Tuesday, January 26, 2010

On the Ideals of Vintage Beauty

[image from Jezebel.com]

I realize that through all my recent posts on the various accoutrements* of "doing" a vintage look (the undergarments, the hair, the heels), I might be giving the impression that I'm trying to make myself over into some sort of airbrushed pinup ideal. In fact, the truth is that I'm distinctly uncomfortable with the idea of looking too "done."

I recently tried to do a look that was over-the-top vintage. False eyelashes, girdle, padded bra, high heels, the works. And I hated how I felt, sort of like a fembot/drag queen version of myself. I know that some women say that they feel "empowered" when they get all sex-kittened up. That's great for them. But I have to admit, I'll die a happy girl if I never hear someone say she feels "empowered" by things like this again. (I believe that empowered is the most overused - and erroneously used - word by modern women. But I digress.)

I guess what I'm saying is that I sometimes find the art of doing vintage at odds with my feminist ideals. If anyone else tried to tell me that I had to meet some exacting set of beauty ideals to be a part of a subculture, I'd tell them where they could go. But there's something about the standards of vintage beauty that can have me losing myself at times - feeling overly done, out of sorts, and not measuring up - as much as I desperately try. When it stops being fun and starts being another excuse to beat up on ourselves, there's a problem.

So, on to the solution. Personally, I try to temper a more "done" look with some down-to-earth elements: unpainted nails, geeky glasses, scuffed ankle boots, polka dot tights. That sort of thing. I guess I see it as sort of the anti-Dita Von Teese philosophy. While she's gorgeous, she admits to going to extraordinary lengths to get her look - breast implants, fake beauty mark, corset tightlacing, etc. She makes a point to never be seen wearing anything less than a full vintage look. She proclaims that she lounges around in vintage slips, not t-shirts. Running to the store in jeans is not an option for her.

That's great for Dita Von Teese. I admire the woman's commitment and I just adore her in general. I have to remind myself, however, that she makes her living by virtue of looking the way that she does. I think we everyday vintage-lovers could stand to be a little easier on ourselves. (And hell! If Dita feels like it, she should also be easier on herself. Screw the Hollywood/burlesque status quo.)

And - at least for me - another thing that ties into all this is that pesky notion of "authenticity" that I see showing up so often. In other words, that to "do" a certain era authentically, it has to be done a certain way. As though there were only one genuine way of being a woman in the 40s of 50s, for example. But more disturbing is that often this notion of authenticity carries with it a certain amount of judgment - against tattoos, jeans, straight hair, whatever. I must admit to finding this strange. I mean, is the joy of vintage dressing in authentically, realistically, rigidly reproducing an era gone by? For me, it's not. It's in celebrating the beauty of another era and incorporating it into my life in 2010. Some days that means victory rolls with torn jeans and Chucks. Some days it might mean doing the whole shebang - heels, crinolines, and all that. Other days I might just stay in my flannel sock-monkey print pajamas. Who knows? The beauty of being me is that I'm still myself in all of these get-ups. And so are you! After all, at the end of the day - the only one who has to live in your skin is you.

What do you think of all this? Do you strive to be more like Dita everyday? Or are you content to incorporate retro looks into a more modern look overall? Do you ever feel uncomfortable with the standards of vintage beauty?

*I also just realized that the plural of accoutrement is . . . accoutrement. Not accoutrements! (Right?) I hope you'll allow me this crass Americanization.


  1. Being, ahem, of a certain age. And having had a mom who was of the 30s, 40s, and 50s (and who is no longer with us, but she was an incredible dame, believe me)and who was also very stylish, I can tell you that:
    a) Not every woman was bomber-chested. My mom wore, believe it or not, a 38-A (she was also 5'10" tall and very athletic as a youngster).
    b) Not every woman wore a girdle or a corset - now, my mom was slim in the waist for a long time, but that had as much to do with her height as it did with the Great Depression and WWII and the general lack of food in the UK.
    c) Not every woman wore Victory Rolls. My mom did set her hair and wore it clipped back, but please.
    I think the whole issue of 'doing things authentically' is sort of a red herring -- why do we actually LIKE vintage? Because it's different. It's romantic. It hearkens back to an era when everyone dressed more nicely, more formally every day. Men wore suits and hats. The whole concept of 'casual Friday' (which seems hopelessly old fashioned now since it's now 'casual everything')did not exist. So, from a personal standpoint, I say, "Wear what you like and what you feel flatters you and makes you feel like a million bucks." That should be enough.

  2. I find it inspiring that some people go to such efforts to get the vintage look, but obviously it's not for everyone! I'm 18, but love to dress in clothes with a vintage feel to them (usually ones I make) because it suits me, being of the hourglass shape - big bust, small waist and large hips! One should be comfortable with what they wear, if that is fully 'authentic', then so be it - and the same goes for the 'un-authentic' look!

  3. Ewww Dita has horrible hands!!!

    I think doing a flawless vintage look is just too hard. Fair enough if you're Dita and make a living out of it (and you have a gazillion dollars and stylists/makeup artists/hair people at your disposal), but for the average person, it's too impractical.

    And anyway, Dita's whole "vintage look" is a contemporary interpretation, anyway! How many people would have actually worn that much make-up and had such perfect hair and such restrictive clothes? And to be honest, she looks lovely in photos, but I bet in real life she looks awful with all that make-up caked on!

  4. It's in celebrating the beauty of another era and incorporating it into my life in 2010.

    Exactly! This is how I have viewed my interests in the fashions of previous decades. I have occasionally wondered what people think of me since I don't strive to be "authentic", but rather evoke the look of an era. I know there are those out there who would look down their noses at me, while others appreciate the fact that I don't take it too seriously. lol. Personally, I keep things "real" in the 2010 sense by treating my outfits as artistic expressions. I incorporate a lot of various bits and pieces into my look so it still stays a bit whimsical. (Case in point: I've painted my nails glittery blue today! Definitely not period appropriate for the 40s. ;) That's another reason why I haven't aimed too much for the pinup/burlesque look, but more for the "girl next door" theme. Despite all my 4" heels, red lipstick and floral skirts, I'm still quite a character and a bit rougher around the edges than some, but that fits me and my lifestyle!

    About hairstyles and such: when I started researching photos and magazines from the 40s with an eye for alternatives to the highly stylized hairdo's (that we all love so much), I was excited to find that there were lots of variations! (My favorite at the moment is the mid 40s clipped back look with my hair hanging down my back. Easy.) The thing is, people are always people, and we all have days when we can't spend loads of time on primping. Hair out of place, lack of makeup, outfits that focus more on comfort than beauty--even our grandmothers were there! ;)

    But, re: going for the complete look... I too often get the feeling of being a caricature of myself when I go the whole way. ;)

    I like what Toby said in another comment: "...why do we actually LIKE vintage? Because it's different." To worry too much about whether one tows the "authenticity" line, the pinup line, the 50s bombshell line, etc. to a "t", for me takes the joy out of why I delight in dressing the way I do. I love how you have created a great version of the vintage look for yourself; to me it's personalized and says something about the woman who is sporting the pretty dresses! She just isn't a woman wearing pretty dresses; she has a definite personality and views on things! She isn't just dressing up to look pretty, but has to make her love of vintage work in her everyday outfits. To me, I think that's the perfect balance.

