Winters Past

20th Century Fashion from Deco to Disco

August 21, 2019
by Winters Past

1920s: Opulent Androgeny

Today’s vintage inspiration comes from Egyptologist Dr. Colleen Darnell. She dresses in authentic 1920s clothing all day, every day, even while on archeological digs.

Why the 20’s? Well, King Tut’s tomb was opened in 1922, sparking a craze for exotic, Egyptian inspired styles. Twenties styles were designed for movement; they are very wearable and practical for the modern woman.

Let’s have a look at Darnell’s sportier side, where she is nattily dressed for excavations while protected from the North African sun. Linens and cottons, native to the Nile region, are cool looking and cool to wear. She pairs natural fiber true vintage jodhpurs or skirts with a vest, lace-up boots and a straw hat, in desert tones of neutral khaki, brown and tan:

Afternoons, you’ll find her stylishly giving a lecture or taking tea on the terrace in Jazz age finery. Her pretty 1920s day dresses in cotton or silk are paired with a parasol, a cloche hat, walk-worthy Mary Jane shoes and short gloves.

At night, our intrepid archeologist dials up the drama with a dose of all out glamour. Her authentic vintage gowns are stunning in cunningly draped silk. There is an architectural spareness to their lines that, paradoxically, reads a super sensual.

Darnell dazzles in dramatic Deco splendor. Her bobbed hair, kohl rimmed eyes and statement accessories add up to a spectacular style.

I admire Colleen Darnell’s all out commitment to a single era. The takeaway for the rest of us is this: we can all feel free to express ourselves through personal style no matter what the prevailing trends are. Also: a pith helmet and a parasol make sun protection fun and fashionable.

July 20, 2019
by Winters Past

Learning More About Vintage

Modern media can lead to a bad case of information overload. But -silver lining!- it’s great if you have a niche interest you want to explore, such as vintage fashion. There’s so much out there!

Here are a few places I’m finding interesting stuff about the world of vintage right now:

First, a podcast that a customer told me about called Dressed: The History of Fashion. It’s a fashion nerd’s delight, hosted by a couple of young fashion historians and curators who dive deep into fashion geekdom.

Images from the Dressed instagram feed, which correlates with podcast episodes

The Dressed podcast introduced me to British fashion historian Amber Butchart. She has expertise in explaining how clothing, politics, social class and culture intersect, and she looks really fabulous while doing it. Butchart has written extensively about fashion history and can currently be seen in the BBC show A Stitch in Time. This 6 part series looks at clothing depicted in classical artwork. A team of modern craftspeople painstakingly recreate the clothes, then Butchart models them and gives feedback on how they feel when worn. It’s interesting to look at the way clothing of different eras affects the way we move and the way we perceive ourselves. I watch this one on Amazon Prime.

Amber Butchart, a brilliant British historian and turban wearer

One of my personal vintage gurus is Doris Raymond, longtime owner of the legendary Hollywood shop The Way We Wore. Some years back, she was featured on the Smithsonian channel’s LA Frock Stars and currently makes short videos on her Youtube channel . She is incredibly knowledgeable, has a great aesthetic and a warm, engaging style. Her shop is breathtaking, with such a deep trove of outstanding fashion.

Also on Amazon Prime we have season three of The Vintage Voyageur, which is basically a low budget reality show about vintage shopping. The premise is simple: host Allison Maldonado goes to vintage stores in different cities and, well, shops. What she lacks in depth of knowledge, she makes up for it in enthusiasm; she’s practically giddy in her love for vintage. I can (almost) forgive her occasional lapses such as handling fine antique garments with a big open Starbucks latte in her hand, or forcing her feet into too small designer shoes and walking on the back of them (shudder!) because of the absolute joy and fun she brings to this project.

Alison Maldinado, The Vintage Voyageur

What are your current favorite resources for fashion information? Shoot me a message over on my facebook or instagram page and I’ll be sure to check it out.

June 25, 2019
by Winters Past

Vintage Aloha Dresses

Happy Solstice! We have reached peak mugginess here in Florida. Some call it summer but I prefer to call it Vintage Hawaiian Dress season.

Theses exotic frocks were designed to keep you cool-and keep you looking cool- during the hottest days and nights.

Modern Hawaiian dress was first created on the islands for locals in the 1930’s. They were made of tropical print cottons and rayons featuring native flora such as palm trees and hibiscus flowers. A textured cotton called barkcloth, which allows air to circulate in the same way as seersucker, showcased these bold prints beautifully.

Hawaii was considered exotic and remote then. When Hollywood luminaries posed in island finery, it looked impossibly chic.

Ida Lupino, Dorothy Lamour
Frances Farmer, Rita Hayworth

Aftter WW2, the stars aligned to bring Hawaiian clothing into the mainstream. US military stationed in the pacific brought back clothing from the islands. Commercial airline travel made tourism easier. Movies like South Pacific brought the tropics to Topeka. The Tiki bar, with exotic drinks, rattan furniture and flaming torches became popular. Soon, Hawaiian shirts and barkcloth frocks were fashionable.

