style tips

all posts related to how to create personal style and other styling tips

The Costumes Of Testament of Youth: Film Fashion Inspiration

Vera Brittain and Roland Leighton embracing in Testament of Youth

Today I am sharing the costumes of Testament of Youth, one of my favourite period films, in part three of my series of film fashion inspiration! You can read the first two posts, about Miss Potter here and Jane Eyre here. Have you ever seen the 2014 film Testament of Youth starring Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, Taron Egerton and Colin Morgan? It is set during the Great War of 1914-1918, and based on the memoir by Vera Brittain the British writer, feminist and pacifist who lived from 1893 to 1970. Her memoir chronicles her early adulthood during WWI and the interwar years, capturing the experiences of her generation. While it is an extremely heart wrenching story, it is also beautifully told. The costumes in the film were designed by Consolata Boyle, and I love how they give such an insight into Vera’s character. Here are some of my favourite fashion inspirations from her costumes which span the pre-war to post-war years.

Vera Brittain wearing a blue coat with an embroidered lapel and a matching beret

In her memoir, Vera Brittain speaks of her love for stylish clothing and beautiful fabrics, and she includes passages about her garments and accessories. In this film, unlike the other historical films I’ve shared, the main character has an extensive wardrobe filled with many beautiful pieces, and she doesn’t repeat outfits throughout the film.

Vera’s colour palette consists mainly of blues and pinks, with some adjacent colours of purple and mint. She wears mostly pastel shades before the war, and then those colours darken into navy and burgundy during and after the war.

Vera Brittain wearing an embroidered blouse with intricate details

While Vera wears the more simple and streamlined silhouettes of the early 1910’s (streamlined compared to the decade before) the pieces she wears are extremely intricate, and require a closer look to take in all of the details. Many of her outfits contain embellishments to set them apart, whether it’s embroidery at the neckline or lapel, button placement, bias and straight cut pieced stripes, pin tucks or insets of lace.

Vera Brittain wearing pintucked and pieced blouses

Many of the costumes are extant pieces, which really does give a feeling of historicity to the film. However, her costumes are not stuffy at all, and the elegant silhouettes make the outfits much more “wearable”;  I would love to add pieces like these into my wardrobe!

Vera Brittain wearing a blue skirt, white blouse and periwinkle blue cardigan to write her exam at Oxford

While Vera has chosen the path of academia and a serious career in writing (despite her family’s fears that she will become a “bluestocking”) she does not choose this at the expense of her own personal style. She decries the frumpy and ugly clothing of so many of her fellow students and despite the headmistress scornfully asking a fellow professor, after seeing Vera, whether they are hosting an examination or “a debutante’s ball”, she doesn’t give up her enjoyment of clothing to wear what is deemed serious attire. She is definitely what we would call a fashionista, but proves that you don’t have to stop wearing feminine clothing in order to be smart and ambitious.

Vera Brittain wearing a cardigan and a jumper

That being said, Vera does change to some extent what she wears depending on the season and where she is. She wears darker clothing for the city, the original tailored “academia” aesthetic when she’s in Oxford (with her own fashionable twist) and chooses lightweight and less structured pieces for the country.

Vera Brittain layering knitwear and wool for her outfit at Oxford college

Vera’s outfits also contain a great mix of textures with a wide range of fabrics. She wears a lot of layers, often pairing lighter blouses with interesting knitwear and tailored coats on top. She wears a lot of lovely sweaters, or jumpers as they’d be called in England, and unifies these separates through her choice of accessories and colours to create cohesive ensembles.

Vera trying on several different hats before choosing the one to pair with her pink and lace dress

Vera also loves a good hat, and knows the power of a hat to either make or break your outfit. There is one scene in the film where she tries on several different hats before finally selecting one as the perfect finishing touch to her outfit.

Vera Brittain played by Alicia Vikander wearing two great 1910's hats

A good topper can either complete your outfit, or take centre stage and stand out on it’s own as a statement. She wears both statement hats and more restrained hats throughout the film, depending on the occasion.

Vera wearing a light pink and cream lace dress with a matching hat and shawl at the school graduation

Vera also knows that dressing up for an occasion can make it even more special. During one scene, Vera wears a rather too fancy outfit to an event, raising her mother’s eyebrows, but it elevates the mood and sets the tone for what happens. She knows that it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed, and she’ll never be accused of not being dressed for the occasion. I love this idea; even if there isn’t an occasion to wear your fancy clothes, you can make one!

