Winters Past

20th Century Fashion from Deco to Disco

May 24, 2018
by Winters Past
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Vintage Weekends, UK Style

As the owner of a vintage shop in a small rural Florida town, I have had a surprising number of British customers come through. There are even a few UK based vintage sellers who buy from me.

They tell me that “Vintage Weekends” are a huge big deal among a subgroup of English people, and it looks like so much fun.

Here are a few posters for British retro festivals I’ve seen on-line:

British vintage weekends

British vintage weekends

These weekend festivals have a big emphasis on retro music with roots in the US. They celebrate swing,  R & B, boogie-woogie,  rockabilly, jazz,  blues, doo-wop and bluegrass. In fact, it looks like the Brits may have a deeper appreciation for classic American music than we have.

Music is only part of the story. There is a real mid century American carnival feel to these vintage events. They’ve got hot-rod racing, roller-skating, drive-in movies, classic car shows, and retro burlesque.

For me, of course, it’s all about the vintage clothes, hair and make-up, which are stellar. I see a mix of true vintage and reproduction garments, mixed with style and flair.

UK vintage weekends

UK vintage weekends

So, why are vintage weekends such a big thing in England?

I have a few thoughts that I’d like to explore further but for now, I’m enjoying keeping tabs on these vintage extravaganzas and their marvelous melange of styles.

May 13, 2018
by Winters Past
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Wearing Vintage Statement Earrings in a Modern Way

This is Jenny Walton.

She’s an illustrator, a fashion stylist and she’s a vintage earring savant. Behold:

Wearing vintage statement earrings

Wearing mostly vintage pieces, including statement earrings

In fact, her take on vintage is absolutely on-point. She offers a fresh new way of combining eras, deftly pairing vintage with modern.  She accessorizes with a few signature pieces including a swoon-worthy collection of vintage earrings.

vintage statement earrings

That touch of bling makes the whole outfit sing

vintage statement earrings

Wearing vintage statement earrings in a very modern way

Here’s what Jenny has to say about her style:

“You shouldn’t be afraid to wear crystals during the day—they’re good for taking something casual to a much more special place.” 

“The bigger the earring, the better! Longer styles draw attention to that space between your jawline and your shoulders (which is quite flattering).” 

“It’s OK to be obvious and pair sparkle with a little more sparkle.” 

“These big round baubles are even more fun when you pair them with other exaggerated shapes” 

Jenny tends to pull her hair into a simple bun to better focus on her lovely lobes.

If you’re ready to try some bold vintage earring, here are just a few lovelies I have in the shop right now:

vintage statement earrings

vintage statement earrings

vintage statement earrings

May 7, 2018
by Winters Past
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Dressing Vintage for Dapper Days

The modern era is a casual time. CEOs of major corporations wear jeans and hoodies to work. The lines between athletic attire, sleepwear and everyday clothing have blurred.

And yet, people still crave a reason to get dressed up.

I have quite a few customers who dress head to toe  in fancy vintage clothes and go to Disney parks for a big festival two times a year.

The gathering is called Dapper Days and it looks something like this:

 Dapper Days

Wearing their vintage finest to Dapper Days

When Disney Land opened in 1955, people wore their best outfits to go there. Now people wear tee shirts, flip flops and baggy cargo shorts. Where has the sense of pageantry gone?

People who ask themselves that question have developed loosely organized club. They come up with a modern riff on the party clothes of previous decades. Often their outfits allude to the fifties, when the theme parks were new. They meet up with other like minded folks and, from what I hear, they have a blast.

It’s a very creative project for them and they have so much fun with it every step of the way.

It’s also a bonding thing between friends, couples, and families. 

Here are a few of my customers in their Dapper Day best:

Dapper Days

A mom & her daughters

Dapper Days

Sisters

Ray and Joanie are a couple who fully embrace creative self expression in their clothing. I’ve written about them beforeThis is what they have to say about Dapper Days:

“Dapper Day was originally founded at Disneyland in California as a day where people would dress up like Mr. and Mrs. Disney would have dressed in the 1950s. It has evolved into a weekend where people put on their best vintage attire and enjoy looking stylish.

We do our best to dress in accurate vintage attire, using as many original pieces as possible to complete our outfits. Joanie sews most of her clothes, sometimes using vintage patterns, but all of her accessories are vintage and picked to enhance the period authenticity of her outfits. Ray prides himself in finding vintage suits and hats and adds vintage accessories if possible to complete his outfits.

