Vintage 101: Silhouettes Of The Past

Vintage 101: Silhouettes Of The Past

Vintage 101: Silhouettes Of The Past

Sun, 2000-06-25 03:00

Angel Cutsforth

In my last article, I wrote that one of the most important things when dating an item of vintage is to study the silhouettes of different decades. It’s also very important when finding a decade to suit your body shape. A curvy figure wouldn’t really look fabulous in a lot of 1920s styles, whereas the 1950s or early 1960s would look amazing.


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The best thing to do if you think you like an era is to look at illustrations and photos to see if you would suit part of the look. Keep in mind you don’t need to dress head to toe in vintage to enjoy the fashions of the past.

1920s – The 1920s look was a straight up and down look with androgynous undertones. Women with flat chests and boyish looks where considered the most attractive and a lot of women used to bandage their chests in order to get the flat look that was so desirable. Dresses weren’t fitted and where actually boxy in shape in order to accentuate the look of the day.

1930s – During the 1930s the dresses and suits became more fitted accentuating the feminine form and dresses started to cut on the bias to ensure that the fabric would skim over curves. Women who were suffering after the Wall Street Crash, just altered their flapper dresses in order to fit in with the feminine 1930s look.

1940s – During the 1940s fabric was rationed and clothing patterns and clothing sold in shops needed to adhere to regulations. Hemlines came up a few inches, and although dresses where fitted they still allowed women the freedom of movement they needed in their new work roles. For women who did more physical labor trousers and dungarees where popular. Women still kept a sense of their femininity though with red lipstick being one of the most important accessories for the 1940’s woman.

1950s – After the war Dior created his New Look. It involved a fitted bodice, nipped in waist and very full skirt. However, even though most people think of circle skirts when they think of the 1950s, women also wore wiggle dresses and pencil skirts. Clothing became frivolous again after years of seriousness and women didn’t need practical clothing all the time. The feminine form was once again celebrated by the fitted silhouette and the full skirted silhouette.

1960’s – The 1960s represented the biggest change in styles in a long time. Although they began with a continuance of the 1950s style (think Mad Men), Mary Quant created the mini skirt and hemlines rose to new heights. Instead of fitted silhouettes for the 1950s the A-line shape became hugely popular. The Mod look was epitomized by Twiggy.

During the 1970s and 1980s there were a few different distinctive styles and the silhouette between each of them was hugely varied. However during the 1980’s there was resurgence in 1940s and 1950s style with 1940s style suits with peplums given a twist became hugely popular, as did full skirts and the rockabilly look from the 1950s.


Image Layout: Laura Funk

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