Winters Past

20th Century Fashion from Deco to Disco

June 22, 2017
by Winters Past
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Mid Century Made in Hong Kong Finery

Picture a classic 50’s or early 60’s dress in a rich tone-on-tone brocade. The lines of the dress are on par with fashionable evening wear of the era, but the garment is done up in fabric that’s got an Asian design and feel. Look at the label- it might be made in Hong Kong, which was the hub of amazing hand made sequined, beaded, and embroidered items from the late 1940’sthrough the early 60’s.

British Hong Kong had a booming  garment industry which became really fashionable  after Paris featured the “Asian Look” in 1955. These super classy dresses had high quality fabrics, and were finely tailored with excellent hand work.

vintage made in BCC Hong Kong

Labels from vintage Made in BCC Hong Kong hand tailored dresses. Note the upside down one, designed to be visible when this coat was draped over the back of a chair

These pieces tend to be semi formal evening wear in a low-sheen satin jacquard fabric. Sometimes they have details we associate with Chinese clothing, like mandarin collars and frog closures, and some are the classic cheongsam, or form-fitting Asian dress. Some are Western wiggle dresses, meaning the hem is narrower than the hips. I often come across Hong Kong dresses with matching boxy jackets, boleros, cocoon coats or lightweight “opera coats”.  Occasionally I see slim, high waisted pants, sometimes with a matching tunic.

Hotels in Hong Kong featured tailoring salons where tourists could have a frock made to measure. The most famous of these was the Dynasty salon. Here are some of their ads, which are kind of cringe inducing with their non-PC images from an earlier, more naive era..

vintage made in BCC Hong Kong

Advertisements featuring a “Hong Kong tailor”

Here are a few silhouettes common in BCC Hong Kong fashions:

vintage made in BCC Hong Kong

And here are a few modern ladies wearing their Hong Kong finery:

vintage made in BCC Hong Kong

June 13, 2017
by Winters Past
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Retro Fashions On TV

Once, back in college, a friend was taking a class called The History of History. It was one of those mind blowing freshman epiphanies: how we think about the past is influenced by what’s happening in the present, and the present is always changing.  Therefore, history is not a set of facts, it’s fluid, a moving target. Whoa!

This is all great stuff for a vintage clothing fan to parse. Were the roaring twenties really all about self empowered, fun loving party girls or do we, the post Sex and the City generation, just want to see it that way? Lucky for me, there are so many TV shows that take place in the past, all with  amazing fashion designed by modern costumers. In fact, a TV show about, say, the 60’s will have more great clothes than were actually present during that decade.

Costume dramas. We’re all familiar (or, if you’re me, obsessed!) with Mad Men. Downton Abbey had it’s cultural moment a few years back. Want to take a look at a few other less famous modern shows set in the past that are worth checking out for the clothing?

First up, a modern fantasy of a flapper-era independent woman, with enough twenties tropes to almost make it a caricature of that decade. The clothing is just luscious, and totally worth watching.

Fashions from the PBS series Miss Fisher

the 20’s: Miss Fisher

Indian Summer is a really great melodrama about the waning days of the British rule in India. The costumes are integral to the exotic feel and the wild plot twists, with a dazzling mix of silk saris, prim cotton day dresses and slinky bias cut gowns. Some of the British characters are realistically out of date, hauling out their twenties frocks well into the thirties.

Fashions from Indian Summer

The 30’s: Indian Summer

These swoon worthy Swing-era frocks steal the scenes in this WWII home front drama. And really,who doesn’t love a good peplum waist?

Fashions from Bomb Girls

The 40’s:  Bomb Girls

I watch Masters of Sex for the costumes, don’t you?

Fashions from Masters of Sex

The 50’s and 60’s:  Masters of Sex

Here’s a bright, cheerful-and very contemporary-look at early sixties fashion and the women who wore them. The sixties that I recall involved a whole lot more hairspray and repression, but its still great fun.

Fashions from Astronauts Wives Club

The 60’s:  Astronauts Wives Club

June 2, 2017
by Winters Past
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Why Shoe Design is a Little Bit like Rock Music

Think for a moment about rock and roll music from, say, 1958 to 1982. Everything was being done for the very first time. Everyone from Buddy Holly to Prince created something absolutely fresh and new with each song they wrote.

Most of the time since that era, rock has mined it’s own golden age to create new music that references the old songs.

Likewise, shoe design has had it’s own golden age, from around 1922 to 1968. Everything since then reprises and synthesizes those earlier designs.

Footwear was pretty much ignored for centuries in the west because, up until hemlines stated to rise in the 1920’s, you couldn’t see ladies shoes under their long skirts. Shoe design became a new art form that really took off  in the 1920s and ’30s when bare legs and sheer stockings became acceptable and shoes became a focus.

