Winters Past

20th Century Fashion from Deco to Disco

April 9, 2018
by Winters Past
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Fanciful Forties Frocks

Recently I became the proud (though temporary) owner of some breathtaking 1940s day dresses.

Be still my beating heart!

Here are some snaps of them on my clothesline:

1940s day dresses

Pretty maids, all in a row

1940s day dresses

Each one is unique yet the overall silhouette is the same

The details:

1940s day dresses

Peplums and flounces and ruching, Oh My!

The prints:

1940s day dresses

And the colors! Swoon!

The edges of fashion decades are fuzzy, meaning that “the forties” style didn’t literally start on January 1, 1940 at the stroke of midnight.This dress style started in the late thirties, lasted through WW2 and morphed into something else-something with a fuller skirt- by about 1947.

The overall shape of these day dresses is womanly, timeless, easy to wear and very flattering:

  • defined but not exaggerated shoulders
  • jewel or modest vee neckline
  • fitted bodice
  •  bloused (not tight) top
  •  short, draping sleeves
  •  nipped in waist at the natural waistline
  • knee length gently flared skirt

Sometimes limitations can lead to greater creativity ; this is certainly the case with 1940s fashion. There were shortages of materials such as silk and wool. There were also restrictions on fabric quantity and skirts became slimmer and shorter as a consequence.

At the same time, American fashion was coming into its own. The US had always looked toward Paris for fashion inspiration, but wartime changed France’s role as a trendsetter. Hollywood became the major style influencer that designers copied and women emulated.

These dresses were available in many price points and were as accessible to shop girls and secretaries as they were to society ladies. In the 1940s, women needed to get things done on the home front and this was expressed in dresses that allowed women a full stride but addressed the fun part of fashion with very playful elements.

These simple day frocks had practical silhouettes but were lavished with creative details. There was some very innovative cutting, piecing and draping, along with ruching, gathers, peplums and layers that tie.

Then, there are the colors. This era was a perfect moment for printing on fabric. Synthetic dyes which gave vivid, clear hues were being developed. Rayon, a natural fabric made from wood pulp, had been perfected by the late 1930s. Its takes dyes really well.

The availability of so many color options led to wonderful fabrics. The fanciful prints tend toward dreamy florals or bold abstract designs and brought a sense of fun to dressing.

1940s day dresses

Fabulous forties frocks, indeed!

 

 

April 5, 2018
by Winters Past
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Vintage Charm Bracelets

Vintage charm bracelets are quirky, kitchy fun; there is something innately “charming” about them.

First, they  announce their presence by the jingle that happens when the wearer moves her wrist.

Second, they invite conversation. To really appreciate a charm bracelet you really need to examine each individual tiny treasure and hear its story.

I’ve noticed two main eras of 20th century charm bracelets: pre and post WW2. The earlier ones tend to have a theme, like this prohibition era beauty I came across recently  with (mostly) cocktail related items:

vintage charm bracelet

Tiny alarm clock, top hat, cocktail shaker, ice tongs and shoe

Then you have the charm bracelet’s heyday, when American teenagers and young women in the 1950s and early 1960s collected tiny mementos to record  events in their lives.

There are hobby themed charms such as bicycles, horses, ballet shoes, thimbles and musical instruments.

I see lots of  lots of travel related charms like state maps, flags and tiny replicas of famous buildings.

Perhaps most magical are the mechanical charms, the ones with a moving part, like a wee ferris wheel that turns or scissors that open.

vintage charm bracelets

These memory filled charm bracelets revealed so much about the people who originally collected them.

Filled with tiny figurines collected over the years, charm bracelets chronicled small moments in a life and formed a visual, wearable autobiography.

All vintage pieces come with their own history. This is even more evident when acquiring someone else’s charm bracelet. It is both very personal yet mysterious and unknowable, which adds an interesting layer to the experience of wearing it.

