How to Wear Vintage Hats – Part 1

I love hats, but often feel overdressed or a spectacle in public because so few people wear hats now. It’s a shame not to wear them when they’re so pretty, or sometimes just fun.

Here, I’ll feature some of my hats styled through the decades. In Part 1 we can look at my inspiration and take on Edwardian, Twenties hats.

My favourite Edwardian inspiration comes filtered through the Sixties in The Assassination Bureau. Miss Winter, played by Diana Rigg, wears some stylish outfits, topped off with tilt, or perch, hats. Look at my post for more about this hat. This style is best with updo’s, as you’ll need hair to pin the hat to secure it. Think of it like wearing a fascinator and don’t take it off indoors. It won’t be in anyone’s way!

There are lots of modern takes in the Twenties, most recently Phryne Fisher. Wide brimmed to brimless, including the classic beret, all require some hair showing at the front to frame the face more softly. Phryne’s Bob is perfection if you have straight hair like Louise Brooks, the original bob trendsetter. If your hair is long, tie most of it up inside the hat, and style the front. Marcel waves or pin curls will scream Twenties starlet. If you can’t tame your hair, channel It girl Clara Bow and embrace the wild curls. A bit of rouge and dangly earrings look great with a cloche hat. Of course, matching a hat to your outfit or accessories pulls a look together.

The beret will take you through any era, but for the Twenties look pull it down to create a bigger shape, like in the photo of Miss Fisher.

Another favourite of mine is Some Like it Hot. Marilyn’s hat in her opening scene as Sugar is beautiful in the style and fit. The feather is perfectly proportioned to the close fit of the cloche hat.

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Marilyn Monroe as Sugar

In Part 2, I’ll show you my Thirties and Forties style hats.

 

 

Thoroughly Modern Millie Loungewear

The current underwear as outerwear fad has a more wearable sister – Loungewear as daywear. Even if you’re not brave enough to wear silk pyjama’s as an evening suit or a flowing dressing gown as a duster coat, don’t miss out on the better high street collection of feminine daywear to create some pretty vintage style loungewear sets.

Miss Fisher has some good examples of Twenties loungewear and the film Thoroughly Modern Millie has some wonderful pyjamas. I especially like the set Julie Andrews wears while wafting down a grandiose corridor.

Matching tops and bottoms is key for a fluid look. Lace or embroidery are beautiful details to look for. Silk is wonderful, but satin is an easy care option. Look for wide leg, floaty trousers and long blouses or tunics that match the bottoms.

Here is my interpretation, styling a dress and trousers from H&M.

The kimono jacket and satin mules are also from H&M, while the black peep toe slippers are Fifties vintage.

There are lots of pretty mules like vintage slippers at the moment, so now is the time to stock up!

Have you found a good place to buy pretty loungewear? How do you mix and match?

 

Vintage and Retro Sunglasses

Vintage dressing always  looks best finished with accessories. Generally, I plan jewellery with my clothes, but with sunny weather here, sunglasses are picked up as I rush out the door. I try to make it simple by having a few pairs (not too many!) that cover the decades I like.

For the Twenties, Thirties and Forties small round glasses were popular. There are some fun frame designs from the Forties, like petals around the eyes to create flowers! Watch Agatha Christie’s Evil Under the Sun (film or ITV) for some great Thirties summer outfits and sunglasses. I love the colourised photo of a young blonde Bette Davis with an icecream.

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Round Thirties sunglasses

Cat eye glasses epitomised the Fifties, from bookish to pin-up. Marilyn Monroe wore a thinner black design that won’t flatter everyone, but I like the wider frames that go to the edge of the face, and up to the eyebrow. Classic black or tortoiseshell goes with everything, but there is plenty of scope for fun. Coloured frames to match lipstick, dresses or accessories were popular, as were diamante details and shapes on the upper edge. Ray-Ban wayferers were worn by Marilyn too, and these are a classic style that’s still popular.

Going into the Sixties, sunglasses got bigger and any shape and design imaginable show up. Generally, bug-eye and soft edged square shapes were popular. Grace Kelly had a huge selection of sunglasses, and that might be a good place to start if you want to have a reference to shapes and styles before you shop round.

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My dream pair of sunglasses are the pair Audrey Hepburn wears as Holly Golighty in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. They have a tortoiseshell framework greenish lenses. These were designed by Oliver Goldsmith. It’s worth checking out some of his other designs too. There are lots of similar designs out there, but if you want the real thing, Oliver Goldsmith reissued a line!

Breakfast at Tiffany's - Oliver Goldsmith sunglasses

This style covers the Seventies owl eyes and modern styles currently popular.

They are well worth it, they met all my expectations. Now I’m scared of scratching them, so I am learning to be glasses conscious, not wearing them on top of my head and always putting them in a hard case when I’m not wearing them.

Here’s my line-up of necessary styles to have a pair for any outfit from the Twenties to the Sixties.

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All these eras are covered by modern styles available to buy on the high street. Now you know what to look for, I hope you find a style you like.

 

Fifties cropped trousers

I love the fit of vintage clothes, that high street brands rarely match. Trousers that fit snug on the waist but actually fit over my hips are difficult to find.

See how nicely Fifties trousers fit, and you’ll be glad to know there are replica vintage brands that fill the need. For example, Collectif, Bernie Dexter, Pinup Girl Clothing, Heyday and Vivien of Holloway.

However, the price tag isn’t always level with the high street because of the work that goes into shaping. Still, they may not match the difference between your waist and hips as they have to size ready-to-wear with an ‘average’ difference. Vintage clothing generally gives a 10″ difference between hips and waist for an hourglass figure, or 12″ appears on my vintage patterns. Let me know if you’re lucky enough to find high waisted trousers with this difference in a high street brand!

I love my replica vintage ladies jeans from Vivien of Holloway. The fit is perfect at the waist and over my hips. This makes them so comfortable, as they just stay put, and don’t require me pulling them up as they stretch. The leg is pretty much a classic straight cut and and the seams don’t twist. The belt loops are fairly big, over an inch, so a belt can be worn. They were sold as rolled up jeans, but i do unroll mine and they come to my ankles. I’m 5’2″, so no supermodel. I guess if you have long legs, they’d be 7/8th length? Still perfect pin up jeans, good with flats or heels, a really flattering fit with a slight stretch to the fabric.

The other trousers I love wearing because they fit well, are a pair I made from a vintage replica sewing pattern.  I bought some black and white gingham for making Miss Winter’s skirt The Assassination Bureau, and had plenty left over for making a pair of cropped trousers inspired by Marilyn Monroe.

A friend asked me to make her a pair, and here she is channelling Audrey Hepburn, modelling them.

 

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Photo credit: Gina Walbridge

Here’s what to wear with vintage style trousers;

  • A lightweight knit with heels like Marilyn
  • Boat neck top and ballet flats like Audrey
  • Shirt and loafers like Grace

Notice the details too;

  • The decorated flats Audrey wears or the laces on Grace’s flats
  • a scarf as a belt
  • The variety of patterns used for the trousers, while keeping the top plain.

How do you wear yours?

Modern earrings into vintage

Drop earrings are seen in old photos, and you can still find them. I like wearing this style with Victorian and Edwardian styles. The Sherlock Holmes series and other period dramas are a good reference.

The Forties, Fifties and Sixties saw the rise and continued popularity of large earrings. This was revisited in the Eighties, which are seeing a revival for SS17.

Heavy earrings with hooks can leave unsightly stretched earlobes  visible. By modifying earrings to hide hooks, to look like clip-ons, will give a modern pair a vintage look.

You will need:

  • Earrings
  • Tweezers
  • Small/ fine ended pliers
  • Needle and matching thread or superglue & felt
  • Scissors

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1) If you cannot twist the hook around to sit it behind the earring design, follow this step. Alternatively, skip to step 5.

