It’s nearing the summer months, and with all this free time, perhaps some of us have combed through our closets in preparation for the warmer weather. In this issue, I am going to look at vintage fashion history and how you can make period inspired outfits just from what is hiding in plain sight in your sewing room and your dresser drawers. Many vintage style trends have made comebacks over the years, such as aviator sunglasses, head scarves, and full circle skirts.
The blackness of World War II cast its shadow over the first part of this decade during which fashions were defined by the fabric rations, utility garbs, and uniforms. People would be given special rationing coupons that could be used to purchase utility clothes, simple plainly outfits that conserved fabrics. Because the U.S. was not as strict about its clothing rations compared to the UK, new styles authentic to America were developed over this time such as the wrap dress.
When post-war time 1940s fashion control was lifted people began desiring a different look to their clothing. So, when the French fashion designer Christian Dior came out with his “The New Look” clothing line in the February of 1947, it was the new craze. The most famous of the designs in the new collection consisted of long and full skirts, particularly densely pleated, and very fitted and flattering jackets meant to be worn together as one outfit. This carried into the 1950s and remained the popular silhouette for women.
As the 1950s rolled around, everything from the everyday dress to the party styles took on the full circle skirt look with the maximum amounts of pleats and fluffiness. Whether you learned your fashion history from Fancy Nancy when you were little or not, most of you probably have seen a picture of the iconic poodle skirt, usually coming in light pinks and blues, which was one of the well-known clothing pieces of the era. Other signature 1950s fashions were box coats, bomber jackets, light blouses, and the pencil skirt.
Fashion in the 1960s changed forever primarily because of the influence of style figures like Jackie Kennedy and designer Mary Quant. During this era, chunky sweaters, turtlenecks, stirrup pants, bell bottoms, statement jewelry, and blue jeans all became big influencers. Over this period, two contrasting styles emerged: one driven by the colors and tastes of the youth and the other driven by simple styles.
The ‘60s as also the time in fashion history where mini skirt and mini dresses became popular; nevertheless, full skirts were still in style. The classic swing dress soon was born with the hem line ending at about the knee. Fabrics got a little bolder and more colorful. Baggier dresses also came into style, contrasting the sheath type dress with no defined waistline.
Finally, during the 1970s, bright colors, free and relaxing type dresses, and monochromatic outfits all became big styles as well as head scarves, maxi dresses, neck scarves, crocheted lace, floral prints, and a resurgence of aviator sunglasses.
To make your own circle skirt or pencil skirt from scratch, all you need is a good amount of fabric. Stretchy knit fabric is good if you do not want to make pleats in your skirt, but should you like to make pleats, cotton based fabric is usually better. Many websites offer circle skirt calculators so you can find how much fabric you will need depending on your waist size and how long you want the skirt to be. To sew it up is quite simple and really only requires a waist band. For this, thick Italian elastic works well or one could create a casing with a drawstring, although these tend not to hold up to as much use as the elastic.
To sport a very casual 1960s style, try to find a dress in your closet that is either full and pleated or more like the shift dress. Both of these styles are great for summer, and you can make both formal and informal uses for those pieces of clothing.
Pair some denim with a floral dress, possibly a flowing maxi skirt and top, and you are good to go for the 1970s. Or perhaps a classier look with a neck scarf and full circle skirt would suit your fancy. Whatever the case, mixing in a little vintage style with your regular get up, especially during this time, can help to make your summer closet a little more interesting!