March 19, 2018
by Winters Past
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Fifties Fashion as seen in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Fifties fashion is a an interesting contradiction. On the one hand, it’s a study in wonderful excess: voluptuous curves, wide full skirts, dramatic swing coats. On the other hand, it’s all about control: the need to match everything, wear figure-defining undergarments, and follow strict rules governing appropriateness.

This is beautifully expressed in the Amazon series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. 

The main character, Midge, manages to straddle these two poles neatly, in clothing that perfectly evokes the era but manages to feel modern at the same time. Her wardrobe is just gorgeous and very lustworthy.

Have a look:

Fifties fashion from the netflix series Mrs Maisel

Fifties fashion from the Netflix series Mrs Maisel

Clothing from The Marvelous Mrs Maisel

Those swing coats! and peignoirs! 

I had to watch Mrs. Maisel twice, once for the witty dialog and well crafted story and once just for the wardrobe, which will leave vintage lovers breathless.

 

March 10, 2018
by Winters Past
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A Brief History of Ladies Wearing Tuxes

Have you watched any of the award shows lately? I find myself looking for anything unique and quirky among the similarly styled stars. This brings me to women wearing tuxedos.

I came across this quote from the writer Quentin Crisp: “When a man dresses as a woman, the audience laughs. When a woman dresses as a man, nobody laughs. They just think she looks wonderful”.

I thought about this recently when I acquired a wonderful 1970’s Yves St Laurent ladies tux. It made me think about the allure of a woman wearing  black tie, which is elegant and  sexy in an interesting way.

The earliest references to women wearing tuxes are from the 1920’s among performers in Harlem & Paris.

ladies wearing tuxes

Performers Gladys Bently & Josephine Baker

By the 1930’s, several screen stars introduced the idea to a larger audience, most famously Marlene Deitrich. This makes sense since the 30’s, much like the 70’s, was a time when strict gender boundaries had become a bit more fluid, at least in cities and in show business.

ladies wearing tuxes

Marlene Dietrich & Anna May Wong

In the 1940’s, nobody did menswear better than Katherine Hepburn:

ladies wearing tuxes

Katherine Hepburn

The 1950’s ideal was so ultra feminine that gender bending fashion was not seen much in the mainstream.

Then, in 1966, Yves Saint Laurent caused a big stir by creating the first tux designed for women. Using the French term for tuxedo, it was dubbed “Le Smoking” and what began as boundary pushing  became iconic.

ladies wearing tuxes

Betty Catroux, Liza Minelli, Catherine Deneuve, Charlotte Rampling in the 70’s

The black tie trouser suit with heels and lipstick is now a red carpet regular. To the modern eye, it doesn’t look gender bending at all; it looks very feminine in a self assured way.

Here are some modern ladies looking strong and sexy in their tuxes.

ladies wearing tuxes

Alexa Chung, Emma Watson, Janelle Monae

March 3, 2018
by Winters Past
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Collecting Vintage Lucite Bangles

Remember the old  Lays potato chips ad, the one that said, betcha can’t eat just one? The same goes for Bakelite bracelets…betcha can’t wear just one!

Quick primer: Bakelite is a highly collectible early plastic. It was made in lovely colors and has a rich luster that deepens over time. Bakelite can be cut and polished, which led to its use in all sorts of creative and whimsical jewelry.

My customers who collect and wear Bakelite love to put on lots of bangles at once, wrist to mid forearm, stacking them up in multiples on one or both arms. They enjoy matching or contrasting the bangles with their outfit, playing with color and  getting creative with their collection.

It looks like this (jaunty hand on hip pose optional):

vintage bakelite bracelets

vintage bakelite bracelets

No doubt about it, nothing equals the depth and richness of vintage Bakelite. It’s fabulous.

However, collecting lots and lots  of Bakelite, enough to have an armful of different colors to go with each outfit, can be a daunting proposition. Finding the pieces you love and collecting them bracelet by bracelet can take years. A big collection can also set you back a sum equal to the cost of a good used car.