Remove the hook and link. These didn’t have links, so I just had to pry open the fastened end of the hook. You can use old tweezers, small pliers or if it’s soft metal, even your nails (beware chipping nail varnish!)

Loosen the spiral of wire, to push it up the hook, as if you’re going to slide it off. This reveals the fastened end.

2) Stick your nail in the gap where the wire is pressed together. The gap you create should be big enough to slide the hook off the earring. (I also removed the tassle in the same way.)

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Join hook lower on the earring

3) If the earring has something on the back you can loop the hook around, be sure you can lay the hook against the back ready to afix.

4) Close the loop end with the pliers. Push the spiral back over the join.

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Afix the hook to the back of the earring

5) Check the hook won’t show from the front. Using a needle and thread, sew the hook from top to bottom, to hold it in place.

If there is nothing to stitch through, but you have a solid surface on the back, flatten the lower part of the hook against the back and glue.

Cut a small square or circle of felt to glue over the glued part of the hook. You may need to use something to hold the hook up while the glue dries, like blue tack.

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Modified hook backed earrings

Is this useful? Are there other types of earrings you want to modify?

Changing earrings to clip-ons

Here, I’ll show you how to change a pair of pierced earrings into clip-ons. You might want to do this because you don’t have pierced ears, or, in this case, the earrings are too heavy to sit nicely with posts.

I couldn’t find the clip-on fixings in my local haberdashery or craft stores, so went online. I spent along time searching various craft sites, but for value and ease I bought a multi-pack from eBay. It has various sellers, so you can choose the colour and shape you like.

Most vintage earrings you will find are clip-ons, and sit covering the earlobe. At the moment, Art Deco designs and big Eighties earrings are on the high street. Some of these will have a design that covers the earlobe, but are for pierced ears. I find the weight stretches my ear and ruins the look. In this case, one of the posts broke from the weight! Clip-ons spread the weight, and keep the earring higher on the ear, giving a vintage look.

To change post earrings to clip-ons, you will need;

  • Earrings with a base of 1cm or more
  • Clip-on fixings/ notions
  • A fine edged sharp tool (use common sense and use responsibly)
  • Fine sandpaper or small sanding tool
  • Superglue
  • Cotton bud

1. Firstly, if the earrings have posts, they can usually be twisted or bent off, but the base fixing will need to be pried off using something sharp and thin enough to work between the metal and the earring base.

(This should only be done by a responsible adult with common sense – work the blade away from you and watch your fingers!)

I didn’t have any special tool, I improvised by looking in the kitchen drawer. I used a fish knife. This is slow and delicate work as you want to avoid scratching the earring.

If they have a hook fixing, a small pair of pliers will loosen the join and you can remove them from the loop. I’ll show how to do this in another post.

2. Once you have prized off the post base, use the soft sandpaper to smooth the earring base ready to fix the clip-on onto the earring. Use a fine/ soft sandpaper to avoid damaging the earring. Wipe the earring base clean and lay back facing up on a sheet of paper.

3. Open the clip-on and put a small blob of glue on the back of the clip base. Place centrally on the earring base and once in the right place, pressing firmly.

4. Use the cotton bud to wipe away any overspill of glue. Leave for 24 hours, or as instructed on the glue packaging.

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Art Deco style earrings

If you find wearing clip-ons all day makes your ears hurt, buy some rubber pads which can be pushed through the hole on the back of the clip.

Fifties sari dress

This slightly irridescent silk sari fabric was a remnant given to me as a gift. I don’t feel like orange is a colour I naturally choose to wear, but I thought this was beautiful with the gold embroidery, so I’ve spent years just admiring it draped over a mannequin. My first idea had been a Regency  dress. However, as I never got around that, I eventually looked for some vintage ideas of how to style it into a Fifties dress. My impetus was finding an outfit for a friend’s wedding.

As the fabric is patterned and beautiful standing  alone, I kept to a pattern without making alterations to it. The simple fitted shift dress is accessorised with a detachable sash. This is a nod to the sari. The dress needs little added, so I kept my jewellery classic with a vintage pearl necklace, gold hoops and my gold heels (bought because I love Marilyn’s shoes in Bus Stop).