    Okay... enough rambling (how's that for a long comment? rofl).

    ♥ Casey
    blog | elegantmusings.com

  5. It is fun to wear a girdle, thick mascara or dainty heels if you don't HAVE to every day. I remember this every time I run for a bus and catch it, climb a ladder with ease or cry in a movie theater.

    As for keeping up with the Teeses and other celebs, the way I see it, it is their job to be beautiful. It is my job to be an editor. Expecting myself to look as good as them is as unrealistic as expecting my plumber to have a firm grasp of restrictive vs. nonrestrictive clauses.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Oh, it makes me so happy to read this. Not that I assumed you to be one of those 'authenticists', and I find your style genuine but yet it’s a certain style (I mean, if we are to generalize). The thing is I adore this style, and am very much inspired by it (as I hope you have seen… thanks for the comment on my blog, by the way!) although quite new to it. Where I live, there’s quite a few that I would recognize with the same style (omg, it sounds like I’m talking about it as some sort of community…), and sometimes it feels like, since I’m doing my personal twist, that they wouldn’t acknowledge me since I’m not ‘going all the way’ and all authentic. To put it short: I sometimes feel like I’m not allowed to do this style because it’s not authentically done! Well, that’s probably all in my head, but that’s why it’s so nice to read your post on this! Whah. Hope that makes some sence.

  8. I think as long as you feel good about how you are dressed then go for it! But I think you could over do it if it stresses you out. I am a stay at home mom and I don't like to dress in sweats or t-shirts. I have always made sure I look nice whether I put on make up or wear jewelry or wearing nice looking clothes.

  9. Hey guys, just a quick note: if we could refrain from making harsh judgment calls on Dita's body (i.e. her hands), that would be great.

    Anyway, lotsa great points! Can't wait to hear what everyone has to say!

  10. Having had a grandmother of this era who had impeccable taste and style, I think these women put forth a great amount of effort to look good. The halfmoon nails and the girdles were only a small portion of what they went through. But they also had more time to put their looks together. I stil look at some of the older photos and think my grandmother looked like a movie star.

  11. in my opinion, there is nothing empowering about trying to meet someone else's standard of beauty. i too dislike when a woman gets all dolled up to meet such high standards while claiming empowerment.

    but keep in mind, i have gone from wearing thick layers of makeup, and pounds of hairspray, to a small amount of mascara, and infrequent shaving.

    what i have found (at least for me) is that being myself, and actually looking like what i'm supposed to look like is far more empowering.

    i wear makeup when i feel like it, shave when i want, and don't really care if i get a second glance. and my legs get LOTS of second glances. :)

    what i do find empowering is the having the choice to dress however we choose. something that the women of past eras may not have been able to enjoy as freely.

    there were always standards of beauty that women were held to, and we had to meet them. now, we get the choice.

    i like the comment that toby left. not every woman looked a certain way. after all, we can't all go flitting around in pengior sets when we're at home with the stomach flu. i doubt out grandmothers did that. :) women didn't dress like pin-ups, pin-up art always seemed to me to be an exaggeration of past women. kinda like the way "the girls next door" are an exaggeration of women today.

    i love wearing vintage. but i always mix it into my modern clothes. it's more of a comfort thing for me. i suspect that most people couldn't even pick out the vintage piece that i am wearing.

    but like i always say. wear what you want, do what you want, it's nobody else's business. that's empowerment.

    whew, that was a long one. :)

  12. Another thought-provoking post, Gertie! A couple of thoughts rushed into my head all at once:

    - making your own clothes is kickass. Making something for you, concentrating time and energy on it, tailored to you (not just in measurements, but in style, fabric and such) is awesome. I have no idea whether it's empowering or whatever, whether you're making vintage stuff, vintage-inspired stuff or just stuff.

    - wearing vintage stuff is fun. Whether you do it all the time, or just every so often, or everyday paired with non-vintage looks, surely matters less than what enjoyment you get out of it. If Dita has got the time and energy (and helpers?!) to look that way all the time, then that's great - but I'm guessing most of us don't, so you take what you want from it and leave the rest.

    - I love that we can learn from generations of women before us. I feel like it connects us all a bit more to my mum's generation, and my grandmothers'... and female wisdom is a pretty special thing.

    That's it - brain dump. Keep 'em coming! You've started a debate in our office already...

    @carina_ x

  13. I think for me there is a difference between pin-up vintage and just everyday vintage dressing. I also think the pin-up style we see nowadays is more exaggerated than it was back in the day. My favorite pin-up artist is Vargas and the women in his paintings are typically not intentionally being sexy. It reminds me of Jessica Rabbit--She's not bad, she's just drawn that way. : ) Also, there is a softness and innocence to the paintings that we don't get with the digital up-close photos of pin-up girls today. They're too edgy for me. What draws me to the period pin-ups is the gorgeous colors and the humor in them.

    My love of vintage started with aprons. I love to cook and I get pretty messy. I think then the house dresses and tailored blouses with the gathered shoulders and the fitted sheath dresses and sturdy shoes really kept me coming back to vintage. It's the everyday wear rather than the over the top "done" look that I love. I decided this last year that dressing in jeans and baggy tops was not helping my H figure so I have made a conscious effort to dress in clothes that fit better because clothes that fit well look better. The ease in clothes these days is enormous and so I naturally gravitated towards older styles of clothes--mostly early 60's but some earlier in order to get a better fit. Never does it cross my mind that I need to be authentic in any way. I am just putting clothes on that fit me well.

    I think another thing I try to borrow from vintage is attitude. Pride in what is yours and respect for what is others. Make do and Mend. Waste not want not. The idea that we can't take for granted what we have because we might not have it tomorrow. I want to save money by growing my own veggies and sewing my own clothes and doing without if I don't need it. That is the biggest thing I love about vintage. The beauty is just a perk. : )

  14. I'd say having 'style' is the important point. Being comfortable in what you wear and how you wear it. You may be able to prove me wrong but didn't many great style icons of their day achieve their status by breaking the rules (whatever they may be)? Chanel, Audrey Hepburn, even Kate Moss today - they just re-wrote the book on how to dress.

    I can see why women like to be authentically vintage and I admire their dedication but I don't think it absolutely the right way to do it. Doesn't seem entirely fun.

    PS. Talking of real life vintage, have you seen this? http://momstyleicons.blogspot.com/

  15. I was struck by your comment: "As though there were only one genuine way of being a woman in the 40s or 50s." Sometimes I feel we have fallen into this same trap now, as if there are only a few "authentic" ways of being feminine or womanly, and that we fall victim to being enslaved by a particular look, be it vintage or modern.

    I think it's most refreshing, and dare I say empowering, to just wear what we want, when we want, whether that is full-on vintage or a mix of eras, or no vintage at all. If we are enjoying being ourselves, we are beautiful, authentic women.

  16. I just like being me. I also agree that there is nothing "empowering" about living up to anyone elses standards of beauty (or anything for that matter).

    I like to mix it up with accessories that "don't belong". I like to wear digital watches with cartoons or calculators on them. I like sneakers and green nail polish.