There is an option. Enter Bakelite’s younger (and some might say sassier) cousin, lucite. They are both plastics but, generally speaking, bakelite had its heyday before WW2, lucite after.

Like bakelite, lucite was made in lots of colors, shapes, and sizes. Some are marbled, some have a gorgeous iridescence and others are laminated stacks of color.  Unlike bakelite, some lucite bracelets are embedded with shells, glitter and confetti.

Here are some lucite bangles I have in the shop right now:

vintage lucite bracelets at winters past

vintage lucite bracelets at winters past

Here are two great tips I’ve learned from customers that apply to both bakelite and lucite:

  1. When putting on a bangle, slip a silky scarf over your hand and wrist. Your bracelet will slide on easily right over the scarf.
  2. Store your collection in satin quilted vintage lingerie boxes. These are just the right size to protect and display these treasures. Then, mix. match and contrast with abandon.
collect vintage lucite bangles

Collect and enjoy vintage lucite bangles

February 23, 2018
by Winters Past
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Ultra Feminine 70’s Style (that feels modern)

Cue up the 1970’s southern California singer-songwriter music ’cause I’m noticing a style trend and it needs a soundtrack.

But first, check out these ultra feminine dreamy bohemian frocks:

70's style romantic dresses

Dresses from the modern label The Vampire’s Wife, worn on the right by singer Florence Welch

I’m loving the romantic, witchy vibe of these retro-glam maxi dresses:

70's style romantic dresses

Dresses from the modern label Doen worn by blogger LaTonya Yvette on the left

All the velvets, silks, and neo Edwardian flourishes are lifted straight from 1970’s styles like these:

70's style romantic dresses

From left: actress Isabel Adjani, middle: dress by British designer Ossie Clark, right: singer Emmylou Harris

Then and now, these etherial gothic confections are brought back to earth with a sturdy boot or clog and accessorized with just a  pendant necklace. Hair is styled simply, either loose or braided. Dubbed “festival dresses” in their modern iteration, they are being worn for day as well as evening.

Here are a few 1970s stunners  I have in the shop right now:

70's style romantic dresses At Winters Past Vintage in Micanopy Florida

1970s Witchy Woman  dresses At Winters Past

70's style romantic dresses At Winters Past Vintage in Micanopy Florida

More Ladies of the Canyon style dresses At Winters Past

As promised, here’s your 70s So-Cal soft rock playlist to get you in the mood for a festival dress:

  • Ladies of the Canyon-Joni Mitchell
  • Marrakesh Express-Crosby, Stills and Nash
  • Sweetheart of the Rodeo-The Byrds
  • Doctor My Eyes-Jackson Browne
  • Heart Like a Wheel-Linda Ronstadt
  • You’re Only Lonely-JD Souther
  • Return of the Grevious Angel-Gram Parsons/Emmylou Harris

February 12, 2018
by Winters Past
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A Fresh Take on 70s Office Wear

Just yesterday, I was speaking with two young customers about my theory of “fashion echoes”. It goes something like this: I see the  70’s as an echo of the the 30’s  (draped fabrics and body skimming cuts) and the  80’s as an echo the 40’s (peplum waists and shoulder pads).

My customers began to ponder what the current era is echoing.  After some thought (because in troubling times my mind seeks lighter problems to solve), I think I have it.

In many ways, I see the modern era as a parallel to the 1970’s. The dramatic changes women are going through right now bring to mind the major shifts that happened then. So what women wore in the workplace in the 70’s looks fresh and on-point right now.

Here are two films that portray 70’s female trailblazers in the workplace through a modern lens.

First, there’s Dr. Wendy Carr from the Netflix series Mindhunters. I’d wear any of her 70’s chic outfits right now:

1970s fashion style

Silky button down blouses, trim A-line skirts and boots

Let’s see how Meryl Streep as Katherine Graham in The Post does 1970’s office wear:

1970s fashion style

Bow blouses, print dresses, big glasses

What we have here is a recipe for redefining feminine in a way that lets women look fabulous and actually function in the world. If you’re wondering what to wear to work while smashing the patriarchy, here is one template.