Indian fabric was used in the Fifties for Western style dresses. The pictures I found made good use of the gold panel of embroidery often found on saris. My first choice was to copy the one shouldered Dior dress with a stitched wrap of gold edging used for the bodice, and a full skirt. The sari I had was only a remnant, and I didn’t have enough. Less fabric meant a pencil skirt and and no gathers. I did get my sash though.

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At the wedding

On the day, I did require some dress first aid when I ripped the back seam of the skirt getting in the car. The trouble was climbing in instead of sitting and swivelling like a lady. I think that’s something you learnt at finishing school. Thanks to my mum’s first aid kit ( for clothes, naturally) I was able to enjoy the rest of the evening without embarrassment!

I think if I get the opportunity to buy a whole sari, I’ll make the Dior dress. Then I’ll just need something to wear it to.

London trip – Winter 2017

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Theatre and Fashioning a Reign exhibition plans

This January, I went to London to see the exhibition of some of the Queen’s dresses – Fashioning a Reign, at Windsor Castle. For a night out we went to see the comedy  The Play That Goes Wrong. I love packing for a weekend away, and the British weather certainly adds to the challenge!

We travelled up on the train to Waterloo Station on the Friday, in the afternoon. I wanted to wear something comfortable, but nice enough to wear out to dinner, as there might not be time to change.

I wore my taupe or mushroom coloured fit and flare dress by Peter May. I bought this on a previous trip to London, along Portobello Road. I saw it in the window, and thought it looked like a dress that could have easily been worn in a Hitchcock film, like Marnie. This is a perfect winter dress as it is fairly thick Jersey, and the skirt is lined with a soft Jersey. My brother calls this my Jedi dress because of the colour and the wrap effect. The sash is really long and you can wrap it for different looks. I can pull it really tight as it has some stretch.

I accessorised with classic pearl jewellery – the earrings were modern, the three strand necklace and brooch are both vintage. I wore my brooch on the belt, under the gathers of the knot. I always loved how Jane Russell uses the brooch from the hip of her showgirl dress, on the pocket of her jacket in Gentleman Prefer Blondes. This was a popular outfit refresher in the Fifties.

The vintage feathered hat and vintage hatpin stayed put really well, and apart from worrying about the feathers in the wind to start with, I got used to wearing it, and stopped thinking about it. This is the best way to wear hats, so I’m definitely going to try out some more. I love the Fifties fitted style hats, so I’ll be looking to increase my collection.

With the face framing feathers, I wore this hat with my hair twisted up at the back. This is the hair I stuck my hatpin through to secure the hat.

On Saturday, we took the train to Windsor Castle to see the exhibition Fashioning a Reign. My photographer, my friend Gina Walbridge’s took some photos of me in the grounds. Unfortunately, no photography was permitted in the castle or of the dresses we saw.  My favourite outfits were the few from the Fifties, including a beautiful full length full skirted dark teal velvet skirt with a fitted ivory silk bodice. The other dresses by Norman Hartnell and Hardy Armies were beautiful in their craftsmanship, structure and detail.

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The coat, vintage bag and sensible heels were pretty much my uniform while we were out and about.

When we stopped for afternoon tea in Windsor (which had to be seen to be believed, it was so massive!) I was able to show off my vintage teal velvet pleated dress. This is a Seventies vintage dress, but the style and fit work well with Forties and Fifties styling. I wore it with a butterfly brooch and huge turquoise vintage clip-on earrings.

On Saturday night, we went to see The Play That Goes Wrong, just before it went on tour. I would highly recommend going to see it. We laughed so much, I could hardly breathe!

I went for a Twenties look, in a Nineties velvet devore bias slip dress.

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Diamante wing haircombs

On Sunday morning we travelled home. This was my standby outfit for day or night, so it was slightly wasted on the train, but I like to dress up, like I’ve walked off a Fifites film set!

