fashion

How to Refashion a Hat

a woman wearing a white and black leopard printed sweater and a black wool fascinator hat with a flower

Today’s post is a revamped edition of one I wrote several years ago as a guest post for Jessica of Chronically Vintage about how to refashion a hat. I came across it again recently and decided that I wanted to revisit it with some new photos and give it a home here too. And, since Easter is this weekend, it’s the perfect time to share these techniques and inspiration in case you have a hat that you’d like to refashion! 

I don’t actually own very many true vintage garments, and many of my “vintage” garments are actually ones that I have sewn myself or altered from thrift store finds. I mostly rely on making or refashioning clothing to give it a vintage vibe (whether that means adding embellishments, changing buttons, hemming to a better length or altering the fit) and then adding in accessories for the final touch to get that vintage look.

The sad, but true, reality of vintage is that there is a finite amount of it left in the world, and as time goes on it just gets more and more scarce and, thus, unaffordable for the average person. This definitely doesn’t mean that those who can’t afford or find true vintage have to miss out on this fashion style, though! Just as with any other trend or style, as in centuries past, women have made for themselves what they couldn’t afford to buy or couldn’t find in the shops, and I live by this principle today too. Thrift stores are great places to rescue cast off pieces of clothing or accessories and then refashion and embellish them so they’ll fit your own style. 

Hats are great accessories for really pulling an outfit together, but sometimes it can be hard to find good hats that are not in disrepair (shattered veils, stains, moth holes…) and putting together a hat collection, when a hat that is in good shape costs a lot, is just not feasible for many of us hat lovers. This is why I have turned to making and refashioning hats: so I can get that unique vintage look, without spending a lot. If you pick up mildly damaged or ugly/boring hats that have potential, and are willing to use your creativity to alter them, you can easily build a hat collection for a fraction of the cost. This also gives you a chance to try out different styles of hats and see whether you like them before investing in the “holy grail of all hats” (whatever that might be for you). When I first started getting into wearing hats, I invested in some beautiful vintage ones that I didn’t end up liking on me. For example, over time I’ve discovered that I like my hats to have a higher crown like 1960’s style pillbox hats, rather than the flatter Juliet cap style of the 1950’s. I learned this the hard way, after I had already bought several beautiful vintage hats, and I ended up having to sell them because I just never wore them…at least they went to new loving homes! Now that I have an idea of what kinds of hats I like to wear, though, when I see one for sale at antique malls or second hand shops, I have a good idea of whether it will make a good candidate for refashioning.

My checklist for hats that I would be willing to take a chance on or pass by would be:

  • A hat that is not smashed out of shape, unless you think it can be steamed back into shape. If the hat is very crushed, it’s not going to turn out well. If you decide to try and reshape it, you’ll need some kind of hat form to do so, depending on the style of the hat.
  • One that doesn’t have large stains on it, unless there is some way to cover them up with new embellishments without it looking odd. While I don’t mind some “character”, I don’t want it to look dirty.
  • If the veil is torn, which is very common, see if it could be removed entirely. Most hats will look totally fine without a veil. Also, you can still buy Russian netting at many fabric stores, so you may be able to simply replace the damaged veil with a new one.
  • If the hat is lacking in embellishments, or the current ones are ruined, you can definitely make new ones (one example I am going to share today).

an ugly hat

I picked up this little black felt hat for a song, from an antique store, along with a couple other hats that really needed some help. I remember seeing this hat several years ago in West Edmonton Mall (I recognized the label) so I know that this hat is not actually vintage. When I saw it new, I thought the embellishment on it was so boring that I passed on it. It seemed like they had a good thing going with the veil and the leaves. . . and then ran out of ideas, so they just plunked a little brooch on top. However, when I saw it for sale second hand, in good condition and at a much better price point than it was new, I picked it up thinking, like Lydia from Pride and Prejudice, “Look here, I have bought this bonnet. I do not think it is very pretty; but I thought I might as well buy it as not. I shall pull it to pieces as soon as I get home, and see if I can make it up any better.”

philip treacy's 2015 collection mint green hat with a chiffon pompom on top

Soon after buying this hat, I came across this image from Philip Treacy’s Autumn/Winter 2015 collection, and absolutely fell in love with it. In case you are wondering who Philip Treacy is, he is a UK milliner who counts the Royal Family among his clients. I absolutely love this hat: it is so outrageous and over the top, and really what’s not to love about mint? As soon as I saw it, I started thinking about how I could make something similar, and I decided that a large flower on this hat base would be just the thing.

Here is how I created the flower, and how I styled the finished hat for an updated 1940’s look.

I made my flower out of chiffon, since we had a bunch left over from a past project. You could use stiffer organza too- which would give you the rounder pompom shape that Treacy’s has, or tulle or netting, which would be softer. I cut out a ton of circles, 5 inches in diameter. You will need 30-50 circles depending on the material and stiffness, and how full you want the flower to be. Don’t worry about being too precise, as the edges will be melted and the pieces will be gathered for the final flower. And definitely do cut your circles through several layers at once, to save yourself time!

singeing the edges of chiffon circles to finish them

I didn’t want the fabric to fray to pieces, so I singed the edges to finish them. Singe the fabric by CAREFULLY holding the material over a candle until the edges start to melt and curl. Be very careful with this, since you are holding a meltable material over top a flame!

You will need to hold the fabric about 6 inches away from the flame and slowly dip in and out and across so the heat starts to curl it. You don’t need to bring the fabric very close, otherwise the heat will start melting the entire circle, rather than just the edge. (Voice of experience. . . ) You should probably do this in a well ventilated area too, by the way. 

folding chiffon circles to make a flower

Once you have singed the fabric, you will be left with curled lily pad shaped petals. Take a circle and fold it into quarters. Stitch through the corner of the folded piece, catching all 4 layers, and loop to tie a knot so it won’t pull through the fabric. 