Vera Brittain VAD uniform

Now that I’ve discussed a lot of the beautiful 1910’s fashions, we come to what Vera wears for the majority of the film: her VAD uniform. Vera left Oxford in 1915 to join the British Voluntary Aid Detachment as a nurse. While we might look at her uniform today and think it looks rather nice compared with modern uniforms, she hated wearing it! Which I can actually understand, as I’ve hated wearing a uniform at past jobs as well, no matter what they were like. Some Volunteers tried to customize their uniforms, which was frowned upon, but there wasn’t really much they could do to personalize it. (Here is an in depth video about the components of the VAD uniforms, by Crows Eye Productions.)

Vera Brittain wearing her VAD uniform on the ward, as well as her outerwear and hat

During this section of the film, Vera leaves most of her personal style to the side, though she still continues to wear some great outerwear and hats; she is able to inject some interest into her outerwear with her berets! The beret is a classic piece for Vera, and she wears them often throughout the film, but I especially love this interesting pleated beret she wears with her VAD outerwear. I’d love to make something like it.

I actually take some inspiration from her wartime costumes too, as keeping separate wardrobes for work and personal time is a great idea.  Even if you aren’t wearing an actual uniform to your job, after a while the clothes you wear to work can start to feel like a uniform, and you won’t really feel like wearing them outside of work. Keeping a small selection of mix and match pieces specifically for your job can make it easier to get dressed in the morning without stress, as well as giving you the chance to save your favourite pieces for when you’re out having fun. Choosing a “uniform” of your own for work can keep the rest of your closet from feeling stagnant, as well as ensuring that you always have a work appropriate outfit ready to go.   

vera brittain wearing her burgundy coat and beret

The latter part of the film, spanning the war and post-war years are understandably a more serious and sombre period, and the costumes are much more subdued. There are a lot of darker colours and pared back ensembles, which reflect the hardships Vera has gone through. Society as a whole, and women’s fashion in particular, changed greatly through the war years, with war jobs and rationing drastically transforming the kinds of clothing that women wore. This film did a great job of capturing that zeitgeist and the film ends right as women’s clothing is heading for even more change in the 1920’s, never to return to what it was before. (For more about how the Great War sparked the Roaring Twenties, this is a really great video, again by CrowsEye Productions.)

Well, this isn’t an exhaustive list of all of the costumes of Testament of Youth, but these are some of my favourites from this film. Have you seen this film, and what did you think of it? What parts of Vera’s wardrobe do you like? Do you wish you could steal any of the pieces to add to your closet?

Vera Brittain as played by Alicia Vikander in the train on her way to her Oxford exams, wearing a light aqua blouse and straw hat with matching ribbon

Wear Vintage Now | Book Review

Wear Vintage Now book by Margaret Wilds with jewelry, shoes a hat and a purse around it

I met Margaret Wilds of the shop DeniseBrain Vintage on Instagram a few years ago. I believe it was through the #myvintagecover challenge that Tanith Rowan and I hosted in 2017 and 2018, and I have been following her blog ever since. (I have linked to her posts in the past here and here) In 2019 Margaret asked me whether she could use one of my photos in a book she was writing. I was, of course, honoured and said yes! I finally was able to buy her book, Wear Vintage Now: Choose It, Care For It, Style It Your Way, just over a month ago, so I thought I’d share a review of it here.

Note: I purchased this book myself, and was not asked to give a review or receive compensation- I just wanted to share it with you all. 

wear vintage now book wrapped in pink tissue paper

Firstly, in terms of the book itself, it came beautifully wrapped in bright pink tissue paper… and I was so excited that I ripped it off before I took a picture- oops! But at least I was able to get a picture of the sticker afterwards. Also, Margaret signed the book for me, which was such a nice touch; I love buying things from small businesses, since it feels like you’re opening a gift.

It is a softcover book, 150 pages, and she did such a sweet cover design (the cover is laminated with a soft touch, velvet finish too). The only critique I have of the book is that I wish the pictures were larger! But I know that would have changed the price of printing…and so I completely understand why they were on the smaller side. I just wish I could have seen even more details!

As for the content, I really liked her premise for the book, “Who can wear vintage? I can’t think of one single person who can’t!” She focuses on several topics: how to find your vintage “look” or “style”, how to shop for vintage online and how to care for your vintage pieces.

In the first section, she shares tips for styling vintage, whether you want to be what she calls a “time traveler” or a “modern/vintage mixer” (which is the category my picture is in!) She then moves on to talking about which pieces to select if you’re new to wearing vintage, and easy pieces to add to your wardrobe first if you’re not quite ready to dive in headfirst. This section is definitely aimed at those who are new to wearing vintage, and I wish I’d had this book 10 years ago when I first got interested in wearing vintage clothing.

wear vintage now book open to the page my picture is on

In the next section she shares tips on how to measure, figure out what will suit you and make wise purchases avoiding pieces that are going to be more of a headache than a joy. With over 20 years of experience in collecting, repairing and selling vintage clothing, she has a wealth of knowledge about buying vintage online. I don’t buy very much clothing online, but armed with her tips, I actually might start doing so.

