Winters Past

20th Century Fashion from Deco to Disco

January 16, 2019
by Winters Past

In the Bag

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!

Vintage Koret handbag

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.

wear a Vintage handbag in a modern way

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.

wear a vintage purse in a modern way

And here are some very tailored, sleek bags that serve the same purpose.

how to style a vintage purse

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.

January 8, 2019
by Winters Past

That 70’s Blouse

The seventies. It was an amazing time for music, film and TV. It was also The Me Decade, and the era of pet rocks, Pong and quiche.

Let’s reclaim the seventies and declare it The Decade of the Blouse. All hail the variety and creativity of seventies shirts. The colors- Wow! The prints- Pow! The details-Yow!

Known and “secretary blouses”, they are silky, drape-y, colorful and cool. There are button down collared shirts, as well as pussy bows, high necked neo-Victorians and back button wonders.

So, how do you wear a vintage seventies top? With denim, and minimal jewelry, like this:

wear a vintage 1970s blouse

I think I like them best tucked in to the high waist of jeans or a skirt.

wear a vintage 1970s blouse

Tops that were considered dressy the first time around get an update when mixed with casual clothes.

As with all vintage pieces, if you want to look more modern than retro, keep hair and makeup current.

wear a vintage 1970s blouse

These seventies career lady blouses are stylish pieces that are also workhorses, easy to wear and easy to care for. Try a few with your favorite jeans or denim skirts.

January 1, 2019
by Winters Past

Pin a Brooch on your Coat

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:

Today, let's take our warm coats and jackets from drab to fab with a single stroke of genius, the vintage brooch.
The vintage brooch gives a chic, modern touch to outerwear

The coats here are classic and tailored while the brooches inject a bit of style into what could be a cookie cutter look.

wear a vintage brooch on your coat
Try one or two brooches placed high on the lapel or shoulder

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.

A single vintage brooch will add spark

So choose your brooch. It can be bold or dainty, shiny or matte, abstract or figural. Just pin it on and go!

December 21, 2018
by Winters Past

Making a Case for Vintage in the Workplace

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:

Wearing vintage in the modern workplace
Steer clear of novelty prints when choosing a 40’s look for work

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:

Wearing 1950s dresses in the modern worl
In the office, skip those 50’s pastels and stick to deep or bright colors

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:

Wearing 1960s dresses in the modern world
Steering clear of minis or mod looks makes the 60s look professional

Same idea, different decade. The judge rules in favor once again.

The jury is still out on these more wildly printed late 60s pieces:

Wearing 1960s dresses in the modern world
Here are some 60s prints that look very modern 

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:

Wearing 1970s dresses in the modern world
1970s silhouettes are an easy choice for the modern office

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:

wearing vintage pants
A jacket will make these trousers more office-friendly

 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.

December 12, 2018
by Winters Past

Men In Hats

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.

men in cowboy hats

Ralph Lauren, Sidney Poitier, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman

Next, the newsboy or flat cap. It’s as easy as a baseball cap, but classier.

men in flat caps

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.

men in fedoras

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.

men in berets

Dizzy Gilespie, John Lennon, Jack Nicholson, Thelonius Monk

men in berets

Samuel L. Jackson, Cary Grant, Juan Paul Belmondo,

I leave you with Brad Pitt, a true chapeau chameleon.

brad pitt in hats

brad pitt in hats

November 26, 2018
by Winters Past

One Jacket to Rule Them All

Well, it seems that planet earth has managed to make it’s way around the sun once more because here we are, back at The Holiday Season again.

No matter your approach to the holidays, there’s always more going on in our lives about now. We are busier and the events call for getting a bit more gussied up than our usual everyday selves.

Looking for an easy way to add some style to your holiday outfits?

Enter the vintage jacket. It’s really easy to make everyday clothing feel special when you toss one on.

1980s jackets definitely  have that something extra– exaggerated proportions, embellishment, color or pattern– that makes them great accent pieces for special events.

Let’s look at how some modern ladies do it:

1980s statement jackets worn with everyday basics

What we’re seeing here is everyday modern basics: jeans, wide legged cropped pants, solid white or black tops, paired with fun jackets. Couldn’t be easier, right?

Here are just a few of the 1980s jackets I have in the shop right now:

vintage 1980s jackets at winters past

Details set these vintage 1980s jackets apart

Now lets take this idea a step further (or should I say a step backwards) by trying the same concept with older jackets, such as those from 1940s.

I’ve mentioned before (and I’m sure I’ll mention again!) that the 80s in some ways reprises the 40s. When you look at jackets from both eras, you see applied embellishments, playful proportions and, yes, shoulder pads in both 40s and 80s pieces.

