Find Your Vintage Style

Rita Hayworth, 1941

Rita Hayworth from the trailer for the film Blood and Sand, 1941
Rita Hayworth from the trailer for the film Blood and Sand, 1941 | Source

Find Your Own Style

In the last few years, vintage has become hot, hot, hot as celebrities, socialites, and more and more ordinary women are starting to wear it. Vintage has become a style for self assured women who wear clothes that make them feel well; clothes that suit their body shape rather than the latest high street trends.

Vintage clothes are items that can be worn at any time and still look elegant. In six months, three, ten or twenty years vintage items will have gained more value. A very important point if we consider the amount of cheap Chinese clothes that inundate our high streets and shopping centres. Clothes badly cut with materials of inferior quality, colours that fade at the first wash, clothes that shrink in the dryer or trousers that tear apart at the seams if you have a copious dinner!

And we do not know how, but in wanting to be fashionable, season after season we cross on the streets women that look the same, thin or fat, young or old, rich or poor; all wearing the ‘latest fashion'. Everybody copying someone else while losing some part of their personality in trying to be someone they are not.

But it is there that real elegant and glamorous women look different. They affirm their personality using their wardrobe. They have learnt to use their femininity as a weapon. Grace, audacity and a strong personality are the only requirements. These are the women who inspire the creators. It is the original woman who picks the best for her shape from each era and who stands out in a mist of uniformed women.

Are you dreaming about becoming unique? Would you like to add a few vintage items to your wardrobe? First of all start studying your body shape to know what suits you better. Have a good critical look at the mirror, study your shape. What do you like about your body? What parts are you proud of? What parts would you rather "camouflage"? Remember that we are all different, even if we are the same size or weight. Not all of us look good in slim jeans or balloon dresses. Wearing vintage clothes you can choose your period according to your shape to make your wardrobe work for you.

Vintage Clothing Periods

Over the years, fashion has privileged one shape over another one at different times.

  • The 20s emphasized a slim flat silhouette while
  • The 50s were all the rage for curvy shapes.
  • The 80s were more of an androgynous period where women tried to emphasize their independence wearing shirts and ties and padded shoulders that masculinized their figures.Only at nighttime, away from work, women allowed themselves to wear feminine clothes and often exaggerated the use of sequin and shiny materials.

Fashion has changed over the years and so has the "ideal shape". We have seen it all, from the Renaissance plump Madonna in Raphael's paintings to the barely there symbol of the 70s, Twiggy. Worst even, in this new millennium we have seen young girls falling like flies and even dying during catwalk shows because they have not eaten for weeks!



1920s Style

Louise Brooks
Louise Brooks
Vanessa Paradis and Johnny Depp
Vanessa Paradis and Johnny Depp

Clothing Periods During The 1900s

Although there is some occasional crossover, largely speaking clothing periods can be divided as

  • 1901-1919: Designated primarily as Edwardian or WWI. The French refer to this period as La Belle Epoque. Female clothes during this period expressed women's desire for more independence. The privileged body shape for this era was the hourglass, tiny-waisted woman; that is, slender yet with ample bosom, hips and bottom. The epitome of this era was caricatured by Gibson and was known as The Gibson girl.

Susan E. Meyer, in her book America's Great Illustrators,described the Gibson girl as: "(...) taller than the other women currently seen in the pages of magazines.. infinitely more spirited and independent, yet altogether feminine. She appeared in a stiff shirtwaist, her soft hair piled into a chignon, topped by a big plumed hat. Her flowing skirt was hiked up in the back with just a hint of a bustle. She was poised and patrician. Though always well bred, there often lurked a flash of mischief in her eyes."

  • 1920s: A time when fashion radically changed. The fashion icon of the 20s ? The emancipated women. Think Louise brooks, perfectly reincarnated these days in Vanessa Paradis. Think Charleston and a very thin silhouette, a period where women did not think twice about bandaging their bodies to hide prominent breasts or hips. If you are very slim with small breasts, if you love jazz and if you are a romantic, then the 20s style is the best place to look for inspiration to flatter your shape.

Coco Chanel in trademark ropes of pearls in a 1935 Man Ray portrait. Coco Chanel advocated what she called 'austere luxury', the essence of chic.
Coco Chanel in trademark ropes of pearls in a 1935 Man Ray portrait. Coco Chanel advocated what she called 'austere luxury', the essence of chic.
  • 1930s: During the 30s the fashion icons were Greta Garbo and Jean Harlow. In 1929, Coco Chanel brought the waistline back to its natural position in her autumn collection, which sets the fashion tone for the 1930s.

1930s make up is coming back this season, lots of black eyeliner, mascara, nail polish and even black or very dark red lips. This season Chanel and Dior are going for the false lashes look and the black lip gloss to add depth to your look.

Darnell Collection - 1920, 30s and 40s vintage fashion show: The Darnell Collection is considered the largest private vintage clothing collection in Australia

1947, Dior's "New Look"

"Bar suit" from 1947, Dior's "New Look" (Corolle collection, Spring/Summer 1947)
"Bar suit" from 1947, Dior's "New Look" (Corolle collection, Spring/Summer 1947) | Source

1940s Style

Women wore dresses to the knee or below and broad, square shoulders were popular due to  military influence.  Some women resorted to sewing clothing from  flour sacks because more common fabrics were not available for civilian uses.
Women wore dresses to the knee or below and broad, square shoulders were popular due to military influence. Some women resorted to sewing clothing from flour sacks because more common fabrics were not available for civilian uses.
  • 1940s: After the war, women had to be ingenious; my mother in law tells me she used to paint her legs with tea bags to simulate stockings! In Britain the laws made it illegal and unpatriotic to spend time embellishing clothing for sale, and forbade manufacturers from using fancy trimmings, unnecessary buttons, extra stitching or pockets more than was essential for function. Therefore fashion was utilitarian. Fashion icons from this era are Veronica Lake, Rita Hayworth, Lauren Bacall.
  • 1950s: This is a great period for curvy women, pure elegance and glamour. Think Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn; pencil style dresses and the swing dress. In Paris, Dior brings the pencil skirts to a "must have" status. Nowadays, Dita Von Teese is its best example of this style.