Continue to string together the folded circles using the same method, until the flower is at your desired fullness.

stringing chiffon petals to make a flower

Once you get a fuller shape, you can gather some of the centre petals so they are fuller, as the soft fabric likes to “flop”. If your fabric is stiffer, you can continue stringing until you get a pompom shape. For mine, with the softer chiffon, I gathered the entire flower together in my hand and stitched through the entire bottom of the flower to give it some shape. Just play around with the fabric and arrange it into a nice shape- there isn’t a hard and fast method.

gathering the chiffon circles into a petal shape

If your flower is softer and going to lay open, you can sew a button, a bead or other embellishment in the centre of the flower to cover up the stitching. If your fabric is stiff, you can just keep adding to it and you will get a lovely round shape and won’t need a button at all.
Sew a little round felt disk to the bottom, to keep the flower in shape. If possible, do not glue the flower onto your hat, since the glue may seep through the light fabric. 
sewing the flower onto the hat

Sew the flower onto the hat with cotton, or other natural fibre, thread. If possible, don’t use a polyester blend thread, as over time polyester can cut natural fibres, and you will be left with holes. You could also add a brooch pin to the felt disk, instead of sewing it directly to the hat, so it is removable, in case you want to use the same hat base for multiple embellishments. And then you’re done!

woman wearing a black felt hat with a large flower on it

I don’t have a before picture of this hat on my head, because it was severely unflattering, but here is the after! A giant flower is really what this hat was missing. Mine turned out a lot smaller than I was originally planning for and less pouffy because of the fabric I chose, but I think it works well for the style of the hat. By simply adding some embellishment, this hat is now completely transformed! 

Here are some other ideas for how to refashion a hat with a different look, which might work for you if a giant pompom/flower isn’t really your thing. 

Vogue patterns

From Chapeaux Élégants, 1942

  • Bows. I’ve seen this kind of hat with a giant stiffened bow, upside down bows, bows made out of contrasting fabric or coordinating, ribbon bows, right side up bows or a myriad of smaller bows…the sky really is the limit when it comes to bows. I’d really like to make a giant sculptural bow one of these days! 

  • Loops and twists made out of wool, or sculptural ribbons. This is a really simple, yet architectural embellishment. I’ve also seen where the wool is looped back onto itself in all sorts of different shapes. This is a much simpler hat decoration, but one with a lot of impact. If you can find a similar colour of fabric, or a contrasting colour, this is a very easy embellishment to create.

Sears Catalogue 1947/48

  • Feathers. You can use smaller feathers, or even large curled ones. I have a pheasant feather that I want to steam into a curled shape and attach to a hat, but I haven’t got a hat yet to put it on!

  • A cluster of artificial flowers. You could either group purchased flowers, or make your own ribbon or fabric flowers. I’ve seen so many different types of flowers on hats, it all depends on what you plan to wear the hat with.

If you’re looking for some hat inspiration, here are my favourite places to look:

  • Online vintage shops. This is a great place to look for true vintage inspiration.
  • Pictures of the Royal Family, the Duchess of Cambridge in particular, who are often seen sporting beautiful hats.
  • Allport Millinery is an Australian milliner with such amazing hats- her website is just full of gorgeous pieces.
  • A new-to-me designer, Rachel Trevor-Morgan Millinery, who I stumbled across while browsing on Pinterest.
  • Of course, we can’t forget Philip Treacy, where I got my original inspiration from.
  • And if you’d like to see more “hatspiration”, I’ve created a Pinterest board of the lovely hats I come across while browsing!

woman wearing a black wool skirt, leopard print sweater and a black hat with a veil and flower on the top

I love how this hat turned out; I’ve styled it in many ways over the past few years. This outfit I paired it with is one that definitely has a Classic vibe to it, rather than overtly vintage, but I’ve worn the same hat here and here before. It’s quite a versatile accessory! 

I hope this has inspired you to look at the garments and accessories you have, with an eye towards how to make them work for you. Maybe it will inspire you to pick up that ugly hat or other item you would usually pass up in the thrift store, and refashion it to become your new favourite piece. Maybe all it needs, like this hat, is a new embellishment!

woman twirling outside

woman walking away outside wearing a skirt, sweater and hat

Personal Style | Creating A Signature Colour Palette

painted signature colour palette

Continuing with my Personal Style series, today’s post is about how you can use colour theory create a signature colour palette for your wardrobe, that is perfect for you.

To read Part One, all about creating your own unique style description, click here. 

USING COLOUR THEORY TO PERSONALIZE YOUR WARDROBE

Partway through last summer I really got into researching colour “seasons”. I’m sure you’ve probably heard of this method, since it’s been around since the 80’s, but basically it is a theory that each person falls into a “season” or colour palette that compliments their natural skin tone, hair colour and features. The seasons are Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, just like in nature, and each of those four seasons are further broken up into “Light”, “Soft”, “Bright” and “Dark” categories.

I’d never given it much thought before, but decided to look into it further after I had gone through my past blog posts and started thinking about why I didn’t like some of the outfits today, even though I had liked them at the time. That got me thinking about colour theory and whether I should go about creating a signature colour palette for myself.

Now, I have not actually gotten “typed” by a professional, nor have I actually put all of the results of my colour theory self-quiz into action. I have simply used these guidelines as a useful tool to help me create a wardrobe that I am excited to wear. Of course the great thing with fashion is there are no rules! I’ve used the colour seasons advice to help me filter out all of the excess and figure out what I want my own personal colour palette to be.