Since I’ve been following vintage blogs for years, I honestly wasn’t sure whether there would be much “new” information in this book for me, but I really liked her final chapters on “Taking Care of Your Vintage Finery”. She shares a lot of information on fibre content, laundering and stain removal, damage prevention and storage. I learned more than a few new cleaning tricks that I will definitely be using in the future.

And then in the final section she gives some information about vintage reproduction and alternatives to authentic vintage, in case you’re interested in a vintage look, but true vintage is not an option.

Margaret’s love and passion for vintage clothing shines through her entire book, but especially in her last part titled “Wear Vintage and Make the World Brighter” where she says “Vintage fashion is the creative, high quality, thoughtful and beautiful answer to fast fashion. Go forth and wear it well!”

I honestly couldn’t have said it better myself; those are my exact feelings about vintage clothing as well.

If you have any interest in wearing vintage clothing, then this is the book for you. I’m glad that I finally bought Wear Vintage Now because it will be a great reference to have on my bookshelf.

The book is available either through her Etsy shop, or via her website. (I purchased through her website, since the shipping on Etsy was cost prohibitive to Canada).

10 Signature Pieces I’ll Still Love in 10 Years

flatlay of signature pieces in my closet including a straw hat, leather satchel purse, fur coat and mary jane heels

After I wrote my post about minimalism last week, I began thinking about the pieces in my wardrobe that make it through each round of decluttering and realized that some of these pieces have been with me for over 10 years now! Fashion can be a trial and error process of discovering what your personal style is, and what sorts of things you like to wear. In the early years of wearing Vintage, I bought a lot of secondhand pieces that, over time, I discovered didn’t really suit me. I don’t regret those purchases, because they did help me to hone my own style. However, there are some pieces that became instant signature pieces for me…and I am still wearing and loving them years later.

While of course many items I loved have been decluttered from my closet simply because they wore out from daily use (I loved them too much!) I am sharing today 10 of my favourite lightly worn pieces, such as accessories, that I can actually see lasting me for many more years. These are all pieces that have been repeated in outfits on the blog so often you’re probably tired of seeing them, but I just can’t imagine ever getting rid of any of them. They are either staples in my wardrobe or unique vintage finds that make me happy when I see them in my closet, and I love to use them in outfits. While it’s fun to search for new pieces to add to your wardrobe, it’s also nice to have those beloved pieces that suit you so well and have been with you for the long haul. Here are 10 of my favourite signature pieces that I hope to still have and love in 10 years.

cashmere camel winter coat, paired with a fur collar and a blue headscarf

Vintage Cashmere Coat

There is a picture of me wearing this coat in 2014, but I think I got it a year or two before that. I found it at Goodwill for $12 and it originally had a tie belt , which I removed because it gave a very housecoat-ish look. It has such a classic shape that reminds me of a swing coat, even though it’s actually 1980’s, and it has been an absolute staple in my wardrobe. I have waxed eloquent about it before, but when you live in the North, you really do need a warm winter coat. This coat is so warm that I sometimes don’t wear it, because it’s not cold enough outside! I love that it’s a good neutral colour and also coordinates well with the rest of my wardrobe.

the same camel winter coat in 2014 shortly after I bought it

When I bought it, slim and fitted coats were more popular and I remember a young coworker asking me why my coat was so baggy. She always dressed in the trends of the day, so she’s probably now wearing an oversized coat herself. Other than replacing the lining a few years ago, it still looks and feels great and I hope to get a lot more years out of it!

vintage 1967 astra furs faux astrahkan coat

Vintage 1960’s Faux Astrakhan Coat

While on the topic of coats, here is another favourite thrift store find from around the same time…also for $12! The best thing about this faux astrakhan coat is that after I bought it, I found an advertisement for it in a Woman and Home magazine from 1967. Also, because it’s actually faux Persian lamb, it has lasted longer than a real astrakhan fur would have (in this climate, at least).

advertisement in women and home magazine from 1967 for the astra furs coats

I did find a real Persian lamb fur at a thrift store, but it ripped after I wore it a couple of times whereas this one is still in one piece. My camel coat is a practical classic piece, but this coat is my fun statement piece. I don’t wear it very often, it is 55 years old after all, but it works well for either classic or modern pairings.

