Winters Past

20th Century Fashion from Deco to Disco

August 17, 2017
by Winters Past

Style Inspiration with a Dash of Vintage

The internet. It’s either the  great democratic equalizer, giving everyone a voice, or its the death of civilization as we know it.

From a personal style perspective (and from the standpoint of this blog, the entire world comes down to vintage fashion), I’m going for the first option.

I’m inspired by the looks I see in blogs and in independent media. When it come to wearing vintage, there are a few camps. One is the all-vintage head to toe approach. That’s a subject for another day.

Today I’m focusing on women who mix in vintage with modern and have a well defined, recognizable (and very fun) sense of style. Here are a few ladies who are  inspiring my style choices these days. Also, I like style that involves comfortable shoes.

First up, Amy Karol, who blogs at

As an artist, craft book writer and  home-schooling mother of three, Amy’s got a love of fabric, color and retro 50’s-early 60’s style that’s casual and pretty.

vintage style inspiration from bloggers

Vintage style #1: Lets call it Seattle-based home schooling crafty indie mom style

Next we have  Aussie blogger Lilli over at 

She’s a book editor working in publishing and she has a cool modern librarian vibe. She sews and crafts some of her own pieces that she mixes with 1950s vintage. Lilli has a good sense of her body proportions and of how she wants to be seen.

vintage style inspiration from bloggers

Vintage style #2: Crafty cute bookish style nerd with womanly curves

Moving on, here’s the fabulous Latonya Yvette, who blogs at

Full disclosure: my daughter interviewed her for Bust magazine. She’s got a fabulous mix of eras worn with modern accessories and a spot-on sense of color. Those yellows! Swoon.

vintage style inspiration from bloggers

vintage style #3: Brooklyn based creative with a bold use of color & a killer indie style

For some West Coast wonderfulness, here is Erin Perez Hagstrom at

Erin gravitates toward natural fibers, mostly solid colors and hats. She goes for clean lines and crisp silhouettes and seeks out high waists and trapeze cuts, all worn with her signature bangs.

vintage style inspiration from bloggers

vintage style #4: So Cal natural minimalism with a 90’s vibe

Next up, Catherine Summers, who blogs at

She’s a red haired Brit who’s preferred vintage era is the seventies. Her blog has the the tag line, Who wants to be “age appropriate” anyway? Certainly not me! Catherine does break the comfortable shoe rule, but she gets a pass on that one.

vintage style inspiration from bloggers

vintage style #5: Fearless mix-and-matcher with a grown up playful feel

Here’s one more, this time not a blogger. This is the lovely singer and pianist Regina Spektor, a Russian-born New Yorker. She wears true vintage in a light hearted, dreamy way.

Indie fashion using vintage

vintage style #6: Fashion perestroika mixes Cony Island kitsch with classic forties frocks


August 12, 2017
by Winters Past

Fall Fashion, Inspired By Vintage Styles

If you were to closely watch the pendulum of fashion, you’d get very dizzy. Modern designers continually draw from the well of the past, dipping into styles of previous decades and combining them with a modern twist. It’s enough to give you deja vu all over again.

With that in mind, I’m looking at the new fall styles. What I’m seeing echoes the vintage clothes I have around me in the shop right now. I’ve got to ask: why not just wear vintage?

The Seven Top Trends for 2017 (that could easily be done with vintage):

  1. 70’s plaids: oversized boxy wool tartans and houndstooth checks
  2. Luxe velvet: just like a young Stevie Nicks would have worn
  3. Silver lame’: metallic shimmery disco fabrics (gold lame’, too)
  4. Power suits: classic 1980’s lady boss jackets with bold shoulder pads
  5. Retro winter hats: 60’s high-crown fur toppers
  6. Vintage floral prints: Yves San Laurent’s 70’s folkloric styles with a touch of old school Ralph Lauren Americana
  7. High waist jeans: non-stretch, light wash straight leg denim
70's plaids for fall 2017

These modern plaids are straight out of a 1977 Seventeen magazine back to school issue

evening velvet

Modern fashion plays with another side of the 70’s: sensual, drape-y evening velvet

silver lame

Of the moment, over the top glam rock silver lame, not for the faint of heart

Power suits

Vintage Armani redux, like Melanie Griffith wore in Working Girl

vintage style fur hats

2017 military revisits early 60’s style bold fur hats

vintage floral prints

Modern romantic vintage-style botanical prints nod to both the 70’s and the 90’s

high waist vintage jeans

High waist vintage jeans, AKA “Mom Jeans”

August 6, 2017
by Winters Past

Wear a Scarf like Grace Kelly

Want a touch of retro glamor in about 10 seconds flat? Emulate Grace Kelly in a headscarf  and you, too, can look like movie star in the south of France even when you’re heading to Publix to pick up a two-for-one deal on the canned tuna.

