Wearing Vintage

Recently I have had the pleasure of wearing vintage clothing without spending loads of money, or for free. I have to say that the quality of vintage is infinitely better than most of the clothes you can buy in a mall.

Firstly, I participated in the Ebell’s Charter Day Luncheon where there was an historical fashion show. All decades were represented from the early 1900s up to the 80s. I was fortunate enough to fit into the 1930s dresses. First I tried on a purple silk velvet bias cut dress. As is typical of the 30s, the lavish detail was in the back, where the front was high-necked and long, dolman-like sleeves. Unfortunately the purple was too dark and rich to show off the subtle detail of the fit for the fashion show, so I wore the pale pink lace dress seen below. I have to say, it felt like it was made for me. The way bias fits makes every curve feel caressed and loved. Unfortunately the quality of the photo does not do the dress justice.

1936-7 pale pink lace dress. Was a dream to wear.

1936-7 pale pink lace dress. Was a dream to wear.

The second dress I wore was for the Bouchercon historical fashion show in Long Beach. I represented the 1930s mystery heroines like Georgie from Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen (a personal favorite). Unlike the dress above, the date of this dress is dubious. It is vintage, but it could be from the 30s, or from the 70s. One thing is for sure, it was home made.

Unlike the dress above, which had a slip, this dress required nothing underneath. For a fashion show with the main topic about underwear, I was under-dressed. The thing about wearing vintage is that when you put on the dress and you do your hair and make-up, you suddenly feel like you are vintage. You take on the persona of the character or time you are representing. (I do not remember what possessed me to pose like this.)

Vintage, though not sure if it's 30s, or a later reproduction. Rayon and metal zipper.

Vintage, though not sure if it’s 30s, or a later reproduction. Rayon and metal zipper.

The most recent event was the Bi-annual Victorian Ball. Since Victorian Ball gowns are usually $500 or more on etsy, I thought of something clever. Buy vintage from an era that’s inspired by the era you are dressing for. I lucked out. This purple velvet number is from the 70s and is a reproduction dress. What’s interesting is that someone thought the dress was 30s. Why? Because even the 30s were inspired by the Belle Epoque and late Victorian era.

Unlike the 30s, when I dress Victorian, it decreases my age. It makes every woman look at most ten years her junior. I don’t know what it is about the Victorian time, but the coquettish nature and elegance seeps into your pores and oozes youth and vibrancy. Perhaps it’s just the rambunctiousness of the Virginia Reel.

1970s reproduction of a late Victorian dress. Worn at the Victorian ball where some asked if it was a 30s dress.

1970s reproduction of a late Victorian dress. Worn at the Victorian ball where some asked if it was a 30s dress.

If I had a choice, I’d only wear vintage, or vintage reproduction. I’d pin curl my hair every night and spend a fortune on silk velvet, but unfortunately this elegance is reserved for special occasions and I look forward to more opportunities! In the meantime, I shop ModCloth and find pieces that evoke the era, while remaining modern and non-costume-y.

Fashion 1934 – Gowns

“As I walked through the lobby to the bar, I drank in the luxurious European decor. I was aptly dressed in a frock designed by Madame Charlotte Revyl. It was a columnar gown slit open in the back from my neck to my waist with a back pouffed peplum reminiscent of a Belle Époque bustle and pleats down the back with a barely there train. In emerald satin it rippled as I walked. My hair was in sculpted curls around my head and I wore a delicate diamond necklace. I felt like a walking portrait in subtle finery, contrasting with the brazen Moorish revival 24 carat gold accented ceiling and bronze Baroque doorways.”

-From Chapter 4 of The Belle from the Ebell

"Belle Corinne" The dress that inspired what Beatrice wore when she met Sam Parrish at the Biltmore in Chapter 4.

“Belle Corinne” The dress that inspired what Beatrice wore when she met Sam Parrish at the Biltmore in Chapter 4.

Fashion from the 1930s is iconic. Bias cut, slinky, figure flattering.

Dress designed by Elizabeth Hawes. 1937 Fall/Winter.

Dress designed by Elizabeth Hawes. 1937 Fall/Winter.

 

“Elizabeth Hawes created simple, witty, distinctive, elegant and practical garments for women of means. Her designs were so smart and timeless that they were as contemporary in the early 1930s as they were in the late 1940s due to her commitment to quality of materials and simplicity of line. She was committed to the notion that form follows function and paramount in her design sensibilities was the desire to make clothes that were stylish, easy to move in, and by incorporating breathable fabrics, easy to wear. Hawes focused on construction and comfort, rather than embellishment, and incorporated a variety of interesting fabric combinations and construction techniques, successfully using somewhat complex textural juxtapositions to create visual interest. Aspiring to follow in similar design techniques as Madeleine Vionnet, Hawes draped fabrics on the body and creatively pieced together wearable garments that were also beautiful works of art. Hawes’ philosophy toward fashion also shaped her aesthetic. She firmly believed there was a difference between fashion and style. Style, she declared, “is dressing to fit your own self – it lasts.” […]
This dress exudes a high level of drama with a fitted bodice and waist, flaring into a very full circular skirt, which is constrained by the wide blue ribbons at the lower hip level. The effect of the ribbons makes this silhouette appear almost sheath-like, gathering the skirt in at the hips which accentuates the female form, and then extending into a ruffled train.”

http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/155679