vintage 1960's navy tulle pillbox hat

Vintage Tulle Pillbox Hat

I found this vintage 60’s tulle hat for $2 at a Goodwill. It was completely squashed out of shape, and was being buffeted around in a basket with a bunch of wallets. I was able to rescue it and steam it back into shape…and it’s still one of my favourites! I call it my “C’mon Daddy” hat, which is very weird, yes, but it reminds me of a hat that the character Helen would wear in the movie Secondhand Lions, and that was one of her lines. It’s such a ridiculous, fluffy cupcake of a hat…and that’s why I love it!

classic white pearl earrings and necklace

Pearl Earrings & Necklace

I received a pair of pearl earrings and a matching necklace for my 18th birthday, and I have worn them an incalculable number of times since then. If I was to choose a signature piece of jewelry, it would have to be these. They are classic and dainty and they go with absolutely everything. While I do have other classic pieces of jewelry, the pearls are the ones I always reach for, and they’ve been in a lot of outfits on this blog too. I don’t wear the necklace as much, but it is also one of those pieces that goes with everything, and will never not be a classic.

satchel style cognac leather purse

Satchel Style Purse

This purse is a newer addition to my wardrobe, but it replaced a similar crossbody style of purse that I had before. I love a classic leather satchel style bag, and this one is a unique and slightly different shape. I searched for a long time online before I found this one on Etsy and I love that it has brass hardware and a real buckle instead of a clasp. That was something that always bothered me about my everyday purse from before- it had silver hardware. I was also able to customize the colour of leather for this purse to be the most perfect cognac brown shade; this is my favourite colour of leather! If this purse ever wears out from daily use, I will definitely be replacing it with another exactly the same.

vintage fur collar layered over a cardigan and paired with an angora beret

Vintage Fur Collar

I took this fur collar off of a ripped patchwork fur coat I found at a flea market in 2013. I wore the coat once, just for fun, but it wasn’t in good enough condition to repair so I salvaged the collar. While it’s kind of strange to have a lapel style collar unattached to a coat, I do wear it a lot because it’s such a nice fluffy fur, and it layers nicely over other coats and sweaters.

vintage fur collar from a salvaged coat

The colour is also a good one for my colour palette. The coat was probably close to 50 years old, so it’s nice I was able to give the collar a second life. (Ps. That picture was taken when I went to see “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” in theatres with friends. I don’t know why I thought it was a good idea to wear a fur- it was so hot! But definitely worth it for style points.)

leopard patterned angora beret

Leopard Printed Beret

I received this beret for a birthday present in 2013, and it has also been featured on this blog a lot. It’s such a great hat since it’s neutral, but because of the leopard pattern it’s not boring. Somehow leopard is a neutral; I don’t know why, but it is, just like jeans. This one is by Parkhurst and is angora so it’s also nice and warm for winter. I wear this hat more than any of my other berets because it’s so easy to wear and still coordinates perfectly with my wardrobe- even after 9 years of changes!

blue and navy silk scarf from ten thousand villages

Ten Thousand Villages Silk Scarf

You just can’t go wrong with a classic silk scarf. This one was from Ten Thousand Villages and was made in India. Navy and blue is a classic colour for me and I like the monochromatic scheme of this one.

blue and navy patterned silk scarf from ten thousand villages tied as a turban

I have several nylon scarves, but silk ones are much nicer since they have “grip” so you can tie them in different ways, or use them as turbans and they stay without slipping. It’s a dressy scarf, but can also work well for more casual outfits.

niquea.d straw hat with a bow detail, black straw lining and brim that flips up or down

Niquea.d Straw Hat

I don’t know if I could decide on a favourite straw hat, but I’ll share this one since it was one of my first and it is a unique one with a black and natural brim, straw hat band and gathered silhouette. It’s the perfect hat for shading from the sun. I bought it just before we went on a holiday in 2013, (in a stationery shop of all places; I guess they figured that the same people who liked stationery would also like hats…and they were correct) but the hat had to stay in the car at the airport while we were gone. I was afraid someone would steal our vehicle while we were away…but I wasn’t concerned about the van, just the hat!

black miz mooz mary jane high heeled shoes

Black Mary Jane High Heels

I was really trying to decide between my Mary Jane’s and my Oxfords, since both are staples in my wardrobe, but I eventually decided that the Mary Jane heels are more of a signature piece for me. I’ve had this pair for 7 years and they replaced a pair of patent faux leather heels from before. I had that pair since I was 17 or 18 and I loved them so much I even sketched a picture of them. They were my first real pair of high heels and they were so classic; they went with everything! The thing I love about the Mary Jane style is that the strap makes even a modern heel style look more vintage. These shoes work well for all seasons and are very versatile. Even though I can’t wear high heels as much as I used to, I will be keeping this pair for special occasions. I’m also glad that this pair is leather, because they will hopefully last me many more years!

miz mooz black mary jane high heeled shoes

Well, there are ten of my favourite wardrobe items that I’ve had for close to ten years and hope to still have in ten years time. Some of them are vintage, some of them aren’t, but all of them are definitely tried and true pieces!