First, some images of the movie star princess in Hermes:

Grace kelly in a headscarf

The Impeccable Grace Kelly

And here are some other chic famous ladies flaunting their  European sensibilities with scarves in the early 60’s:

Chic Vintage Celebrities in headscarves

Marilyn, Sofia, Jackie, Liz, Bridgette, Audrey

All you need for this style is a big square vintage scarf.  The yacht and the Alfa Romeo convertible are optional but they really do amplify the look. Also a Prince, an Oscar and your very own tiny country. But I digress.

Get yourself a great vintage silk scarf in a gorgeous print. Fold your big scarf into a triangle and place the folded side up a little on the top of your head, not down low over your forehead, so some of your hair shows. Pass the long ends under your chin, secure with one throw of a knot, then bring the ends around to the back. You want it to look retro-chic, not Queen Mumsy, right? Do this: place your knot asymmetrically, towards one ear. This leaves a short and a long end. For some reason I can’t quite explain, it’s so much better this way. You know what else looks great with this? Big sunglasses and lipstick.

Here are some modern ladies wearing the heck out of some vintage scarves:

Modern ladies in retro chic head scarves

Modern ladies in retro chic head scarves

While I’m sure this doesn’t apply to you, dear reader, headscarves have become the go-to accessory of rehab chic. Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Nicole Richie, Kate Moss and Paris Hilton are all rehab and headscarf regulars.

On the surface, the Kelly-style scarf alludes to modesty and a new-found purity in an impure world. It’s prim, repressed Joan Allen in Pleasantville. But look a little deeper and the style has a sense of mystery and an intriguing backstory. It’s one wears after a long night to cover the morning-after weariness, especially when paired with dark glasses.

July 29, 2017
by Winters Past

Alternative Fashion: 200 Years of Tribal Ethnic Style

Fringe, turbans, caftans, long dangly ear rings: it’s “hippie” style and it started in the 60’s, right?

Not exactly. It’s bohemian style and its been around for a while. Here are some archival photos from the late 1800’s:

1800's bohemian style

1800’s bohemian style

Before we called them hippies, there was a creative class of of writers, dancers, musicians and visual artists known as bohemians and their style has been an exotic alternative to mainstream fashion for over 200 years. While hippies were completely of the moment in the late 60’s and early 70’s, they were part of a long lineage of free thinking, non-conforming, alternative people.

Part of the bohemian aesthetic involves wearing non Western  “ethnic” clothes in order to transcend conventions and to  express the idea of more authentic, sensual and spiritual qualities believed be more present in tribal cultures. We’re talking about Indian print skirts, Indonesian batik sarongs, Moroccan djellabas, Chinese jackets, Japanese kimonos, Mexican embroidered dresses, and African dashikis, worn with moccasins, boots or sandals, fringe, feathers, Indian turquoise jewelry, natural bead jewelry, capes, scarves and turbans.

Let’s let Janis Joplin show us how it was done in the 1960’s:

Janis Joplin hippie boho ethnic style

Jimi broke a few sartorial as well as musical conventions:

Jimi hippie boho ethnic style

Over the last two centuries, the hallmarks of bohemian style have been:

  • Loose, flowing clothing made of natural fabrics, worn without restrictive underwear
  • Loose, natural hair
  • Colorful scarves worn at the neck, on the head, or at the waist
  • Peasant styles: tunics, loose trousers, boots, and sandals
  • Antique or vintage  clothing
  • Asian elements: robes, kimonos, and the designs of Persia, India, Turkey, and China
  • Mixing historical elements with ethnic styles
  • Layering
  • Mismatching, mixing prints and color combinations
  • Multi strands of beads, bangle bracelets, and unusual, hand crafted, or unmatched jewelry
  • Large dangle or large hoop earrings
  • Broad brimmed hats
  • Patched clothing
  • Paisley, flowered fabrics, ruffles, lace edged sleeves
  • A casual approach to tidiness and uniformity; contrived dishevelment

And here’s what it looked like in 1968:

woodstock hippie boho ethnic style

The 60’s-70’s boho style ended when the alternative became mainstream.

Sorry, Liz, you were fabulous but the caftan lost a bit of it’s edge when you adopted it as your uniform:

Liz the Queen of Caftans

La Liz the Queen of Caftans

Now that we have a little time and distance, bohemian “ethnic” pieces look fresh again. Right now, they look best worn with more minimal adornment and simple, modern hair:

modern hippie boho ethnic style

July 22, 2017
by Winters Past

1930’s Bias Cut Dresses: Sexy Screen Siren Style

Remember that really bad Rod Stewart song from the 80’s, Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? I’m assuming you’ll agree it was terrible because I think it is. In truth, what’s a catchy tune or an ear worm, what’s bland or delicious, what is sexy or not is entirely subjective.

Except for 1930’s ladies in their fabulous bias cut gowns-I think we can all agree that these are pretty sexy:

Bias cut gowns

Thirties Hollywood Bombshells in Bias Cut Gowns

Fashion of the 1930s was, surprisingly, very sensual.  They featured sinuous shapes and fabrics that draped daringly over the body, allowing women the freedom to move with ease while being caressed by fine silk cloth.

Before stretchy fabrics were available, the “bias cut” was used for body-hugging silhouettes. In 1927, Parisian designer Madeleine Vionette developed this technique by changing the direction that pattern pieces were laid out in relation to the grain of fabric.