    I had a boyfriend that actually used to yell at me for wearing such accessories with my dresses. "If you're wearing a dress, you can't wear that watch, it isn't 'period'." I'm sorry, are we doing a play or something? I didn't get that memo. I dumped him because I like being myself. And you know what? I think I'm cute! And everyone else seems to get a real kick out of how I dress, whether it's period or not.

  17. I completely agree with all your points, Gertie. Whenever I hear someone banging on about 'authenticity', I'm afraid my heart sinks a little. I have an aversion to any kind of uniform (rich coming as I do from a military background several generations over...), which is in part why I fled France to come to London, where people can wear whatever they want without raising an eyebrow... I love diversity, and anything that puts a restriction on that I simly don't have time for. If people want to do the whole look, that's fine by me, but I don't want to hear them criticising others who might balk at the girdles or shoes or hairstyle... I don't do the hair or the crinolines (yet), but I have bought the gloves to wear with my dresses... shame I haven't had the courage to wear them yet, as I keep worrying it's taking the retro thing too far...

    I love the vintage look, but I also love the 21st century and wouldn't swap them for the world.

  18. For me, wearing vintage is about appreciating several things. (Sorry if this gets a bit long-winded; it's a bit early in the morning for me to be focused.)

    First of all, I love the sheer aesthetics... clothes had such lovely little details, fabric prints had beautiful Art Deco designs, etc. A lot of thought went into the design of everyday things, not just clothes. And I'm a design snob, what can I say?

    Second, vintage brings back memories of and associations with a simpler time, when kids could safely play throughout the neighborhood, people knew their neighbors and could leave their doors unlocked... It was a time my grandparents and parents lived through that made them who they are, and in turn made me who I am today.

    Third, I fell in love with Fred Astaire at age 8. It was all downhill from there!

    But seriously, I don't feel the need to replicate "authentic" looks. It's ok with me if some folks want to get into the nitty gritty and be hard-core about it, but I don't feel the need. I'm an appreciateur, not a re-enactor. On days when I'm not wearing a purchased vintage dress or a dress I made from a vintage pattern, I'm wearing new pieces that still follow the aesthetic: for example today I'm wearing a pencil skirt I made from polar fleece, and a bateau-necked sweater from the Salvation Army. Nobody would look at what I'm wearing and call it "vintage inspired," because they wouldn't get past the polar fleece, but I know it's a silhouette from the past, and I like it.

    As for gals like Dita; vive la difference! It's lovely that she can carry it off. I'll let her carry that torch!

  19. Personally, I think the reason why I'm so drawn to vintage styles is the very feminine qualities of the eras without being over sexualized (yet still sexy). I think the flirty style of the 40's and 50's is so fun because it doesn't show as much skin. It leaves something to the imagination which is a long lost thought these days. As for being authentic, the only look that is really authentic is one that is authentically you. There are so many great personalized takes on the vintage pin up look, like the suicide girls, that are creative and beautiful. I think that kind of style... taking something that was once oppressive and making it your own is what makes it sexy and powerful.
    In my every day life I am a jeans and tshirt girl to the max. I work with kids and couldn't imagine wearing heels or even bothering to do my make up. I think that is why when I do play with a vintage look people in my everyday life get a little taken aback. That makes me a little uncomfortable because I do feel like I'm wearing a costume or trying to be something I'm not. I've learned to pick and choose things that make me feel good without feeling over the top. I don't mind someone admiring my look, but I don't want someone staring at me like I'm some sort of side show! That just fits in more with my personality.

  20. I used to believe perfection each day was the goal, and was disappointed in myself that I didn't reach it. Then this Christmas I got a taste of it, my hair in order every day, barely an hour a day out of the vintage style, and oh how I missed my sweat pants! =) So now I know, once in a while suits me much better than every day. I like balance!

    As to the question of authetic, that's a bit trickier for me. I come from sewing much older historical clothes, where this is an even bigger question. Thing is that for all era's past there are ways of being and looking that goes against the memory of the era. And the more one digs, the more styles and diversity one finds. This holds true as much for the 40s as for the 1400s.

    However, as much as I think it's just not right that an outfit needs corsets and victory rolls to be an authentic recreation, I also think there are limits to how modern an outfit can be and still be named a recreation of an era. For example, if you wear your 1480s italian gown without your chemise underneth, then I think you've missed a quite big point... Same as if you've cut it off at the knees *shiver's here* And the same for 40s and 50s, if you use a vintage pattern but alter it beyond recognition and beyond how it could have been used at the time, then it's not a recreation.

    Of course, it's not everyone's goal to recreate an era, but then please, Please call it what it is: vintage inspired. For me, part of the thrill is to sometimes strive for autheticity (hmm, spelling? =) ) 'cause something can be learned from it, and sometimes the flare of an era is so much stronger when one goes a bit nerdy about it. Please don't get me wrong here, this can be reached just as well in a pinaforte dress, with bare legs in low open shoes, as well as in a 50s satin full circle dress with stockings and 4 inch heels.

    Autheticity is for me most the question of intent: do I strive for a modern item with a vintage feel, or do I do this project to learn something about a bygone era? Granted, this question is a lot more distinct when sewing medieval than when sewing vintage. The downside: it becomes harder to define what we are doing, and why. For me, it's important to know these things and to properly define them. But I can understand that for some people, it's all the same. Each one to his or her own!

  21. I understand the conflict between a vintage look and feminism. I struggle with that as well. What does it mean that I'm striving for a look from an era that would have been less than ideal to live in? Ok, less than ideal may be an understatement. An out bisexual feminist organic farming hippy in the 30s? 40s? 50? Not likely to have been an easy or even possible course for my life to take in those decades.

    But it is fun and it does allow me to express my creativity. So, I keep my hair short cause I like it best that way and dress how I feel on a given day and don't worry about authenticity.

  22. Wow! What a post, Gertie!!!

    And look at everyone's responses (posts of their own!).

    You totally have a healthy view of all of this (in my opinion). I feel like I could have written this :)

    I'd write more, but I think you've all got it pretty much covered!


  23. I'm going to add to my earlier comment, at the risk of being a space hog...I didn't even address the empowerment/sexualization issue.

    As a bisexual who went to a woman's college, I've thought about/talked about/argued about sexual stereotypes and sexism ad nauseum.

    When I was in a lesbian relationship, I had a partner who freaked out when I wore vintage dresses and shaved my legs, which made being involved with men much easier(!) They certainly didn't feel threatened by my femininity. So in a way, wearing vintage was a part of my process of placing myself on the gender identity/femininity scale.

    That being said, none of the men I dated wanted me to look like a pinup, and they didn't treat me like a dumb bimbo when I dressed a little sexier and wore heels and a pencil skirt. If they had, I wouldn't have dated them.

    Another reason I wear vintage is also to pay homage to the things I admire about women of the past: women RAN this country during WWII, while the men were away. They showed courage, ingenuity, and grit, while wearing feminine-yet-modest togs. They could be strong and feminine at the same time. That's the very balance I was trying to find for myself in my younger days, and it's where I feel most comfortable.