To begin with, as I was looking through some of the older posts that I didn’t like, I realized that part of the problem was certain colours I had chosen. After looking into it and taking a self quiz, I discovered that I am either a Soft Summer or a Soft Autumn. I can’t decide which, so I chose to put myself right in between both! Either way, you can “borrow” from neighbouring palettes, so it doesn’t really matter, and the most important takeaway for me is that I am a Soft season. This series of posts by Anushka Rees (the author of The Curated Closet), is really good for going over the different Seasons and I also really like the blog posts by Elemental Colour for vivid descriptions and examples of the Season colour palettes. I found their posts to be the most helpful in bringing the ideas of colour theory to life.

colour palette for "soft summer" season

So, what does it mean to be a Soft season? Well, I have very low contrast between my hair, skin tone and eyes. If you were to turn a photo of me into black and white, it would be mostly greys instead of clear black and white tones. How this relates to colours means that the Soft seasons look best in a soft, muted and earthy palette rather than in bold, clear colours. I always used to say that I liked colours that had “a bit of mud in them”, and it turns out that those are actually the best colours for my skin tone and hair colour. For example, I wouldn’t wear Kelly green, but I often wear olive. I’m not drawn to fuchsia, but I love desert rose. I hate royal blue, but love smoky blue…ok, you get the point.

I think that I fall a bit more towards the Soft Autumn palette, because as I looked back through my favourite outfits on my blog, I realized that some of my colour choices need to be a little bit warmed up. One of the reasons why I loved or didn’t love certain outfits was because of the colour combinations; while those colours would look great on someone else, it wasn’t great for me. For example, if I’m wearing navy, I need to warm it up with cognac, instead of pairing it with black accessories or other cool toned colours. If the outfit is too dark or too cool toned, it’s going to wash me out. Here are two such outfits, below, that aren’t my best. They aren’t terrible, but I think that these pink and navy shades would look so much better on someone with a Winter or Spring colouring.

vintage styled outfit

However, I don’t think I fall completely into Soft Autumn either, because some shades of yellow and tans with a yellow undertone make me look yellow. So, even though I love mustard, there are certain shades that don’t look great near my face. I can’t bear to get rid of mustard completely, but I have now relegated it to accessories. Also, I need to keep in mind the contrast of an outfit. In this outfit below, for example, the black and yellow are simply too bold for my muted, low contrast colouring. This particular outfit never really seemed right to me, and I think it is because of that high contrast. Instead of pairing two strong colours, I should have paired the mustard sweater with brown or olive and it would’ve looked a lot softer and I think I would have liked it a lot more. Also, the pink of this dress is so strong on me, as well as being cool toned, and it would look so much better if it was a bit desaturated and a slightly warmer shade of pink. This shade brings the pink tones out of my skin and as a result I look a bit pink while wearing it.

vintage styled outfits with a vintage dress and a sweater and skirt

Figuring out the “rules” of colour theory has really helped me to weed some of the things out of my closet that I wasn’t wearing regularly. Instead of approaching colour seasons as hard and fast rules, though, I have used them more to help me understand why some things weren’t working for me. Rather than going to my closet and saying “this isn’t in my palette, so I need to get rid of it!”, it’s been more of discovery of why something wasn’t working for me. As in the case of that mustard sweater, I had only worn it twice, and both times my outfit didn’t come out quite right. Finding out that dark yellow isn’t in my colour palette was more of an “aha!” moment for me to realize why it wasn’t working, rather than just deciding to get rid of a beloved piece of clothing. Of course, arbitrarily removing things that aren’t “correct”, just because someone said you should, is the exact opposite of how you should approach your closet! You want to love and wear the pieces in your closet, and if your Season isn’t one that makes you excited, then you should completely disregard those “rules”.

There are few examples of where I have disregarded these rules. One, this brightly coloured summer dress, below, that doesn’t go with anything else that I own. I only have one pair of white shoes to pair with this dress…and that’s it! I keep wondering if I should pass it on, but I actually do really enjoy wearing it. So what if it’s a bit too white and bright for my colouring and I can’t mix and match it with anything else I own? Another example is that I am, apparently, not supposed to wear black with my low contrast colouring, but it’s actually one of my favourite colours, so I just keep wearing it. I’m not going to go and get rid of my favourite sweaters and skirt and coat, just because they aren’t in my Season.

two photos of different vintage styled outfits

All in all, I mainly used these findings about colour Seasons to help me create my own signature colour palette. In the past, I wasn’t very interested in creating a colour palette for myself, however it can be a really great tool to use as you plan future purchases or sewing projects for your wardrobe. Anushka Rees, has a series of posts about creating a colour palette and Audrey Coyne, who has a really lovely YouTube channel, also talks about the benefits of creating a personal colour palette, and I’d definitely recommend that you check them out for further reading/watching.

Creating a personal colour palette can help when you shop, because you will have a starting point and can easily filter out whatever doesn’t fit in with the rest of your wardrobe.  Even though it might not be possible all the time to find those colours (really, why does every season have three colours to choose from, when we obviously don’t all look good in them!?!) this will keep you from getting distracted with clothing that won’t end up fitting in with the rest of your wardrobe. While I like lots of different colours, sometimes the fact that they didn’t coordinate with each other made it really difficult to mix and match my wardrobe and come up with new outfits using the same items. In essence, the more items of clothing that you have that don’t coordinate with anything else, will result in fewer combinations that you can wear.

