Fashion has reached the point in its current cycle where showing lots of skin has become banal. So now the pendulum is swinging the other way.
Covered up is cutting edge. Ladylike is the new sexy.
What’s more covered up and ladylike than a vintage secretary blouse? The allure here comes from what is implied, not stated. Wearing it is easy. As with most vintage pieces, add one of these pretty shirts to an otherwise modern outfit for a look that is cool, not costume-y. Pair it with jeans, tucked in, with a belt. Top a high waisted pencil skirt with one. Keep your accessories minimal and your hair modern. Here is a little inspiration:
And now, in homage to the patron saint of vintage bow blouses, the geek chic lifetime achievement award winner, one half of the cutest sibling duo ever to grace the silver screen, I give you Maggie Gyllenhaal:
Maggie, if you happen to be in central Florida shopping for vintage secretary blouses, come and visit me. I have what you’re looking for:
Just a few of the vintage pussy bow blouses currently available at Winters Past
I’ve been doing these occasional posts that show how to wear vintage hats without feeling like a total dork. We’ve looked at the beret, the pillbox and the cloche so far.
The idea here is to keep it easy and wearable, not costume-y. With that in mind, today we are looking at vintage straw hats.
When I say “straw hat”, I’m not talking about a wide floppy brim Coachella neo-hippie hat. I’m talking here about a city hat, one with some structure. There are a few styles of vintage straw hats that are crisper and more tailored, such as the boater (a flat, shallow crown), the Panama (a fuller, rounded crown) and the high crown early 60’s style hat, all with a small to moderate brim.
I’ve been inspired by the blogger Erin over at Calivintage. She wears regularly wears structured straw hats with her crisp, cute linen and cotton outfits and she looks amazing.
A vintage straw hat with easy summer pieces
Now, on to my recent week of wearing a straw city hat every day. Let me preface this next section by asking: You’ve seen bad selfies, right?
Well, dear readers, today I have joined the ranks of bad selfie posters. Here’s why: I didn’t want to make a fuss about the whole hat wearing thing. I just wanted to grab a hat, snap a pic and go about my day. The verdict? Comfortable, with a dash of panache.
A week of vintage straw city hats
And here are just a few of the summer hats I have in the shop right now:
The 1950’s fashion era is perennially popular because of it’s womanly appeal.
There are two main iconic silhouettes in 50s fashion – the cinched waist with full skirt that emphasizes the waist and the slim fitting pencil skirt that emphasizes the butt.
Here’s the rundown:
Full skirts: Wide circular or pleated skirts for both day and evening. These were worn to mid calf, maybe longer for night. Crinolines- starched net half slips- were sometimes worn for extra pouf.
A bevy of fifties fit-and-flare-dresses
Pencil Skirts: A narrow, close fitting straight skirt created the “wiggle look”. They fall from a natural waist, are fitted to the body and have a small back split at the hem. Pencil line dresses were either worn with heels and plenty of accessories or with flats for a more casual look. Again the skirt is calf length.
Fifties sheath dresses
Eighties fashion sometimes echoed the fifties, so it’s very possible to find 80’s garments that look as though they could have been from the 50’s.
1980s garments are often sturdier (having existed for far fewer years) than some mid-century vintage pieces, frequently cost less, and are commonly made of materials that are a snap to launder. The prints might be a bit wilder and brighter than true fifties.
And there is the size factor. Women in the 80’s had measurements more in tune with today’s figures, making them easier to fit.
80’s as 50’s fit-and-flare dresses
80’s as 50’s sheath dresses
If you really want your 80’s as 50’s frocks to read as mid-century:
Get some high waisted undies! During the 50s, undergarments were worn at the waist-the natural area just above the belly button. If you wear a pencil skirt with modern underwear you will get serious VPL, so get the right knickers.
When it comes to accessories, more is more! You want full-on fifties? Then go for gloves, hat and handbag. Hats were small lampshade style, wide brimmed or pill box shaped and were often accompanied by a veil. Gloves were long in the evening and short in the day. Or go for scarves, to tie in the hair, around the neck or into a ponytail.
Wear Bold Red Lipstick! Red lips really are iconic 50s . Think of all the song lyrics that reference lipstick traces- on a glass or a wandering husband’s collar.
Good music puts vintage clothes in context. I like to imagine what the person who wore this dress, those gloves and that hat would have listened to.
The music I play in the shop is vintage but not “oldies; I like to keep the mix fresh and unexpected. So I put in Billie Holiday and Pandora, bless it’s digital heart, gives me Dinah Washington. I watch how customers respond: I see which songs make people shimmy while they shop and which ones make them nod their heads like patrons of a jazz club, then I use the thumbs up button to groom the playlist.
Back to vintage clothes: listening to these great songs makes me wonder what the musicians were wearing when they were singing and playing them.