Four outfits for one weekend in one small suitcase was pretty good packing, and I only took two pairs of shoes. To save space, I didn’t pack rollers, but pincurled my hair each night which worked pretty well, having washed and set it before I went away.

My next trip away will be in late Spring, to Portugal, so I’ll hopefully be able to pack some lighter clothes! In the meantime, I’m still enjoying the tartan, velvet, knits and thick weave fabrics of winter.

The Avengers – Tara King’s thigh high boots

 

While Diana Rigg as Mrs Peel is my favourite (and her clothes), a few things from Tara King’s wardrobe have been on my wish list. The late Sixties fashion Tara wears generally have a Seventies feel, with garish colour combinations, brown, mini skirts and wide collars, which I don’t wear. I like the purple Palazzo pants and the mustard pair Tara wears with a purple wrapover top.

The evening dresses are pretty, and also the Edwardian outfits in the episode Pandora. For similar inspiration see my post on The Assassination Bureau.

Before the Sixties were over, however, there was one brief moment where thigh high boots were set to replace the need for stockings and tights. Tights reigned supreme though, easy to change, cheap to buy multiple colours and patterns, with the added bonus of modesty with ever decreasing hemlines.

Now some features of this era are back on the high street, like playsuits and over-the-knee boots, I redoubled my efforts to find thigh high boots. Only, I had specifications. They must fit well like Tara’s.

  • Snug on the ankle
  • Stretch pull-on
  • Thigh high
  • Preferably leather shoe uppers (for longer lasting wear)
  • Mid block heel
  • Round to square toes

So many of the boots on offer are suede or suede effect, which living in a rainy country, reduces wearability drastically. I don’t want to wear boots in the Summer, but in the Winter! Also, because they are high street, the average fit is larger of ankle and narrower above the knee, which is no good for a shapely pair of pins.

My first pair I bought are over-the-knee brown suede look boots. I was so pleased to find an affordable pair I actually liked, even though they were suede. You can see them on How to Wear (Faux) Fur.

However, I am now ecstatic at finding a leather pair of thigh high boots that meet the other specs too. Now I’ll have to make the playsuit.

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Bowler hat and thigh high boots Tara King style

So, A-line cut shorts are the flattering and modest way to go with this look. I’ve tried leggings under a tunic/ mini dress, but the leg slips slowly down. Jeans have little more friction. Bare legs are no good for keeping these boots up, either. There must be a trick to it. Hairspray à la Miss Congeniality?

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A few of my favourite outfits. Find a definitive breakdown of all The Avengers clothes at dissolute.au.

London Trip 2016

So, this is a post from the beginning of last year, that I didn’t post because of the lack of photos. Now I’m packing for another weekend in London, this is a good reminder for me to start this year’s blogging and Instagram posts how intend to carry on – better quality photos and keep it regular.

In aid of that, I have enlisted the help of a few friends, one being a budding photographer, so I hope to do her justice this year. She is coming to London, so I’ll have my own personal photographer out in the field!

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Vogue to read on the train. Underground ticket to get around London. Crime exhibition at the Museum of London on Friday, theatre on Saturday night and Vogue 100 at the National Portrait Gallery on Sunday morning.

Basically I had such a good time, there aren’t many pictures! Here are a few.

Advertising for Charlie & the Chocolate Factory in the West End.

Friday night dinner out. The mandatory telephone box photo.

Sunday light lunch in Soho, at Foxcroft & Ginger. Mum wearing a vintage look blouse with high-waisted wide leg trousers.

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Goodies from the exhibitions

The books are always the best souvenirs, as the exhibits can be pored over at leisure and in greater detail. This is especially true as most exhibitions have a ‘no photos’ rule.

I hope I can share some of the looks from Vogue100 over the coming year. Mugshots may not be so glamorous, but it’s interesting to see how certain trends were emulated on the street. A case in point is Ruth Ellis. A glamorous, wronged woman, with a tragic story. How much did her image play in the Presses coverage of her story, and the publics reaction, I wonder?

Back to blogging and London trips, hang in there, and I will post my 2017 trip with more and better photos!