For example (to pick an arbitrary number) if you have a 30 item wardrobe, and each item coordinates with the colours of the majority of the rest, you will end up with a lot of possible combinations without repeat. (This is the idea behind capsule wardrobes. I’m not very good at math, so I can’t figure it out, but I know that the number of unique combinations or “permutations” is ridiculously high if you actually do figure it out… )

However, if you have a 30 item wardrobe, but you’ve got a group of 10 items that coordinate, another group of 10 items that coordinate and a final group of 10 items that coordinate, but none of those groups of 10 coordinate with the other groups, then you are going to have a significantly smaller amount of combinations. You actually won’t be able to create as many unique outfits with this wardrobe, as you would with the first example, even though the number of items is the same.

Obviously, if you have lots of clothing, and you don’t want to limit yourself, then you totally could create 3 different coordinating wardrobes of 30 items each, but this isn’t something that I personally have the space for, which is why I initially started on this whole closet evaluation.

Of course, even with creating a signature colour palette, you still don’t have to confine yourself. Like everything else when it comes to fashion, you get to choose the rules you want to follow and which ones you want to break. I haven’t set a hard and fast colour palette for myself, but as a starting point I created this palette of nine colours, using the guide that Anushka shares in her blog post, in order to create a more versatile wardrobe for myself from this point on.

For my colour palette, I chose two neutral tones that I can pair with absolutely anything in my closet and ended up with Brown or Cognac and Cream.

For main colours I looked at which colours I already wear a lot of and chose Tan, Navy/Blue and Cinnamon.

And for accent colours, I ended up adding in the rest of my favourite colours that still coordinate and chose Black, Olive, Ochre and Buff/Peach.

my signature colour palette of 9 colours

I figured out which colours my neutrals were by planning a few outfits, as though I would be packing for a holiday and seeing which accessories I would put with all of the clothes I had picked. I realized that for almost every outfit, I would add either brown, tan or cream. I was a bit surprised to learn that, for me, black is actually not a neutral- it is a colour. Since I wouldn’t pair black with a lot of my clothing pieces, because it would have been too contrasting or too cool, it wasn’t a neutral for me. I ended up moving black into my accent colour section, which does make it a lot harder to shop, but I know that what I want to finish off my outfits with is brown or cognac. For example, when I was looking for my new everyday purse, I knew not to look for a black one because it wouldn’t end up going with the majority of the clothing I have, and I ended up finding a beautiful rich copper brown that coordinates with almost everything I own. (Except for that one bright dress of course!)

Of course, your “neutrals” don’t necessarily have to be neutral colours and could be any colour that you would pair with every item you have in your wardrobe. For example, someone might have a red purse and red shoes, and those would become their neutral; able to pair with all of the other colours in their wardrobe.

To figure out which were the main colours to include in my palette, I went through my favourite outfits again to see which colour combinations I liked from the past, as well as which colours I am naturally drawn to. Personally, I love neutrals, as this palette reveals! Whenever I’m browsing and I see an Autumnal hued or Neutral toned outfit, I fall completely in love with it. So, for me, choosing my three main colours of tan, cinnamon and a touch of blue was easy.

Finally, I added in my accent colours of even more neutrals with a hint of colour, including black, olive, ochre and buff/peach. I decided to move black to my accent colours, because over time I had fallen into the trap of accumulating way to much of it, which was making it impossible to mix and match. (A black skirt + a black shirt + a black coat + black boots is a little much…) Moving brown and tan into my main colours will definitely result in more versatility of the individual pieces in my closet.

Settling on this palette gives me a lot of different colour combinations. For example:

Cream + Brown + Peach          Brown + Tan + Navy          Cinnamon + Olive + Black

colour combinations for my colour palette

You don’t have to stick to certain number of colours in your palette either. Because I now have an idea of which colours look good on me, I can easily look at colours from outside my specific palette, and decide which others to bring in. As long as you are able to pair it with the neutrals in your current wardrobe, it should be good. For example, I have some lovely soft mint coloured wool in my fabric stash. (it’s not too bright of a colour of mint, so it will work for my Season). Mint isn’t in my personal colour palette, but I know that it will work well with brown and cream, so I am going to keep it, especially since I already own the fabric.

Also, don’t forget that, while it’s great to know which colours you look good in, you also need to choose the colours you like the best. It turns out that the colours and styles I was always drawn to the most often, really were the ones that suit me the best. Go figure! But just because a colour looks good on you, doesn’t mean you have to add it in. For example, grey is a good colour for me, but I’ve realized that I don’t particularly love it, so I’ve removed much of the grey from my closet.

Conversely, if you a love a colour that’s not great for you, keep it in your wardrobe and wear it however you like. I mentioned that black is apparently not the best colour for the “soft” seasons, because it’s too harsh. I, however, have black glasses and I do wear black a lot, and I really like it, so I have no intention of taking it out.

one 1970's outfit and one bookish styled outfit

About 7 years ago, I had a really good colour scheme in my wardrobe. It was filled with lots of neutrals, browns and blues, but then I started wondering whether that was too boring, and I started adding in other colours. In the end, though, I just ended up with a bunch of clothing that didn’t particularly suit my colouring or coordinate well with the rest of my wardrobe. I have gotten rid of so many of those items over time because, while I did like them, I realized that they just weren’t “me”.

There are certain colours that I am drawn to over and over again, and I realized that there was no need to try and reinvent the wheel; I had subconsciously chosen a combination that really worked. Instead of trying everything that you come across, knowing which colours work really well for you can help to clear out the distractions and focus on building a wardrobe that is a true reflection of your own unique style. At the end of the day, however, the most important part of colour theory is in knowing what you love and not getting bogged down in what you “should” or “should not” wear. But if you’re looking to create a more versatile wardrobe, creating your own signature colour palette can be a great tool to simplify things and help you focus on building that wardrobe that you will love to wear!

Have you looked into the colour Seasons before? Which Season are you, and do you follow the guidelines in how you dress? Have you ever created a signature colour palette for your closet?