Here is a stylish glimpse of some artists on my playlist:
Dinah Washington, Astrud Gilberto, Francoise Hardy, Patsy Cline, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald
Monk, Frank, Miles, Serge, Dizzy, Cash
I like to cast a wider musical net so I can have more interesting songs. Everyone loves Motown, sure, but it’s become a kind of shorthand to encapsulate an earlier era. So I try to keep the mix stocked with unexpected artists. That’s how you end up with a little quirkiness, like the French version of These Boots Were Made for Walking.
Here are my current stations, which I put on shuffle:
Oscar Peterson, Wes Montgomery, Bill Evans, Dexter Gordon, Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian, Duke Ellington
Carmen MacRae, Anita O’Day, Billie Holliday, Dinah Washington, Louis Armstrong
Nina Simone, Sugar Pie Desanto, Ann Peebles, Lee Moses, Irma Thomas, Soloman Burke
Serge Gainsbourg, Chico and Rita Habana Band, Bossacucanova, Paris Combo, O Samba da Minha Terra, Zou Bisou Bisou
I believe we’ve had this conversation before. I mean, the one where I’m gently encouraging you to wear a vintage brooch. I say something like, it’s a fun statement piece! Wear one or a grouping! How about on a jean jacket?
So, are you a brooch wearer yet?
Here are some very stylish brooch wearing ladies to inspire you.
Like these women, you can try going big and bold or small and subtle.
One fresh way to pin one on is with a button down collared shirt, worn the middle.
One of the benefits of wearing vintage is that you can choose the clothing era that best suits your body and your style.
With that in mind, I am attempting to create a master chart to help customers pinpoint the fashion decade that fits them best. I have so much I want to say about this topic, and I’m trying to get it all on one sheet, so it kind of ends up looking a bit like the Dr. Bronner’s soap bottles, the ones with the little tiny writing all over them.
With that in mind, here is a first pass at a handy guide to finding your best fashion era:
And here is where I break it down, one or two dresses per decade.
First up, the 1920’s:
The cut is straight, not curvy. It falls from the shoulders and de-emphasizes the waist.
The waist returns and the cut emphasizes a womanly body.
The cut is structured. Focus is on shoulders and waist.
It’s an hourglass cut with a slim waist and full skirt, sometimes called “fit and flare”.
The early 1960’s:
Like the 20’s, the cut is straight and falls from the shoulders.
Also the 1960’s:
The waist is de-emphasized in a sheath or sack shape.
The 1970’s (Hippie dress)
The bohemian 70’s are all about loose, flowing fabrics.
The 1970’s (Career Lady dress)
While the hippie 70’s are done in natural fibers, career lady 70’s dresses utilize man-made fabrics for their drape and ease.
The 80’s take the shoulders-and-waist 40’s, adds some fit-and-flare 50’s, exaggerates the proportions and throws in lots of detail.
Is there any decade easier to mock, sartorially speaking, than the eighties? It’s legacy is a sort of fashion punch line. I get it. MC Hammer pants, Lycra unitards, acid wash denim, pretty much anything worn by Joan Collins can come as a shock after the casual, easy style we’ve grown used to.
But take a deep breath here because the 80’s are back.
I say, this time around, lets do the eighties right.
There were some amazingly fabulous designs during that decade. But each eighties fashion statement is SO BOLD that you only need one piece at a time to rev up a modern outfit. You can’t mix a crop top with huge door knocker ear rings and a fanny pack without creating a costume-y vibe.
Here’s the key to the eighties redux: pick one thing, one really bold, outrageous eighties thing, and let it do the talking. Keep everything else quiet.
Any time fashion revisits a past era, it does so with the benefit of time and distance. As with wearing vintage from any time period, moderation is the key if you want to keep it modern.
Here are some eighties signature styles to get you started:
a big wide belt
a power suit
a boxy jacket, or a trench coat
a glittery sequined or metallic top.
Choose one. Now, add this one piece to your outfit.
Big, bold ear rings with a simple dress? A big shouldered jacket with jeans and a sold tee? Nice. And there’s this: if you’re wearing a touch of the eighties, you will need to keep your hair simple.
Here are some ladies doing the eighties right:
One eighties trend per outfit is like a single shot of espresso.
And here are just a very few of the eighties pieces I have in the shop:
Grab your eighties mix tape (maybe some Duran Duran, Simply Red or the Eurythmics) and add a touch of the eighties to your outfit.
Today, let’s talk about those frivolous, silky, see-through vintage gown and robe sets that makes women feel like a silver screen queens. Specifically, lets look at some peignoir sets.
When the stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age “slipped into something more comfortable” they actually put on something more spectacular. In the privacy of the screen boudoir, they wore fabulous lingerie, exotic pajamas, slinky nightgowns, silken negligees or, best of all, a peignoir.
The word peignoir, like boudoir or caviar, has that sensual and opulent quality. These gossamer fantasy garments look as glamorous and frivolous as they sound. They gave everyday women a chance to emulate their movie idols and play out a bit of the Hollywood fantasy at a modest price.
Peignoir comes from the French word for comb. In an era of very specialized garments, it was a jacket to wear while doing your hair. It evolved into a sheer robe worn over nightwear in the bedroom. It’s usually got a tie so you could be unwrapped like a present. Not surprisingly, it’s meant for intimate settings and has erotic overtones, thanks in part to the slinky fabrics, often cut on the bias for extra drape and cling.
