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Part 1: Understanding Vintage Fashion August 31, 2009

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Fashion, Vintage.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Vintage fashion has become quite the trend recently. Wearing beautiful clothes from the first time they came in fashion is both a social and economic statement, and of course one that often means your look and clothes are more unique than anyone around you. My wardrobe is packed with vintage items, and I avidly read the blogs of vintage fashion sellers and beautiful vintage experts who live the truly vintage life from day to day.

Whilst many people are committed to wearing “true” vintage, I am happy to combine the then with the now, and enjoy exploring the combinations of eras that can result in an off-the-wall and interesting vintage looks, the likes of which won’t have been seen before. However, whilst I am not a religious vintage follower, I do think it is worthwhile knowing a little about the eras that you are emulating to understand the thoughts and beliefs that inspired such iconic styles.

So why is it worth paying attention to the history of the clothes you are wearing? After all, they are “just clothes”, and although they are old and pre-worn it is not necessarily obvious why you should care. And let me just say that I don’t believe you “have” to understand their origins to appreciate their vintage beauty, their master craftsmanship and even to admire the people from whence they came. A little knowledge, however, always makes me feel closer and more personally involved with my vintage clothes, and for me it is the complex history and backstories of an era that make my vintage wardrobe all the more special.

Let’s a have a quick sum up of some of the most popular vintage clothing eras and a tiny overview of the history that bred these clothes and chose these fabrics! Half today, and half another day!

1920's fashion flapper feather boa

First off, I am going to start with the 1920’s. This era produced the beautiful beaded “flapper” gowns we know and love today – astonishing detailed marvels with straight lines and lots of glitter. Accentuated with feathers and an old fashioned equivalent of the scull-cap, this is an era of art deco beauty, independent women and amazing parties. The women’s rights movement saw women beginning the long journey towards equality, and witnessed women wearing trousers and comfy clothes as opposed the sculpted crafted looks that had proceeded it. Even more remarkable, women began to cut their hair short and wear the early mini-dresses above the knee.

1930's bias cut dress fashion

Come the 1930’s the great depression and general difficulties of life dictated that the carefree and dramatic styles of the 1920’s become more conservative and traditional. Longer skirts, cloche hats and elegant high-waisted skirts became the domain of the day-to-day woman far more than the risque stylings and intentions of the decade before. In the evenings, however, women grew to love two brand new styles, the bias cut that emphasised the hips and brought back the womanly shape, and the halterneck that was seen for the first time in chiffon or lace evenings gowns. Interestingly, women in the day time began moving both in feminine directions and more butch styling, with emphasised shoulders and broadness prided alongside womanly curves.

1940's suit fashion nicole kidman

Post-war 1940’s fashion saw a whole new kind of style again. Wartime rationing and general depression inspired make-do-and-mend intentions, and women often made their clothes at home from whatever materials were available. Times were hard and fabrics less than luxurious, generally taking on muted colour schemes and severe tailoring. With women working for perhaps the first time in roles that the country depended on, functional conservative items were de rigour, with smart sensible shoes and understated curves. 1940’s suits with their nipped in waists and delightful cuts are some of the best women’s suits ever made, although they suit the super skinny like Nicole Kidman best!

1950's fashion full skirted dress and parasols

Interestingly, 1950’s vintage fashions saw quite a dramatic change in the silhouette of women’s fashions and body shapes. Discarding the straightup and down wide shouldered suits, the 1950’s instead opted for full figured hourglass shapes, with round hips and tiny waists. Permed hair, wide swing skirts and elegant housewife halternecks were impressively popular, seeming to emphasise a well fed nation rather than the war-torn nation for the 1940’s. Rock and roll became wildly popular and women were sent back to the home, as men returned to the jobs women had been covering. A time of dancing and jiving, the 50’s had a surprising amount of repression and stress for women’s lives.

Read Part 2, 1960’s to the present day!


1. Part 2: Understanding Vintage Fashion « A Typical Atypical - September 2, 2009

[…] Part 2: Understanding Vintage Fashion September 2, 2009 Posted by Lauren Cooke in Fashion, Vintage. Tags: 1960's fashion, 1970's fashion, 1980's fashion, 1990's fashion, Fashion, vintage, vintage fashion trackback Read Part 1: Understanding Vintage Fashion […]

2. Lizzie - September 2, 2009

Great overview of these fashion eras!

Lauren Cooke - September 2, 2009

Thanks Lizzie 🙂 It has helped me to understand them better too!

3. Links a la Mode : Style Within Means | THE COVETED - September 3, 2009

[…] A typical Atypical – – a summary of vintage eras and style history […]

4. Birdie - September 3, 2009

OOOH! Vintage Fashion….

