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.
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.
Marilyn wearing cat eye sunglasses
Marilyn in Ray-Ban wayferers
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Grace Kelly in patterned pedal pushers
Grace Kelly in jeans
Audrey Hepburn in striped cropped trousers
Audrey Hepburn in black cropped trousers
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.
Marilyn in checked trousers
Marilyn in cigarette pants
Marilyn in striped pedal pushers
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!
Vivien of Holloway jeans
Channelling Mrs Peel
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.
My gingham check trousers
Marilyn Monroe wearing her checked trousers
From Marilyn Monroe’s estate
My gingham cropped trousers
A friend asked me to make her a pair, and here she is channelling Audrey Hepburn, modelling them.
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.
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.
Irene Adler in Sherlock Holmes (1880’s)
Ginger Rogers (1930-40’s)
Marilyn Monroe (1950’s)
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:
Small/ fine ended pliers
Needle and matching thread or superglue & felt
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.)
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.
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.
Is this useful? Are there other types of earrings you want to modify?
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.
Audrey Hepburn in hoops
Audrey Hepburn in clip-on earrings
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
Remove ear posts
Sand down back smooth
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.
Glue the clip base
Place and press on earring base
Comfort pads for clip-ons
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.
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.
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.
Fifties sari dress
Fifties sari dress
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).
Boat neck and side panels
Mock wrap V-neck
Dior – the dream dress
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.
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.
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.
Circle skirt dress
Peter May dress
Vintage pearl brooch
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.
Bird’s-eye veiw of feathered vintage hat
Bow at back of vintage hat and hatpin
Face framing feather hat
Side shaping on vintage hat
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.
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.
Vintage velvet pleated dress
Vintage velvet pleated dress
Vintage earrings and butterfly brooch
Velvet dress neckline
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!
Twenties inspired evening dress and kimono jacket
Backless lacing detail
Bias cut devore velvet dress
I went for a Twenties look, in a Nineties velvet devore bias slip dress.
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!
Jacquard fabric skirt
Embellished cardigan with gathered midi skirt
Vintage pearl necklace and embellished cardigan
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.
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.
Channelling Tara King
Big sparkly studs and false eyelashes
Blue and navy wrapover top and Palazzo pants
Tie at back 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.
Possibly designed by David Evins
Vicky Hodge in thigh high boots, 1968
Sixties pop culture
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.
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.
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?
Fur coat and thigh high boots
Backless playsuit and thigh high boots
Playsuit and thigh high boots
Tara King inspired playsuit and thigh high boots
A few of my favourite outfits. Find a definitive breakdown of all The Avengers clothes at dissolute.au.
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!
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.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory sweets
Red telephone box
Foxcroft and Ginger
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.
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!
In England, Queen Victoria wore the first white wedding dress, and due to her celebrity status, they became popular. Before that, brides would wear their Sunday best. White has remained popular ever since.
Here are two true vintage wedding dresses I have on loan from a friend. They are roughly from the Thirties. The What Katie Did CC09 bra is perfect for creating the right shape for the cut of the dresses. Both dresses look home-made from the finishing on the inside.
The lace dress has a square, slightly sweetheart neckline and fits close to the body, with a sweeping train. There is piping on the bodice to add shape. The mutton sleeves have ruching and piping with stuffed shoulder pads stitched into the shoulder seams to hold the lace up and out. The lower part of the sleeves have a row of buttons and a point over the back of the hand. The fastening is under the arm, so the waist is fitted. There is a row of metal poppers (snap fastening) and a hook and eye under the sash.
Vintage shoulder pads
Button detail on sleeve
Thirties dress popper fastening
There is no lining, so I assume, like many dresses of the era, it was made to wear over a slip already owned by the wearer. I am wearing a vintage, probably Fifties midi- length slip. The lace bodice and wide pleated border of lace blend well with the lace of the dress.
Thirties wedding dress train
Thirties wedding dress with T-bar heels
Button and sash detail on back
The back has a row of decorative covered buttons down the spine, to where the satin sash ties. The lace has only a few holes that need mending, mostly on the fitted part of the sleeves. The hem has suffered some wear and tear and the buttons have discoloured in places. I think this adds to the charm of finding vintage clothes that others have loved and treasured.
Ginger Rogers evening dress
Decorative buttons and big shoulders
Claudette Colbert in ‘It Happened One Night’ – wedding dress
The satin wedding dress has the same fluid shaped skirt and mutton sleeves with pointed cuffs. The V-neck and gathers from the shoulders to under the bust. The seamstress has inserted a modesty panel in the deep V. This dress has no fastening on the body except the sash and poppers in the front panel. The cuffs also have a popper each, with slight wear around one of them.
