Winters Past

20th Century Fashion from Deco to Disco

January 18, 2018
by Winters Past

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.


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

December 27, 2017
by Winters Past

A Modern Approach to Vintage

Dressing ourselves and decorating our homes are parallel art forms.

So think, for a moment,  about these three approaches to home decor. First, you could go to a big box home store, buy matching new everything, all at once, and have it delivered today. Second, you could collect all vintage pieces from a specific time period, like the 1950’s or the Victorian era. Or, thirdly, you could mix it up by choosing a well made modern couch, and Indian wool rug, a sleek mid century coffee table and a seventies hanging lamp.

The third option, the one that mixes older pieces in with the new, actually reads as more modern than the two all-matching rooms. It’s more playful and creative, which feels newer.

Now apply that approach to dressing. A funny paradox about wearing vintage is that it can look more modern than wearing all new clothing. Matching feels old fashioned but mixing feels new.

Here are a few thoughts about taking the mixed era approach to your clothing.

1.Pair vintage with denim. Jeans or a jean jacket are timeless basics that always contrast nicely with older pieces.

mix vintage with denim

2. Keep hair and makeup natural and minimal when wearing vintage for an instant modern vibe.

wear vintage with modern, natural hair

3. Combine casual and dressy items. In the past, an outfit fit the formality of the occasion head to toe, so mixing it up instantly makes it modern.

mix dressy and casual vintage pieces

4. Wear a vintage coat with contemporary pieces. It will give an edge to your modern basics.

wear a vintage coat

5. Wear a single vintage accessory. Here we have brooches but the same concept would apply to a purse, belt or scarf.

wear a vintage accessory

In sum, adding some vintage to modern outfit or living room makes it fun, playful and modern.

December 15, 2017
by Winters Past

How to Wear Vintage Dress Clips

Have you ever come across a vintage piece of jewelry with a clip like this and wondered what it was?

vintage dress clips

“What the what is this?”

Wonder no more! These are dress clips, a type of brooch that doesn’t have a pin back.  These are very cool pieces of jewelry with no modern equivalent.

You can put them on basically anything. They latch onto a lapel of a shirt or jacket, or onto a fur, shoe, glove, ribbon, hat, handbag strap or lock of hair. Heck, you might could even put one on your pit bull’s collar.

Here’s how the swell ladies wore them back in the 1930’s and 1940’s:

wearing vintage dress clips

Ava Gardner, Carole Lombard, Wallis Simpson, Coco Chanel, Agnes Moorehead, Bette Davis

Dress clips allows you to  sparkle in an unexpected manner; they let you adorn yourself in an out-of-the-ordinary way

Here’s how some modern ladies (including the broochtastic SJP) wear them:

wearing vintage dress clips

Some thought about how to wear these versatile pretties:

  • Use dress clips to accentuate your collar points
  • Put them on on sweetheart or square necklines
  • Wear them with a scarf, shawl or a wrap
  • Clip one onto a belt or waistline
  • Pair one with a chain or ribbon to create a choker / necklace
  • Clip one or two onto a headband to make a gorgeous head piece
  • Adorn a low cut dress back with one or two

And here are a few I have in the shop right now:

wearing vintage dress clips


December 7, 2017
by Winters Past

Two Sides of 80’s Fashion From Stranger Things

It’s not often that I’m in sync with the cultural icons of the moment. But when it comes to the Netflix series Stranger Things, hey, count me in!

This show has no shortage of strong, powerful girls, which is part of it’s charm for me. And Wynona Ryder as the single mom who won’t give up on her son? I can’t look away.

Now let’s look at the inspiring 80’s fashion two of these girls wear. I want all of their clothes along with their fearlessness.

First, it’s brainy, brave Nancy, queen of the pullover sweater. She personifies a very 80’s take on the classics.

Nancy Wheeler Does the 80's

Let’s see, we’ve got dainty jewelry, crew necks, bows, rounded collars and a spectacular use of the scrunchie.

While Nancy has a very girlie look, skater girl Maxine, AKA Mad Max, brings another view of 80’s style.  She’s got that cool California tomboy vibe:  slightly baggy light wash jeans, colorful Vans sneakers, and sporty zip-up jackets. Oh, and stripes — lots of stripes.

Mad Max's 80's style

Max pairs her denim with color, especially primary-hued jackets and bright striped shirts and sneakers. Perfect attire for fighting monsters, bad men and evil government liars.

November 27, 2017
by Winters Past

Wearing Vintage Sequined Jackets with Jeans

A quick game of word association: what’s the first thing you think of when I say “sequins”?   Texas beauty queen? Tammy Faye Bakker? Corporate wife circa 1984?

Now let’s reframe the idea of glitter-y clothing.  Sequins will give you a very easy look to carry you through a whole season of events without breaking a sweat. A vintage sequined piece makes  a really great (and easy) of-the-moment  holiday look.  Pair that sequined jacket with something really casual, like distressed jeans. It’s a totally modern way to do sparkle.

It goes like this: wear some jeans (or other casual pants or even denim shorts). Put on a soft cotton tee shirt. Add a great vintage sequined jacket. Leave off most of your jewelry.

We can do this!

Take a look at these ladies:

wear vintage sequins with jeans

wear vintage sequins with jeans

wear vintage sequins with jeans

wear vintage sequins with jeans

Wearing vintage sequins with jeans for a great modern holiday look

And, as you may have guessed, I’ve got some good vintage sequins toppers in the shop.

vintage sequin tops at Winters Past



November 19, 2017
by Winters Past

The Secret Life of Clothes, Part 3

I spend my days looking at the possessions people saved from their past. I wonder: will future generations see our Target tee shirts and H&M hoodies as the charming artifacts of a bygone era? Will we even consider our possessions worthy of being saved?

Here is the story of a woman’s  life that can be told by the clothing she kept.

Before we go any further, have a look at this:

antique clothing

It’s a velvet bustier type garment, embroidered in gold thread, and was the bodice of a Hungarian court gown. It belonged to a woman named Lya, born in Hungary in 1920. Lya’s life story encapsulates a time and a place in 20th century history and it reads like a wildly romantic if improbable novel.

Here are a few more pieces of traditional Hungarian dress that Lya saved. These are part of a headpiece worn by women after marriage:

antique textiles

And this was an apron style garment worn over the front of a dress:

antique textiles

Lya’s childhood must have been a prosperous one. She studied ballet, as did many European girls of a certain social class. Clearly, there were elegant occasions to dress for;  this is her mother’s suede evening bag, decorated with marcasites:

Edwardian evening bag

Toward the end of the war, when the family  lost their farm and their money, Lya escaped to Scotland. There, she continued to dance and she became a nurse, supporting herself by working in a psychiatric ward. She also took up flying in gliders as a hobby.

Our resourceful heroine then emigrated to the US, heading for New York on the Queen Mary. As in any great novel, she crossed paths with the titans of the day. By some coincidence, Winston Churchill was on the same voyage. She had promised to perform a ballet for him, but a storm on the high seas kept her from dancing. Churchill presented her with roses anyway.

In New York, Lya reinvented herself as a textile designer. She was one of the first members of Mensa, the club for geniuses, where she became friends with the writer Isaac Asimov. She also met her future husband, a Russian emigre who worked with the Manhattan project, the group of scientists who developed the first nuclear weapons.

There were many elegant evenings out, occasions that required full length kidskin gloves, a gold evening bag and some fabulous costume jewelry:

vintage evening accessories

In her later years, Lya and her husband retired to Florida, joining many thousands of other older people, all of whom carry their own novel within.

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!