We use old movies from the 1930’s, ’40s and ’50s as reference for our clothing.”

Joanie has a nice collection of vintage hats, purses, gloves, jewelry , some of which she inherited from her mother and grandmother. She and Ray noticed that some other Dapper Day participants also wear inherited pieces, bringing a very sweet dimension of family history to their  event.

 Dapper Days

Ray and Joanie at Dapper Days

Like Ray and Joanie, many Dapper Days participants strive to remain authentic to their chosen era. Others add elements of fantasy or costume to a vintage silhouette.

There are, of course, layers of nuance that come into play when one strives for authenticity.

When Mr. Disney created mini world with pretend castles and a faux main street 45 years ago, did he imagine that it would become a very real part of people’s lives?

Like the Velveteen Rabbit, does a created environment become real when filled with the genuine love of actual people over time?

April 29, 2018
by Winters Past
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The Golden Age of Vintage Costume Jewelry

Did you ever think about the art forms that are uniquely American, like jazz music, baseball, tap dancing and comics? From where I sit, the costume jewelry made in the US from the 1930s to the early 1960s falls into that same category.

Is it too much for me to view vintage clip ear rings, brooches and other sparkly things as part of our American cultural patrimony? Well, probably; just bear with me here.

But first: a very exciting thing happened  last week.  I bought this vintage suitcase and it’s absolutely FULL of 20th century American costume jewelry. Yowza, mama!

There are probably 150 tiny wearable works of art in this treasure chest. It’s going to take me a while to work my way through all of it, but I though I’d share a little of the excitement.

Here we go:

vintage costume jewelry

Just a suitcase full of love

I’ve written about the wonders of vintage costume jewelry before. You can scroll ahead in this post to see the pretty shiny things if you’re so inclined or you can geek out with me for just a moment

The golden age of costume jewelry parallels the classic American film years when Hollywood became a major influence on style here and abroad. It began in the 1930s, which was a period when the US began to celebrate it’s own unique style in fashion and in other art forms.

At the same time, immigrants arrived  who had specialized skills in casting metal and cutting and setting stones. Influenced by fine arts, by Hollywood glamour, and by changing ideas of style, an art form developed which emphasized  design and craftsmanship more than the intrinsic value of gemstones and gold.

American costume jewelry designers used high quality materials including Italian and Czech glass, known for it’s purity of color and crisp facets. The glass was set with prongs just like fine stones.

Along with the craftsmanship, the absolute best part of vintage costume jewelry is their wildly creative designs.

These jewelers with old world skills were able to be more artistically experimental with costume jewelry than they could  with precious gems and metals.

What they created was delightful then and now.

I’ve just focused on the brooches this time…some of the necklaces will be posted here very soon.

vintage costume jewelry

vintage costume jewelry

vintage costume jewelry

vintage costume jewelry

April 25, 2018
by Winters Past
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Vintage Cocktail Hats

Here is our next installment of the series in which in which I gently leading you toward your hat-wearing best self.

Here’s the deal: you don’t have to be a royal or a racehorse owner to feel great in vintage headwear. If you’re willing to be a just little bit bold, you, too, can become a confident hat wearer.

In previous posts, I’ve championed the beret, the pillbox, the cloche and the structured straw hat.

Today, lets talk about those small works of millinery magic I’m calling the Cocktail Hat. These petite 1950s chapeaux are sweet, sexy and-I promise- easy to wear.

First, check out these modern ladies sporting vintage dainty mid-century hats:

modern ladies wearing 1950s vintage hats

The common thread here is their diminutive size and lack of brim. In these examples, the women are keeping their hair, makeup and overall look modern.

You can see for yourself  how alluring these small, embellished wonders are are:

modern ladies wearing 1950s vintage hats

To put these hats in the context of their era, think about the drama of 1950s fashion. All the proportions were exaggerated; the skirts were wide, the shoes pointy, the bust line emphasized. The lips were red, the jewelry was bold and copious. They wore gloves. Everything matched.

As a counterpoint to all that, hats weren’t the stars of the show, they were a complement. While there were no lack of embellishments, the shapes were modest and close to the head.

You’ll find crescents and shell shapes that hug the head, sweet Juliette caps that sit toward the back, and “beau coifs” or whimsies that are a kind of glorified headband. There are flat round tambourine shapes and lots of flirty, eye-emphasizing veils.

In the modern world, their proportions are perfectly suited for dressy occasions. Play around with the placement until it feels comfortable. I’ve seen some customers place them more toward the forehead while others wear them toward the back of the head, keeping in mind how they plan to do their hair.