Tiki bars were considered trendy not tacky in the 50s
1950s Hawaiian fashion

With their bright colors, bold prints and dramatic cuts, these island dresses bring a lot to the party. You don’t need much in the way of accessories to complete the look. A straw hat or handbag and some sandals ought to do it, as these ladies demonstrate:

Here are a few tropical treasures I have in the shop right now:

June 17, 2019
by Winters Past

The Secret Life of Vintage: Bolivian Jewelry

Buying and selling vintage takes me in some really interesting directions sometimes. Clothing and jewelry can be a window into places I might not have ever learned about otherwise.

For example, last week I met with a woman who had lived and worked in Bolivia in the 1960’s. She studied the economics of indigenous women there and, because she spent time in the markets, acquired some wonderful pieces. She had really fascinating stories to go along with them.

This is one of her items, an antique silver “tupu” used to pin hand woven blankets into shawls.

This lead me to research the indigenous women of the Andes, called “chollas”, who have a very distinct personal style:

Over many centuries, the chollas have been marginalized in their own country. But now many young native Bolivians-calling themselves chollitas- are embracing their indigenous style and culture:

Native Bolivian women have traditionally worn big, intricate dangling earrings. Here are some I purchased from the economist:

Here is a close-up of these fantastic 19th century silver ones, which are 6″ long. The round parts are Bolivian coins with dates from the late 1800’s. Sun and moon motifs are common elements in Andean culture:

In a quirk of fate, I happened to show these earrings to a customer the day after I got them. It turns out she has an interest in cholla culture and she instantly snapped them up, giving them a new life 120 years after they were made.

June 10, 2019
by Winters Past

Designer Spotlight: Rudi Gernreich

Last week I got one of those calls, the kind of call that makes my heart skip a beat.

This time it was an older lady from Miami calling, saying she had some dresses from the 1960s and 70s. When she said the name Rudi Gernreich, I may have hyperventilated a little bit.

A little background: Rudi Gernreich was a true visionary who’s mid century designs look completely modern 50 years later. Have a look:

Boundary breaking designer Rudi Gernreich

He was a forward thinking man who saw the constrictions of 1950s and early 60s clothing and aimed to free women from them. Gernreich, a former dancer, did away with the rigid structure that came from wires and corsets and in their place, created pieces that followed the body’s natural form and allowed women to move freely.

Here is the first of two Gernreich pieces I purchased. It’s made of wool knit and has no inner construction, allowing the wearer to feel both comfortable and sexy. Avant garde in it’s day, it’s perfectly aligned with modern sensibilities.

vintage Rudi Gernreich dress

The 2nd piece, from 1972, features geometric modernist patchwork insets and wears like a comfortable tee shirt.

vintage Rudi Gernreich dress

Here is that first dress (with sleeves) worn by Goldie Hawn on the Tonight Show:

vintage Rudi Gernreich dress

Here is the 2nd one (in a different colorway) worn by longtime Gernreich muse, collaborator and model Peggy Moffett:

vintage Rudi Gernreich dress

Gernreich was a master of self promotion, creating controversy by designing a topless “monokini” among other publicity stunts. His true genius lay in understanding how women want to feel, move and live in their clothes.

May 27, 2019
by Winters Past

70s Does 40s: Fashion echoes

What comes around goes around. Everything old is new again.

The pendulum swings back and forth. It’s deja vu all over again.

Fashion-like everything else in a culture- is cyclical. I’ve talked about “fashion echoes” before, where the styles of one era reappear in another.

Here is one blog post where I muse about this and

here is another where I look at the 80s as an echo of the 50s.

With that in mind, let’s see how 70’s clothing in some ways reprised the 40s. Have a look at The Pointer Sisters and Bette Middler, both of whom started their careers in the 70s as 40s retro acts. But first, cue up The Pointer Sisters singing Steam Heat or Bette belting Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy to get in the right frame of mind.

Dig those fancy threads!

70s does 40s Pointer Sisters
The Pointer Sisters, circa 1974, in vintage 1940s outfits
70s does 40s Bette Midler
Bette Middler, also harkening back to the 40s in the 70s

So what were the stylistic touchpoint that evoke the 40s? For starters, we’ve got polks dots, halter dresses, peep toe platform shoes, peplum waists, a-line skirt suits, shirt dresses with fun details, tropical prints, shoulder pads and one-piece playsuits.

Here are some photos, 40’s on the left and 70s on the right that illustrate the similarities:

70s does 40s

Here are some 70s pieces that mirror the 40s:

70s does 40s

The 40s silhouettes are really worth revisiting, both the authentic pieces and the 70s retro ones. They’re womanly and figure flattering with a fun dose of glamour.