Thoughts on “Investing” in Clothing, Featuring the Purse of My Dreams

a lady wearing a black vintage style trench coat, satchel and beret

Dare I suggest that the Long Winter is nearing it’s end? With the warming of temperatures in the past week, it feels like it! Of course, we’ve still got a ways to go before Spring, and while that cold snap wasn’t really that long, it sure felt like it! We’ve gone from -38C to + 8C within a couple of weeks, and it has been so incredibly lovely to be able to go for a walk and open the windows for some fresh air and be able to leave the house to take some outfit photos without having to bundle up like a marshmallow. Even though I know that the temperatures will drop again before Spring, it is still worth it to have this small respite!

So, in other news, I’ve been searching for a new “everyday” purse for quite a while. I have been looking for a new one since my other purse started wearing out. (The leather strap was beginning to crack, the metal buckle had broken, and there was a hole forming in the top fold…) I bought that purse five years ago in England and carried it almost every day, though, so that wasn’t too bad, considering that it wasn’t full grain leather.

holding a vintage style satchel purse in copper coloured leather

In looking for a new purse, I didn’t have a definite idea of what I wanted, but I did have a list of requirements.

I’ve realized over the years that, while I do love a good statement bag to coordinate with an outfit, most days I walk or ride my bicycle and a large handbag is just not practical to carry for long distances. I also like having my hands free for when I am running errands or going shopping, so I wanted a crossbody bag.

I also didn’t want the purse to be too big, because while I do want to be able to put everything in my purse, I didn’t want it to become to heavy to carry, or too big to fit in my bike basket. However, I didn’t want it too small, otherwise I would end up carrying a purse and a tote bag.

It also had to be brown or cognac leather and I wanted something in a vintage satchel style, but not too bookish. I wanted something timeless and classic, but not too vintage either, considering what I talked about in my recent personal style post.

I searched for quite a long time, and while I came across a lot of purses, none of them quite ticked all of the boxes until I found this one on Etsy, made by Sunray Family Workshop from Ukraine. It was a bit more than I had originally planned on spending, but I used the money I earned on Poshmark so, as my mom said, it was like I traded a bunch of clothes and accessories that I didn’t want for something that I did! I was also able to get it on sale, so that was nice too.

a lady wearing a vintage plaid skirt and green sweater with a vintage styled purse and beret in the snow

I was nervous about purchasing online, because I’ve been disappointed in the past with online purchases, but my fears were unfounded, as the bag was even better than I hoped it would be. I asked the seller to make it in a darker colour of leather for me, and I love the shape and style of it. It’s so nice to be able to purchase a piece directly from the person who makes it, and it really is a piece of craftsmanship.  I think that this purse was a good investment, and is definitely going to be a good addition to my wardrobe since it fits in with my style description, “unconventional classic with a dash of history” pretty well.

I recently read somewhere (and I can’t for the life of me remember where) that we should stop saying that we are “investing” in clothing purchases, because the value of clothing depreciates immediately after purchasing. You only have to scroll through Facebook Marketplace, or Poshmark or Thred Up to see how much clothing has devalued once it has been worn. Even designer pieces aren’t worth as much as when they are new. Until an item has survived long enough to become “vintage”, it really can’t be called an investment.

lady wearing a vintage styled outfit on a snowy lane

However, I do think that even if we aren’t “investing” in clothing in a monetary way, there is another definition for “invest” that can apply to our wardrobes:

“Devote (one’s time, effort, or energy) to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result.”
We should carefully choose which items we buy and add to our closets, even though that may add a bit of extra bit of time, thought and effort. I think that many of the clothing pieces that find their way to secondhand selling sites or thrift shops were not thoughtful purchases, which is why they are for sale again. (I often even see items with the tags still on!) Perhaps we should coin the phrase “purposeful” or “thoughtful” shopping. I think that it is a principle that most of us could use a bit more of- at least I know that I do!

While purchasing a higher quality item might not be an investment we will have a monetary return on, it may still be one that still has a worthwhile result. Having one higher quality item is always going to be more sustainable than ten cheaply made items because it will last longer, thus reducing the need for so much production. Fast fashion in and of itself is not sustainable because of the model of consumption that it is built upon. For example, vintage clothing is a testament to the longevity of a well made item- garments from the 1960’s will outlast a newly purchased item from Forever21 because of the craftsmanship of the items.

closeup of a vintage styled leather satchel purse with a buckle

Another worthwhile result of investing in clothing purchases, may be in having less items in your closet because the one item you truly love is better than having multiple items that you don’t love as much. I am not advocating for coveting fashion pieces, but if there is one particular piece that you want, then it’s not worth buying something else and being unsatisfied with it. Saving up to buy this one specific purse that ticked off all of the boxes was a better choice for me, than settling for a purse that I would end up decluttering down the road in favour of another because I wasn’t truly happy with it. As I’ve been going through my own wardrobe, I have tried to be careful to not turn around and immediately replace everything I’ve gotten rid of. Instead, I have been taking my time to see which are the items I should be concentrating on, and “investing” in, rather than continuing to have a closet full of clothing (or purses) that I don’t wear.

I have a few more posts coming up related to the topic of personal style and creating a purposeful wardrobe, so I think I will end this post here for today, but what do you think about “investing” in clothing? Have you ever saved up for a long time to be able to finally buy something your really wanted for your wardrobe?

a lady wearing a vintage styled outfit with a plaid skirt, cardigan and beret on a winter day

wearing a vintage styled brown leather purse

a lady wearing a black vintage styled trenchcoat and beret on a sunny winter day

a lady wearing a black trenchcoat and beret walking down a snowy lane

My Favourite Fashion History Books

a tall stack of fashion history related books

The other day I pulled a couple of fashion history books off my shelf for a different post I’m working on, and realized that I actually have quite a library of fashion books. (Disproportionately so, compared to other topics, some might say….) I’ve built up this collection over the years, either purchasing them for myself or receiving them as gifts. As nice as a Google search and Pinterest can be for inspiration, there is still something special about pulling out your favourite books and leafing through the pages.