If you haven’t got a fancy event on the horizon, perhaps you’ll want to host one just so you can wear a vintage cocktail hat.

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

1950s vintage hats

1950s vintage hats

1950s vintage hats

 

April 9, 2018
by Winters Past
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Fanciful Forties Frocks

Recently I became the proud (though temporary) owner of some breathtaking 1940s day dresses.

Be still my beating heart!

Here are some snaps of them on my clothesline:

1940s day dresses

Pretty maids, all in a row

1940s day dresses

Each one is unique yet the overall silhouette is the same

The details:

1940s day dresses

Peplums and flounces and ruching, Oh My!

The prints:

1940s day dresses

And the colors! Swoon!

The edges of fashion decades are fuzzy, meaning that “the forties” style didn’t literally start on January 1, 1940 at the stroke of midnight.This dress style started in the late thirties, lasted through WW2 and morphed into something else-something with a fuller skirt- by about 1947.

The overall shape of these day dresses is womanly, timeless, easy to wear and very flattering:

  • defined but not exaggerated shoulders
  • jewel or modest vee neckline
  • fitted bodice
  •  bloused (not tight) top
  •  short, draping sleeves
  •  nipped in waist at the natural waistline
  • knee length gently flared skirt

Sometimes limitations can lead to greater creativity ; this is certainly the case with 1940s fashion. There were shortages of materials such as silk and wool. There were also restrictions on fabric quantity and skirts became slimmer and shorter as a consequence.

At the same time, American fashion was coming into its own. The US had always looked toward Paris for fashion inspiration, but wartime changed France’s role as a trendsetter. Hollywood became the major style influencer that designers copied and women emulated.

These dresses were available in many price points and were as accessible to shop girls and secretaries as they were to society ladies. In the 1940s, women needed to get things done on the home front and this was expressed in dresses that allowed women a full stride but addressed the fun part of fashion with very playful elements.

These simple day frocks had practical silhouettes but were lavished with creative details. There was some very innovative cutting, piecing and draping, along with ruching, gathers, peplums and layers that tie.

Then, there are the colors. This era was a perfect moment for printing on fabric. Synthetic dyes which gave vivid, clear hues were being developed. Rayon, a natural fabric made from wood pulp, had been perfected by the late 1930s. Its takes dyes really well.

The availability of so many color options led to wonderful fabrics. The fanciful prints tend toward dreamy florals or bold abstract designs and brought a sense of fun to dressing.

1940s day dresses

Fabulous forties frocks, indeed!

 

 

April 5, 2018
by Winters Past
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Vintage Charm Bracelets

Vintage charm bracelets are quirky, kitchy fun; there is something innately “charming” about them.

First, they  announce their presence by the jingle that happens when the wearer moves her wrist.

Second, they invite conversation. To really appreciate a charm bracelet you really need to examine each individual tiny treasure and hear its story.

I’ve noticed two main eras of 20th century charm bracelets: pre and post WW2. The earlier ones tend to have a theme, like this prohibition era beauty I came across recently  with (mostly) cocktail related items:

vintage charm bracelet

Tiny alarm clock, top hat, cocktail shaker, ice tongs and shoe

Then you have the charm bracelet’s heyday, when American teenagers and young women in the 1950s and early 1960s collected tiny mementos to record  events in their lives.

There are hobby themed charms such as bicycles, horses, ballet shoes, thimbles and musical instruments.

I see lots of  lots of travel related charms like state maps, flags and tiny replicas of famous buildings.

Perhaps most magical are the mechanical charms, the ones with a moving part, like a wee ferris wheel that turns or scissors that open.

vintage charm bracelets

These memory filled charm bracelets revealed so much about the people who originally collected them.

Filled with tiny figurines collected over the years, charm bracelets chronicled small moments in a life and formed a visual, wearable autobiography.

All vintage pieces come with their own history. This is even more evident when acquiring someone else’s charm bracelet. It is both very personal yet mysterious and unknowable, which adds an interesting layer to the experience of wearing it.

March 19, 2018
by Winters Past
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Fifties Fashion as seen in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Fifties fashion is a an interesting contradiction. On the one hand, it’s a study in wonderful excess: voluptuous curves, wide full skirts, dramatic swing coats. On the other hand, it’s all about control: the need to match everything, wear figure-defining undergarments, and follow strict rules governing appropriateness.

This is beautifully expressed in the Amazon series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. 