  24. To me, being "authentic" just means dressing like any person might have in that era. I am not an exceptionally glamorous or traditionally feminine woman by today's standards, so when I look for fashion cues from the past, it's usually photos of the average working woman or housewife that I am inspired by. Photos of movies stars might be beautiful and impressive, but I'm not a movie star. I don't feel like I need to look like Angelina Jolie any more than than I do Ava Gardner.

    There are SO many more fashion icons of past eras than just what we see in old movie posters. I feel like there is room enough for all of us: from Rita Hayworth to the homely librarian to WWII factory workers to your granny who made her own dresses out of flower sacks, and beyond...

  25. I adore, ADORE vintage dress but I do agree with everyone here, with our lifestyles today, it's difficult to go with the whole shebang each day.

    One thing I feel we tend to forget is that a woman with a career and that didn't spend time at home much was very uncommon in those days. I'm sure running a household is no easy task but lets face it, we would all have more time to primp ourselves up if we didn't have to worry about classes or getting to work on time.

    I'm only 19 and as much as I love the 50's, I take a more low-key approach to it. Full gathered skirts (thanks for the tutorial Gertie!!), wing-tip flat shoes, but a fitted tee-shirt or tanktop instead. I can never make a decent victory roll but I rock a pomp or a ponytail with a ribbon all the time. I wear my vintage cardigans pearls and modern jeans. Plus to be honest, I prefer to look like I'm inspired by an era, rather than like I stepped off the set of Crybaby.

  26. the idea that anyone could be empowered by an uncomfortable undergarment is beyond me... I mean really. I love the feel of vintage because it makes me feel romantic and transported out of this time.

    Growing up I went everywhere with my dad in his vintage era cars that he had built with his own two hands. And there is always something about vintage things, be it fashion, or hair, or cars, that makes me feel safe. It makes me smile to know that I can set a pin curl and that I know what a 1940's chevy sedan deluxe looks like. In my search for a look my own and a life that no one else had, vintage has always felt so right.

    Your posts are always good food for thought!

  27. Well, between the blog entry and all the comments most things seem to have been covered! I just wanted to add that I'm really happy to see these tensions being discussed, i.e.between being a feminist who is a)interested in not conforming to any set of gendered stereotypes from any era and b)interested in appearences.

    If anyone is interested I read this chapter last year and thought it also thought provoking:-


    The book is by Iris Young and is called 'On female body experience, throwing like a girl and other essays' and the chapter is called 'women recovering our clothes'. Cheers, emily

  28. What I like about vintage is the connection that you feel with the women who came before you. They lived in a different time, but they went through the same times of struggles and victories. I like the feeling that a dress or a sweater makes me somehow closer to my great-grandma or my great-great-grandma that I never knew.


  29. Is there a RIGHT way to do vintage AUTHENTICALLY? How about this, Is there a RIGHT way to be AUTHENTICALLY contemporary and modern? There were just as many women with just as many varying opinions in the 30's, 40's and 50's as there are now. Some of them may just not be outspoken about it. then and now.
    My inspiration has been and possibly always will be Katharine Hepburn. She wore pants in public when it wasn't fashionable to do so. She was athletic and some would say a bit of a tomboy. She also learned to skateboard in her 80's and Spence almost gave himself a heart attack thinking she would break her neck. She also wasn't "classically" beautiful. And yet she is a classic vintage icon both as an actress as well as for her style and her look. She just did what made her feel good, like having perfectly messy hair. That is what we should all do. Whatever that is.

  30. This is oversimplifying for sure, and full of generalizations (uh..and Mad Men references), but its the only way my thoughts on this are clear(ish):

    I think there's two main roads for women who like to be stylish, and two main roads for vintage lovers. There are women who have fashion-level-style; who have perfect hair, makeup, nails, clothes, heels...your Betty Drapers/Joan Holloways of the world. Then you have women who make their own style, who when at work or out on the town..look amazing with done hair, awesome clothes, nice shoes...but their nails might not be done, or they might not have bothered with lipstick. Your Peggy Olson's.

    For vintage, you have people who strive to fall back into that era, they do everything they possible can to be vintage, to be an anachronism. While I enjoy this, its impossible to completely avoid the modern world...unless your Amish and then those zippers you love are verboden. For a lot of other people, they love rockabilly and with rockabilly comes a love of vintage a lot of the time (but still not always.) And if not rockabilly, they still fall into it through an 'alternative culture.' Most of the vintage fans I know are vegan/veg, tattooed/pierced, love punk/rockabilly/psychobilly...maybe its an age thing. But there's definitely NOTHING wrong with having tattoos and loving vintage! You've seen seamline stocking tattoos haven't you?

    I think a lot of people forget that what you see in magazines and movies is never how things actually were most of the time. This goes for now, AND for the past. Dita Von Teese is one way, like Bettie Page was one way...but not everyone looked like that, and not everyone *wanted* to look like that.

    Some interesting time warp pages that I love are Joey Harrison's Moms World on Flickr: http://www3.flickr.com/photos/joeyharrison/sets/1071542/
    and Square America: http://www.squareamerica.com/

    Real people, real time period.

    Its so hard to articulate a reply in this teeny weeny box...lol ;)

  31. this is a great post Gertie! I love a vintage look, and a goth look and a punk look and a nerdy look, all of which I've adopted in some form or another over the years. I don't wear girdles or stockings, sometimes tights, more often ankle socks even though I'll be 50 this year. I go for comfort above all else, but with a fun 40's vibe, no need to be uber-authentic for me. I actually prefer repro's or making my own to buying true vintage - it's easier on fit, and i don't feel guilty if something happens to my clothing. It's fine for girls who go whole hog on the look, but it's just not for me. I do polish my nails, set my hair and wear make up when I go out, but I do that no matter what my current "style" is.

    What I really prefer about "going vintage" is the style of life - simpler, people had and used manners, children were polite and didn't run the house (usually), there was not as much waste of clothing and household goods. It was not all rainbows and happy living, life was harder but simpler. I like the idea of living that ideal and my goal in 2010 is to keep on simplifying and not being so materialistic.

  32. I have a much longer response to this, but I am being called to read books to my child.

    Let it suffice to say I suppose I identify more with dita, in the sense that I dont leave the house without a put together hair do. and a dress/or skirt. or 50s repro pants. I just dont feel appropriate leaving the house not looking my best. I mean sure around the home I might lounge in pjs (vintage! so comfy!)
    but If I am leaving the house I am going to be the best I can be. It makes me feel better.

    and as much as people say its time consuming .. its not
    I set my hair at night right before bed. I wake up pull my curlers out and run a brush through it. add some lipstick and I am out the door. its a 10 min process! :D

  33. I’ve often wondered how someone who is more involved in the vintage community felt about matters of authenticity. As is the case in ANY realm where authenticity comes into play, seems like a lot of judgment could get handed down. And, as you astutely point out, there wasn’t one kind of woman from each era … so why should any recreations be considered sub-par if they don’t incorporate certain items or techniques? I, too, admire Dita for her commitment. But also agree that she’s one end of the gamut, and there’s room along there for many looser, easier, more pick-and-choose interpretations.