Today I thought I would share some of my favourite ones along with summaries and thoughts in case you are looking to add some fashion related books to your own library. (I have quite a few, so I’ll do some more posts in the future as well.) First up today are Dress and Fashion History books!

“Decades of Fashion” edited by Harriet Worsley and published by h.f.ullmann 

the cover of the book "decades of fashion"

This square little book is probably the one that started my love of vintage fashion, and was the first vintage fashion book that I bought. While I was at college, someone left their copy of this book out on the bathroom counter one night, and I paged through it. (There was some sort of dress-up event happening, and they must have pulled it out for reference) I never knew whose it was, but I copied down the name of the book and checked it out from the library as soon as I could. After a while, I decided that it would be a good one to own, and even today it is one of my favourite books to page through.

two vintage ladies wearing 1950's dresses

It’s mostly a compilation of photographs from the eras, with a tiny bit of historical information at the beginning of each section. I like being able to see photos of what the couture houses were wearing as well as average people. Don’t be fooled by the ugly cover- it’s actually a really great book! (Also, the original edition had a Missoni photo from the 70’s which was way better- it’s too bad in 2011 they reprinted it with this cover!) This one is 603 pages and spans the years 1900- 2010.

1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s Fashion The Definitive Sourcebookedited by Emmanuelle Dirix & Charlotte Fiell and published by Goodman Fiell

the covers of the three books in the Definitive Sourcebook series

These three books are great resources for these three decades, as they are full of original images and fashion plates. The editors and writer chose to include mainly fashion illustrations from the time, rather than photographs, because they wanted to be able to show how colourful these eras actually were. When you’re looking strictly at black and white photographs, it can be hard to imagine what the colours would have been at the time.

the spines of the Definitive Sourcebook series of books

These are quite thick books at 510 pages, and they are heavy! I originally checked the 1920’s one out of my local library, and then eventually purchased the set of three. They are definitely worth getting if you want original fashion plates for inspiration. While they do have a historical write up at the beginning of each section, these are mostly all about the beautiful illustrations! I wish they had continued with the series and done one for the 1950’s too.

1920's fashion illustrations

1930's fashion illustrations

1940's fashion illustrations

“Everyday Fashions As Pictured in Sears Catalogues” edited by Joanne Olian & Stella Blum and published by Dover

everyday fashions series of books covers

This series of paperback books spans 1900 to the 1960’s and each book is split into sections for each year. This is a good series to be able to see what the average person was wearing during these decades. While looking at couture fashions is a lot of fun, it’s also nice to be able to see which of the trends trickled down to the street. There is a wide variety of fashions shown in these books, from daywear and accessories to evening wear and formal, as well as a small selection of menswear and children’s wear.

covers and one page of the everyday fashions series of books

Each book averages around 100-150 pages, and since they aren’t too expensive, they are a great alternative to buying original catalogues, since that can get pricey. The only downside is that they are printed in black and white, and I think that some of the catalogue pages would have originally been in colour.

full page spread of a vintage sears catalogue

“Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion, 2nd Edition” By Charlotte Mankey Calasibetta, Ph.D. and published by Fairchild

cover of Fairchild's dictionary of fashion

This is a very technical book that my friend gave me. (It was a library discard.) It’s not the sort of book you’d just sit down and page through, but I probably should do just that, since there is quite a wealth of information in it. For example, there are nine pages dedicated just to describing the many different kinds of dresses across the world, or if you’ve ever wondered what an escarelle is, you can find out here. There are also some illustrations and photographs to further illustrate points, and at over 600 pages, it’s a very good educational resource. It’s the sort of book you’d have if you were going to fashion college.

(BTW an escarelle is “a pouch or purse attached to waist or hip belt in the 14th and 15th century into which a knife was frequently thrust”)

a page of definitions from the fashion dictionary

“The Mode in Costume” & “The Mode in Hats and Headdress” by R. Turner Wilcox and published by Dover

covers of the mode in costume and hats and headdress books

Finally, these two are my favourite fashion history books. Written in 1942 and then republished in 1958, these two books cover the history of fashion beginning in the earliest (recorded) days of 3000 BC and going up to 1958 (the year it was republished). Each chapter begins with a historical overview and descriptions and then ends with several pages of illustrations. These illustrations are based on surviving images and real garments, so they are quite historically accurate, and reveal quite a lot of detail. The books cover a lot of ground, but don’t go so fast as to miss out on the smaller trends such as the French “Directoire” of 1795-1799. 

illustrations from the mode in costume book

The books also cover mostly Western/European fashion, but they are split into different countries, since different countries each had (and still have) their own spin on the fashions of the day. The Mode in Costume is 477 pages and The Mode in Hats and Headdress is a bit shorter a 348. These are a great educational resource if you want to learn about the evolution of fashion over the centuries. There is also one about The Mode in Shoes. I haven’t read it, but I’m sure it’s excellent as well.

open page from the mode in costume book

So, there are some of my favourite books for studying and learning about fashion history. With the rise of popularity in vintage fashion in the past few years, the number of books about vintage fashion has also increased; but they are definitely not all equal. I am not a fashion history expert, but I have caught errors in some of the more trendy vintage “overview” style books before. If you are wanting to actually learn about fashion history, these are a good place to start- though they are only the tip of the iceberg! There are so many more books out there…

If you’d like to check these books out, I’d definitely recommend that you look at your local library first. That’s what I did with each of these before I ended up purchasing them. Also, while I did buy the majority of these books new, I am not sure whether they are each still in print, so you can always check at second hand book stores, as you never know what they might have. (I just did a quick search on Thrift Books and Better World Books, and they do have many of these in stock. I’ve never purchased from these online book sellers myself, but I just wanted to give you an idea of where you could look.)