These 40s jackets are well made garments that are exquisitely tailored and tend to emphasize the waist in a very flattering way. Picture one of these beauties as your holiday go-to piece:

1940s jackets

1940s jackets

Of course, you can do the same thing with them as you can with the 80s jackets-pair them with jeans or cropped pants and a simple top. Or try one of these lovely toppers with a pair of slouchy pleated trousers and an oxford shoe for more of a 40s vibe.

Here’s a gorgeous group of 1940s jackets I recently acquired for the shop:

vintage 1940s jackets

vintage 1940s jackets

Vintage 1940s jackets

Add a special vintage jacket for easy holiday styling in a snap. One less thing to take care of during this busy season!

November 12, 2018
by Winters Past

Tilt Your Turban to the Back

I’ve been writing the occasional series of blog posts showing how to  wear different styles of vintage hats, like these:

 the beret,

the pillbox, 

the cloche

and the fedora.

No matter the style, when a modern lady tries on just about any type of vintage hat, she tends to center it right on top of her head and pull it straight down. Usually this is not the optimal approach. If you experiment a bit, you’ll find the best way to wear each hat, and it probably won’t be right in the middle of your head.

Keeping this in mind, let’s try a hat style that’s rather more daring this time: the draped cloth turban hat.  Here I’m referring to a formed hat made of gathered fabric rather than a scarf wrapped over the head.

Every decade from the 1920s through the end of the 20th century have some version of a turban style hat for one main reason: although it feels exotic, it’s a fabulously fun and sophisticated style that’s surprisingly easy to wear.

I had a revelation about them while watching Mad Men last night.

Look, if you will, at how Megan’s mother, the very stylish Marie Calvet, wears this one:

how to wear a vintage turban

Learn from the pros: tilt your turban back

She places it on the back of her head! Who knew?

It turns out the draped turban hat works best when some hair in the front shows. If you pull one of these  straight down over your forehead, the vibe is more of a gypsy fortune teller, which is fine if that’s what you’re going for, but we are looking at a more chic feel here.

In the 20’s, turbans had that “eastern” exoticism feel and they were, in fact, worn down low on the forehead.

But by the 40’s, Hollywood style setters like Hedy Lamar, Lana Turner and Lena Horne wore turban hats in popular films and always placed them further back on the head. It evoked a sophisticated, fashionable woman, not a tarot reader.

Here are some silver screen stars from the 1940s and 50s wearing turban hats and looking lovely.

vintage turban hats

In the late 50s and into the 60s, turban hats got bigger and bolder, like these:

how to wear a vintage turban

Hairstyles like the bouffant came into fashion, and turban hats echoed their size and shape, in some cases subbing for the elaborate ‘dos.

Because these hats are made of draped and ruched fabric (sometimes over a stiff base), it was possible for the home sewer to make them to match their outfit, as these patterns show.

how to wear a vintage turban

While it’s definitely a bold look, the soft, unstructured nature of turban hats make them comfortable and as easy as a ponytail. Let’s see how some modern ladies wear them:

how to wear a vintage turban

Here are some draped turban hats I have in the shop right now:

how to wear a vintage turban

November 5, 2018
by Winters Past

Vintage Haul

I was very busy last week and I have lots of new-to-me vintage finds to share with y’all!

First I thought I’d show a photo of what the back of my car looked like before I unloaded everything :

Vintage Haul

This is your car on vintage

Yeesh, a little bit daunting, right?

So how does this jumble become shop-worthy, wearable vintage lovelies?

First, I clean each piece and I repair what needs fixing. Clothes are washed and steamed, hems or buttons are sewn and silver is polished.

Then I do the research, which, to me, is as exciting as the treasure hunt. I enjoy looking up labels and materials and discovering the age  and sometimes the history of each piece.

Here are a few of the pieces, with a little background on each one.

Winters Past vintage shop, Micanopy F

Silk charmless dress, faux flapper dress, leopard power dress


This raspberry silk charmeuse stunner has lace overlay and a bateau neckline. The full skirt, which would have been worn with a crinoline underneath, is a post WW2 design. The other dresses by this maker that I see on-line all date from the late 40s into the 1950s.

I’ve written about “vintage echoes” before, how the styles of one era return in a new iteration decades later. The mid 60’s in some ways reprise the 20s (Twiggy had a bit of a flapper vibe), the  70’s has an echo of the the 30’s  (draped fabrics and body skimming cuts) and the  80’s revisits the 40’s. These next two dresses illustrate this. The gold dress has the straight lines and dropped waist of a 1920s dress but the nylon zipper and man-made fabric tell me its from the 1960s.

This leopard print silk number is an 80s dress that revisits the 1940s. While both 1940s and 1980s had peplum waists and shoulder pads, the 1980s had wildly exaggerated proportions. The 40’s shoulder pads are modest; the 80’s are seriously big.

Winters Past vintage shop, Micanopy Fl

Tropical fantasy dress, lucite grapes, mink trimmed jacket


Another 80s does 40s, this time in a great tropical print. Designs that evoked Miami or Hawaii were popular in both of those decades.