  34. I think a lot of what appeals to me, personally about the vintage aesthetic is two things:

    #1 - While vintage looks are certainly capable of looking flirty or sexy, they're never trashy. The trashy look that often seems to be popular today makes me crazy, I don't understand why it seems to be so popular. I think there's something to be said for a bit of mystery and not letting it all hang out.

    #2 - Vintage looks often seem to go hand in hand with looking more put together. I am not talking the full on Dita head to toe look (although I love Dita, and admire her devotion to her look), but I am personally of the thought that it really doesn't take much to put on something other than sweatpants or pajama pants when you're going out. Generally dressing vintage, even if it's just vintage influenced, means you're going to look a bit more put together.

    JMO, though.

  35. I hope you don't mind if a guy chimes in, albeit a rather unusual gay guy who likes to sew vintage patterns and get dolled up in Diane Von Furstenberg-style wrap dresses and for a kick (really just for my Pattern Review postings, where I'm known as "Peter in NYC."

    I just discovered Gertie's blog yesterday -- I read her most recent PR review -- and as someone with a great appreciation for vintage style(s), I love it. I also understand the conflicts one can feel over finding oneself drawn to styles (say, the 1950s) or a way of being in the world (more traditionally "feminine" perhaps)that by many women today associated with gender oppression or pre-feminist.

    I think it's really important to embrace what gives us pleasure and not flagellate ourselves for liking what we like, or feel guilty about our preferences.

    The choice to wear a bullet bra or glam up like Lana Turner in "Imitation of Life" is not harming anyone else (though perhaps harmful to one's bosom). What makes people interesting, imo, is their (seeming) contradictions, not their "purity."

    We are who we are and we like what we like. It can be interesting to examine what in particular appeals to us about a certain way of dressing, or recreating authentically a style of the past -- as many people here have eloquently explored. But it shouldn't suffocate our own authentic self-expression.

    I don't see wearing false eyelashes as a political act -- at least, not for me!

    It's also important to ask oneself, re feeling "empowered," just how/where this person feels powerless when they're not in high-50's drag, and maybe address that separately. There are so many more ways for women to be powerful and independent in the world today than their were 60 years ago!

    I don't know who this Dita Von Whatever is, but it sounds like she's cashing in on her ability to recreate a 50s pin-up look; it's her job. Most women in the 50s didn't look any more like a Vargas girl than they did Audrey Hepburn or Doris Day: three very different physical types that were popular back then.

    Trying to re-create a very rigid ideal might ultimately result in feeling discouraged. But just like when we were kids, it's always fun to play dress up and explore a fantasy. It's what keeps our creativity alive.


  36. My mum is almost 80 so she was a young mother during the fifties. I have been questioning her about the kinds of things she wore. She has always dressed well and kept up with fashion in an ordinary suburban kind of way. In her opinion girdles were only for fat people, she wore step ins mainly to have something to attach her stocking to. She never wore stockings around the house only when going out when she also made sure she had a lovely outfit, most likely home sewn, hat, gloves and heels. She never wore heels around the house only flatties as she calls them. She never wore make up around the house apart from a little lipstick. She never wore trousers at home or when going out until well into the 1960s.
    My mum always looked smart, enjoyed fashion and loved to sew.
    In the early 1950s when she had long curly hair she wore it pulled back at the sides with combs but later she had it cut short as was fashionable in the later fifties, she loves short hair. She didn't much like the fussiness of jewellery but loved to wear pretty brooches on her coat. She tried to wear head scarves when they were fashionable but found them too annoying. She was more than happy to stop wearing gloves when that fashion changed. She liked to move with the times, being modern and keeping up to date was the trend of the era.
    If you see photos of my mum from the time she looks fashionable, comfortable and terrific. But I must say she doesn't look like a lot of the people I see on the net in their 'authentic vintage outfits'. Honestly , though we think there were a lot of rules about how to dress then everyone had their own spin on it just like now. And if you base your look on trying to copy exactly what you see in an old magazine just think about how many of us now dress exactly the same as whatever is the latest fashion in today's magazines - not many.Or have every beauty product that is advertised - again, not many.
    I have a few pictures of my mum in my Flickr album - http://www.flickr.com/photos/littlejennywren/sets/72157621837513137/detail/.

    The fun thing about clothes is being able to work out what you love to wear, what you feel great in and what suits the kinds of things you do.
    I don't know if you have heard of Julie Arkell the artist, she has a vintage look that I love http://lovelytextiles.blogspot.com/2008/06/julie-arkell-knit-to-embroidery_25.html
    Thanks for the great blog Gertie.

  37. More power to those who strive to be completely authentic, but shame on those who look down on people who mix eras and do their own thing. This has been an issue in the vintage scene for quite a while and I am really happy to see more and more ladies being inspired by the past and translating it into their lifestyle. Thanks for writing this post; it's nice to know other people like this our out there.

  38. Bravo! Exceedingly well said!
    I also feel somewhat not myself when I'm in all out vintage. I love jeans and keds and there's days when I just want to slub around in sweats and T shirts. You know what? That doesn't make me any less interested in vintage, or passionate about it, but I tend to think of being made up every day a waste of my time. If others like it, kudos to them- but I've never been into the amount of time people tend to primp every day and I'd rather step on a tack than wear heels and stockings every day. Haha!
    In high school my mom was eternally after me to do my hair every morning, do my makeup every day, and wear contacts instead of glasses. It never caught on and it never will.
    I'm really finding joy in casual vintage looks- like the kind my grandparents wore. It's still vintage and I can still be authentic (which is what I like), but I can still feel comforatable in my own skin and not made up into something I'm not. It's fun to dress up like an old movie star but not every day...
    In fact, I judge my real friends by the ones who can come over when I'm a slob and we can still hang out and talk clothes and they don't care one way or the other how I happen to look- and all primped up or in sweat pants they treat me just the same. Good folks, those.

  39. I feel compelled to comment, seeing as I was one of those people who said they felt "empowered" (sorry) by my undergarments (that's not exactly what I meant) under that post a little while ago. I don't equate the way Dita Von Teese looks with my personal ideal of vintage beauty at all; she is, after all, a show girl and is so much more done up (all the time) than most girls in the 40s/50s ever would have been. I think she's great and gorgeous etc, but I collect and make vintage fashions that were worn by everyday girls like myself, not burlesque dancers or Hollywood stars. Without using the E word again, dressing like this just feels like me more than any other style. I don't set my hair every night (or even every week) and I don't wear a bullet bra and I think all this stuff about authenticity is a bit rubbish. The undergarments just happen to be one of the things I love about vintage, but as long as I get the slightly curvy silouette I'm after (whether it's the garment, a crinoline or foundation garments that do it) I'm happy. Looking at Dita as an ideal seems kinda like when girls read Cleo magazine and develop body image problems as teenagers. More power to her in all her success, but I'm with Moe: the everyday girls in old photographs are just as inspirational. What that E word is all about is feeling good about yourself in a way that's true - and that's the only kind of authenticity I'm interested in.

  40. Honestly, whenever people talk about the "vintage community" like it's all snobs and strict rules I get confused. I don't know anybody like that at the Fedora Lounge.

