The Golden Age Syndrome: Complete Glossary from 1920’s to the ’70s for Vintage Dummies

Fashion is not always about current trends and fads. Style icons do not follow trends blindly. They create their own looks by wearing what works for them according to their own tastes and styles. You can look way more chic wearing a vintage piece of clothing than you would look wearing something current.

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Vintage wear is rapidly gaining popularity in the US and Europe with the likes of Taylor Swift, Zooey Deschanel and Dita Von Tees rocking their own style that sets them apart from their contemporaries. And just imagine the fun of having to play with pieces from different eras, mixing a Victorian day dress with a hippie fur vest.

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When you wear vintage, you can be sure you won’t look like the majority…

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I wanted to share with you the great fashion finds in different eras while sneaking online…

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The roaring 20’s

1920’s fashion was the perfect blend between style and function. Beautiful clothes that allowed women to move and is still famous because it was a huge shift from the previous era. 1920s fashion reflects society’s rapid movement and change.

No longer were women willing to trade their mobility for the old stodgy customs of the Victorian era. Old-fashioned torture devices like the corset and the crinoline no longer served a purpose for young women who wanted to dance, go to work, hop into cars, and walk around town.

Society was changing & fashion changed along with it. Hemlines on 1920s dresses were rising quickly, one year mid-calf, the next year just below the knee…

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Thrifty 30s

In the heart of the Great Depression, women jump back to the feminine form but with a lot more skin this time! Notice the skirt length rises from the high ankle/low calf to just a few inches below the knee. The bodice accents are get smaller.

Small delicate shoulder puffs and soft shoulders are more common into the late 30s until replaced by boxy padded shoulders and very narrow fitted waists which dominated the 40s. Buttons and snaps are the main closure methods but in the late 30s side zippers start to become acceptable for “moral” women to wear. The skirts are generally narrow with little excess fabric, especially around the hips until the late 30s, where skirts become semi-full. The Era is colorful, in spite of the economy, with muted earthy tones.

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Skirt lengths tend to hover around the upper calf just throughout the era. Square shoulders with thick pads and narrow tailored waists dominate the whole era. The last few years, as WWII draws to a close, we see true knee length hem line (knees are still covered). This makes way for the classic full/circle skirt of the 50s sometimes making the eras hard to separate.  Major clues of the 40s are modesty. The collars and neck lines are higher. Rounded tips on notched lapels were common as well. Collar treatments are small or nonexistent so as not to draw excess attention to the bust. Closures are mainly side metal zippers sometimes accompanied  by functional decorative buttons. Casual dresses, such as house/day dresses, often use many front buttons for the only closure method. The late 40s wiggle skirts and very full skirts debut.

1950s

Fabulous 1950s

Thick shoulder pads all but disappear. Most sleeves, including short, are cuffed. Fuller skirts on day and house dresses are common. Two main types of formal and cocktail dresses emerge. The Wonderful “wiggle” skirt and the Fashionable “full circle” skirt. Keep in mind the wiggle dresses of 50s are longer than the wiggles of the 60s and with a waistline and the natural waist. Halter and strapless bodices with shelf busts are the most coveted among today’s collectors. The 50s became a fun, fast changing era. Rock music was popular, women were showing more cleavage and bright red lipstick was in.

Functional buttons for house dresses are still in use but rare in party dresses. Dress closures are mainly center back metal zippers often “hidden” behind a fold of fabric. Petite belts of matching fabric or color scheme are standard with most dresses including formals. The bolero jacket is also a 50s trade mark. A short cropped jacket usually with no closures that ends just below the bust. The lapels on jackets and dresses also grew in size since the 40s. Hidden pockets in the folds of skirts are especially popular, even on semi formal dresses. Occasionally seen on a full skirted formal.

1960s

Super 1960s

Though pants were available in the 40s they gained in popularity in the 60s. Skirt lengths rise from below the knee to above the knee. The younger generation going higher than that, introducing the mid thigh mini skirts. A line and tunic dresses become popular with geometric patterns and colors of flags, military uniforms and abstract art. Wiggle dresses are still popular, though somewhat shorter than the 50s, and so are full skirts for formals in the early 60s. There is now a few completely different styles from Mod, waist-less dresses to Classic allowing more individualism. Maxi dresses (full length) with empire waistlines became popular for formal attire. Colors start off as earthy, muted oranges, yellows reds and browns or solid colors. By the end of the era dresses were bold in color and/or with contrasting patterns made of polyester fabric with nylon zippers up the center back or front. The nylon zipper hits mass production in 1968.

1970s fashion (35)

Psychedelic 70s

From bell bottoms to mini skirts, maxis to knit sweater dresses, and ponchos to bohos, the 70s has it all. Lingering miniskirts from the 60s never really die out. A country is in turmoil as the youth tries to find it’s niche. Protesters take to the streets while sex, love and rock and roll become the new motto. Styles in this generation become very diverse. Pointed collars, bright colors and earth tones, the 70s has it all.  There was also a “Revival” of romantic fashions. Pieces were fashioned to look like renaissance, Edwardian and colonial dresses. Form fitting outfits as well as loose flowing free spirited garments drifted about. Tye dye and paisley print were also very popular. Secretary dresses, the 70s version of the mid century House Dress, are very popular among the white collar women. Big clues are labels in garments.

They now have fabric contents and basic care instructions. Though the 70s had MANY genres it is relatively easy to pick out. It seemed everything was made of polyester which was not commonly used until the later part of the 60s and is still in the mass majority of clothing today.

“Fashion is shaped and influenced by the society and events which surround it. Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”

  • Coco Chanel
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