First, let’s look at some 1960’s sheath dresses. These are meant to fall away from the body so they don’t stick to the skin. Extra added bonus: those super yummy mod prints and colors!


Next, how about some 1970s hippie-bohemian Mexican dresses? The crinkle cotton creates some air in the manner of a seersucker suit but with a whole lot more drapiness and flow. Wear sandals, braid some flowers in your hair and you’re good to go.

vintage Mexican dresses

These light, sheer cotton blouses are from the pre-air conditioned 1940s and 50s, when they knew a thing or two about keeping cool. Pair one with high waisted shorts for a retro cool vibe.

vintage cotton blouses

Now let’s lighten up our summer accessories. How about a breathable straw hat to shade your face and keep the sun out of your eyes?

vintage summer hats

Now ditch the heavy leather bag for one of these summery straw stunners:

vintage straw bags

Who wants heavy jewelry when it’s hot? Try a light, dainty vintage charm necklace with your vintage finery.

vintage dainty jewelry

Stay vintage and stay cool!

April 12, 2019
by Winters Past

Winters Past: A Look Back

Winters Past has -amazingly- been in business for 20 years! This means clothing that was new when the shop opened is now (technically) vintage. That’s a little bit of a mind bender, isn’t it?

Let’s have a look back at the shop when I purchased it from the previous owners, Jim and Sheila Winters, in November of 2014:

The shop was in the tiny town of McIntosh then, in a cottage-like building right on the main road, US 441. Sheila’s shop emphasized vintage hats and costume jewelry, two areas I have tried to maintain.

Another thing you may notice is the seated mannequin in the pink floral dress. She is still wearing that exact same outfit! This is because I am intimidated by the mechanics involved in dismantling her to change her clothes, so I’ve made that dress her “signature look.”

When I purchased the shop, Jim and Sheila left behind many wonderful treasures for me to explore. One thing that still makes me smile are these labels on boxes in the back room:

A vintage shop in rural Florida celebrates 20 years in business

Over the coming months, I will write a series of posts look back and the shop’s first 20 years. Stay tuned!

March 8, 2019
by Winters Past

A Love Story in 5 Dresses

It was 1947. Returning from the war, he boarded the train in New York in his civilian clothes then changed into his military uniform when it crossed the West Virginia line.

She was waiting for him at the platform wearing this suit, waving the silk scarf he had sent her from France.

She was tiny; the skirt waist measures just 20″. At 6’3″ he towered over her.

1940s suit at Winters Past in Micanopy, Florida

They married soon after and settled into their new lives. Big band music was popular and they want out dancing every Saturday night and sometimes on Wednesdays, too.

They often went to Charleston, 30 miles away, to go shopping together. He appreciated the lines of well-tailored clothing as much as she did. He picked out this dress for her because he knew the full skirt would swing out wide on the dance floor and he loved the way the dramatic cuffs accentuated her delicate hands.

1940s suit at Winters Past in Micanopy, Florida

There was only one dress shop in their town, but there was a wonderful seamstress. They had this dress made up and he wore a deep red pocket square to pick up its color when they went out dancing together.

In the sixties, the styles were cut a little slimmer and a bit shorter. The skirts didn’t flare out as much when you spun on the dance floor.

They still went out dancing once a week, twice if they were feeling festive. The big band era had passed so they learned modern new dances: the merengue, the cha cha and the rumba.

In the seventies lots of things changed. The music was played by a DJ, not a live band. They took a class to learn the Hustle and the Bus Stop and other new styles of dancing and they enjoyed going out just as much as ever.

The couple experimented with some daring new styles. She wore slacks for the first time in her life. He wore a burgundy leisure suit and a very wide tie.

The eighties brought a return to her favorite style, the dressy suit, but the colors and the details were bolder and brighter this time. No one wore gloves or a hat any more. She still weighed the same as she did that day on the train platform in West Virginia.

They retired to Florida and took up ballroom dancing.

After 75 years of marriage, they have decided to move to a retirement community. They are looking for one with plenty of dancing on the activity schedule.

February 14, 2019
by Winters Past

Vintage Headbands

Vintage headwear takes many forms; while some pieces cover the head, others are just the mere suggestion of a hat. One very wearable kind of minimal hat is the “beau coif” or whimsy that is a kind of glorified headband.

