vintage

An Ode to the Twenties

portrait of nicole dressed up in the 1920's style

The 1920’s seem like they are eighty years ago to me; I always count years from the year 2000 and then, to my surprise, I remember that I have to add twenty years to that total….do you ever have that problem? Of course, if it really was 2000 I would only be nine years old, so I’m not sure why that catches me off guard every time.

The 1920’s is an era that has always intrigued me, as a season of transition in the Western world, though it’s not an era that I’ve ever worn myself, apart from a few cloche hats. The twenties boyish silhouette doesn’t work for me, but I love the streamlined, yet detail oriented clothes from this time period- especially the evening wear and hair accessories! While it’s not an era that I would want to live in, or incorporate into my wardrobe today, one hundred years later it is fun to immerse myself in it every once in a while. I wanted to do this photoshoot last year, for the debut of 2020, but it didn’t end up working out. It’s still the “twenties” for the next nine years, though, so I am posting it now!

Are you drawn to the styles of the 1920’s? Do you want to see a comeback of the designs from that era? 

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! 

A Fashion Moment With McCall’s Treasury Of Needlecraft: Cardigans

Vintage buttoned 1950's sweater with an emblem design

We are back today with some more beautiful fashion pictures from the McCall’s Treasury of Needlecraft…after a three year absence!

My goal/ task this year is to go through my external hard drive and sort every file and folder…yes this is a year long task, because it is an absolute mess. Computers that crashed and all of the files dumped on there in a jumble, then I started to blog but didn’t have a system in place for how to organize the photos, then I was lazy and didn’t go through the photos I had taken and cull the blurry ones etc….resulting in a complete disaster! So, I’ve been slowly going through that, and I came across a folder with pictures from the Treasury that I had never posted. Here we are today with the first batch, a collection of knitted and crocheted cardigans, and I’ve got two more posts for the future. Hopefully I won’t let three years pass before posting them again! Enjoy!

a boxy open vintage cardigan

a open lace patterned top under a dark blazer

This would be a really pretty and classic workwear look. It would be a nice way to add a vintage touch to a more modern office setting.

a vintage style ski sweater with buttons, at the slopes

Not only is this one fabulous- but look at her entire ensemble! So much classier than sportswear of today, although her goggles are hilarious.

a vintage boxy coat/cardigan for a day out shopping

This Warm Knitted Topper looks like the perfect thing to wear come Fall, when the days are crisp, but not quite cold enough for a jacket.

Vintage twinset with an embellished detail along the front opening

Such a pretty way of elevating a simple twinset.

fitted cardigan with a checkerboard pattern

a gingham checked buttoned vintage cardigan

a boxy open cardigan with a foldover collar and a pocket

I like the pattern in this one; it adds a nice bit of texture.

a vintage 1950's style bolero

Also the texture of this one is really nice! I love how this is boxy, but ends at the waist so it doesn’t obscure the waist. Boxy sweaters are nice, but can often drown.

a casual bomber style knitted sweater

I like the bomber/army style shape of this sweater. Again, the waist definition is nice and keeps it from being too big overall.

a batwing sleeved asian inspired vintage bolero

Lastly is this bolero- I’m not sure that I like the shaping seams/details on the shoulders, but I do like the overall shape. Maybe in a softer yarn would be better though…

What do you think? Which is your favourite?

(Ps. In the past, I have had people ask if I would be willing to share the patterns for these, and the answer is yes! If you’d like the pattern for any of these cardigans, just send me an email and I will gladly send it to you!)

Using Accessories to Change Up Your Look

1970's inspired summer look

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.

1920's inspired outfit

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.

1940's WWII style outfit

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”.

1940's ladylike styled outfit

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.

1960's inspired outfit

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.

1940's style picnic outfit

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!

1970's inspired sundress outfit

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!

1920's Inspired outfit