    I'm a feminist and also enjoy dressing, so what? Personally I don't wear make-up, girdles, or stiletto heels but if someone enjoys those things they're welcome to them. I also have tattoos, short, un-done hair and, aside from a natural amount of grooming, leave my eyebrows in the shape they grow in, and I've never had anyone admonish me because that's not what girls did back when - what do they really know, anyway?

    Some 'vintage' people like to look to the stars of the era they like, others like to emulate real people by looking at schoolbook or family photos. I don't idolize either and I don't care about Dita or pin-ups. Plain and simple, I like the clothing styles of the 30s and 50s and I incorporate them into my lifestyle, adapt them to who I am and what I like and need. Forget about everyone else. There isn't any one right or proper way to have a vintage look.

  41. Hm. We aren't in the past, so any "vintage" is an interpretation anyway. You should treat your experiments with vintage fashion as experiments - you may enjoy the results, you may not, but whatever you find out, it's OK.

    I hate to say it, but I don't really like most of what passes for 50s style. Don't really care for those big poufy skirts, or the all out red lipstick, don't like being "done up." The image that this kind of fashion gives me, rightly or wrongly, is of the repression of women, and I dislike it. But I do LOVE vintage sewing. I am interested in different ways to construct garments, and in how different techniques create different results. That's why I visit your blog!

    Wear what you like to, and keep sewing!

  42. For me it's about loving the styles, beauty and femininity of the past and incorporating it into my modern look and lifestyle.

  43. I think you are perfect just how you are. I love your style and hope you never change it. It suits you very well and matches your personality.

    The way I dress is a bit sex kitten when I am going out at night but when I am crafting at home or playing with my dogs I like to wear jeans and a t shirt, possibly a scarf and pretty much no makeup. I cant really wear a corset or girdle while I am pulling weeds it just wouldnt make sense.


  44. To be honest, I got into the whole vintage thing to get away from some of the pressures of having to look a certain way. Making my own clothes ensured a better fit, and fashions of the 40s and 50s seem more flattering to my figure than contemporary fashions.
    When I started, I had to overcome some insecurities about looking a bit different in the workplace etc. So I find the whole debate about "authentic" vintage dressing and the judgement that sometimes goes along with it a bit depressing. Why put all of that pressure on ourselves(again)? Surely part of the point of feminism was to relieve some of these pressures on women and to give us the freedom to wear what we like?
    I also just reread your post on you at your happiest, which made me smile. Sophie xx

  45. I adore those that have the commitment to do the total vintage look everyday. I have bought into the nylon stockings and rago girdles, but personally I prefer the modern alternatives, I also dont cry when my £15 stockings have a snag. I like vintage because when I wear vintage I feel more feminine, the clothes of the 40s fit my shape beautiful. I love the fabrics, vintage silk and velvet are nothing like their modern day counterparts. I dont do vintage hairstyles as I have afro hair, so its impossible to try and do curls myself and the hairdressers dont really do retro styles. I also dont do retro makeup as I dont want to became caricature. As for Dita, she has been refinning her look since she was 13, she has always wanted to be a star.

  46. I also loathe the use and over-use of the words 'empowerment' and 'empowering'. It's such a patronising term that seems to only be used for women and 'disadvantaged' groups. So I'm with you on that. As for doing vintage with authenticity...while I happily admire the visual effect of a full vintage look on someone else, life would just get in the way of pulling that off myself. Loving clothes, shoes, accessoires etc is one thing but stressing and obsessing over appearance just takes the fun out of experimenting. I love old or old style buttons or details but whether those features are on a modern or vintage item makes little difference to me. Having said that, I do like imagining previous owners and previous lives of vintage items I own, particularly with jewelry.

  47. I really enjoyed this post and all the comments. I don't have much to add to the conversation.

    For me, it took going to college and taking feminist studies courses to finally come to embrace "femininity." It was only after understanding the construct of gender when I could fully appreciate fashion and beauty. Before that, all throughout growing up I was at odds with all the feminine ideals I could see around me. My diaries are filled with "It's not fair that boys...." rants. With time I've gotten more comfortable with myself, and with that comes a better sense of my own personal style. Anyway, thanks again for your post.

  48. Vintage beauty took A LOT of work and there was a time and place for that during that time period. To accomplish this on a daily basis in the present would be mind boggling for me. I love the vintage look but couldn't maintain it every day. Kudos to the ladies of the 30's, 40's and 50's who could. I have fond memories of my great-grandmother and how put together she always was...hair, make-up, undergarments, dresses, she was always so stylish. Me...I love my jeans and tee shirts and minimal amount of make-up but I do lust after some vintage looks and patterns.

    As far as Dita goes, I think she is lovely and very high maintenance. Very Garboesque...which works for her. Dita's appearance is how she makes her living and as long as she is happy with it who are we to judge.

    For me, I think incorporating retro in with modern looks is the way to go. Makes life a little more interesting...

  49. Another great post Gertie. I think about this a lot too. I don't go in for "authenticity" even inasmuch as I think such a thing is possible, like trying to keep everything within a particular era or subculture- feels too costumey to me. I love to mix and match as long as I feel like the styles compliment each other. My cultural/fashion/aesthetic reference points can never be like those of my grandma's or mom's- even if I wanted to; I could never completely "get it right"- even by the widely varied standards of any era-- I'm a product of my time.

    Sewing, wearing vintage styles, it's all about joy to me. From time to time it's fun to get all done up and feel extra fabulous, but it's not fun to me to sleep on pin curls every night or get up an extra hour early every day to do my hair. When I think about people who are really into the hyperauthenticity thing, I assume for most of it they do it because they really enjoy it, so I'm all for that. And I admire the artistry, research, energy, and commitment that goes into it. But at that level it just looks like work to me. I'm not the kind of person who would spend that long trying to get every hair in perfect place in a modern style, why would I be that kind of person with vintage style, you know?

    On the other hand, I have a dear friend who does love to create a masterpiece most days, and so does take the time. For her it's worth it because she loves to do it, and loves the results-- and you can see the glow of feeling fabulous coming from looking fabulous, and the pride of creating a look that turns admiring heads.

    As with just about everything in life, though- I'm on board with pretty much everything anyone wants to do to/for themselves, up until the point they start to think everyone else ought to do it their way too.

  50. Very interesting post and very interesting comments. Personally, I couldn't do a vintage look every day because it's a lot of hard work and I don't always want to look the same way. Some days I feel 60's mod, some days I feel 50's June Cleaver. Some days I even want to wear something from this century. Some days I live in gym clothes. I admire Dita Von Teese because she always looks amazing. The great part about being a woman in this day and age is that on any day we can choose how we dress and what we look like. We are very lucky, indeed. I'm not sure that the ladies in the 30's, 40's and 50's had as much choice.

  51. Great post; I can see why you feel some conflicting emotions.

    Funnily enough, this takes me back to conversations I had when redoing a (smaller) old-house kitchen. Even down to the "empowerment" issue, ha!

    [Open plan/closed plan: Pick your poison]

    I actually feel the same way about authenticity in dressing as in kitchens: doll up a person or a room in picture-perfect(s) salvage or reproduction, and I'll appreciate the details and the craft without romanticizing the earlier era.

    But me, I like a big ole mix of old and new. Or new that somehow pays homage to the old via color or pattern or material.

