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:
Over the coming months, I will write a series of posts look back and the shop’s first 20 years. Stay tuned!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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:
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.
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.
The collars come in a range of pretty colors, cuts and textures. Here are a few I have in the shop right now:
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!
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!
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:
Here are some with lots of details, from studs to appliqués and beads:
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:
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!
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.
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.
And here are some very tailored, sleek bags that serve the same purpose.
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.
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:
The coats here are classic and tailored while the brooches inject a bit of style into what could be a cookie cutter look.
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.
So choose your brooch. It can be bold or dainty, shiny or matte, abstract or figural. Just pin it on and go!
Picture the most straight laced, traditional careers you can imagine. Think of accountants, bankers and lawyers. Can women in these professions wear vintage at work?
I say yes! Let’s look at how one working woman wears vintage on the job. She’s a young corporate lawyer who adheres to a working world dress code yet loves vintage and wears it most every day, as shown in these bathroom selfies. She says she’s “era agnostic” but has a special affinity for the 1970’s.
Here is a by-the-decade look at her take on vintage workwear . Follow along, reader, and see if you judge her outfits to be professional, smart and not costume-y. I believe you’ll find the evidence very convincing.
Exhibit A, these two 1940s frocks:
1940s dresses were very work appropriate in their day and they can be the second time around. Our modern model has paired them with dark hose and shoes and she has kept accessories to a minimum.
Next, I call these 1950s fit-and-flare beauties to the stand:
Paired with simple, modern hair and makeup, these 1950s dresses look professional and classic. Using the same template of wearing minimal accessories and pairing them with dark hose/dark shoes gives all of her outfits a cohesive look. She’s got her own style that transcends era. On the advice of my council, I give this look a vote of confidence.
Our next witnesses are a duo of early 1960s floral dresses:
Same idea, different decade. The judge rules in favor once again.
The jury is still out on these more wildly printed late 60s pieces:
They are a slightly bolder take on the 1960s and might work better for office days than in the courtroom.
Today’s star witnesses are these sleek 70s stunners:
Neat yet edgy, these outfits exceed expectations on all counts. Our legal eagle excels in her use of vintage 1970s workwear.
Are vintage pants too casual for the office? It’s a moot point when the trousers are high waisted treasures like these:
On the left,she has paired 1940s pants with a modern tee. On the right, 1980s pleated trousers with a 1940s top.
Let the record show that our defendant has acquitted herself nicely. Case closed.
Men, I understand the baseball cap. I really do. It’s easy, it’s practical, it’s the male equivalent of flip flops and yoga pants.
But sometimes you long for a little something extra: a little panache, a little style, right?
So try a classic men’s hat silhouette. And go for vintage. It’s going to be of better quality than it’s modern counterpart and it’s going to have that slightly worn in quality that ups the cool factor.
First, the cowboy hat. The curved brim gives it a little slouch and swagger.
Ralph Lauren, Sidney Poitier, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman
Next, the newsboy or flat cap. It’s as easy as a baseball cap, but classier.
Leonardo diCaprio, David Beckham, Idris Elba
Of course, there’s the fedora. Again, a vintage one is going to have that patina that makes it easier to wear.
Ol blue eyes, Denzel Washington, Robert Redford, Sean Connery
While I’ve championed the beret as an easy starter hat for women, it’s perhaps a little more of a challenge for men. A few have made it their signature look, so let’s focus on them. Look at Dizzy Gilispie (always a style icon), Thelonious Monk and, in modern times, Samuel L. Jackson. All three choose hats with a bit more structure and they wear it tilted back just a little bit.
Dizzy Gilespie, John Lennon, Jack Nicholson, Thelonius Monk
Samuel L. Jackson, Cary Grant, Juan Paul Belmondo,
I leave you with Brad Pitt, a true chapeau chameleon.