Let’s break it down, shall we?

  1. An easy to wear print shirt dress or wrap dress
  2. A midi length a-line skirt that lets you take big strides
  3. A structured shoulder bag, not too big
  4. Stylish chunky heeled shoes you can walk in

1970s fashion style

Add in:

  1. A tailored blazer, double breasted or not
  2. A soft blouse,  maybe with a “pussy bow”
  3. High waisted trousers with wide legs
  4. Gold toned hoops

1970s fashion style

Great workwear, equally good in 1978 or 2018.

February 3, 2018
by Winters Past
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Random Snail Mail

Owning a shop, particularly a vintage shop,  is an interesting thing. I have all sorts of conversations in the course of a day.

Another cool  thing: sometimes I get letters and packages from people who have been in the shop or who have come across it on line.

A few months ago a wonderful (and wonderfully talkative) elderly lady came into the store and randomly started telling me about persimmon pudding. She told me how she likes to pick the wild sour persimmons and how they make the best pudding.

Then, a few days ago, out of the blue I received this in the mail:

winters past

winters past

It’s the persimmon pudding recipe, used for “over 50 years”!

Once a customer came in and asked if I had any old buttons. I do have a box of them, mostly ones I’ve removed from clothing that could not be salvaged. Turns out she was absolutely passionate about buttons: collecting, displaying, learning about and sharing her knowledge of them. She was actually on her way to a button convention when she made a detour in Micanopy.

Some time after her visit, I received this:

winters past vintage micanopy florida

Three gorgeous vintage Bakelite buttons and a sweet note.

Another time I unexpectedly received this box:

winters past vintage micanopy florida

Inside were some vintage aprons, gloves, scarves and this lovely painted clutch bag, all sent anonymously.

One day last year the mail carrier brought a box with two pairs of infant shoes inside, one pink, the other blue. It came with a note that only said  “I found you on the web pages.”

winters past vintage micanopy florida

One of my more surprising  envelopes contained only a pair of vintage silk thigh high stockings but no note:

winters past vintage micanopy florida

Unexpected mail is the best kind, especially when it contains unexpected treasures.

January 18, 2018
by Winters Past
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20th Century Lingerie: Tempest in a D Cup

The female form is fashion’s clay. In one decade, the styles demand a slim, athletic figure while another era prefers a voluptuous silhouette. Women’s bodies can’t  alter their proportions, so it’s up to the undergarments to massage, squeeze, flatten or otherwise define our flesh.

Here’s a little stroll through the decades as we take a look at what lies beneath those fancy frocks.

1920’s:

A youthful boyish silhouette was a new and sexy ideal. To achieve it, bras were designed to flatten rather than enhance the bust line. Young ladies wore bandeau style bras topped with camisoles or straight slips under equally straight dresses.

These were worn with loose knickers or “step ins”,which were a sort of short jumpsuit that combined the camisole with undies. These wear made of cotton, silk or a new fabric, rayon.

In the 20’s, most older women still wore metal boned corsets overtop their knickers while many younger ladies, daringly, did not.

1920's ladies underwear

1920’s underthings were designed to straighten out the curves

1930’s

A waistline and hip curve came back into vogue as a more “natural” silhouette became the desirable standard. Bras with cups were introduced for the first time, which gently lifted but did not emphasize the bust, and the first underwires were sometimes added.

Many women wore corsets, topped with a bias cut silk or rayon slip. The dresses were designed  to drape over but not cling to the body, which made slips important.

1930's ladies underwear

In the 1930’s, fashion focused on a relatively natural waist with a gentle hip curve

1940’s

The desirable feminine body type was more aggressively curved and shaped in the 40’s, with a focus on the waist.