    Doesn't mean I'll scoff at the so-called purists or those who seek to replicate the look...I'm too busy checking out their creativity. But all them sparkles, it ain't me (tm KD).

  52. First about the word empowered, i agree that people throw it around a bit to much to the point that you ask "do you know what the word means?". But as a youth worker it's a word we have to use because it's a buzz word right now and that’s what funders and employers want to hear.

    When I was studying I did a research report on subcultures and I had the luck of interviewing a young person who identified as "rockabilly". I thought she looked very put together with her "vintagie" hair and perfect makeup but she told me that other people who identify as rockabilly would "diss" her for wearing levis and a black rock T-shirt. It seems you do have to be "put together" at all times to be welcomed into the fold.

    But I have heard people in other subcultures being told off for not doing such-and-such properly.

  53. "I prefer to look like I'm inspired by an era, rather than like I stepped off the set of Crybaby."


  54. Personally I prefer the more eclectic look of vintage mixed with modern. Take the most flattering aspects of both and mash them up!
    I've read those quotes by Dita about never being out of vintage and it might be true, she is pretty obsessed with it and could very well afford it. Or it might just suit her image to create a fiction that there's no 'real life' or 'time off' beyond the Dita Von Teese presentation. Either way as long as she's having fun, and as long as WE have fun, its really noone else's concern how we choose to incorporate vintage and to what degree.

  55. Pretty sure it's accoutrements. In most French words you still add the 's' in writing but do not pronounce. Kinda. for the most part.

  56. I've noticed lately that there is a push in the vintage community to be more 'authentic' and not to mix eras, and my personal theory is that this movement aims to create a distinction between rockabillies and 'true vintage'. I may mix eras and wear what I like, however, I still like looking 'done', as you say (though it doesn't take as much effort as you'd think - I've always hated how sweatpants made me feel like a slob, and I think that it's a process of replacing those things with other items that are just as comfortable. Cardigans, a loose shirt and a circle skirt - no vintage underpinnings - is how I relax at home).

    I wish that feminism and aestheticism didn't have to be considered such mutually exclusive ideals. I believe it is possible to be a strong, independent woman who takes pride in her appearance - so long as she is doing it for the right reasons (and I think it's safe to say that if any of us were dressing up for men, we wouldn't be wearing such modest outfits!) I don't want to be judged from both sides of the camp - those who think I should be more authentic, and those who think that I'm 'trying too hard'. This is a standard of beauty that I choose for myself, because it makes me happier and more confident. That's all there is to it.

  57. I read this post this morning over my coffee and have been pondering all day. I agree about having an "everyday" vintage style. I agree that the reasons I started sewing (mostly) vintage were mainly becauseWell said Emmi... well said indeed. of suitability to my body type, etc.

    I don't get the idea that vintage dressing evokes some era of feminine bondage. For one, wearing girdles and piles of underwear is not a uniquely vintage sadism for the sake of fashion. Think of all the sadism in our own mainstream society for the sake of what's normal. Consider if it is normal for women to completely remove their pubic hair. (sometimes with wax, ripping it out by the roots egad) Somehow this is almost mandatory. Consider the cult of "thin" which so many women daily sacrifice their bodies and their self esteem to chase. Don't even get me started on the modern proliferation of plastic surgery. I don't see these as any less damaging and demeaning than crinolines, elaborate hair, and girdles. In fact, I consider vintage ways of dealing with such demons to be less demeaning.

    I made a crystal clear decision one day, out of the blue, that I wanted to wear vintage clothing. I always loved staring at old snapshots of my gorgeous and stylish grandmother, felt so drawn to the clothes she wore. One day I decided I didn't care any more what people thought and I would pursue my own sense of style no matter where it took me. My transition was so gradual, but now I almost exclusively wear pretty vintage repro clothes. I've even branched out into shoes- and finding vintagey shoes in Australia is HARD.

    Also, Australia is a place that is somewhat more hostile to aggressive subcultures than America. When I go out lately I've noticed as many dirty looks as admiring ones. This puzzled me at first, but then I realized that people who don't know me well think that I am some sort of weirdo snob because of the way I dress. Not fair, I say.

    I can't really wear jeans any more, they don't feel nice to me. I wear sneakers for the gym but that's all. In fact, only my gym wear seems unaffected by my style choices. Maybe a little playsuit or two would be in order...

    I don't care what other people wear, as long as I don't have to look at A) Their sweaty fat rolls/ body hair or B) Their underwear or C) Their nipples.

    I don't "stick to an era." Impossible. I've been known to mix a c.1935 wrap top with a 1960's mod pencil skirt wearing fishnets, spectator shoes, and my hair in a victory roll and high ponytail. Somehow I get away with it. I feel so divine and don't really bother about the people who don't get me. I can live in my pretty, happy cocoon and know that there will be people I pass who smile to themselves and tell their families the story of the weird girl they saw in the street. I love that most about dressing this way, that I inject a little whimsy into a stranger's day.

    Anyway, I guess I might get more grumblings about my decade promiscuity if I knew anyone who was part of "the subculture" but I just don't. Most of my interactions are with husband's family who think I am weird anyway, with my older lady co-workers who delight in eccentricity, and with my students who exclaim
    "oh my God, I can't believe a person made that...!"

    OH ho, a long rambling post...

  58. Hi, Gertie. I found your blog a bit ago and am really enjoying it! This is a thought-provoking post.

    Ten and twelve years ago, I worked pretty hard at pulling off a head to toe authentically vintage look. Now that I've matured a bit and have a million creative pursuits and a small child to run after all day, I've let that go in favor of a relaxed personal style that incorporates a bit of all the eras I love--Victorian through mid 20th century. Some days I wear heels and pencil skirts, but most days it's cowboy boots and jeans. I'm not really inspired anymore by pancaked and corseted perfection. I choose to take the best that each era has to offer, and mix it all up for a unique, but always classy look that's all mine and real. Sometimes I wear vintage slips to bed, but a whole lot of the time it's flannel pj pants and T shirts. It's pretty hard to cuddle up with a story book and a 3 year old while wearing a girdle.

    And although I'm a hair stylist, I just don't have time for wet sets every other day, so I often times go for a softer vintage look that can be achieved with a curling iron in 15 minutes. There are enough standards and measures for women in this world without setting more for ourselves!

  59. it's all about enjoying myself. I like victory rolls and red lipstick because it makes me feel happy.

    I almost always wear opaque tights with my dresses simply because they are warmer. Though not very 40s. I would hate for "dressing up" to become a burden.

    If you want to go full hog vintage everyday day do, if you want to dress what some people call "norm" do. i don't use my clothes or make up to express myself. I use my actions. I am more than just clothes. Everyone's personalities are too complex to be expressed solely by clothes or make up.

  60. The body issues involved in achieving vintage looks are identical to those facing women who choose to dress in trendy, up to date clothing. Since many of us vintage nerds, we spend a lot of time looking at old advertisements, movies and pattern illustrations of looks.

    I think it is important to remember that these advertisements are nearly identical in intent as the first 30 pages of any vogue magazine. As women of alternative fashion, we know to take those images with a grain of salt. We should do the same with vintage images, no matter how much we love them and perhaps believe them to be more 'pure' in nature.