I think one of the reasons it’s so prominent is because it combines classic styles with detailed and well constructed workmanship. Vintage fashion is so the antithesis of all the throw-away or fast-fashion retail chains (F21 anybody?) – it holds up after more than two washes and a lot of it is wearable for more than one season.

Lauren Cooke - September 3, 2009

Hi Birdie – You are so right! It is that proven logevity and the superior quality that mean these looks are not only fashionable, but won’t break or die after a matter of weeks!

5. Links à la mode – 3rd September 2009 | // Fade to #C5C5C5 - September 3, 2009

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7. ...loveMaegan - September 3, 2009

great post! I adore vintage.

8. Links à la Mode: The IFB Weekly Roundup | Independent Fashion Bloggers - September 3, 2009

[…] A typical Atypical – – a summary of vintage eras and style history […]

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12. Alice - September 5, 2009

Hi! A typical, typical/

Love this post about vintage fashion, in fact it really goes hand in hand with my small handtailored collection. I would like to swap links with you:

My Link text: Alice fashion blog & fashion news

My link: http://www.hotcakefashion.com/

Just contact me/ hotcakefashion(at)gmail.com when the link is up and running and I will add you a.s.a.p

Take care and keep up the good job! Alice hotcakefashion.com

13. Links à la Mode – - September 5, 2009

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16. Kristen - September 8, 2009

I love the 20’s fashions. It is so important to have a little knowledge of history in general. Thanks for a great post.

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19. Fajr | Stylish Thought - October 22, 2009

Great series, I’m reading them back to back! All the information onf vintage time periods is great, especially because vintage is so trendy right now. I love that you write that for social and “economic” reasons because that’s why i started wearing vintage (when i was younger) and have grown to love the uniqueness and history that comes with wearing vintage!

20. nickardo - November 29, 2009

oh my gosh i want to meet some cute men like erik korngold

21. catherine - January 14, 2010

this is a project i need to do so thanks for your help!!!!

22. Maree - January 18, 2010

Hi Lauren
I Just LOVE 1920’s fashion and would love to make the dress that is on you blog. Do you have a pattern or know of an an internet sight where I can buy such patterns. I make all my own clothes and have some of the most gorgeous clothes which unfortunately no longer fit me because I have stacked on the weight due to recent tragedies n my life.

I want to make a 1920’s dress, preferably 3 sizes too small to give me the incentive to lose weight and then go out out and find myself a hot handsome cougar. I would love the cougar to be Helmut Lotti, but I think I may have set my sights a little too high (for the record HL is a drop dead gorgeous dutch singer).

Love to hearfrom you

23. Naalia Strelchenko - January 31, 2010

thank you for an intereting article!
I am a musician , and you can read about me on http://www.nataliastrelchenko.com/test
I was searching for some pictures of old fashions from 1920s and have found your article on the internet, and I think to use it as an analogy for my article about the rhetoric in classical Romntic Ppiano Practice, presumably fr Early Keyboard Music Magazine – something completely different that what you do :-). I thought just to use some of these pictures here to exemplify visually how changeable is our aesthetic, and then to go in depth of he musicological issues.
Is it ok for you that I use some of these pictures and refer to your article? Could you send me your CV so I know a bit more about you?
Best wishes

24. Make me a… 1960’s Mod Gal « A Typical Atypical - March 21, 2010

[…] Part 1: Understanding Vintage Fashion […]

25. anonymous - April 8, 2010

i thoguht that 20’s fasin would be ugly and unfasionable but then when i saw the pictures i hey i would wear that . its really pretty .

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28. Bec - May 25, 2010

I love your blog! I find vintage fashion so glamourous and inspiring and so much more meaningful than some of the throw-away fashions of today. But then again, I guess in future times, people will look back on the ‘noughties’ and whatever this decade will be called and think the same thing.

I’m studying history at school and would just like to point out that women also were quite prominent in the work place during WWI (they worked in munitions factories, in many government organisations, on the land- for example, the Women’s Land Army in Britain- in transport, in light industry, as nurses) not just during WWII which must have had some kind of effect on the fashion of the time. Their role in the work place contributed to women over 30 gaining the vote in Britain in 1919 and in many other countries as well and because women had more money available to them from their work, they started to go out more independently to shop and run errands and it became more acceptable for women to drink and to smoke. However, once WWI was over and the men returned the majority of women in the workforce were replaced and the notion that women belonged in the home returned, although perhaps not as strongly as before. But as a result of WWI, there were more women in more areas of the workforce and society had undergone the beginnings of many social changes, but it would take another world war before they really were embraced.

so yeah, thats it
thanks for the awesome blog 🙂

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