It’s no secret that I absolutely love swing dancing, and although lindy hop began in the 1930s and had its revival in the 1990s, clothing styles from the 1940s and 1950s have the most appeal to swing dancers and lindy hoppers. Largely because, since they were born of the “swing era” the clothing is designed with dancers in mind, and frankly the glamour is simply fabulous! Not only do I find vintage style dresses more comfortable to dance in than modern clothing but they’re also more fun. Do a swing out or spin and watch your skirt twirl! Whoosh! There is nothing quite like wearing vintage style clothing while vintage dancing.
Now, I have done the whole ‘wearing 1940s or 1950s clothes every day with full on victory rolls’ thing, and I have friends who choose to do that and it’s a fantastic way to wear vintage. Generally, though, what is worn at a social dance or a vintage event is not the same as what’s worn everyday, as it can look like you’re cosplaying as Agent Carter. (Though given how amazing and beautiful she is, I can’t really see an issue with this! But you may not want to look like you’re in cosplay when you nip to the shops…). What you need is a hint of vintage to your otherwise urban look that’ll strike the perfect balance of the two. So I am on a mission to help make vintage part of your everyday wardrobe!
One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways of changing the style of an outfit is by using 40s and 50s accessories. Accessories have always played a key role in the creation of any outfit. Simply matching colour combinations can help to make an outfit look ‘put together’ (I use this one a lot!), whilst a statement piece can add a touch of quirky individuality to even the plainest outfit.
Whilst accessories were used in the 1940s, thanks to the end of WW2, the 1950s saw a surge in the popularity and variety of accessories; with more choice than ever to add that finishing touch of colour or finesse to any ensemble. With summer just around the corner, here’s some simple tricks to enhance any outfit with a bit of vintage glam!
Hair flowers had been popular for decades before the 1950s, but in the carefree days of this decade, they enjoyed a resurgence in popularity. Women wore their hair waved through the use of pincurl sets, with the most popular length of hair being the shorter styles favoured by movie stars like Doris Day. Longer hair was worn sleek in a page boy style, or swept into up- dos with decorative pincurls and rolls. Hair flowers add a pop of colour and femininity to an outfit, and I also use them to cleverly disguise any parts of my hairstyle that I’m less than happy with! Sometimes my victory rolls are less than victorious…. You can wear a single hair flower, or choose a selection to wear together to create an impact! I also sometimes wear them as a brooch pinned or clipped onto my dress for a bit more vintage variety.
Something about sunglasses scream glamour and they can create an air of mystery! As such, they are a wonderful accessory to add to your outfit. Along with protecting your eyes from the sun of course…. The sweeping cat-eye shape frame has become synonymous with vintage style and though I personally prefer plain black frames, the cat eye shape often sparkled with decorative designs in the upper corners and arms so feel free to add a bit of glitz to your ensemble.
Marilyn Monroe’s figure is to many the epitome of the 1950s hourglass silhouette. One easy way to achieve this look of the classic nipped-in waist (without the stress and pain of a corset!) is through the addition of a cinch belt to your outfit. These wide, stretchy elastic belts can be worn with dresses, trousers, shorts, pencil skirts or full circle skirts and the trick is to accentuate your natural waistline. Worn in the right place, you can create a faux hourglass, even if you’re naturally more of an oblong shape.
During the 1950s a trend for parasols re-emerged, and when paired with sunglasses, the parasol makes a perfect summertime accessory. As parasols can be fairly tricky to get hold of these days, a regular umbrella will often suffice. Keep your eyes peeled for bright prints and patterns that harmonize with your outfit, and also have a look at the handle – a curled handle helps sell the vintage vibe.
Any outfit isn’t complete without a smile! Red lippy really made its mark during the 50s – but you need to make sure to find the right red for your skin tone. Blue reds for pinky skin tones and warm reds for yellow. True red for everyone else. Use a pencil first and colour in the full lip adding the lipstick after. Remember to blot! Even Marilyn wouldn’t look glamorous with pink teeth….
Just remember, any outfit can be elevated from a plain ensemble to a well put-together, co-ordinated look with a few tweaks here and there. I hope you found this advice helpful, so now go have fun creating your perfect vintage vibe with fabulous accessories!