What are some of your favourite fashion history books? Do you have any recommendations for us to check out? I’m always looking for some good new books to read! 

Creating Personal Style | A Wardrobe You Love To Wear

a flatlay of various vintage styled accessories and fashion images related to personal style

Today I am starting a new series of posts all about personal style. Personal style can be a tricky thing to hone, but once you’ve figured it out, it can be a great tool to use to create a wardrobe you’ll love and wear.

Like many other people around the globe, I spent much of 2020 working from home. To my surprise, because I wasn’t going out most days, I realized that much of my wardrobe wasn’t suiting my lifestyle anymore and as a result, I was sticking to a very, very small “capsule” wardrobe, while the rest of my clothing was left forlornly in my closet. (It wasn’t really a capsule- that just sounds fancier than saying I’ve been wearing my favourite harem pants and a t-shirt most days…)

I realized, as time went on, that my “personal style” was maybe not as representative of my lifestyle as I thought it was, so I took 2020 as an opportunity to finally start going through my wardrobe, evaluating it and deciding where I wanted to direct it from here. I read “The Curated Closet” by Anushka Rees several years ago, but had never followed through with a closet evaluation, so I decided that this was finally the time! I also referred to other online resources, and while I don’t want this post to end up being a repeat of what many other talented bloggers and YouTubers have talked about, I thought that I would share the process of how I took these principles and used them to create a better wardrobe for myself. 

I have broken this into several blog posts that I will be publishing over the next while and first up today is how I came up with my personal style “mission statement”, for lack of a better way of putting it.

 

CREATING YOUR PERSONAL STYLE STRATEGY

When I was first getting into vintage style years ago, I used to buy or sew whatever clothes struck my fancy…if it was a vintage piece and I found it at a thrift store, I would most likely get it. If I saw some pretty floral fabric and a vintage reproduction pattern at the fabric store, I would buy it. I didn’t necessarily have any clear idea as to how those pieces might fit into my existing wardrobe, but I was always excited to find something new, especially if it was a great bargain! It’s not as though I ever bought things that were “ugly”; I was always drawn to them in some way or other, but that didn’t always result in pieces that went together or were good additions to my closet.

This method was actually really great in some ways, since it gave me an opportunity to experiment and try out new things (especially if they were lower priced items from the thrift stores -remember those days when you used to be able to find reasonably priced vintage?) but it also resulted in a LOT of pieces that I didn’t wear very often. My closet looked full, but many of the items hanging there were unwearable or un-pair-able for one reason or another.

Thankfully, time has helped me to better figure out what I like and I’ve come to the realization that just because something is cute and vintage, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s “me”. So, while I wouldn’t say that purchasing all of those clothes over the years was a waste of energy and money, it was time for me to move on with a better plan for the future of my wardrobe.

So how do you get from that point, to actually creating a wardrobe that reflects your unique fashion sense and lifestyle while not limiting it and ending up with a boring closet full of what the magazines call “basics”?

Taking a moment (or a lot of moments) to evaluate the “why” of why you wear some pieces and not others in your wardrobe is a great first step because, not only can it help you to figure out your personal style, but it also prevents you from buying similar things in the future that don’t actually suit you.

wearing four of my favourite outfits: a vintage christmas look, a fall outfit with a cape, a simple outfit of a skirt and t-shirt and a winter look with a vintage dress and fur collar.

So, in order to figure out the new direction that I wanted to take my closet in, I first looked through my own blog (it’s very convenient to have a photo log of my past several years of outfits!) and took notes of which pieces I already wear that are my favourites, and are in regular rotation. For example, these outfits above are some of my favourite outfits of all time, and I would wear them again in a heartbeat. Actually I have repeated some of them several times (don’t underestimate a good Tried and True outfit!)

While I was looking back through to see which outfits I liked, I also took note of which ones I didn’t like anymore. I wanted to discover the reason as to why some of my outfits made me feel like a million bucks and others were a bit “meh”. These outfits below, are ones that I don’t think really fit my style today, even though I enjoyed them at the time.

wearing two vintage looks: a gingham pinafore with a peasant style blouse, and a Dior New Look 1950's style dress and accessories

Once I had finished looking through my favourite outfits, it was time to go to my closet. I pulled out the items that I both love and wear.

The key in this is in separating out the things that you are actually wearing semi-regularly, and not just pulling out things you like, but don’t actually ever wear.

I then evaluated the reason I why I liked those pieces. Maybe it was the fabric, the cut, or the colour…?

I then looked at anything I hadn’t worn for a long time, and figured out why I wasn’t wearing it.

  • Was it because it was for a special occasion or out of season?
  • Did it not fit?
  • Did I have nothing to pair with it?
  • Or, was it just because I didn’t actually like it anymore?

Answering these questions helped me to figure out what was already working in my closet, and what wasn’t, which really gave me a foundation to now move on to planning the future of my wardrobe.

Now it was time to daydream as to what my ideal closet would be like. I looked through my fashion scrapbook and images I had saved on Instagram etc., but Pinterest would be a good tool here as well.