The twenties shoe style was pretty basic, not too fancy but good fun and danceable. Flappers wore a mid heel Mary Jane with a high front, like this:

1920's shoes

1920’s shoes

1930’s shoe designers took the basic shape of the Mary Jane and played with it while keeping it’s familiar outline.  The  very scandalous open toe was invented, along with the sling back and the pump. Fashion was expressed in color and surface design rather than in shape.

1930's shoes

1930’s shoes

The fun loving, wildly creative 1940’s shoe designs are like a Freddie Mercury-Elton John-David Bowie hybrid.  To my eye, the forties was a golden age for shoes.  I’m such a fan of the rounded toe and the absolute frenzy of playful design. Wartime shortages caused experimentation with new materials like cloth, straw and wood.  We see platforms, ankle strap and peep toes, like these:

1940's shoes

1940’s shoes

The fifties-the decade that gave us gave us bullet bras and tightly girdled waists- brought a severe femininity and  an exaggerated sharpness to shoes, from the stiletto heels to the pointed toe, comfort be damned. There was a parallel trend toward saddle shoes, Keds and loafers for the growing teen population.

1950's shoes

1950’s shoes

In the sixties, the mini skirt showed more leg than ever before and brought interest in boots. All that leg was balanced by a square toed, low heeled, chunky shoe.

1950's shoes

1960’s shoes

The sixties was also the last decade with completely new shoe silhouettes. Just like in rock music, further decades reinterpreted and reinvented the older styles.

Footwear in the 70’s looks back to the forties with platforms, peep toes and creative materials, as well as chunky boots.

1970'sshoes

1970’s shoes

The eighties looks back to the fifties with stiletto heels and pointed toes, this time in New Wave brights. Like the fifties, the eighties was also a Keds decade.

1980's shoes

1980’s shoes

More recent decades have given us lots of super casual shoes that match our increasingly casual lifestyles, along with creative reinterpretations of the past.

Here is a little glimpse of some vintage shoes I have in the shop right now:

vintage shoes

Left side, top to bottom: 30’s, 40’s, 80’s, 80’s

Right side, top to bottom: 50’s, 60’s, 70’s 70’s

May 26, 2017
by Winters Past
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Juliana: Super Statement Vintage Jewelry

Most people buy vintage costume jewelry because, well, it’s pretty and it’s unique and maybe it matches their outfit. People who collect vintage costume jewelry look for specific designers or brands. Then there’s a subgroup I’ll call serious collectors, folks who have some really esoteric knowledge about obscure brands and types of jewelry.

A few months ago I stared getting queries from serious collectors of vintage costume jewelry asking for Juliana. I have to admit, this caught me off guard as I’d never heard of it.

So now I have researched it, explored it and even found a few pieces. First off, it’s really well designed, spectacular stuff. But I think, for truly serious collectors, there is a special allure around the fact that it’s unsigned and was only created for one year (1967-68), making it super hard to find and identify.

You know That Guy at the dinner party, your cousin’s husband’s brother, the one you hope you don’t get seated next to? The one who has a whole lot of knowledge about an obscure topic and want to share every bit of it with you?

I’m going to be That Guy for just a few minutes. I’m going to get into some really granular detail about costume jewelry here. But first, before I geek out, here’s a pretty Juliana set:

vintage Juliana costume jewelry

Now, to identify Juliana jewelry for yourself you need to look for some specific traits.

Does the piece have:

over the top glitz, breathtaking design

use of art glass

multiple sizes, shapes and colors of rhinestones all in the same piece

Aurora Borealis (rainbow sparkle) rhinestones mixed in

tiered, domed, or are otherwise 3-dimensional elements

one or more rhinestones that float on a wire over other rhinestones

Still with me here? Ok, here one level geekier:

Rhinestones are often backed with foil, which acts like a mirror and creates extra sparkle. Juliana mixes foil backed stones with open back, unfoiled ones.

Is the pin on the back built in, not a separate piece that is glued or riveted to the back?

I can sense that your eyes have glazed over. Wake up, I’m done being That Guy for now. Have a look at these gorgeous Juliana pieces and thanks for being polite and nodding. Next time I’ll try not to get so intense.

vintage Juliana costume jewelry

Now here is a piece I found just this week. I think we can check all the boxes and call it Juliana, don’t you?

vintage Juliana brooch

May 12, 2017
by Winters Past
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The Secret Life of Clothes, part 1

In the last post, I wrote about how much I enjoy learning the backstory of vintage treasures. I like knowing who wore a garment and how it relates to their personal history. I also like placing it in the larger context of what was happening at that time and place.

