Winters Past

20th Century Fashion from Deco to Disco

November 13, 2017
by Winters Past

Wear Three Brooches

Did you ever notice how many song titles feature the number three?

Like these: Gimme Three Steps,Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray and Knock Three Times. I bet you can think of at least three more.

Three of anything has a nice, pleasing asymmetry.

Of course, this brings us to vintage brooches. We’ve discussed how a single brooch looks great on a jean jacket.

You know what looks even better? Three brooches.

Here are a few combos to get you started.

trio of vintage brooches

Choosing different shapes

trio of vintage brooches

and different textures

trio of vintage brooches

combining figural and geometric

trio of vintage brooches

varying styles and sizes

November 6, 2017
by Winters Past

Sleek Seventies Style

The 1970’s are the Sybil of fashion eras. In case you’ve somehow forgotten, Sybil was a compellingly cheesy 1976 made-for-TV movie starring Sally Field as a character with multiple personalities.

Like Sybil, the 70’s had so many faces: it was the decade that veered wildly from hippie to disco to preppie to punk. Forget all of that.

Today we’re looking at the pared down, modernist, elegant aesthetic pioneered designers like Halston.

The 70s was a period that explored what a modern working woman could wear in the world. It might look something like this:

vintage 1970s fashion

This iteration of 70s style is personified by a jersey knit dress that follows the shape of the body but isn’t tight. Picture that dress in a deco-inspired geometric print with saturated colors. See? It’s a relaxed, casually sexy look. The silhouette is long, lean and drape-y. The top might be a halter or the dress might wrap. The pants are high waisted. There might be a scarf, a beret or a turban for fun.

Here are a few icons of the kind of 70’s style I’m taking about:

vintage 1970s fashion

L to R:Charlotte Rampling, Denise Nichols & Stephanie Power, Lee Radziwell,  Mary Tyler Moore, Diane Keaton, Faye Dunnaway, Pam Greir, Jacqueline Bisset, Ali McGraw

And here are three 70s dresses I have in the in the shop right now, all with a pared down, streamlined shape and a dynamic print:

vintage 1970s fashion at winters past

A wrap dress, a clutch purse, high waisted pants and geometric jewelry are pieces from Winters Past that fit this sensual modernist 70s personality:

vintage 1970s fashion at winters past

October 31, 2017
by Winters Past

The Secret Life of Clothes, Part 2

Here is the next installment of  a little series I’m writing about the backstory of  vintage pieces in my shop.

The phone call that started me on this treasure hunt came from a young couple who had purchased a ramshackle farmhouse, an old wood-frame Florida cracker house had been the home of one couple for over 60 years.

The new owners walked into an absolute time capsule; the entire contents of the house stood virtually unchanged, just as it had been in the mid 1940’s. From the pretzel shaped rattan love seat to the Asian inspired lamps, this house sat frozen as if under a spell.

Most amazing to me were the clothes. The lady of the house, whose name was Willamae, had saved what appears to be all the pieces in her wardrobe for decades. Fashions changed and she kept up with the times but she never got rid of her old clothes!

I hyperventilated just a little when I saw them.

And this is how I ended up sorting through piles (piles!) of dresses dating back to the late 1930’s just before a massive hurricane headed our way. As the storm was  touching down into Florida, I was setting up plastic bins on my deck to soak the clothes. As the storm raged, Willamae’s dresses soaked. When the sun came out, her treasures went up on the line to dry in the sunshine. cleaning and prepping vintage clothes

I’m still working through the wonders of Willamae’s wardrobe piece by piece, zipper by button.

She was a woman of style in each decade. In the montage below, starting at the upper right, the black dress with the checked panel dates from the 30’s. Below that, two tailored 40’s suits. Bottom left is a playful 1950’s jumpsuit. Upper left, a 1960’s western shirt in a mod paisley print.

how to sell vintage clothing

Here are four wonderful mid century day dresses from the 30’s through the 50’s. The lilac print, bottom right, still has it’s crinoline attached. The cotton print, bottom left, is handmade from flour sacks. Flour was packaged in nicely designed fabric that resourceful women saved and  sewed with during the depression. This one has some nice wide rick rack trim.

how to sell vintage clothing

All of the pieces in Willamae’s wardrobe are of a generous proportion, about a modern size 14.

how to sell vintage clothing

This glimpse into more than 35 years of one woman’s closet is a rare find that will take months to fully explore. Thanks for following along!