What signature pieces have you had in your closet for a long time? Or are you still looking for tried and true pieces like this to add to your wardrobe? 

All Manner of Hats, From My Fashion Scrapbook

large white hat with a rolled up brim in the front

Along with the warm weather, comes the time to wear summer hats, starting with the Easter bonnet, of course. While I did wear a hat for Easter this year, it’s been featured on the blog before, so I didn’t post it again. Instead, how about we take a look at some of the hats and hair accessories I have saved in my fashion scrapbook? Many of these are from wedding magazines, but could be easily worn for other occasions. I was so inspired when looking through these: now I want to go and make some flower hats! In the past I have made flowers and headbands, but they’ve always been a bit smaller…I really think it’s time to make some large statement flowers!

Above- one of my favourite hats featured in a UK wedding magazine, wouldn’t this be so perfect for an outdoor wedding?

Speaking of oversized flowers, here are two lovely ones. I think these would be fairly straightforward to make. I should try…

large chiffon flower hair accessory

oversized chiffon flower fascinator

These pink hats, below, were probably the first pictures to start me on my vintage fashion journey. I think they were by Lilliput Hats from about 15 years ago. I’ve always been so in love with the colour and shape of them. So perfect for Spring!

pink floral and velvet and netting cap hats with veils

pink cap hats with tulle and netting veils

I love these polka dots flowers; these images were from about 12 years ago. That shape of hat was super popular back then, wasn’t it? I think one of the first hats I ever bought was a tan wool hat very similar to this.white house black market hat and floral hair accessory

large statement hats for a wedding

Here are a few wedding hats and accessories, that could definitely be worn elsewhere. Again, with the oversized flowers, the left one above is so fun! And on the right, I love the exaggerated tilt shape.

wedding hats for outdoors

wedding hats

I really like the tilt on this one, above right, too.

60's inspired wedding with little fascinator hat

Here is a fabulous hair accessory/hat/fascinator worn by Oprah in Vogue 1998, featuring flowers and feathers for an amazing theatrical look!

dramatic theatrical hat oprah vogue 1998

flower crown by Free People

And finally, no round up of hats is complete without the classic, but nevertheless fabulous, oversized straw hat.

two large oversized natural straw hats

What kinds of hats do you like to wear in the Spring and Summer? Which one of these is your favourite? Are you inspired to try creating some large flowers to dress up some hats and headbands?

In the Dark Mid Winter, From my Fashion Scrapbook

Lady wearing a beautiful boucle wool coat standing in front of a stone bridge

I know that many people don’t like the cold and dark of winter, but I can’t bring myself to hate the season. As much as I sometimes find the cold and snow to be too much, I also can’t imagine living without four distinct seasons. Though perhaps I could do with a bit more daylight…

Each season has it’s own unique fashion needs, and winter is the one where all of the lovely outerwear can shine! Here’s a peak at some of favourite magazine tear sheets that I have saved in my fashion scrapbook, all featuring some gorgeous winter appropriate pieces!

lady wearing an embellished coat and a giant feathered hat

Both of these images above are from a Vogue magazine- I think they are both from the same 90’s one. I love the detail of the garments and the elegance of the photography.

ladies wearing dyed furs

There’s no better time to wear fur than in the winter! ladies wearing embellished and dyed fur coats

This is one of my favourite fashion ads, found in another Vogue magazine, for all the elegant yet still fun fur coats! I’m not sure I would call new furs a “responsible choice” as the ad claims, unless I knew for sure where they were coming from, but I definitely love the wearing of vintage furs. The leopard printed one below is gorgeous. I would love to find a good 1960’s leopard print fur coat someday….

ladies wearing fur coats in a field

Wool is another fibre perfect for cold weather and these pieces below are so interesting. That dress with an integrated cape is gorgeous!

ladies wearing wool capes and outerwear

lady wearing a camel wool jacket and matching skirt

Finally, some dramatic silhouettes for the winter months! I do love the look of black opaque tights paired with a simple skirt and blouse.

two ladies with dramatic silhouettes for winter wear

Well, that’s all for today. Which is your favourite? Do you like to collect magazine tearsheets?