My most recent large purchase started with the requisite phone call, this time from a neighbor. The story, in brief, involves an elderly couple who need to downsize. Retired writers and teachers, they worked in Japan as journalists in the 1970’s. After 10 years in Asia, the Viet Nam war ended and they returned stateside. They had their belongings shipped to a series of storage units where they left them untouched for over 40 years.

Their clothing was a quirky mix. The man’s wardrobe was that of a dashing, adventurous gentleman, all trench coats, fedoras and fine wing tip shoes.

vintage stetson fedora

A recent acquisition, this vintage Stetson fedora has dash and panache

The lady had her blouses hand tailored  in a 70’s career woman style using Japanese fabrics. Her accessories were fashion forward in their day but are quite different than American pieces the same  vintage since the styles were interpreted through an Asian lens.

These garments tell stories of two adventurous foreign war correspondents at work and at play. The silky button down shirts in colorful prints, the midi length skirts, mile high wooden platforms and tall Italian leather boots were the wardrobe of a successful career woman, 70’s style. The silky, drape-y separates were the pretty yet packable pieces of a lady reporter in a conflict zone.  Those three pairs of pleated high-waisted palazzo pants, that black shawl, and the luxurious hand beaded evening bags were fashionable cocktail clothes worn during late nights at the piano bar sipping cocktails with other expats abroad.

seventies wooden platform sandals

Fabulous seventies wooden platform sandals

vintage leather boots

Stylish and sexy, these 70’s  Italian leather boots were worn in Japan

I also like that these pieces will have a second act, becoming part of another person’s narrative.

May 1, 2017
by Winters Past
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Introducing: The Secret Life of Clothes

“Where do you get all this stuff?”

I get asked some variation of this question many times every day. At this point in the life of my shop, the answer is simple. I buy from the people who originally owned and wore these pieces.

It goes something like this: I receive a call or a visit. Sometimes it’s from an elderly person, but more often it’s the granddaughter or the neighbor or the niece. The older person, hailing from an era when people cared for and kept their possessions, has far too many things.

I  purchase their embroidered gloves and church veils and handbags and I also hear their stories. That’s how I came to not only acquire the peep-toe wedge heel shoes with matching bag but also learn that their owner wore them on her honeymoon in Havana in 1948, where she danced  all night. When I can, I pass the story on to the new owner.

vintage 1940s straw shoes and bag

1940s straw handbag and matching  espadrilles

This is part of what makes shopping for and wearing vintage a richer and more satisfying experience than, say, ordering a tee shirt on line from a big box retailer. Sure, we all need to buy brand new clothes sometimes. But those pieces are commodities to be worn until we tire of them, often after only one season. Vintage pieces have history, provenance and a backstory.

I’m going to share some of the stories I hear, right on these pages as a part of my shop blog.

April 11, 2017
by Winters Past
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Vintage Secretary Blouses

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:

vintage secretary blouses

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:

vintage secretary blouses

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:

vintage secretary blouses

Just a few of the vintage pussy bow blouses currently available at Winters Past

April 1, 2017
by Winters Past
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Vintage Straw Hats

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.

wear a vintage straw hat

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.

wear a vintage straw hat

A week of vintage straw city hats

And here are just a few of the summer hats I have in the shop right now:

wear a vintage straw hat

wear a vintage straw hat

March 17, 2017
by Winters Past
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1950’s Silhouettes (& Wearing 1980’s as 1950’s)

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.

fifties fit and flare dresses

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 pencil skirts

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

80’s as 50’s fit-and-flare dresses

80's as 50's sheath 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.

March 7, 2017
by Winters Past
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A Vintage Music Playlist

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:

stylish vintage ladies

Dinah Washington, Astrud Gilberto,  Francoise Hardy, Patsy Cline, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald

Vintage men of style

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:

Instrumental Jazz:

Oscar Peterson, Wes Montgomery, Bill Evans, Dexter Gordon, Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian, Duke Ellington

Vocal Jazz:

Carmen MacRae, Anita O’Day,  Billie Holliday, Dinah Washington, Louis Armstrong

Soul:

Nina Simone, Sugar Pie Desanto, Ann Peebles, Lee Moses, Irma Thomas, Soloman Burke

International:

Serge Gainsbourg, Chico and Rita Habana Band,   Bossacucanova, Paris Combo, O Samba da Minha Terra, Zou Bisou Bisou

Wild Cards:

Patsy Cline, Pokey LaFarge, Pink Martini

Here’s a fun vintage playlist for you:

Misty by Sarah Vaughn

It’s Raining by Irma Thomas

 Rum and Coca Cola by Tim Tim

That’s Alright by Mose Alison

Rock Me Baby by Sugar Pie Desanto

Cool Stuttin by Sonny Clark

Fine Fat Daddy by Dinah Washington

Seven Come Eleven by Charlie Christian

Can’t Stand the Rain by Ann Peebles

And one of my favorites by Nina Simone: