Having previously talked about men’s clothing, I will now shift focus on to Vintage Clothing For Women. I have to admit that I am a big fan of Women’s Old School Fashion. In my opinion, you ladies have a HUGE variety of options to look and combine in order to find the perfect outfit.
You also have one key advantage over men; Women’s Vintage Clothing is very well seen in today’s society. As long as you combine the right combination of clothes, it doesn’t matter what era you are rocking, it will stand out and people will label you as having style.
Having said this, the goal of this article is to take you through the evolution that women’s fashion has had over the years, giving a brief explanation and clothing ideas of each era, so that you can build your own retro outfit.
A More Traditional Era – Women’s Fashion in the 1950s
Believe it or not one of the most glamorous times for women was the 1950s. Despite being very conservative, 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, although 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.
- 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, these were pretty simple in terms of lines, colour, and overall design, however, the true value of them came from the high quality fabrics used to made them. V necks and long sleeves were a staple and the complementary accessories played an important role when wearing these kinds of dress. Gloves, collars, pearls, high heels a matching purse, and other types of jewelry were essential here.
- Formal Dress: Used only for very special occasions, it has a characteristic floor-length ballgown worn with an underneath hoop skirt. These dresses were sleeveless most of the time and accessories such as necklaces, gloves, and earrings were a mandatory thing. Wearing a jacket over was a good combination and reduced the formal impact that the dress had.
Apart from dresses, a combination of a long skirt (usually floraled, striped, or dotted) and a plain-coloured top emphasizing the hips and tight waists of the ladies was very popular. Outfits for home and the beach included shorts, shirts tied at the midriff and blouses.
Mold Breaking Fashion – The 1960s and 1970s
The 1960s represented the start of the change for women’s fashion. Traditions began to break in part due to social and political movements such as the hippies.
Photo by John Atherton
Dresses in the 60s suffered some changes compared to those in the 50s. Skirts were shorter (around the knee), 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, polka dots, and big bows.
- Shift Dress: These were the casual dresses of the 60s, used in every day non-formal activities. The top was similar to other dresses, however, the overall appearance looked really different due to the short (above the knee) skirt. The first signs of female sexual expression and power through fashion came from clothing like this.
Apart from the dresses, it was more common for women to wear a wide variety of clothes. Mini skirts were popularized, although pencil and pleated skirts were also very common. Tops, Blouses and shirts were colourful and with a variety of different patterns. They were also tighter, and women started to unbutton them.
As for the lower body, some of the most popular were: stirrup pants, Capri pants, drainpipe jeans, and bell bottoms. Dresses were combined with some pointy toe flats, and mini skirts would go along with some long boots or some go-go boots. Jewelry was also important in the 60s with some really eye-catching present in earrings and necklaces, in combination with great size and colours.
In the 70s there were some 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, or otherwise, a more loose shirt (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.
High-waisted shorts in different ranges or length, 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; the high waisted to the hip huggers; 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 were some of the most popular).
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.
Finally, since now more women were entering the workforce, pantsuits became a thing. Men-style blazers, vests, and dress shirts were used to complement the look, along with flat shoes, glasses and hats.
The Excess Decade – 80s Fashion
At the beginning of the decade women’s apparel shifted to a more neutral look. The fitness trend peaked in the early 80s so women wearing headbands with leggings, or full body aerobic suits was a common sight.
Some of the most common casual clothes were: shirts and sweaters with every neck variety (v, turtle, crew), (crop, tube) tops, puffer jackets, high-wasted loose pants, straight leg jeans, and a wide variety of knee-length dresses and skirts, all with basic non-flashy colours. Jelly shoes were introduced and were common footwear along with high boots, sneakers and heels.
Later in the decade things started to change. Bright colours returned and 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.
As for a “nigh out” outfit, 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 standard. Necklaces and gloves were also a big thing mainly due to the rise of pop stars such as Madonna.
Other trends like hip hop or punk were also relevant but were restricted to its particular social group.
Despite all the apparel, the most iconic aspect of fashion did not came from clothing but from the hair and the makeup. The big wild curly hair surely comes to mind since almost every girl was rocking it back then -full volume haircuts were super popular. As for the makeup; very intense eye shadows blushes and lipsticks were a must.
Simple but Stylish – 90s Women Fashion
All the excess that was introduced in the 80s quickly dried in the 90s with a shift towards minimalist fashion. More feminine looking clothes like 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 such as the well-known “sexy school girl”.
Also, among young women, the hip huggers, boob tubes, push-up bras, scarf tops, stone was jeans pedal pushers, high boots, and platform sneakers were very popular. For older women longer skirts such as pencil skirts, blouses, Capri pants and sneakers, were casual clothing while skirt suits, pussy bow blouses, maxi skirts and Mary Janes were the formal alternative.
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. AS for accessories, hoop earrings and over sized glasses are some examples.
Turn of the Century – 2000s Fashion
Yes! believe it or not during the 20s decade 2000s clothing will start to be considered fashion. Since most of you were probably alive and conscious enough to remember, I will be brief on this one.
Jeans were super common in all types of environments, specially low-rise jeans, skinny jeans and jean 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 a big factor in early 21st century fashion. Designer bags ranging from small to really big ones were a must, along with studded belts, aviator glasses, piercings, and smaller earings compared to previous decades.
So… why bother with vintage clothing?
As I told you before, vintage clothing is a rare sight nowadays and it will only be even more and 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, and that it’s very possible that the type of apparel they are looking for already exists, lost through 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 about it, you can stand out from the rest while feeling really confident in your skin.
With this brief guide I 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 make the first impression about you, largely due to what you are wearing. So remember, choose wisely, be unique, be proud of what you wear.
Hope you have a great day 🙂