  61. I just stumbled upon another bloggers post about Dita doing relaxed dressing.


  62. Hear hear! I'm with you. I love my vintage clothing and I love putting a look together, but I also reserve the right to enjoy the permissiveness of our modern era as well, and wear jeans if I feel like it. I don't want to feel like a cartoon or a caricature of myself. Even with my very vintage-inspired outfits, I include some sort of modern element because I just feel more comfortable that way - even if that 'modern element' is just my haircut! :) I have no interest in reconstructing a vintage look completely authentically (although I admire people who do, as it requires huge attention to detail) - I think the beauty of our society now is that we can include elements from many different eras and make the look our own.

    Andrea xx

  63. Just to elaborate on my previous comment (whoops, haven't had coffee yet and is a bad idea to comment before I have!) I don't think at all that there's anything wrong with constructing a perfect vintage look every day. All I'm saying is that I enjoy the freedoms we have now and that I, personally, like to dress down sometimes or play with vintage looks rather than reconstruct them perfectly. I hope that makes sense!

    (And I love Dita).

  64. I wish I could do an 'authentic' vintage look everyday (though, it would be a different one each day for, as you mentioned women didn't all dress the same way in the 40s and 50s) but I'm lazy. I like to wear sand-shoes and socks because women did wear sand-shoes and socks, I don't like being seen without my red lipstick on and I hate not having my nails painted, I won't wear my hair down if it isn't curled but I still like wearing it in a ponytail or two plaits. I'll sometimes wear trousers but feel more at home in a dress or skirt. I get a little annoyed at those who suggest a 'perfect' vintage look is too hard or impractical for the everyday woman...why can't I have curled hair and wear high heels everyday if I want to? (This wasn't aimed at what you have said but at things that have been said to me in the past). I thoroughly enjoy the process of getting ready and creating my look.
    But I'll still 'dress down' (which is still often over-dressed by today's standards it seems) if I just don't feel it.
    Having said all this, I don't give a hoot if other women want to make vintage their own in whichever way they want to.
    -Andi x
    P.S. I also love the idea of lounging around in glamorous clothes but that is something I don't do. ;]

  65. I love this! You are totally right. No matter how much a girl may try, she cannot be a girl in the 40s, because (duh) it's the...um...teens? 2010s?

    Besides the obvious temporal issue, modern mentality just isn't the same as it was then. People didn't dress as they did to be ironic, they dressed to be dressed in whatever way made them feel fabulous. You can't take a vintage outfit entirely out of context. It just doesn't work.

    However, I find that little tributes to the past and touches of class here and there in a modern context can be both utterly gorgeous and completely rad. But amen to realism.

    Cheers, and good luck with your sewing adventures ;)

  66. Gertie, I love your style! I have been following your blog for a while and I so admire you. My grandmother's heyday was in the 40's and I love to look at old pictures of her and my grandfather and their friends. For me it's the sweet, simple everyday style that I love, of course I like the glam look too, but to me the natural, simple look is so refreshing. I think you do a wonderful job of incorporating both and not losing yourself in the mix. Keep being your awesome self! :)

  67. Yay! I like what you have to say.
    And I believe it is accoutrements for plural, in English and French.

  68. This post rings so true for me - often, if I go all out with vintage style, I feel like a little girl playing dress up. I also stick out like a sore thumb!

    I think people use vintage to show off their individuality - but it's not being individual if you're just copying the women of the past garment for garment. By combining elements of it with modern style, I show much more of my own personality. Of course, it all depends on your taste. I think if people feel better in themselves by being 'authentic', then that's fine. But if it's just to impress others, then that's not at all empowering.

  69. I know a woman who owns a vintage clothing store - I hope my english is correct! And she is very pointy about authenticity, but I believe I've never seen so much dedication and efforts, but it's all natural to her. She wouldn't go out shopping without her hair being all perfectly curled for example, and honestly, I admire such dedication and passion, especially since it's became effortless to her - as I admire Dita's, because "gazillion dollars" or not, she's doing it all herself and has no stylist nor hair dresser...

    I think you should just wear what you like : this is what makes you unique and having fun dressing, and chosing an era to "copy" doesn't mean it will suit you in every aspect - and I believe people taking inspiration from the past (or anything not mainstream) have been creative and clever enough to understand you can make the best of yourself and have fun too with style...

    I only take inspiration from vintage fashion, and don't worry much about wearing a 40's hat with a 50's suit and modern high heels for example - I just hate vintage or retro shoes on my feet. But I do wear silk kimonos at home, or nylon stockings + garter belt everyday and never jeans : just because of the feeling of each and my preferences, but it is no dedication, rather comfort.
    I am not trying to reenact the past, but rather to feel feminine and make what I feel is the best for me!

  70. I know this post was back in 2010 but I have just found it (fantastic).

    I had to comment on this vintage theme. I am in my late thirties and have just found my style which is slightly vintage and classic - probably as I have just faced reality that I am an hourglass shape and this is what suits me best!

    I think people are turning to vintage because they no longer like the "Wayne and Waynetta slob look" (slob out sweatshirt and sweatpants "extreme example is this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fb-f8CTafHs.

    I personally think it is awful but people still wear it AND people think it is fashionable!

    Old school vintage is definitely the way to go!

  71. What is important is to be comfortable and confident with your own individual look/style and not be swayed or discouraged by anyone else's opinion of you. When you get too neurotic about your vintage it's like you're trying too hard and that totally takes the fun out of it! My look is either vintage, vintage repro, or vintage inspired and it works for me and (usually) results in loads of compliments from both women and men. It would be pious on my part to frown on anyone who wasn't a "vintage purist" because frankly I don't want anyone judging or criticizing me for my fashion choices.

    There are certainly days when my look is decidedly less vintage than others and the reasons are usually due to circumstance. It is much easier to go thrifting in something that you can quickly try on a piece of clothing over; usually leggings with flats on bottom and a fitted cotton blouse on top. Moreover, I'm not at home bent over the cutting table and sewing machine in full blown vintage either; that would just be silly! The 6:00 AM run to Starbucks certainly doesn't call for anything more than modest yoga attire and a ponytail. My "go to" pieces for knocking about town are usually capris, flats, a cardigan, scarf, and pearls. Super easy, quietly classy, vintage inspired, and best of all it's not a pair of sweats with "Juicy" emblazoned across my backside.

    Personally I love to wear a 40's or 50's housedress with a pair of funky cowboy boots, straw cowboy hat (we live in Texas y'all) and Ray-Bans just as much as I love a head to toe glam look down to the corset, garters, and seamed stockings. It's all about the mood, the weather, and the occasion. My job allows me a reason to look glam every day and that fits perfectly into my lifestyle since I'm single and can devote my morning to acheiving a "look". Heaven knows we don't all have that luxury!

    Dita has worked very hard to create her image, style, persona, and her wealth and can afford to rock authentic vintage every single day. For the majority of us, we can afford to rock the styles everyday women wore and still look every bit as cool as Dita. And you know what? You don't have to be a pin-up girl or a burlesque queen to love and appreciate all that is "la vida vintage". xoxox


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

© Gertie's Blog For Better Sewing. Powered by Cake