I rediscovered this guest post that I wrote for Jessica of Zella Maybe back in 2016, and decided that I would like for it to have a home here too. Someday it would be nice to do an updated version of this post with new outfits and photos, but in the meantime here is the post from nearly five years ago!
One of the things that I love most about vintage style dressing is that it really is as varied as the people who lived before us. Within the vintage subculture there are so many vastly different and wonderful styles- from pinup, to rockabilly, to 60’s mod and so on. . . I have never been able to choose one signature style for myself though. There are just too many styles and eras to choose from! Seldom a week goes by where I am not being inspired by something different and deciding I need to dress more like a 20’s flapper or a 40’s land girl, then the next week it is the 1950’s movie-star or a 60’s housewife. . . (Maybe this is really just a clue into how indecisive I am?) However, with something as fun as fashion- why choose only one style?
The best way to wear all of the unique and different vintage styles you encounter would be to have a wardrobe the size of Barbie’s, with dresses and outfits and accessories for each occasion. Unfortunately, I do not have a wardrobe to rival Barbie’s, and I doubt that you do either. However, accessories are a great secret weapon! Some garments lend themselves well to being styled as different eras, and it is amazing what changing your hat, scarf, shoes, makeup or purse can do for completely transforming an ensemble. So today I will show you how I took three different outfits as starting points, and by switching a few pieces was able to create an outfit with a completely different look and mood.
The first outfit is this one, consisting of wide legged navy trousers and a hip length mustard yellow cardigan.
The wide legged trousers are a great starting point for a 1920’s inspired look as trousers first really came into fashion for women in the 1920’s. (They were quite a scandalous style for the “modern woman”!) I don’t have the figure for the straight willowy 1920’s ideal, but by pairing the trousers with a long cardigan I get the illusion of that silhouette. Tucking in my silk top shows that I do, in fact, have a waist, while the blowsy fabric gives softness. A pile of sparkly necklaces, earrings and an exotically wrapped turban results in the classic 1920’s feel. Of course no 1920’s look is complete without makeup, so I added a dark burgundy lip, smudgy eyeliner and gold eye shadow.
Keeping the trousers and the sweater, but switching out the top for a collared cotton patterned shirt instantly turns the look into a 1940’s style. Here I have tied a turban from back to front with a large bow, for a Rosie the Riveter/ working-girl look. (See- I even have a massive wrench!) Lace up boots, minimal jewelry (just ear studs), and a natural makeup look with a hint of pink lipstick gives a softer, minimal look perfect for the era. I have curled my bangs here as well, for a more 40’s style hairdo- as my hair is quite short and that is pretty much all of it I can style! It is amazing how simply switching out the accessories takes this trousers and sweater set from “flapper” to “make do and mend”.
For the next set I have a navy crepe dress with pearl buttons at the neck. This is a 1940’s reproduction pattern (Simplicity 1777), but it is really one of the most versatile garments I own, as almost everything goes with navy.
I first styled the dress as 1940’s, by adding a black straw saucer hat. Tilt hats were quite popular in the 1940’s, and if you have long hair, curling it or adding a victory roll would be the perfect touch. I can’t do that, so I tucked my hair back to make it look a bit more styled, and again curled the bangs. A small black patent handbag, and black suede pumps with a classic cuban heel, coordinate nicely with the hat, and for a ladylike look like this, gloves are a must. (No lady in the 1940’s would consider an outfit complete without her gloves!) For makeup, a natural face, with a sophisticated red lipstick gives a classic 40’s look.
Now I have opted for an early 1960’s take on the dress. The early 1960’s is one of my favourite periods as it was so fun, yet still elegant. It retained much of the style of the 1950’s New Look, while losing a lot of the stuffiness. I mean, what is not fun (or funny?) about this ridiculous 1960’s hat? It is like wearing a tulle cake on your head. The bodice on this dress is a bit more fitted than would have been popular in the 1960’s, but by adding a boxy cashmere coat, the silhouette suddenly becomes straighter with a more secretary/twinset look. Classic peep-toe pumps in navy, and a navy “Kelly Bag inspired” structured purse are a perfect match. By teasing my hair into round shape, adding lots of mascara, blue eyeshadow and a paler coral lip, I get that iconic 1960’s look. (Although you can’t really see my makeup in the picture.) A bouffant or beehive hairstyle would also be classic 1960’s, and false eyelashes would be perfect touch for the wide-open eye makeup style of the era.
For the last set I have this navy gingham pinafore dress. (Originally this dress was a horrific 1980’s baggy housedress that I refashioned into a pinafore.)
Pinafore dresses were quite a popular style in the 1940’s and the slimmer gathered dirndl skirt on this one suits the style of the 40’s “make do and mend” better than the 50’s pinafores, which usually had fuller skirts. Peasant style tops were also very popular in the 40’s, or as an alternative, you could wear a short sleeved collared shirt. A large stiff-brimmed straw sunhat, a small straw handbag, and white peep toe heels coordinate perfectly. Again, I have rather minimal eye makeup and a tawny coloured lipstick. All ready to go on a summer picnic; 1940’s style!
And now for something completely different, I have this 1970’s outfit. Gingham was very popular in the 1970’s too, and pinafores swung back into style, with the resurgence of the romantic, prairie girl look. Pairing the pinafore with a sleeveless tie-neck blouse makes the pinafore looks like a summer sundress. As headscarves were another popular style of the era, I have tied a scarf on my hair, and topped it with a floppy sunhat. The floppy soft brim of this hat makes this outfit so different than the 40’s look with the straight brimmed hat. Large hoop earrings, a patchwork bag with wooden handles, and a stack of gold bracelets give a boho look. And of course no 1970’s look would be complete without platforms- chunky wooden heels are perfect for the 70’s! For makeup, I have switched to a lighter pink lipstick, darker eyeliner and soft light blue eyeshadow.
So, there you can see how I took three different starting points, and simply by switching the accessories, was able to turn three outfits into six different vintage style outfits. (You can also see that the 1940’s is a very easy era to replicate, as I ended up with three different 1940’s looks!)
Obviously we restyle our pieces all the time , but it is easy to fall into a style rut and always grab the same things over and over. I hope this has given you some inspiration, and that you can look at your wardrobe with fresh eyes to see what you can do to switch it up. If you are just really bored with your wardrobe, because you have worn everything in it a million times, then perhaps all you need to do is change your hat, add some gloves, or try a new makeup style. And, if you want to play with your style, the next time you think, “I wish I could do the 20’s or the 40’s or the 60’s etc”, all you might need to do is pair different accessories with the clothes you already own.
There is no need to commit to only one era. Fashion is really so much fun, and there are so many great vintage styles out there, so I hope this can inspire you to have fun choosing what to wear, and accessorize with each day!