This wartime decade  gave us bras that molded the bust line into twin torpedos and were designed to separate them, not to create cleavage.

Girdles made with elastic were introduced in order to carve a more dramatically slimmer waist. Ladies wore a bra and briefs (usually nylon) with a girdle or garter belt overtop to hold up their stockings.

1940's ladies underwear

An architecturally molded female form was the goal in the 40’s

1950’s

The fifties aesthetic was based on abundance and the idea of  better living through technology; just picture an American car from that decade.

The dramatic womanly curves of an hourglass figure were thought of as the ideal body. Luckily (or not), this shape could be faked with the right undergarments.

Women created the illusion with layers of garments that reshaped their bodies. They wore a bullet or cone bra and high waist briefs topped with an engineered  corset or elasticized girdle and/or garter belt, often topped with a crinoline or two. Whew!

1950's ladies underwear

In the 50’s, science gave women the dubious gift of an artificially created figure

1960’s

The 60’s were really two distinct fashion eras. The earlier part was more ladylike, trim and refined. Picture Audrey Hepburn and Jacqueline Kennedy in sheath dresses. Girdles and garter belts helped create that illusion.

In 1964, the push up bra and pantyhose were invented and  younger women were free to skip restrictive girdles.

Later in the decade, fashion made a sharp turn toward the funky and bohemian hippie styles, ushering in the the sheer “no bra” bra for younger ladies. Worn under a tee shirt, a sheer gauzy blouse or ribbed knit top, these bras artificially created the appearance of bralessness.

1960's ladies underwear

1970s

A young, slim, “natural” body with less visible artifice was desirable in the 70’s, though fashion sometimes required a padded bra to achieve this look. Undies got smaller and became hipsters or bikinis, to be worn under hiphuggers. Girdles were only worn by older women by this decade.

1970's ladies underwear

The molding of women bodies continues. Subsequent decades have brought us the practical sports bra and the cleavage creating  Wonder Bra. The new millennia graced us with the VPL-vanishing thong, and, in homage to girdles and corsets of yore,  Spanx.

Vintage lovers can revisit and enjoy lovely styles of vintage underpinnings (those bias cut 30’s silks-swoon!) without being obligated to wear all of it.

January 11, 2018
by Winters Past
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The Secret Life of Clothes, Part 4

When customers come into the shop and see  a garment like this, a purple velvet evening romper with a matching metallic beaded robe, they ask Where do you get  these clothes ?

Vintage 1970's clothing

Here goes another installment in which I tell a little bit of  the backstory on these garments. I call it The Secret Life of Clothes.

But first, imagine, if you will,  what Prince’s mother’s wardrobe might look like, all brocades and feathers and crazy great accessories. That is exactly what I came across in a modest Ocala bungalow last week.

I had received a call about a woman named Jane from her neighbor and friend, inviting me to help wean down her voluminous clothing collection.

It turns out Jane worked as a makeup artist and occasional model at Motown from the late 1960s through the 80s. You know those album covers that feature an amazingly dressed woman who does not perform on the record? That might be Jane.

When Smoky Robinson or Diana Ross or Marvin Gay traveled, she went with them to do their stage makeup. Along the way, she enjoyed some of  the perks of stardom and she definitely dressed the part.

Over the years she had acquired an outrageous collection of deliciously over the top pieces that matched her lifestyle. These are a few of her suits:

vintage seventies and eighties clothing

And her handbags:

vintage 1970's purses

And a few of her amazing accessories, including a chain mail vest and a fur stole with some type of cast metal animal head:

vintage 1970s accessories

Her clothing bears tags from all over the globe, but she had a particular fondness for Italian design, especially those wildly embellished power suits.

To top it all off, here are some fabulous  hats from her collection:

vintage hats

And guess what else a person who worked for Mowtown would have? So many record albums! I purchased them with one caveat: if I find any that feature Jane on the cover, I pledged to bring them back.

vintage motown albums