The main character, Midge, manages to straddle these two poles neatly, in clothing that perfectly evokes the era but manages to feel modern at the same time. Her wardrobe is just gorgeous and very lustworthy.

Have a look:

Fifties fashion from the netflix series Mrs Maisel

Fifties fashion from the Netflix series Mrs Maisel

Clothing from The Marvelous Mrs Maisel

Those swing coats! and peignoirs! 

I had to watch Mrs. Maisel twice, once for the witty dialog and well crafted story and once just for the wardrobe, which will leave vintage lovers breathless.

 

March 10, 2018
by Winters Past
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A Brief History of Ladies Wearing Tuxes

Have you watched any of the award shows lately? I find myself looking for anything unique and quirky among the similarly styled stars. This brings me to women wearing tuxedos.

I came across this quote from the writer Quentin Crisp: “When a man dresses as a woman, the audience laughs. When a woman dresses as a man, nobody laughs. They just think she looks wonderful”.

I thought about this recently when I acquired a wonderful 1970’s Yves St Laurent ladies tux. It made me think about the allure of a woman wearing  black tie, which is elegant and  sexy in an interesting way.

The earliest references to women wearing tuxes are from the 1920’s among performers in Harlem & Paris.

ladies wearing tuxes

Performers Gladys Bently & Josephine Baker

By the 1930’s, several screen stars introduced the idea to a larger audience, most famously Marlene Deitrich. This makes sense since the 30’s, much like the 70’s, was a time when strict gender boundaries had become a bit more fluid, at least in cities and in show business.

ladies wearing tuxes

Marlene Dietrich & Anna May Wong

In the 1940’s, nobody did menswear better than Katherine Hepburn:

ladies wearing tuxes

Katherine Hepburn

The 1950’s ideal was so ultra feminine that gender bending fashion was not seen much in the mainstream.

Then, in 1966, Yves Saint Laurent caused a big stir by creating the first tux designed for women. Using the French term for tuxedo, it was dubbed “Le Smoking” and what began as boundary pushing  became iconic.

ladies wearing tuxes

Betty Catroux, Liza Minelli, Catherine Deneuve, Charlotte Rampling in the 70’s

The black tie trouser suit with heels and lipstick is now a red carpet regular. To the modern eye, it doesn’t look gender bending at all; it looks very feminine in a self assured way.

Here are some modern ladies looking strong and sexy in their tuxes.

ladies wearing tuxes

Alexa Chung, Emma Watson, Janelle Monae

March 3, 2018
by Winters Past
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Collecting Vintage Lucite Bangles

Remember the old  Lays potato chips ad, the one that said, betcha can’t eat just one? The same goes for Bakelite bracelets…betcha can’t wear just one!

Quick primer: Bakelite is a highly collectible early plastic. It was made in lovely colors and has a rich luster that deepens over time. Bakelite can be cut and polished, which led to its use in all sorts of creative and whimsical jewelry.

My customers who collect and wear Bakelite love to put on lots of bangles at once, wrist to mid forearm, stacking them up in multiples on one or both arms. They enjoy matching or contrasting the bangles with their outfit, playing with color and  getting creative with their collection.

It looks like this (jaunty hand on hip pose optional):

vintage bakelite bracelets

vintage bakelite bracelets

No doubt about it, nothing equals the depth and richness of vintage Bakelite. It’s fabulous.

However, collecting lots and lots  of Bakelite, enough to have an armful of different colors to go with each outfit, can be a daunting proposition. Finding the pieces you love and collecting them bracelet by bracelet can take years. A big collection can also set you back a sum equal to the cost of a good used car.

There is an option. Enter Bakelite’s younger (and some might say sassier) cousin, lucite. They are both plastics but, generally speaking, bakelite had its heyday before WW2, lucite after.

Like bakelite, lucite was made in lots of colors, shapes, and sizes. Some are marbled, some have a gorgeous iridescence and others are laminated stacks of color.  Unlike bakelite, some lucite bracelets are embedded with shells, glitter and confetti.

Here are some lucite bangles I have in the shop right now:

vintage lucite bracelets at winters past

vintage lucite bracelets at winters past

Here are two great tips I’ve learned from customers that apply to both bakelite and lucite:

  1. When putting on a bangle, slip a silky scarf over your hand and wrist. Your bracelet will slide on easily right over the scarf.
  2. Store your collection in satin quilted vintage lingerie boxes. These are just the right size to protect and display these treasures. Then, mix. match and contrast with abandon.
collect vintage lucite bangles

Collect and enjoy vintage lucite bangles