There are some truly notable peignoir decades. The thirties gave us silk gowns adorned with feathers and fur with matching capes or bed jackets made for the bedroom
Postwar, and into the fifties, they’re full-on nylon, fuller, more opulent, and, just like fifties fashion in general, exaggeratedly feminine with maximum froth and frills.
The sixties brought wilder, brighter colors and, for better or worse, the “babydoll” style.
In each fashion decade, the peignoir’s trick is in emphasizing precisely what it does not show.
Here is a sample from the golden age of the peignoir:
Jean Harlow, Rita Hayworth, Joan Crawford, Betty Grable, Kim Novak, Sophia Loren, Ann Sheridan & Sandea Dee all don fabulous nightwear
Screen sirens Hedy Lamar, Natalie Wood, Liz Taylor, Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, Veronica Lake & Lana Turner in silky, lacy boudoir finery
I’ve devoted a whole photo collage to Samantha Stevens, the main character from the 60’s TV show Bewitched, who wore an amazing nighttime get-up in every episode. If you could conjure up one of these with a twitch of your nose, wouldn’t you?
Elizabeth Montgomery bewitches her hapless hubby with an arsenal of peignoirs. As if she needed to.
This is the third installment in a series of posts designed to take you by the hand and gently lead you down the path of hat wearing in gradual, easy steps. I’ve encouraged berets and pillboxes in previous posts. Now, an ode to the cloche.
What’s a cloche hat? As the Supreme Court once said about pornography, it’s hard to describe but you know it when you see it.
Call up an image from the 1920’s and early ’30’s. Picture the hats they are wearing, the ones pulled right down to the eyebrows. Those are cloche hats.
I recently purchased the wonderful wardrobe of an elderly lady’s mother. Among the treasures was a purple felt cloche hat. This hat came home with me and, after wearing it for a week I’ve learned two things: one, purple is a neutral and two, the cloche makes the grade as one of the most wearable and flattering of all hats.
A cloche has a close fitting deep crown and conforms to the head nicely, which means it stays put. Cloches have a small brim or no brim at all, so wearing one isn’t distracting- you forget it’s there.
Now for the flattering part. There is something great about the way it’s worn low on the forehead that is both sweet and alluring. In the 20’s, they didn’t wear blush; their makeup focused on eyes and lips, which makes perfect sense, since the cloche highlights those features nicely. I wore lipstick with my cloche and I felt just like a modern Zelda Fitzgerald, (early Zelda, from the playful and fun-loving years).
Here are some great archival photos of 20’s ladies in cloches:
These dresses just wouldn’t be the same without the hats
Here are a few costumes that reference the 20’s in inspiring ways:
Angelina Jolie, Twiggy, Mary from Downton Abby and Miss Fisher
Now, some modern ladies sporting cloches. While twenties hair was short, you can see the cloche looks great with long hair, too. The gal who wears glasses (like me) did the lipstick thing, too.
Modern ladies wearing vintage cloche hats
These are some cloches I have in the shop, except the purple one, which I’m wearing right now.
Just a few of the vintage cloche hats at Winters Past
Do you remember when Sharon Stone wore a white men’s button down Gap shirt with a long evening skirt to the Oscars? If this doesn’t ring a bell, go ahead and Google it.
OK, didn’t that look fresh and new? The key to Stone’s look was the unexpected juxtaposition. Pairing a classic- in this case, a dress shirt-with a luxe purple satin skirt startled the eye just a bit and looked innovative and stylish.
Now, pearls. They can have a bit of a Mamie Eisenhower feel to them, which is a way of saying old school and not particularly stylish. But right now, pearls are looking fresh and cool, like Sharon Stone’s white shirt.
These are frankly fake costume jewelry pearl necklaces worn in a modern way.
Here is my list showing how to wear pearls in a way that is current and not mumsy. I’ve written it in a retro fifties fashion magazine do-and-don’t style:
Don’t go all matchy matchy. Pairing your necklace with more pearls (like with pearl ear rings or a bracelet) is like kryptonite to the updated look we’re going for here.
Do wear it like you mean it. So, we’re not looking at a dainty single strand. Choose a bold, standout piece; maybe one that is oversized or super long.
Do choose interesting pearls. Are they multi strands, mixed with other beads or have some cool hardware mixed in? Good!
Do keep everything else modern-your hair (unfussy), your outfit (modern), and your makeup (minimal). Note the tee, sweat shirt, denim, cardigan and trench coat below. Bold pearls would also go really well with a black leather jacket.
Don’t be afraid to mix pearls with metal. Bold gold or silver chains go nicely with pearls.
Don’t pair them with standard office suits. Go for the unexpected combination-either very casual or very dressy but not in the middle.
Here is some visual inspiration:
And did I mention that the subtle glow of pearls is very flattering to wear?
Here are a few vintage pearl necklaces I have in the shop right now that fit the bill nicely: