15 Vintage Essentials

Awhile ago I was contacted by a reader who recently noticed a fashion trend, 15 essentials for your wardrobe.  She liked this idea, but felt that the contemporary trends didn’t help her in building up her vintage wardrobe, so she suggested the idea to me!

Just remember, not every piece has to be vintage! Several pieces I have included in this list are on the hard to find side, so repro is a perfectly acceptable solution!  For the most part, I am focusing on the 1940s, 50s and 60s and attempted to cover a wide range so you can have all of your bases covered.  So here we go!

Please note, these are in no particular order!

1. Pencil Skirt – The pencil skirt is really versatile.  One minute it’s perfect for the office, and the next you’re the bad girl next door ready to rumble.

2. Circle Skirt – Like the pencil skirt, the circle skirt is versatile too.  You can play up the Bobby Soxer look by pairing it with a sweater and saddle shoes or make it very 50s housewife by pairing it with a blouse and heels.

3. Peter Pan Collar Blouse – A regular blouse is just fine, but there is something about that rounded Peter Pan collar that screams vintage.  The blouse goes with anything and everything too and is great for work and play.

4.  Shirt Waist Dress – A shirt waist dress typically buttons to the waist, and below that is a short slit with snaps.  This type of dress is perfect for errand running and is nearly an instant outfit with little effort.

5. Pull Over Sweater – Pull over sweaters are great for lazy days and can go with loads depending on your look.  You can go classic 50s by pairing it with a skirt or go 40s by pairing it with wide-legged slacks.  Not to mention when worn with a bullet bra underneath, you are the perfect sweater girl.

6. Cardigan – Cardigans can act just like a pull over when buttoned up, or can be used for layering and act like a lightweight jacket, which is always a nice option.

7. A Pair of Pants – We vintage gals love our dresses and skirts, but a good pair of pants is always nice to have. And there are so many looks to choose from.  You can go Land Girl or Bobby Soxer with a pair of jeans, Kathrine Hepburn with a pair of wide legged slacks or Mary Tyler Moore when she was on The Dick Van Dyke Show with a pair of cigarette pants.  Pants are one of those things that may be hard to find vintage.  But there are many, many good vintage repro sites out there that produce pants, such as Vivian of Holloway and Freddies of Pinewood.

8. Slip – Slips offer a layer of comfort, security and practicality to your outfits.  Slips lessen the scratchy feel of woolen garments, they also may not be blown up by wind, if your skirt does, and wearing slips means you have to wash or dry-clean your garments less.  For more, please read this post on slips.

9. Bullet Bra – I’m not sure if I can talk enough about the importance of the bullet bra to vintage garments.  The simply fact is wearing the correct bra adds loads to your vintage wardrobe.  Because vintage garments were cut with the then current trend of foundation garments, wearing a modern-day bra may cause vintage garments to fit poorly.  Wearing a bullet bra will help garments fit properly and thus make you look better.  For more on bullet bras, visit this post.

10. Crinoline/Petticoat –  A crinoline or petticoat will help fill out those full skirted dresses of the 1950s and early 1960s.  Otherwise, you look a little, well, deflated.  For more on crinolines visit this past post.

11. Girdle & Stockings – With the exception of the WWII era and the Bobby Soxer look, women rarely went out without stockings.  For the Bobby Soxer, that meant of course wearing socks!  Pre-1960s lovers will want to wear seamed stockings (for more on seamed stockings, visit this post) while the 1960s and 70s lover can wear seamless stockings or pantyhose or tights.  While you can wear a garter belt instead of a girdle, I find girdles to be simply better.  For more on girdles, visit this post.

12. Heels – Whether it’s a one inch heel or a five inch heel, every gal needs a pair! They add instant glam to any outfit.

13. Saddle Shoes or Penny Loafers – These weren’t just for Bobby Soxers!  Ladies of all ages wore them!  They are perfect for casual outfits or smart work attire.

14. Party Dress – Every gal needs at least one beautiful dress for special occasions, nice dinners, etc. And there are glorious ones for every decade and in every style.  You can go for slim crepe rayon of the 40s, or big and poofy 50s chiffon, or a metallic brocade shift of the 1960s.

15. Red Lipstick – It’s amazing how a pair of red lips adds instant glam to any outfit.  With very little effort you can look more put together in a sweater and pants than that gal next to you at the grocery store by putting on a bit of lipstick.

Happy hunting!

28 thoughts on “15 Vintage Essentials

  1. Magnificent list, dear Janey! I love that you acknowledged that not every piece has to be genuine vintage – repro and vintage appropriate garments can do the trick big time, too. Your list is really, really fantastic and includes many of the same items that would appear in a top 15 of my own like this, too – hey, you know, maybe I should do my own one of these day as well.

    ♥ Jessica

    *PS* This reminds me, once again, how much I need a pair of penny loafers! 🙂

  2. This is perfect. Exactly what someone relatively new to vintage styling (like me) needs to be reminded of sometimes! Love your pictures as well. I feel i need to go into your archives and read your whole blog cuz of this post!
    The picture and outfit for a peter pan collar is gorgeous!

  3. One thing that I have in my Vintage wardrobe that I can’t do with out is a pair of white heels. They are just plain leather but have the pointier toe of the 50’s and 60’s. I bought them three years ago from Nine West and just adore them.

  4. Great Post!! I am in the process of building my vintage and reproduction wardrobe. Thanks so much for this list. Fabulous!!

  5. Great post! I thought I had everything, but now I realize I’m missing a few things.
    I also wear vintage exclusively (except shoes). On a side note… Im not sure why, but Lately I have been getting this itch to buy some of the trendy modern summer dresses I see on gals everywhere. Seeing you in the variety of outfits has reminded me of how much I love my vintage clothing. I wonder if you ever get an itch to wear modern clothing.

    • Hi Susie! Regarding the itch to wear modern clothing, I will admit that I do have new, modern pieces in my wardrobe. A blouse here, a Bettie Page dress there, and a few band t-shirts too. But most of these pieces have that retro flair. But regarding the itch to wear modern clothing, I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever really gotten it. Although I do have days where I just want to put on a t-shirt and jeans. And I will do that on very rare occasions. The truth is, I don’t find a whole lot of the modern designs flattering. The short hem-lines throw me for a loop, and I find the cuts lacking in style and flair. Not to mention I hate the notion that someone can come along right behind me and buy the same exact thing after I do. But that’s just me.

  6. Reblogged this on Putting on the Ritzz and commented:
    Just starting to build your vintage wardrobe? Looking to dress with a nostalgic flavour? JAney from Atomic Redhead has put together a great list of 15 essentials for any vintage gal!

  7. great post! i really start to feel kind of ‘naked’ after only one week with wearing just ‘traveling clothes’. your post makes me wanna run home and jump in an original vintage dress. i even forgot to bring my red lipstick, i just brought two pink-ish coloured ones for the wedding.

    we propably hit portland after the wedding party (29th june) …

    • Oh no!

      I hope you have fun in Portland! I would love to get together, but that is my dad’s birthday and I’ll be spending all day with him in all likelihood.

  8. Oh my! Thanks for sharing Rita! I may not be retro/vintage all the way but I do enjoy a good piece like this…and I never knew about the bullet bras!!! Woah!!

  9. You can bet your butt I’ve got just about all of those things. Plus 20 vintage umbrellas (Yes, I’m quite serious and they are posted on my blog). And those heels are gorgeous! If i knew where you lived I’d bribe you to give them to me. haha

  10. I really love your list and highly agree with it!! I’m much more of a pants over dresses girl, just because I’m more of a tomboy. But I do love a good circle skirt and well fitted pencil skirt. 🙂

    The Fictionista

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