I am busy planning for a summer holiday to Rome and Tuscany. While I lately go more towards the Fifties, I felt like going for a Thirties theme for my sightseeing and going out clothes. While most of it is from memory from hours of ‘research’ throughout my life (I think I should probably have a degree by now in my specialised field), I refreshed my memory on a few of the summer holiday episodes of Poirot.
Here are a few of the best.
Poirot- Thirties holiday outfit
Poirot – Peril at End House
Poirot – Thirties blouse
Poirot – Peril at End House
While I still haven’t made any beach pyjamas, I do have some wide leg Palazzo pants. I can wear a number of different blouses, including a wrap blouse from an original Thirties pattern I have.
Thirties beach pyjamas
Thirties holiday snap
Thirties holiday snap
A couple of exceptions are a Roman Holiday ensemble and my Marilyn inspired Niagara dress, in case we go out in the evening.
Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday
Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday
I’ll post my holiday outfits and see how well they worked in practice.
In Part 2 I’ll show some of my inspiration for styling Thirties and Forties hats.
ITV’s Poirot is a delight to watch, not just for the story, but the attention to detail for the era. It’s difficult to find photos of the characters that only show up in one episode, which means you have to watch it to see their headgear! Miss Lemon is a resident character at Poirot’s flat, working as his secretary, so I found photos of her hats! I think she is a good example of a well-dressed lady, without being from the upperclasses, so a good role model everyday or office wear dressing in the Thirties.
Thirties style dress and hat
Cream hat with feather
One way to wear a hat for a Thirties style outfit is to wear the hat on top of your head, which sounds silly, because isn’t that where it’s meant to be anyway! Look at the photos to see what I mean. Hair is shorter or done up close to the head.
Black and cream hat with feather worn Thirties style – back
Black and cream hat with feather worn Thirties style
Black and cream hat worn Thirties style – side
Thirties style summer skirt and frill sleeve blouse worn with black and cream hat
I don’t often wear hats with my Forties outfits as I tend to go for high updo’s, then it’s a shame to cover it up. Look at Death by Deco for a masterclass in hat wearing, especially the Forties styles – and brilliant turban tying lessons!
The series Agent Carter is one of my favourite Forties set TV shows. The red hat! Interestingly, the more masculine, power dressing style and tailoring for the Forties was partly born from wartime ‘make do and mend’ ingenuity. The women at home were encouraged to keep up appearances for the troops morale, and that meant one was allowed to raid the husband’s wardrobe for altering to womenswear! This was not just jackets, but hats too. That’s why some of the hats have a trilby look.
Brown Forties hat – back
Brown Forties hat with asymetric hairstyle – side
Brown Forties hat with vintage thistle hatpin
Brown Forties hat with front curls
Forties style utility dress – by Jasmine Guinness
Forties style dress platform shoes and brown hat – side
I’ve styled the same hat from the Thirties look for the Forties, by wearing at the back of my head, so the brim frames my hairstyle and face like a halo. If you don’t have a high updo at the front, you can wear perch (or tilt) hats like in the original photos above.
Forties style summer outfit platform shoes and hat
Forties style hat, earrings and flower corsage
Black and cream hat with feather – side
Black and cream hat with feather – front
Black and cream hat with feather – Forties half up hairstyle- side 2
Black and cream hat with feather – back
For historical accuracy, Forties films, (I like film noir), will give you some amazing creations to look out for. This turban/ knitted headband from Hitchcock’s Suspicion, worn by Joan Fontaine had me rewinding the final scene. I think this is going on my wish list of knits.
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.
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.
It’s been a very slow project, but I’m happy with how my bedroom has turned out. (No decorator employed.)
The house is Thirties, and when I took the carpet up, I found the inset hearth tiles were still intact. I’d love to have a little fire place, but at the moment I need the floor space for furniture. Having good floorboards, I had them treated and tidied up, and I can get a big rug if I get cold feet!
Luckily, the original doors were left, but the handles were replaced, so I’M m still searching for reasonably priced bakelite replicas.
Originally, the room had a picture rail, so I had that put back up by Grant Whyman & Sons Ltd. They are excellent with period house renovations and keeping the houses character. I have got some hooks to hang my picture frames, but not all of them work, as modern frames don’t always have rings/ loops to attach a chain or ribbon.
Great Granny’s chair
Hats piled up on bookshelf
I need a better way to store or display my hats. I like how Dita von Teese has a hat stand by her dressing table, and hangs lots on the wall around the mirror. At the moment I love my wallpaper too much to drill any holes.
My pride and joy is my walnut and marble dressing table. The details are Art Nouveau, but the large round mirror low table are typical of Thirties designs. The draw and cupboard wrap round on side of the mirror, providing storage.
I’ve mixed lots of eras together, but how many people in the Thirties really had all new Art Deco furnishings? Most of us accumulate, recycle and re-use just like the average person from the past.
Several years ago, we moved from a Victorian house to a Thirties house. It’s still a work in progress, but the living room is starting to take shape, with some nods to the era.
While Art Deco – think Fred & Ginger film sets – looks striking and modern, it doesn’t feel very homely. At least not when I’m used to Victoriana and Art Nouveau. So, we’ve been researching different looks from the Thirties. The only other two categories I’ve found are ‘Home Front’ going into the Forties, and Bloomsbury Set arts and crafts, from the Twenties into the Thirties.
I think our living room will be a mixture of these. There are clean lines and Art Deco motifs, alongside colour and pattern. When it all comes together, I’ll post a photo of the room.
Art Deco inspired mantelpiece
Art Deco style mirror and lights
I’ve been busy knitting a couple of Bloomsbury style cushion covers, in colours to match the wallpaper. One is now complete, and I’ve nearly finished the second.
Bloomsbury cushion cover
Door detail from Charleston, Suffolk
Stripe Bloomsbury style cushion cover
Finally finished the light colour way cushion cover, in complementary colours to co-ordinating with the deeper coloured cushion cover. The buttons are a vintage touch.
This knitted top is a pattern called Charleston from Rowan magazine 39. The designer was inspired by the 1920’s and 30’s. The drape is intended to be on the front, but having looked at some 1930’s evening dresses, I put the drape at the back.
The fashion was to have the detail at the back, while often having a high neck a the front. Silks and satins are perfect for drapes and bias cut skirts. It was a challenge to knit and attach the drape to hang nicely.
Front bead and crossover strap detail
Back beading and straps
The idea of attaching or incorporating jewellery into ones clothes is coming back into fashion. Check out Prada and Chanel for modern reinterpretations. I’ve started wearing my vintage brooches on my coat and jacket pockets.
This aspect of the 30’s style is reflected in the beading along the front, back and in the straps. I used clear and pearl beads (each threaded onto the wool – Rowan Kidsilk Haze) so there is just a hint of sparkle. The fine lace pattern around the waist/hips adds interest. I enjoyed knitting this and it is comfy to wear as well as pretty.
Some close-ups of the beading at the back and the lace.