May 2, 2019
by Winters Past

Vintage Prom Dresses

I recently read an article about people in other countries having “American” themed parties in which they tailgate and drink beer from red Solo cups. Apparently these cups are hard to come by outside the US but they show up so often in Hollywood movies that they seem exotic.

It lead me to wonder what other commonplace aspects of our culture don’t easily translate in foreign countries. How must monster trucks, Velveeta cheese, high school football, Halloween and the practice of tipping our servers appear to people abroad?

Which brings me to prom. There are so many teen films that feature this uniquely American iteration of a high school dance. So what is prom, anyway?

Apparently the word “prom” comes from the promenade dances common at debutante balls in the 1800’s. By 1900, the big dance became an event for college seniors and by the 1920’s it became an afternoon tea dance common in high schools. Prom as we know it became a very big deal across the US after WW2.

Now let’s have a look at vintage prom fashion by the decade. First, the 1940’s. This was not a swing dance event; ballroom dancing was considered a more proper style for young ladies. Girls wore demure-prim, even- long slim gowns with puffy sleeves and a wrap to cover any scandalously bare shoulders:

vintage prom dresses

It was during the 1950’s-the era when teen culture came into it’s own- that prom fashion really exploded. A high school girl typically wore a full skirted dress with a tight bodice and it was often (gasp!) strapless. Hems were tea length, puffed out to there with layers of crinolines. Girls wore long gloves and tulle and taffeta galore. Behold:

1950s prom dresses

The 1960’s brought a raised empire waist and a slimmer full length skirt, often in pastel tones. The lack of tulle was compensated for by big-and I mean big– bouffant hair:

vintage prom dresses

In the 1970’s, there were two overlapping styles, one a little slinkier in polyester, often with a short bolero jacket. Boogie on, reggae woman!

The other had more of a sweet floaty prairie girl/garden party vibe. Here’s to the Ladies of the Canyon:

vintage prom dresses

Now, on to the 80’s. Oh, 1980’s, you era of decadent excess! Oh decade of both punk and Reaganism, when sweet maximalism ruled, how we reviled you before we embraced you! In retrospect, we love your drama, your strapless wonderment, your oversized puffs, your high-low hems, your huge bows, your ruffles, your sequins, and your metallic iridescent sheen, sometimes all in a single dress!

vintage prom dresses

And, sweet Lord, 1980s, your prom hair! Your gel, your crimps, your perms, your bangs and shags and layers, how they confuse us still!

And can we please take a moment of silence to appreciate the wild creativity of 80s accessories?

Whew! I’m verklempt!

Let’s come back to earth with some photos of prom dresses from the shop.

Stay tuned for a post on prom accessories, coming soon.

April 26, 2019
by Winters Past

Stay Cool, Stay Vintage

Here in central Florida, we have two basic seasons. There’s the one where it’s cool in the morning but warms up enough so you can sit outside by afternoon. And there’s the other one, where it’s already hot when you first wake up and stays just plain hot all day.

Oh, and did I mention the humidity? If Eskimos have 100 words for snow, Floridians must have just as many ways of talking about humidity. Like, it’s close, muggy, musty, sticky, damp, or steamy. It’s like a steam bath out there. You get the idea.

Right now, we are about at that tipping point where the pleasant, lovely season transitions to to the rather hot one. So faced with the wall of heat and mugginess, how do we stay cool and wear vintage in the summer?

First, let’s look at some 1960’s sheath dresses. These are meant to fall away from the body so they don’t stick to the skin. Extra added bonus: those super yummy mod prints and colors!


Next, how about some 1970s hippie-bohemian Mexican dresses? The crinkle cotton creates some air in the manner of a seersucker suit but with a whole lot more drapiness and flow. Wear sandals, braid some flowers in your hair and you’re good to go.

vintage Mexican dresses

These light, sheer cotton blouses are from the pre-air conditioned 1940s and 50s, when they knew a thing or two about keeping cool. Pair one with high waisted shorts for a retro cool vibe.

vintage cotton blouses

Now let’s lighten up our summer accessories. How about a breathable straw hat to shade your face and keep the sun out of your eyes?

vintage summer hats

Now ditch the heavy leather bag for one of these summery straw stunners:

vintage straw bags

Who wants heavy jewelry when it’s hot? Try a light, dainty vintage charm necklace with your vintage finery.

vintage dainty jewelry

Stay vintage and stay cool!

April 12, 2019
by Winters Past

Winters Past: A Look Back

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:

A vintage shop in rural Florida celebrates 20 years in business

Over the coming months, I will write a series of posts look back and the shop’s first 20 years. Stay tuned!

March 8, 2019
by Winters Past

A Love Story in 5 Dresses

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.

1940s suit at Winters Past in Micanopy, Florida

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.

1940s suit at Winters Past in Micanopy, Florida

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.