October 19, 2017
by Winters Past

Vintage Mexican Silver

Are you familiar with the vintage Mexican silver jewelry from the town of Taxco?  It’s got a great  Deco-meets-Aztec style done with gorgeous craftsmanship.  Sometimes you see it with geometric designs but more often it’s got mythological animals, astrological symbols, flowers and Jazz Age motifs. Amazing, right?

vintage mexican silver jewelry

A little history: the people native to that region worked with silver long before Europeans came, but there was a resurgence of interest in the early 20th century.  In the 1920s an American architect named William Spratling moved to Mexico after befriending and working with Diego Rivera and began to work in silver.

Spratling loved  pre-Columbian art and incorporated it’s themes into his work. His interest was spurred on by the discovery in 1932 of  Mixtec and Zapotec treasures, an archeological find that was as dramatic an influence in Mexico as the opening of King Tut’s tomb in 1925 was on Art Deco design in Europe and the United States.

The pre-Hispanic motifs were mixed with modern Cubist and contemporary folk elements in highly sophisticated jewelry combining silver with obsidian, mother of pearl, amethyst, onyx, turquoise and jet. This lead to the high point of  Mexican silver jewelry, which was the 1930’s-1950’s.

As Spratling and his jewelry became more successful, he created an apprenticeship program for local  jewelry makers. This allowed an entire group of artisans to flourish and to take the designs in completely new directions.

Here are just a few of the vintage Mexican silver pieces I have in the shop right now:

vintage mexican silver jewelry at Winters Past

vintage mexican silver jewelry at Winters Past

vintage mexican silver jewelry at Winters Past

October 6, 2017
by Winters Past

Alexa Chung Wears Vintage

You know the phrase It Girl?  Our friends over at Wikipedia say  it’s slang for a singularly stylish young woman who is sexy without flaunting her sexuality.

British TV host Alexa Chung has got “it”. She has a wonderfully self-defined, personal, individual style that transcends trends.

And, more to the point, Alexa Chung loves vintage and she wears it well.

Basically, whatever Chung wears, we want. She’s got that “chic without trying too hard” thing that’s actually really well thought out but looks effortless. She’s feminine but not fussy and she never looks overdone.

Here are some photos of her in vintage:

Alexa chung wears vintage

Alexa chung wears vintage

Here’s what I’ve learned from exploring her down to earth vintage style:

  • Wear vintage clothing with modern shoes. Alexa goes for black ankle boots or Converse to toughen up a look
  • Mix and match. This is key! Alexa wears a single standout piece of vintage with modern pieces from chain stores (or with designer threads)
  • Wear vintage coats or jackets with a modern clothing OR wear a modern denim or leather jacket with vintage
  • Pair a modern handbag with a vintage outfit
  • Keep hair and makeup simple and modern, but don’t skip the lipstick
  • Choose a single piece of jewelry.
  • Don’t show too much skin. Being confident and self possessed is sexy in itself.

September 27, 2017
by Winters Past

Jumpsuits and Rompers and Beach Pajamas, Oh My!

Jumpsuits. They hold the promise of great practicality: you just throw one on and go! No mixing or matching! Now, there may be a bit of struggle when you’re headed to the loo, but let’s gloss over that and just revel in the cuteness of it all.

First up, we have these fabulous beach pajamas that were introduced by Coco Chanel (of course) in 1922.  They were one piece outfits for rich ladies to wear while yachting or strolling the Riviera beaches because apparently these activities require a special clothes.

The pants had wide legs and the attached  tops were halters or had cool crisscrossed straps, sometimes with a matching bolero or jacket.

By the 1930s the trend moved from Paris to Palm Springs to Peoria as Americans began seeing them in films. And why not? They were gorgeous and fun, and those art deco prints-swoon!

1920's and 30's beach pajamas

1920’s and 30’s beach pajamas

The forties gave us two versions of the one piece outfits-one that was practical, the other more playful.

That classic Rosie The Riveter  jumpsuit looked like what pilots and sky divers in the military wore. Women put them on to work in factories, accessorized with that iconic bandana and wedge heeled shoes.

On the other side of the onesie coin are rompers, or top and blousy short combos, which were around in children’s clothing since the early 20th century. These got reinterpreted as a fun outfit for women in the 1940’s, sometimes with an overskirt.

So Rosie, what are you planning to wear when the factory whistle blows and you’re headed to Cony Island with the other girls? How about a garment adapted from baby clothes?

1940's jumpsuits and rompers

1940’s jumpsuits and rompers

After World War II, leisure clothes really hit their stride. For you, Mrs. Cleaver, we have these playsuits and rompers in cheerful cotton prints to wear while sipping Mai Tais on the lanai. If you’re lucky,  the mister will fire up the grill while he’s wearing loafers and shorts.

1950s playsuits

1950s playsuits

1950s playsuits

These mod sixties once piece outfits register a 6.0 on the youth quake meter, plus we have a brand new invention, the culotte.

