Where do I start?
One of the greatest joys of collecting vintage clothing is the quirky, flamboyant and unexpected items you come across. There are so many daring styles and looks available, however these can be pretty daunting when you have no idea where to begin.
1. Start with the basics
There are some key vintage basics that everyone can do with in their wardrobe:
Begin your vintage collection by choosing versatile, simple items to get comfortable with wearing vintage.
2. Choose what you want to emphasise
Next stop, think about what styles and shapes suit you. Different eras experiment with different looks.
A great way to see what styles were popular in each era is to look at popular culture – music and film in particular. Watch a cult TV show or film that was produced, or set in, a specific decade and look at the costumes. You will often get an accurate representation of what people were wearing at the time. You may find this inspires you to adopt fashion tips from a certain era. Take Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffanys, for example.
Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffanys”. Sources: Photo 2
40s CLASSY SLIMLINE
Female fashion in the 40s was trademarked by a practical, classic and sophisticated look. A dress was the most common outfit choice for a woman. Women started to experiment with androgynous styles and short sleeved shirt dresses became a common look. Necklines were modest. Shoulders were generally covered.
Length was important in the 40s. Dress sat on or below the knee. Fabrics were generally set within a one or two tone colour scheme however simple patterns such as polka-dots and stripes were also experimented with. Though some elements of style were androgynous, women retained a feminine silhouette with styles generally fitting close to the body. Collars were common on clothing, with a v neck effect and button down design pulled in at the waist with a belt.
1940s Marie Claire Front Covers. Sources: Photo 1, Photo 2
Choose a 40s dress for a flattering daytime look which suits all body shapes. It’s isn’t typically revealing but outlines a feminine body shape nonetheless.
1940s Dresses by bragvintage featuring preowned dresses
50s IN AT THE WAIST
If you want waist emphasis but aren’t too confident about your legs, pick a 50s dress. It creates an hourglass shape, with a long flared skirt, often with a petticoat underneath to create volume. 50s dresses were almost always below the knee.
The sweetheart neckline was a statement neckline of the era. This could be worn with or without shoulder straps or with a halterneck shape, creating an inward pointing angle which emphasised the bust. Marilyn Monroe was a daring style symbol, often opting for low cut off the shoulder, strapless, v neck, halter necks or sweetheart necklines.
Marilyn Monroe in the 50s. Souces: Photo 1, Photo 2
The sweetheart neckline was commonly used in 50s swimwear designs. Swim wear was considered relatively daring during this era, and most people opted for a swimsuit as opposed to a bikini .
Summer trends of the era included short sleeved shirts and loose shorts which sat on the waist. Classic beach holiday fashion was cropped Capri pants paired with a sleeveless blouse.
Casual outfits often included a silk scarf around the neck or head.
60s HIGH NECKLINES & LEGS OUT
Era of the mini skirts and shift dress. If you want to emphasise your legs, 60s the era for you. Above the knee mini dresses with high knee boots was a popular look. As well as sleeveless dresses, turtle necks and geometric patterns.
Dresses were often less fitted on the waist, with the focus being on legs, high necklines and cropped hairstyles.
Photo 1: The Ladybirds 1968 Photo 2: Barbies in the 60s
Peter pan collars were big. Pattern wise, geometric prints and bold, bright, block colours kept it simple. Hemlines were straight cut. Wear a white collared shirt under a shift dress with block heels for a classic and flattering 60s look.
All items Brag Vintage
In terms of accessories, hair bands, bold geometric earrings and bouncy, backcombed bouffants were popular, as well as Twiggy inspired cropped hairstyles to show off a slender neck. Men’s hairstyles were mirrored with neatly combed, voluminised quiffs being a key look. Make up-wise, white eyeliner and dramatically flicked cat eyes were popular. Towards the ends of the 60s, a loose, relaxed hippy style also started emerging within mainstream fashion.
Cat eye makeup and cropped hairstyles in the 60s. Sources: Photo 1, Photo 2
70s FLARED SHAPES
There era of the flare. This meant flared trousers, flared skirts, flared collared and flared sleeves. Platform boots, too. Styles were looser, but with focus on the waist. There was less skin on show than the 60s- shirt dresses and more androgynous styles were becoming popular again. Men and Women’s fashion overlapped in some areas, such as flared trousers which were worn by both. Colour-wise, browns were big; suede and corduroy commonly present in 70s designs. The choice style for both genders was relaxed yet fitted.
70s Style by bragvintage featuring a flare skirt
High waisted trousers create an illusion of extra leg length and the flare design is complimentary to leg shape, making thighs appear smaller. Pair flares with block heels for extra leg inches.
There’s no ignoring the classic 70s collar which is iconic of the decade. Typically oversized, the 70s collar was often complimented with loud and experimental shirt patterns.
Another look of the era was boho/hippy. This meant long flared sleeves and hemlines. Adopt this style if you are self conscious of your arms. The loose flared arm is usually counteracted by a fitted waist, which may flare out again to create a loose A line skirt effect.
80s OVER-SIZED: LOUD SHAPES. LOUD PRINTS.
More fabric than ever before! Big shoulders, big prints, power suits. Great for proportioning the body and giving the illusion of a smaller waist. The top half of the body in particular was over-sized and very relaxed. Tailoring was often minimal and not as strict as in previous decades. Shoulder pads featured everywhere. Jumpsuits were popular. Shirt dresses too, for that androgynous look. Metallic colours were in.
Choose an 80s suit with low neckline and pencil skirt for busty ladies, looser androgynous style look good on women with narrow hips and squarer shoulders. Pick colours that suit you, and wear experimental patterns based around those colours as a starting point. If the colours suit you, and the shapes of the clothing flatters your body then you can’t go wrong.
Wear an over-sized jacket or jumper with slim fitting jeans and low heels to give the illusion of slimmer legs. A shortcut to 80s style is to buy an men’s blazer and wear it over-sized, which automatically creates the top heavy, casual 80s look. The important thing with over-sized shoulders is to make sure your silhouette comes in at the waist otherwise the shapes will drown you. Wear a belt, a pair of high waisted trousers or a skirt to create this shape.
If you like your denim then this is the era for you. Legs have come back into fashion. High waisted styles stick with us and now tummies out is a big look.
90s outfit by bragvintage featuring a high waisted trousers
Styles are still quite relaxed. Loose waistcoats, denim dresses and jackets are in the limelight. As well as dungarees, pinafore dresses and turtle neck tops (reminiscent of the 60s). Turtle neck tops are great because they look elegant and give the illusion of a longer neck. Waistlines stayed high, with denim shorts and tartan skirts sitting on them.
Iconic TV shows like Friends illustrate what was in fashion at the time. The look was relaxed and a bit tomboyish but with a feminine twist. Looking casual was key to the look. High necklines and high waisted jeans were important to this decade. Mini skirts were back in but this time also in leather. Leather jackets were a big hit across both sexes.
Sportwear, such as oversized sweaters and jumpers were worn as unisex items.
90s Trends by bragvintage featuring a turtleneck sweater
So, in conclusion..
All decades tend to overlap with each other as styles are reproduced, mimicked and updated to create exciting, fresh trends. So don’t feel confined by an era, blend your favourite styles within each era to create a look that is personal to you.
Once you decide to start building your vintage clothing collection, that by no means you have to stick to pure vintage. Mixing the old with new is part of the fun! By all means still shop on the high street as well, just crank your outfits up a notch with some creative vintage styles,shapes and accessories to give you that unique quirky twist.
Written by Becca Linnard
Credit goes to Pamela Cox, Hayley Smith, Vicky Linnard and Stephen Linnard for allowing us use of their vintage photos!