This mismatched brooch set is made of lucite, which was used in the 50s.

The jacket, made of woven ribbon with a fur collar, has the boxy cut and bracelet length (3/4) sleeves popular in the late 50s to early 60s.

Winters Past vintage shop, Micanopy Fl

Lightweight metal jewelry set, structured handbag, fabulous ear rings


This jewelry set is marked West Germany, which tells me it’s from the post WW2 era. It is lightweight Eloxal (electrolytic oxidation of aluminum), a technique that began in the 40s and gained popularity in the 50s.

In the middle is a beautifully made handbag with a jazzy, 1940s swing-era vibe.

These clip ear rings are marked DeMario, a high-end 1950s jewelry designer

Winters Past vintage shop, Micanopy Fl

Antique beaded bag, Navajo ring, alligator shoes


What a lovely early 20th century steel-cut micro beaded bag! The design is so soft and etherial. It’s from the Edwardian age, around 1910, with an art nouveau feel.

This is a nice older native American ring. In Navajo jewelry, the stones tend to be irregularly shaped, and the silver work is made to fit the turquoise rather than cutting the stone to fit the design.

These are 1950s alligator shoes. Shoes from the 40s tend to have a bit of a platform,  a wider heel and sometimes a peep toe, whereas 50s pumps have a narrower heel.

Being a vintage seller has three main stages: the hunt, the repair/research, and finally the sale. Thanks for hanging out with me as I explore the background of these fun finds.

October 22, 2018
by Winters Past

Mini Midi Maxi: They came, they saw, they did not buy

To paraphrase Freud, sometimes a skirt is just a skirt. Other times, a skirt is way more than a simple garment. Take the midi skirt and how it became a turning point in American consumer culture.

First, a little background. There was a time when fashion designers and magazines decreed what was in style and consumers followed their lead. This old order had started to crumble in the mid 1960s but it really fell apart in the early 1970s when designers, the fashion press and store buyers threw their support behind midi length skirts.

1970s Midi skirts

1970s Midi skirts were a huge change from the mini

In 1968, Women’s Wear Daily banned miniskirts from the office, explaining in a memo: “We all know minis are dead.” Bonwit Teller  told its saleswomen to stop wearing minis on the shop floor.

However, women did not like this new silhouette and refused to buy it. Some even protested it:

1970s Midi skirts

Protesting the midi skirt

The fashion industry was oblivious to public opinion and blithely continued to push the midi; by this time, they had too much invested in it. Shoppers looking for short skirts found shop racks stuffed with midis, which they would not purchase, causing stores to suffer huge financial losses. Readership of fashion magazines plummeted. Consumer confidence was replaced by a rebellious cynicism about the fashion industry.

Women’ refusal to go along with fashion dictatorship ultimately did have an impact on that industry.

Here’s the thing, though. Midi skirts are great! Especially if you’re wearing them by choice, not by decree.

Both the 1970s and also the 1990s gave us good midi length skirts. They tend to be a-line and therefore easy to walk in. They go with comfortable footwear like boots, flats, and sandals as well as with heels. Pair one with a simple top and it’s no more complicated to wear than your favorite jeans. Here are a few modern ladies sporting vintage midis and looking wonderful.

1970s Midi skirts

Modern  Midi skirts

October 17, 2018
by Winters Past

Vintage Disco Shirts: A Trip to Funkytown

As a scrawny and not particularly coordinated kid, gym class was my least favorite part of school, an experience I can sum it up in two terrifying words: dodge ball.

Except for this: there was that brief shining moment in hight school when our gym teachers decided to be hip and relevant by allowing us to choose from a range of PE options. This is how I ended up taking  disco dancing twice a week for an entire semester. Talk about useful life skills!

At the time, I favored a type of silky button down shirts with bright, Art Deco inspired prints.  So when I recently came across a polyester Huk-A-Poo disco shirt, it was just like Proust taking a bite of that Madeleine cookie. I was suddenly transported to a gymnasium in Pittsburgh in 1976 and Do The Hustle was on the turntable.

vintage 1970s Huk-a-Poo shirt

There was no difference, really, between men’s and women’s disco shirts. Same eye-popping prints, same oversized lapels, same silky (but definitely not silk) fabric.

The era when men’s shirts could be printed with just about anything

There is a special vortex in the universe where Philadelphia soul music, Greg Brady and the Sears catalogue intersect. The disco shirt occurred during a fashion blip in which the lines that separate  gender, race and social class were blurred, albeit temporarily. 

These shirts are amazing if you didn’t live through that era and  and embarrassing if you did. They are mini masterpieces with pop art patterns and eccentric color schemes, all cut with proportions that favor the fit. 

And here’s the Quiana quartet that I came across last week:

1970s mens disco shirts