1960s jumpsuits

1960s jumpsuits

Jumpsuits were pretty great in the 1970’s. These all-in-one connected body suits had a hip younger second wife vibe (sorry Mrs. Cleaver), like something a Long Island hostess wore while serving Tequila Sunrises and Lipton onion dip.

1970s jumpsuits

1970s jumpsuits

Ground control to Major Tom: I see the future and it involves these modernistic, wide shouldered, cinched waisted jumpsuits and some crazy wild hair. Leopard print or metallic fabric is a definite plus. With all that intergalactic travel, who’s got time to put on actual pants and a top?

1980s jumpsuits

1980s jumpsuits

September 7, 2017
by Winters Past

Wear a Vintage Beaded Necklace

When I was a kid, there was a candy store next to my elementary school. Let that sink in: a candy store. Next to my elementary school. As you can imagine, this was incredibly thrilling stuff.

It was a fabulous old timey shop with wooden floors and a vast selection of sugar delivery devices: wax lips, pixie stix, atomic fireballs, sugar daddies, and those pastel sugar buttons that were inexplicably stuck onto rolls of paper and could only be removed with your teeth. It was enticing and exciting, and it made my breath catch every single time I walked in.

I want my shop to feel just like that, only instead of candy I want it filled with fabulous sparkly vintage costume jewelry.

There are some  pieces in the shop that have a similar visual and tactile appeal as the treasures in that old candy store. They are multi strand necklaces made of wonderfully detailed faceted beads. These confections were made in the 1950’s in Hong Kong or in what was then called West Germany. Made of either glass or plastic, they are bold, chunky, colorful and very fun.

vintage multi strand bead necklaces

Faceted, frosted, graduated multi strand bead necklaces in a range of colors

So, how to wear them in a modern way?

To my eye, they look great mixed with simple solid color  tops or dresses. I especially like them with a chambray button down.  You can wear the necklace outside or inside the collar. Try one with a crew or vee neck top, too.

how to wear vintage multi strand beaded necklaces

Here’s how to wear vintage multi strand beaded necklaces

A few more thoughts:

  • Mixing vintage beaded necklaces into your modern outfit is like decorating your living room. You might want a sleek modern couch but adding a vintage lamp on the end table elevates the whole look.
  • Vintage multi strand necklaces can add that “wow” factor to an otherwise basic outfit.
  • The key to these is the mix of textures and lengths. No other accessories are really needed.
  •  The phrase “pop of color” seems to fit these  baubles perfectly. Do not be afraid! Go outside, look at nature and see how gorgeous the redbud blossoms are against the blue sky, then wear the boldest piece with your most washed out sky blue denim.
  • My prediction: fifties multi strand beaded necklaces are going to be the next hot collectible vintage jewelry. You heard it here first.

September 1, 2017
by Winters Past

Ladies, Wear a Vintage Men’s Fedora

Today, I give you the next installment in our series on how to wear a vintage hat without feeling like a total dork, and not a moment too soon.

Get ready, because we’re taking back the fedora.

You know that faux hipster thing where both men and women take a (new) fedora and wear it on the back of their heads, tilted up? Don’t do that, ever, unless you are in a boy band, and even then think twice. It’s a one way ticket to dorkville, a town no adult wants to live in.

Instead, let’s treat this hat like the classic it is.

The fedora has a gender bending history, which is why it looks so great on both men and women. In Victorian times, actress Sarah Bernhardt wore one while playing a character named Fedora. Bernhard was considered sexy and she liked to wear men’s clothing at times.  The fedora gradually shifted to become a men’s hat, associated with hyper masculine actors like Bogart and Sinatra, and with gangsters like Capone and Sinatra. It went from being a symbol of co-opted masculinity to one simply considered masculine.

In the 1940’s, when women’s fashion had a bit of a menswear edge, fedoras again became popular for women. Ingrid Bergman wore one particularly well in Casablanca.

1940's stars in fedoras

Marlene Detrich,  Ingrid Bergman, Paulette Goddard, Jeanette MacDonald, Ava Gardner, Katherine Hepburn

How to wear one in a modern way? My preference, of course, is a vintage fedora. First, the quality is great and the style is free of gimmicks. The colors, classic neutral black, grey, brown or tan, give just the right degree of effortless panache. Their history makes them nicely worn in with the perfect patina of age and wear.

Many of the vintage men’s fedoras I find tend to be too small for modern men, meaning they are perfect for women. The fit should be fairly snug but able to sit halfway down on the forehead. Now give it an angle and tilt it off center and a bit to the front. This will really emphasize your eyes-take a look at Ingrid Bergman (center top above). Remember, a fedora isn’t worn pulled straight down low.