I wrote down some random words that I thought described pieces I already own or would like to incorporate in, and came up with descriptions such as “earthy”, “Jane Eyre”, “50’s”, “cotton”, “lace”, “comfortable”, “elegant”, “classic”, “Beatrix Potter”, “floral”, “skirts”, “Bletchley Circle” etc.

personal style collage of inspiration images including vintage skirts, Miss Potter costume, Bletchley Circle costumes, fascinator hat, vintage lace and a pile of fabric

As you can see I took inspiration from many places as this is quite a random list! It’s also quite a mash up of different style aesthetics, but once I narrowed down why I liked each of those things, I was able to blend them together into a sense of cohesiveness.

  • For example, I like the muted tones and simple un-fussiness of Beatrix Potter’s costumes in Miss Potter.
  • I like the silhouette of the 50’s, but I also want the clothes I wear to be comfortable, so I am not thinking of New Look, but rather more casual.
  • I am drawn to the colour palettes and patterns of the costumes in The Bletchley Circle, and I like how wearable the clothes are.
  • I love floral prints, especially historical/vintage ones.

I also narrowed some of my current likes and dislikes:

  • I like skirts and dresses instead of pants.
  • I like to finish off my outfits with hats, but I don’t like it when I have too many accessories.
  • I like fitted garments, yet I still want them to be comfortable to wear.
  • I prefer feminine outfits, but not when they are too fluffy and frilly or too delicate.
  • I like classic elegance, but with a bit of a twist…
  • I like historical touches, but I don’t want to stick to one era.
  • I like fit and flair silhouettes, but don’t like skirts to be too wide or bulky.

It can be really helpful to think through and write out the things that you do and don’t like.

For example, when I have those clearly defined in my mind, and I see a gorgeous pair of cigarette pants, I’m not tempted to get them because I already know that I don’t like wearing fitted pants, even though they look amazing on the model.

Or when I see a beautiful floaty 1910’s Edwardian gown, and am inspired to add those details to my wardrobe, I will know to simplify it a bit, because I don’t like too many frills and ruffles that get in the way. Perhaps instead of adding the 1910’s to my wardrobe via lace and chiffon, I would instead be more inspired by the “college girl” look with wool and tailored details in the same silhouette.

Instead of limiting you, having these parameters for your wardrobe can actually help to filter the good stuff out of all the inspiration that comes your way. And what constitutes “the good stuff” is different for each of us.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t be inspired by new things, or discover different trends you’d like to try out, but when you want to try something new, you can adapt it to fit into your personal style so that you know you’ll love wearing it and it won’t end up buried at the back of your closet. When you know what your own personal style is, it is much easier to adapt those trends to fit yourself, rather than creating a wardrobe that looks perfect…for someone else.

So what did I discover about my personal style through this process?

I came to the conclusion that as much as I love vintage fashion, I don’t like it when I limit myself to only vintage styles. This post that I wrote a few years ago still easily describes my style today: “Modern Girl Goes Vintage”. I love fashion, and from pretty much any era in history I will be able to find something to love. However I don’t want to channel myself into any one particular era or genre. I am definitely still a “Vintage Mixer” as described in this post by DeniseBrain.

woman wearing a vintage and modern styled outfit of a tan circle skirt, navy blouse and a silk scarf turban.

Before I ever loved vintage style, I loved Fashion. That doesn’t mean I always had good style (because I definitely didn’t!) but I loved it. Thus, most of my favourite outfits have been ones that are not too historical. They definitely have that vintage touch, but with a little bit of a clashing element. Maybe it’s a modern styled shoe (such as above) or a piece of fair trade jewelry from India, or mixing a 1960’s style hat with a 1940’s dress…the options are endless.

I’ve also realized that, for me, paring back is best. Some of my past outfits that I didn’t really like anymore was because there was way too much going on. While for some people “more is more”… for me not so much. I don’t particularly love it when I wear outfits with a matching hat, shoes, gloves, purse etc. I do love to make a statement, but I’ve realized that I am actually more drawn to a more classic style than I thought.  I like this quote by Coco Chanel; “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off”.

Also, I like things to be timeless. Some of my favourite pieces are ones that you aren’t quite sure if it’s an authentic vintage piece or not; it doesn’t look quite new, but then it doesn’t look quite old…it falls into a bit of era ambiguity. I guess in a generation of “trends” that come and go almost each week, I’ve never really been one to follow them.

I used to think that creating a style manifesto would be too narrow of a window, that it would limit my wardrobe and take away the fun, but going through this process made me realize that it can actually free you to focus on what you love and filter out all the rest!

I am not very good with coming up with descriptions, but the one I came up with for my style is:

“Unconventional Classic, with a Dash of History”

Your personal style statement could be anything that you are interested in and want to incorporate into your wardrobe.

woman wearing a gathered skirt, straw hat and black lace blouse, standing in a wheat field

How about “Audrey Hepburn at College” or “1930’s Lord of the Rings”? It can be a lot of fun to brainstorm and come up with a description that perfectly encapsulates your style. Of course it can be anything you want, and the best thing about fashion is that it always changes and evolves over time as we change and grow and discover new things. We can always add in new things and take out old things. For example, I used to have two pinafore dresses and I wore them all the time. However, I recently moved both of them out of my closet, since I realized that they no longer reflect my style…and that’s totally OK.

Creating a personal style mission statement is a great step to creating the ideal wardrobe for YOU, not based on what other people like. Coming to an understanding of your own personal style can be extremely helpful in creating your ideal wardrobe and avoiding all the trends and marketing that are thrown at us every day. If you have your own unique style, you can avoid looking like everyone else, and truly enjoy getting dressed because you will feel like yourself.

And if you succeed in defining your own unique style, and you truly love each and every piece you have, you can pull just about anything out of your closet and come out feeling happy!

Have you ever gone through your wardrobe and taken time to evaluate your own personal style?

Have you read “The Curated Closet”, or do you know of any other helpful resources?

How would you describe your own unique style?