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.