women in 1950s clothes

Guide On Vintage Clothing For Women | The Essentials

Attention ladies! We know that fashion trends are changing all the time and how difficult it can be for you to find your own style among these. With our guide on vintage clothing for women, we provide the essential information on clothing in the XX century.

You will know about the most iconic apparel from every decade and the ideas on how to incorporate these into your wardrobe will start flooding your head!

Women have a HUGE variety of options and combinations available to them. Also, (unlike men’s) women’s vintage clothing is very well seen in today’s society. As long as you have the right combination of clothes, it doesn’t matter what era your style is from, it will stand out and people will notice you.

So let’s not waste any more time and let’s dig into one of the most iconic decades of all… the 1950s!

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A More Conservative Era – Women’s Fashion in the 1950s

elegant lady of the 1950s

Believe it or not, one of the most glamorous times for women was the 1950s. Despite being a very conservative period (compared to today’s standards), the clothing allured traditional femininity.

The dress was “a must” and it came in a wide variety of styles. We had:

  • Casual/Home Dress: This was the traditional housewife dress worn by women who stayed at home taking care of the house and the children. Despite this, it could be worn outside with the addition of some elegant accessories.                                                                                                                                                                                        It was a cotton full-skirted dress with short sleeves, large pockets and a buttoned down bodice. A thin petticoat underneath made it very comfortable for the women and could sometimes be worn with a matching belt.

1950s woman

  • Outdoor Dress: Worn primarily by women who went out to work, these were trimmer than the house dresses and had smaller pockets, HUGE collars, longer sleeves, large bows, with belts and occasional use of buttons.                                                                                                                                                                                The Outdoor dress could be either a sheath dress or a swing dress (along with their variations), and were made with a wide variety of materials including cotton, rayon and wool.
  • Party dress: Surprisingly, party dresses were pretty simple in terms of lines, colour, and overall design. Still, they were valued very highly due to their premium fabrics.                                                                                                                                                                    V necks and long sleeves were a staple, and the complementary accessories played an important role when wearing these kinds of dresses. Gloves, collars, pearls, high heels, a matching purse, and other types of jewelry were essential here.

women with gloves and polka dots

  • Formal Dress: Used only for very special occasions, it has a characteristic floor-length ballgown worn with an underneath hoop skirt.                                                                                                                                                                                                                These dresses were most of the time sleeveless and accessories such as necklaces, gloves, and earrings, were mandatory. Wearing a jacket over was a common thing in order to reduce the formality of the outfit.

1950s dress

Apart from dresses, a combination of a long skirt (usually floraled, striped, or dotted) with a plain-coloured top emphasizing the hips was very popular.

Home & beach outfits and included shorts, shirts tied at the midriff, and blouses.

Mold Breaking Fashion – The 1960s and 1970s

The 1960s

The 60s saw numerous trends going in a different direction. Traditions began to break mainly due to social and political movements such as the hippies.

women in the 1960s

Photo by John Atherton

Dresses during this decade changed. Skirts were shorter (around knee level), more colourful, and with new patterns. Some of them were:

  • Jumper Dress: Very different from the 50s style, this type of dress resembled a kids outfit. Alongside bright colours, it had large round collars, medium to large sleeves, and big bows.

woman in jumper dress

  • Shift Dress: These were the casual dresses of the 60s – used in non-formal activities. The top was similar to other dresses, however, the overall appearance looked really different due to the short skirt. The first signs of female sexual expression and empowerment through fashion, came from clothes like this.
woman in shift dress

Dresses were usually combined with some pointy toe flats.

Apart from the dresses, mini skirts emerged. These would go along with some long boots or some go-go boots. (Please check out skirt outfits and our skirt reviews posts for more suggestions)

Other popular skirts were the pleated skirt and the pencil skirt.

Tops, Blouses, and shirts, were colourful and they came in a variety of patterns. They were also tighter and women started to unbutton them.

As for jeans and pants, some of the most popular were: stirrup pants, capri pants, drainpipe jeans, and bell bottoms.

Jewelry was also important in the 60s with some really eye-catching earrings and necklaces.

women in casual clothes in the 60s

Image by:Fashion-Pictures.com

The 1970s

In the 70s there were so many trends and styles that its hard to summarize in a few paragraphs. We will just focus on casual looks that didn’t fit a particular social or ideological group (for reference, during this decade hippies and disco trends peaked).

Everyday looks for women in the 70s would include wearing fitted tops such as the tube or crop tops.

Still, loose shirts (slogans and logos started to appear on them) or a button down blouse -which could be worn either in the traditional look, or the newer/sexier look with the lowered v-neck – were popular too.women outfits in the 1970s

Image by:Fashion-Pictures.com

High-waisted shorts with various lengths, colours, and styles, were popularized along with numerous styles of pants.