What is the advantage of a bias cut gown? It drapes over and highlights the body. Gowns cut on the true bias hug and cling to the hips and midriff then fall beautifully. Many times they seem like a second skin. Colors newly available in silk at that time included soft flesh tones like champagne, fawn and blush, which added to their sensual appeal.

Worn with very little underneath, this style was scandalously close to naked, replacing the layers of chemises, knickers, corsets, corset covers and petticoats that had encompassed the Western female form for generations.

Hollywood of the thirties greatly influenced  what women thought about what was fashionable, what was acceptable, and what was sexy. In contrast to the realities of the depression, costume design  was quite lavish.  Exemplified by Jean Harlow’s iconic white satin bias cut dresses, the Hollywood look featured dramatic lines that played best to camera.  The minimally embellished slip-like gown  was emblematic of Hollywood of that decade.

Jean Harlow

Jean Harlow in her signature look

Thirties films were “Pre-Code”, meaning they were made after the introduction of sound and before the enforcement of strict censorship rules (the “Hays Code”). Pre-Code films were bawdy, risque and irreverent, exploring  lesbian relationships,  drug use, divorce, sex work and extramarital affairs.  Women -married or not-were frankly sexual, and their outfit of choice was the bias cut gown.

Bias cut gowns

Bias cut gowns draw attention to the curve of the hip

I have quite a few bias cut gowns in the shop and I am amazed by the quality of the fabric, still draping and flowing 80 years later.

July 8, 2017
by Winters Past

How About a Vintage Clutch Bag for Daytime?

The world is an anxiety provoking place. People (and by that I mean me) seem a bit on edge lately. It’s calming to focus on enjoying some small, pleasing things that are within our control. This thought process led me to pull over on the side of the road yesterday, lay on my stomach  in a glorious yellow riot of buttercups in the median, and snap an I-phone photo of a single perfect flower.

It also helps me that my work involves finding lovely objects from the past and figuring out how to enjoy them in the present.

Which leads me to think about using a vintage clutch bag with casual daytime clothes.

Here’s why daytime clutch bags make so much sense :

  1. They look modern
  2. They look minimal
  3. They look different
  4. They are unfussy
  5. They are kind to your neck and shoulders
  6. They force you to carry fewer items
  7. You need a style change

The clutch can add a surprising element of color or texture or shape to a simple outfit.

Here are some ladies doing the daytime clutch with casual flair:

wear a vintage clutch bag with casual clothes

wear a vintage clutch bag with casual clothes

And here are just a few of the vintage daytime clutch bags I have in the shop right now:

vintage clutch bags

vintage clutch bags

vintage clutch bags

June 30, 2017
by Winters Past

Some Thoughts on Vintage Costume Jewelry

So what’s the story on costume jewelry anyway?

First, a few pieces from the Winters Past collection:

 vintage costume jewelry

Some stellar examples of vintage costume jewelry

A little history: back before the style revolution that was the 1920’s, women of means had fine jewelry that they wore with pretty much everything. Then came Coco Chanel. She turned this idea upside down by proclaiming that wearing precious jewelry in public was vulgar. Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli and others created bold, fabulous jewelry designed to go with your “costume” (meaning outfit). Jewelry became something to wear for fun and as art and self-expression but not to signify wealth.

Coco and Elsa

Coco and Elsa wearing costume jewelry of their own creation

From the 1920’s Art Deco period until about 1965, there was so much wonderfully well designed vintage costume jewelry made in the US. Along with the artistry, there was an innovative use of materials and a good dose of whimsey.

Mass production wasn’t very mass in the American costume jewelry industry from the 20’s to the mid 60’s. These pieces were made by skilled artisans with a high degree of craftsmanship and attention to detail.  They used a mixed base metal, and then triple-plated it with either gold or silver. The result? Even pieces that are decades old won’t easily tarnish.

A word about rhinestones: They aren’t fake anything. They’re real Czech hand blown leaded glass that’s been precision faceted and polished, then given a reflective backing. These stones were set with prongs in the same manner as gemstones are in fine jewelry.

high quality prong set vintage costume jewelry rhinestones

high quality prong set vintage costume jewelry rhinestones

In addition to metals and rhinestones, costume jewelry designers played with materials like  shell, wood, enamel, faux pearls and stones. As new things like celluloid,Bakelite,and Lucite were developed, jewelry designers incorporated them into their creations.

Some vintage costume pieces are  signed with a logo, like these:

signed vintage costume jewelry

Some signed vintage costume jewelry

However, signed pieces do not necessarily indicate higher quality than unsigned pieces — vintage jewelry is often high quality, regardless of who made it. Some of the most exclusive vintage designers, including Juliana, did not sign their pieces.

I carry vintage jewelry that features the original design, consistent with vintage style and age. There is a current fad towards “repurposeing”  jewelry, meaning mixing and matching different elements from multiple pieces into new, franken-jewelry. I prefer to let the individual charm and beauty of a piece speak for itself.

June 22, 2017
by Winters Past

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

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

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’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