  • 1965-1970s: Natural/ethnic styles, bright colours, floral and psychedelic patterns, denim, and bell-bottoms were all the rage during the 60s. British music and Twiggy describe this era best. During the seventies, slimness was a must. A period of freedom when girls walked around the beaches topless and wore the transparent Yves Saint Laurent blouses.
  • 1980s: this era gave birth to the Power dressing phenomenon. Think Dynasty, big shoulder pads to rival men's shoulders and lots of jewellery to show up your status. For the younger girls Madonna style outfits were all the rage; short skirts over leggings, rubber bracelets, fishnet gloves and anything else that you could find in your wardrobe. The preferred body type for this era? The athletic figure, think Flashdance, Jane Fonda and Princess Diana.

1950s Fashion - Vintage Paris Catwalk Show

Choose The Time Period That Best Suits Your Body Shape

Generally speaking only clothes up to the 1980s are considered vintage. Now that you know what body shape belongs to each era, just have a good look in the mirror and choose the time period that best suits your silhouette and have fun creating your unique look!

Dita Von Teese and Victoria Beckham wearing 1950s style dresses.
Dita Von Teese and Victoria Beckham wearing 1950s style dresses.

© 2008 Wendy Iturrizaga

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Comments 18 comments

michellemoseley profile image

michellemoseley 8 years ago from New Hampshire

I love these styles. Do you have to be a size 2 for them to look good?

Princessa profile image

Princessa 8 years ago from France Author

Brian: Nice to see you around here :)

Michellemoseley: No, you do not need to be a size 2. That is the beauty of vintage clothes, you choose what suits your shape best and work around that. If you have any doubt about looking good in a dress you can check

Good luck!

BizzyMuse profile image

BizzyMuse 8 years ago from Southern California

Love vintage and loved the hub! Many of my best buys have been vintage and are so well made and timeless. It was fun and interesting to see your look at styles throughout history. Thanks for sharing!

Princessa profile image

Princessa 8 years ago from France Author

BizzyMuse : Vintage is always a good buy, timeless and excellent quality. Thanks for commenting :)

sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 8 years ago from South Africa

Excellent hub. I have noticed how over the years (no comments about my age please!) fashions seem to go come back and repeat themselves. So yesterday's vintage becomes today's latest fashion. Only this weeknd my dearly beloved was saying she wishhed she had kept some of her mother's and granny's clothes, especially the shoes.

Princessa profile image

Princessa 8 years ago from France Author

sixtyorso: It is so true! fashion is always re-inventing itself. I love going around antique markets looking for fashion bargains.

Not so long ago, my grandmother made a couple of pencil skirts for me from some dresses that didn't fit her anymore. They are superb!

Isabella Snow profile image

Isabella Snow 8 years ago

I love vintage!! Great hub! It's so classy!

Princessa profile image

Princessa 8 years ago from France Author

Vintage is classy and it really makes sense investing in a few quality items that will be timeless and always flatering to your bodyshape.

Rogue Vintage profile image

Rogue Vintage 7 years ago

Thank you so much for this blog! I love vintage and am in fact starting a Vintage clothing website. One unique piece-clothing or accessory can really set you apart from the pack.

Still getting used to the idea of 80's as vintage, though! Can't wait for your next blog:D

Princessa profile image

Princessa 7 years ago from France Author

Rogue Vintage: Good luck with your project. Post me a link to it when you have everything ready.

FeliceA profile image

FeliceA 7 years ago

Hi there. Great hub! I'm in the NYC swing/lindy dancing community where a lot of people wear period clothing to various events. I'm generally too lazy to participate in that part of it, but knowing more (from your hub) may help me to make a new 2010 New Year's resolution! :-) 1920's is definitely the body type for me. BTW, vintage aside, do you have any thoughts on where to shop for reasonable clothing for size 0-2, small chest? Thanks1

Princessa profile image

Princessa 7 years ago from France Author

FeliceA : Way to go for 2010, working for your body type is the best way to always be on top, looking and feeling good with what you are wearing.

(I'll see what can I find for small sizes)

mysisters profile image

mysisters 5 years ago

Great Hub. I have always loved vintage! Its so different and classy. A great place to find vintage dresses and skirts is

Princessa profile image

Princessa 5 years ago from France Author

mysisters: Yes, Etsy is a great place to find original items, I have used the site a couple of times and I've always been very happy with it.

roshall profile image

roshall 5 years ago from Ohio

Like the vintage style and the celebrities are into it now also. thanks for info,great writing.

jainismus profile image

jainismus 3 years ago from Pune, India

Great photographs, thank you for sharing them and the information.

starstream profile image

starstream 3 years ago from Northern California

This was fun and educational to read. I think I'd prefer the twenty's clothes after reading your explanation of various years and styles. Thanks so much. I think I will link it to my vintage article.

Princessa profile image

Princessa 3 years ago from France Author

starstream: I love the 20s style it is very elegant; unfortunately I do not have the body shape for it :-( I think I look better wearing 1950s inspired clothes.

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