You could find pants ranging from the tight or straight leg, to the really baggy ones; from the high waisted to the hip huggers; and from the wide legged to the flared legged.

Some of the most popular were: The blue jeans, the plaid pants, the polyester knit pants, and the dressy pants.

A more glamorous outfit would include a mini skirt or a really tight mini short, combined with a blazer or a tight top and some boots (by this point there were all types of boots; go-go’s, stretch, and crinkle to name a few).

women in skirts in the 1970s

Image by:Fashion-Pictures.com

Dresses were another option with the mini, the jumper, and the shirtwaist dresses being some of the most popular.

Common accessories in the 70s included draped turbans, cloche hats, necklaces, golden chains, bracelets, clogs and high heels (Check out our accessories guide and reviews for more information).

Finally, by that time more women were entering the workforce, so pantsuits became a thing. Men-style blazers, vests, and dress shirts were used to complement the masculine look, along with flat shoes, glasses and hats.

The Excess Decade – 80s Fashion

At the beginning of the 80s, women’s apparel shifted to a more neutral look.

The fitness trend peaked during this time, so women wearing headbands with leggings or full body aerobic suits was a common sight.

Jelly shoes were introduced and were common footwear along with high boots, sneakers, and heels.

Casual apparel included: shirts and sweaters with every neck variety (v, turtle, crew), crop and tube tops, puffer jackets, high-wasted loose pants, and straight leg jeans. A wide variety of knee-length dresses and skirts, were present (all with basic non-flashy colours).

Bright colours would eventually return later in the decade.

colours worn during the 80s

Image by:Fashion-Pictures.com

Power dressing became a thing. Jackets, coats and women blazers were designed with extra padding on the shoulders, making them look more powerful and masculine, and were combined with both skirts and pants along with spiked heels.

power dressing in women

Image by:Fashion-Pictures.com

Colour prevailed in “nigh out” outfits. Mini skirts (usually with leg warmers below) with multi colored belts, metalic leggings, high heels, tops, bustiers (which slowly became popular among young women) and jumpsuits were the preffered choices.

Necklaces and gloves were also a big thing mainly due to the rise of pop stars like Madonna.

Other trends like hip hop or punk were also relevant but were restricted to its particular social group.

80s metallic pants

Despite all the apparel, the most iconic aspect of fashion did not came from clothing but both from hair and makeup.

The big wild curly hair surely comes to mind since almost every girl was rocking it back then. As for the makeup, we had very intense eye shadows blushes and lipsticks.

Simple but Stylish – 90s Women Fashion

All the excess that was introduced in the 80s quickly dried in the 90s with a shift towards a minimalist fashion.

More feminine looking clothes such as mini and long skirts, high heels, short and slip dresses, knee highs, thigh highs, tights and crop tops, were used casually and in popular trends. The well-known “sexy school girl” is a good example.

Also, among young women, we had the hip huggers, boob tubes, push-up bras, scarf tops, stone washed jeans, pedal pushers, high boots, and platform sneakers.

For more mature women, the preferred casual choices were longer skirts (pencil skirts), blouses, capri pants, and sneakers.

Skirt suits, pussy bow blouses, maxi skirts, and Mary Janes were the formal alternative.

woman wearing 90s fashion

Image by:Fashion-Pictures.com

beautiful lady in the 1990s

Image by:Fashion-Pictures.com

In the late 90s certain traits of the 70s fashion came back with Y2K fashion.

Bright colours came back in the form of metallic clothing, bell bottoms, and the wellington boots. Also, clothing like tight shirts and the platform shoes were very common.

Popular accessories in the 90s include hoop earrings and over sized glasses.

Turn of the Century – 2000s Fashion

Yes! believe it or not, in a few years clothing of the first decade of the XXI century will start to be considered vintage. Since most of you were probably alive and conscious enough to remember, we will be brief on this one.

Jeans were super common in all types of environments, specially low-rise jeans, skinny jeans, and jeans shorts. Also, widely spread were: hoodies, cargo pants, capri pants, leggings/leggings, denim jackets, and thong underwear.

Footwear consisted in knee-high and ugg boots, platform shoes/boots and ballet flats.

Last but not least, accessories played (and still do) a big role in fashion. Designer bags ranging from small to really big ones were popularized.

Studded belts, aviator glasses, piercings, and smaller earings compared to previous decades were nice complements too.

Be open to alternatives of every decade!

As we told you before, vintage clothing is a rare sight nowadays and it will only be even more as time passes.