When you find the perfect vintage fedora, wear it around the house for a while, catching glimpses of yourself. This way you’ll get used to seeing and being seen in it.

One of the best fedora wearers today is Sarah Jessica Parker, and she wears them really often. She combines a classic small brim creased hat with jeans, sweatshirts and leather as well as with dressier pieces. Have a look:

SJP in a fedora

SJP in a fedora

August 22, 2017
by Winters Past

Vintage Black Glamor

Everyone recognizes Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe as vintage style icons. I can point to a dozen more that most people are aware of: Ingrid Bergman, Bette Davis, maybe Jean Harlow. Missing from this list are glamorous women of color.

Recently, I’ve become interested in learning more about African American vintage style icons. Of course, this is tied in with the complicated history of race in America. But when we lift back the veil of history, we find a wonderfully rich cultural diversity that’s been hidden from view.

I am currently exploring Black cinema, or what were known as “Race Films”. This was a parallel Hollywood featuring all Black casts, aimed at Black audiences that existed from 1915 through the early 1950’s. Some of these movies were also written, directed and produced by African Americans.

Of course, there were Black performers in mainstream movies of Hollywood’s golden age. They were usually relegated to stereotypical roles, but even within those constraints, there are glimpses of a fabulous and unique style.

Here are just a few avatars of vintage glamor that I’m just now seeing and appreciating. In addition to films, these women found success on Broadway, the Opera, and the bandstand.

What vintage style cues can we learn from them? What elements of fashion and beauty are unique to Black entertainers from the first half of the 20th century?

From L to R: Francine Everett, Sallie Blair, Sybill Lewis,

The Dolly Sisters, Dorothy Dandridge, Gloria Davy

vintage black movie stars

Nina Mae McKinny, Joyce Bryant, Dorothy Van Engle

Marpessa Dawn, Ja Net DuBois, Josephine Premice

vintage black glamor

Janet White, Muriel Smith, Princess Kouka of the Sudan

Jeni Le Gon, Hilda Simms, Theresa Harris

vintage black glamor

August 17, 2017
by Winters Past

Style Inspiration with a Dash of Vintage

The internet. It’s either the  great democratic equalizer, giving everyone a voice, or its the death of civilization as we know it.

From a personal style perspective (and from the standpoint of this blog, the entire world comes down to vintage fashion), I’m going for the first option.

I’m inspired by the looks I see in blogs and in independent media. When it come to wearing vintage, there are a few camps. One is the all-vintage head to toe approach. That’s a subject for another day.

Today I’m focusing on women who mix in vintage with modern and have a well defined, recognizable (and very fun) sense of style. Here are a few ladies who are  inspiring my style choices these days. Also, I like style that involves comfortable shoes.

First up, Amy Karol, who blogs at

As an artist, craft book writer and  home-schooling mother of three, Amy’s got a love of fabric, color and retro 50’s-early 60’s style that’s casual and pretty.

vintage style inspiration from bloggers

Vintage style #1: Lets call it Seattle-based home schooling crafty indie mom style

Next we have  Aussie blogger Lilli over at 

She’s a book editor working in publishing and she has a cool modern librarian vibe. She sews and crafts some of her own pieces that she mixes with 1950s vintage. Lilli has a good sense of her body proportions and of how she wants to be seen.

vintage style inspiration from bloggers

Vintage style #2: Crafty cute bookish style nerd with womanly curves

Moving on, here’s the fabulous Latonya Yvette, who blogs at

Full disclosure: my daughter interviewed her for Bust magazine. She’s got a fabulous mix of eras worn with modern accessories and a spot-on sense of color. Those yellows! Swoon.

vintage style inspiration from bloggers

vintage style #3: Brooklyn based creative with a bold use of color & a killer indie style

For some West Coast wonderfulness, here is Erin Perez Hagstrom at

Erin gravitates toward natural fibers, mostly solid colors and hats. She goes for clean lines and crisp silhouettes and seeks out high waists and trapeze cuts, all worn with her signature bangs.

vintage style inspiration from bloggers

vintage style #4: So Cal natural minimalism with a 90’s vibe

Next up, Catherine Summers, who blogs at

She’s a red haired Brit who’s preferred vintage era is the seventies. Her blog has the the tag line, Who wants to be “age appropriate” anyway? Certainly not me! Catherine does break the comfortable shoe rule, but she gets a pass on that one.

vintage style inspiration from bloggers

vintage style #5: Fearless mix-and-matcher with a grown up playful feel

Here’s one more, this time not a blogger. This is the lovely singer and pianist Regina Spektor, a Russian-born New Yorker. She wears true vintage in a light hearted, dreamy way.

Indie fashion using vintage

vintage style #6: Fashion perestroika mixes Cony Island kitsch with classic forties frocks