Gathers and modesty panel
Gathers and buttons on front
Mutton sleeve shoulder gathers
V insert for skirt shaping
The front seam was unpicked when I was given this dress. It was only tacked and looked like there were some threads through the front. This makes me think there were buttons that were used again on another dress. I used some satin covered buttons to finish the dress.
Wallis Simpson’s wedding dress
Wallis Simpson sports the high neck, buttons and gathers, with the body skimming skirt. The neckline, shoulders and gathers on the dress worn by Ginger Rogers are heading into the Forties, but are echoed in the vintage dresses I have shared with you.
For Fifties and Sixties inspiration, search Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor. White wasn’t always the choice, and the styles vary dramatically. Some have stood the test of time, while others are of their time.
The stylist and costume department must have had a great time dressing the female characters in Bladerunner. I think I could live in this collective wardrobe, but would perhaps cause undue comment grocery shopping in a few of them. Iridescent scales for one.
The mix of 80’s futuristic sci-fi and Forties film noir is spot on and works so well. Forties and Eighties cross over a lot. Think big hairdos, shoulder pads, empowering tailoring for women and even the transparent coat!
Following are my favourite looks from the film, and what I have used from my wardrobe to emulate the most wearable and stylish outfits – those worn by replicant Rachael.
Rachael has a classic femme fatale Forties hairstyle and make-up, which echo the film noir style of filming this futuristic sci-fi story. Her make-up seems to change slightly through the film, but the basic features remain – strong eyebrows and cheekbones, smoky eyes, red lips, with red nails.
The colour palette for Rachael’s wardrobe are muted shades of grey and blues and greens (just about visible on her blouse), that work well with the film noir lighting and photography.
The grey suit with horizontal stripes of tonal fabric is straight out of the Forties, even Marilyn Monroe owned one similar to this, before she was famous. The crossover detail on the neck is also a detail used on clothes in the Forties, as is the matching thin belt. The straight cut and just below the knee length skirts are Forties too.
Under this suit, Rachael has a long sleeved V-neck blouse with pintucks of various colours. This is seen when in Dekkard’s flat, sitting at the piano.
The black suit, in futuristic fabric with a sheen, has a high neck again. The collar looks like a shirt collar, with a diamond shape Art Deco style brooch centrally placed, instead of a bow or tie. At one point she has a clutch with an Art Deco pattern too.
Notice the heeled court shoes too, if you can. The pair with the grey suit have an interesting two-tone design.
On Pinterest I’ve saved more photo’s of Rachael’s outfits.
Button back Eighties skirt
Eighties does Forties skirt suit
The grey suit above is from Vintage Guru. It is an Eighties does Forties skirt suit, with a high waisted pencil skirt and a collarless box jacket. The buttons at the back are a lovely detail and are actually used as the fastening. The buttons around the waist and hips needed moving slightly to give me room to move, and the skirt was shortened from ankle grazing up to below the knee.
Navy jacket and pencil skirt
Mandarin collar military style jacket
Art Deco pattern vintage heels
These navy separates go well as a suit, with the skirt I made and the vintage heels echo the Art Deco detailing featured in Rachael’s outfits.
Peplum blouse/ jacket with waterfall collar
Peplum and pencil skirt
Grey waterfall blouse
Art Deco shapes on modern heels
Here are some other outfits from my wardrobe, inspired by Rachael.
Spray paint futuristic make-up – Pris
Blade runner Pris clothes
The spray paint futuristic make-up is one I want to use for a party. Chokers are back in vogue,and something I wear anyway, but my stocking’s stay under my clothes. It looks like Pris is wearing a playsuit.
This clear PVC swing coat is something I’m still looking for. I was surprised when researching this to find that clear plastic raincoats were fashionable as early as the Forties. The swing shape makes this unusual, as most available now are trench coats or hooded poncho’s.
I love the stand up mandarin style collar and the large oval top stitched pockets. The piping around the yoke and the small pockets on the chest are fairly traditional, but I like that the edges of the sleeves and hem are not outlined, but you can only see them when the light catches them.
Anyone out there able to make this? Get in touch, please!
Over-the-knee boots are finally back in fashion. Not that if they weren’t it would stop me wearing them, but to be fashionable means one is able to buy a pair easily. The spikes are less practical, and I like the thigh cuff, which reminds me of Princess Leah’s slave outfit, with the intricate metalwork.
See my posts about The Avengers and Mrs Peel for more on over-the-knee and thigh high boots.
The show ‘outfit’ (I use the term very loosely) of iridescent scales or body gems looks amazing, and could be nodded to with a sequined flesh tone top or body, worn with more conventional skinnies or would even look good with a fluid silk skirt.