Most people look for new trends when trying to build their own style, without realizing that most of these were inspired by previous ones. It’s very possible that the apparel they are looking for already exists, its just lost in time.

The possibilities are endless. With thousands of different styles, you can build different outfits based on different eras for every occasion. Being diverse and smart, will help you stand out from the rest while feeling really confident in your skin.

With this guide we hope some ideas sparked through your head and that you visualize yourself making them reality.

Clothing and other accessories are way more important than people realize. They tell a story about you and people formulate their first impression about you, largely due to what you are wearing.

So remember, choose wisely, be unique, and be proud of what you wear.

Hope you have a great day, and don’t forget to leave your comments and suggestions down below! 🙂

Have a great day!

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14 thoughts on “Guide On Vintage Clothing For Women | The Essentials”

  1. I think my favorite thing about fashion is how trends almost always repeat themselves in some way or another.  I’ve been super into a more retro look that my dad and grandpa would have sported in their younger days but it isn’t something that’s realistic for my everyday style.  I feel like women have a bit more freedom in their ability to rock a retro look since it has evolved more for the modern day.  The 80s were iconic and I hope they never die

    1. Thanks for the comment, Quentin! You’re right, in fashion you are always getting inspiration from existing apparel and injecting your ideas into them, so the similarities are always there. What I find fascinating is how, over time, we look back and revive some of the lost ideas and incorporate them into today’s world in a new innovative way. Somehow society has accepted more openly these changes in women, but who knows, maybe in the near future a new fashion trend will rise and you will be able to rock that 80s outfit without looking too flashy.

  2. Dr. Angela Gala (Angie)

    Hey, Alex, 

    Thank you for such a beautiful article on a topic as transcendental as fashion, especially for women. It’s been a wonderful ride through the different eras that marked a milestone in fashion. Pictures and colors give a special touch to this piece of information and make them extremely attractive. Thank you! I will not miss reading the one on men’s fashion.

    1. Hi Angie!

      I’m very glad to hear you liked the post’s design. I try to make the reading experience as visually appealing as possible and I was hoping someone would notice that haha. Cheers for that! Anyway, thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Hopefully, you like the rest of the website’s content 🙂

  3. Hello there, A generally accepted industry standard is that items made between 20 years ago and 100 years ago are considered “vintage” and they clearly reflect the styles and trends of the era they represent. … Retro, short for retrospective, or “vintage style,” usually refers to clothing’s that imitates the style of a previous era. Thanks a lot for sharing

    1. Hi Nelson!

      You are correct, retro refers to the imitation while vintage is the original thing. I usually refer to retro as “vintage looking” or as you said “vintage style”. Other times, since I cover both, I try to clarify it and just use “vintage” for simplicity. Maybe I’ll start incorporating more “retro” when a clear difference needs to be stated.

      Thanks a lot for your comment!

  4. Hello there! This is a great article because I am a lover of vintage and Vintage Garments Are Often More Durable.
    Conversely, a lot of modern clothingmade for the fast fashion world that we live in is frankly designed to fall apart in the days when durability was prized over having the newest and latest garments of the season. You could get a great deal more wear out of your pieces. it is very very durable and I love the designs you shared with me.

    1. Hello Maureen!

      I know what you mean, sometimes when I buy a modern piece of clothing it looks and feels really nice, however, after two or three washes it just starts to wear off. I think mass production and cost reduction in the industry have made clothing a lot more disposable, whereas vintage clothing, despite being made out of lower quality fabrics, tend to be more durable. I think the only way to maintain that durability is to spend more :(. Either way, glad to hear you liked the post, and thank you for the comment!

  5. These vintage styles are really awesome and many fashion stylists still incorporate some of these designs in their fashion sense lately. the vintage collection for women is indeed very nice and my best of them all are the 1950’s, they have this unique thing to it that makes it look very adorable

    1. Hi Collins! Yes, new trends are always built upon existing ones, that’s why you find so many similarities between them. Thank you for sharing your opinion!

  6. Fashion has a way of recycling itself into the way we live our life over different periods. Imagine these being rocked by them by my parents and having the urge to try it now as vintage wears too. I like retro and the ability it gives to just blend it with whatever ways you wish to. Thanks for giving this post here

  7. Hello Alex, there are so ma y dresses that i have seen and it’s very nice all of these vintage dresses you have listed here and I’m a big fan of the jumper dress of the 50’s because f its uniqueness and it’s one of the few that can still come back to being in vogue and if you style in a more fashionable manner it will be very good to see people wear it again 

    1. Hey Mason! The jumper dress is great! Some people tend to avoid because it’s not as elegant or flashy as other dresses. But you are right; styling it better may attract more people towards it.

      Thanks for commenting!

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