Right now, these bits of milinary magic look surprisingly modern. Have a look:

vintage statement headbands

The options for embellishment are limited only by the imagination of the hat maker. I’ve seen them done in flowers, feathers or fur. They can feature wide ribbons, veils, rhinestones or metal studs.

They are usually worn right on top of the head, where you would place an ordinary headband, though sometimes they are worn more towards the front hair line.

Here are some headband hats I have in the shop right now. The two on the left are from the 1940s and feature a wider band. In the center are a pair of 50s mink headbands, and on the right, two 1960s flowered fantasies. Fun!

February 4, 2019
by Winters Past

Vintage Fur Collars

The vocabulary of weather can be so poetic. One of my personal favorites is the Cone of Uncertainty. It’s always used on hurricane maps but, really, what aspect of the future doesn’t it apply to?

My current favorite weather term is The Polar Vortex. It’s so much more dramatic than just saying cold. Of course, in Florida winter is a fairly abstract concept. It does get a little bit nippy here, though, and by February our winter wear could use a little injection of fun.

Enter the vintage fur collar. But before we get too deep into a conversation about collars, here is a rather extravagant fur wrap I purchased for the shop last week:

vintage fox fur stole

It’s a lush statement piece that commands attention. I thought about ways to style it, and along the way I began to reconsider some of the fur collars I already have in the store. I realized that fur, when taken out of its glamorous luxe setting, can really work as an everyday accessory.

It looks like this:

As you can see, we are looking at fur collars, not full on stoles or jackets. These collars are curved to fit around the neck and they stay put rather nicely. They function as a scarf, giving just a hint of warmth and texture without a huge commitment.

These are not paired with glamorous cocktail dresses; we are talking here about wearing a fur collar with everyday clothing:

So what do you wear a fur collar with?

Everything! For starters, any wool coat or jacket is the perfect partner.

vintage fur collars

Think about layering a fur collar over a leather or denim jacket, with a wool cardigan or pullover, tossed on to a trench coat or with an army jacket.

wear a vintage fur collar

The collars come in a range of pretty colors, cuts and textures. Here are a few I have in the shop right now:

fur collars
vintage fur collars

A quick word about fur ethics. These are vintage pieces; most are over 50 years old. Choosing these older pieces means bypassing any new production of fur and avoiding the modern fur industry. Vintage or faux is the way to go!

January 28, 2019
by Winters Past

Eighties Ladies

Right now, I’m loving 1980s sweaters. You know them, they’re the ones with extravagant detail and slightly skewed proportions. An 80s pullover is a very fun thing to wear on a grey and chilly day.

First up, let’s take a moment to appreciate an 80s dream rendered in yarn: this Betsey Johnson beauty i have in my Etsy shop. It’s the mother of all great 80s sweaters, a wild fuchsia oversized tunic printed with –what else!–big radishes. Yowza!

1980s Betsey Johnson tunic sweater

Eighties sweaters are playful and as easy to wear as a sweatshirt. Like a sweatshirt, they often have raglan sleeves and a banded waist but with so much more style. These pullovers have great colors, unique prints and — sometimes — extravagant embellishments. Here are a few I have in the shop right now:

80s sweaters

Here are some with lots of details, from studs to appliqués and beads:

eighties sweaters

Lots of modern pieces pair really nicely with these chunky pullovers, including a slim skirt, ankle boots, aviator sunglasses, leggings, clogs, classic jeans, a leather jacket and an attitude of fun.

Here are some modern ladies wearing the heck out of some vintage sweaters:

January 16, 2019
by Winters Past

In the Bag

Why care about clothes? By the same token, why care about music or film or art? Why choose a well-prepared meal rather than chug a nutritionally complete space age beverage? Because aesthetics –the life of the senses–matter.

As Nabokov wrote, “There is a delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge that is intrinsically artistic.” I’m not really 100% sure I understand this quote, which is kind of the point. Exploring that small uncharted territory of the mind where it’s just a little bit disordered keeps the world interesting.

I find my eye drawn to newness. I once painted the inside of my china cabinet blue, in contrast to the green walls of the dining room. It gave me pleasure and stretched me aesthetically every time I saw it.

Which brings me to vintage clothing. That little jolt of something unexpected serves the same purpose. A recurrent theme in some of my recent blog posts boils down to this: add one cool vintage thing to your outfit of everyday basics for that little frisson of newness.

Vintage purses work really well as the perfect vintage statement accessory. I’m rather partial to vintage handbags from the 1950’s and early 1960’s. They are more structured than slouchy and they tend to have tailored lines with interesting details.They’re big enough to hold your stuff yet not so huge that you’ll end up at the chiropractor’s from hoisting the weight of a heavy bag.

I recently came across this stellar structured bag. It’s beautifully made with style to spare. Also: that matching change purse and mirror! Swoon!

Vintage Koret handbag

Let’s look at how some modern ladies use an unexpected element to add interest to the whole. Here, they pair vintage bags with contemporary clothing, making the overall effect very modern.

wear a Vintage handbag in a modern way

Here are some slightly larger satchel bags that bring in the sense of surprise. While these bags matched with vintage of their era might come across as a bit mumsy, they toughen up and read as chic when paired with modern.

wear a vintage purse in a modern way

And here are some very tailored, sleek bags that serve the same purpose.

how to style a vintage purse

In the same way that a pinch of salt brings out the sweetness or a bit sugar enhances the savory, a dash of vintage sharpens a modern look.

January 8, 2019
by Winters Past

That 70’s Blouse

The seventies. It was an amazing time for music, film and TV. It was also The Me Decade, and the era of pet rocks, Pong and quiche.

Let’s reclaim the seventies and declare it The Decade of the Blouse. All hail the variety and creativity of seventies shirts. The colors- Wow! The prints- Pow! The details-Yow!

Known and “secretary blouses”, they are silky, drape-y, colorful and cool. There are button down collared shirts, as well as pussy bows, high necked neo-Victorians and back button wonders.

So, how do you wear a vintage seventies top? With denim, and minimal jewelry, like this:

wear a vintage 1970s blouse

I think I like them best tucked in to the high waist of jeans or a skirt.

wear a vintage 1970s blouse

Tops that were considered dressy the first time around get an update when mixed with casual clothes.

As with all vintage pieces, if you want to look more modern than retro, keep hair and makeup current.

wear a vintage 1970s blouse

These seventies career lady blouses are stylish pieces that are also workhorses, easy to wear and easy to care for. Try a few with your favorite jeans or denim skirts.

January 1, 2019
by Winters Past

Pin a Brooch on your Coat

Wearing vintage can be about finding that one cool thing that elevates your everyday modern clothing. This singular piece can be anything you fancy, from a silk scarf to an alligator bag. One super simple way to add some vintage spark to your basics is with a vintage brooch. Personally, I’m on a quest to bring back the brooch, one lapel at a time. To that end, I’ve blogged a TON about brooch wearing, such as:

here, where I exhort you to pin one on your jean jacket, here, where we talk about wearing three brooches at a time, here, where we look at some modern ladies brooching it up, here, where I pin them on any article of clothing I get my hands on, here where we crown Sarah Jessica Parker the queen of all brooch wearers, and here where we explore the summer brooch. Whew!

But wait, there’s more! Today, let’s take our warm coats and jackets from drab to fab with a single stroke of genius, the vintage brooch. It looks like this:

Today, let's take our warm coats and jackets from drab to fab with a single stroke of genius, the vintage brooch.
The vintage brooch gives a chic, modern touch to outerwear

The coats here are classic and tailored while the brooches inject a bit of style into what could be a cookie cutter look.

wear a vintage brooch on your coat
Try one or two brooches placed high on the lapel or shoulder

A pin is a very functional kind of jewelry; it’s not at all distracting once you put it on. There’s no jangle or clank. It doesn’t sit right next to your skin so you aren’t aware of it as you go about your day. The brooch, that unsung hero of the jewelry box, quietly goes about its job of being a signature accessory without fanfare.

A small collection of vintage brooches will give you options, from whimsical to elegant and everything in between.

A single vintage brooch will add spark

So choose your brooch. It can be bold or dainty, shiny or matte, abstract or figural. Just pin it on and go!