1940’s fashion

Spotlight on Spots | Vintage Fashion Inspiration

Spotlight on Spots | Vintage Fashion Inspiration

From Dalmatian spots to polka dots, no one can argue that fashion went totally dotty from the 1930’s to the 1960’s. Balmain, Dior and Schiaparelli made spots a glamorous choice for well dressed women.

At some point, mainstream fashion saw spots go from stylish to childish, relegated to the playground and Disney characters. They’re still popular in vintage reproduction clothing, where in my (probably unpopular) opinion they’re horribly and un-inventively overused. A default print alongside cherries and red roses.

I’d love to see spots brought back in a thoughtful, sophisticated way, taking inspiration from our favourite fashion decades when the versatile dot was anything but twee.

Delightfully Dotty Daywear

Today’s style lovers are likely most comfortable with spotted fabrics being used for daywear. Their simple charm lends itself to casual trousers and blouses, but also to feminine shirt dresses and full skirts – silhouettes less common in 21st century ease-focused dressing.

Polka dots have also been popular in beachwear through the decades. Appearing in swimsuits and resort wear, spots seem to capture the carefree mood of vacationers. How fantastic is the woman in eye catching polka dot beach pajamas? (And why is she holding a fake pig!?)

My personal favourite garment here is the 1957 silk crepe skirt with huge balloon dots in pinks, reds and oranges. It’s a novel approach which stands out in a sea of evenly spaced polka dots.

Polka Dot Eveningwear 

Polka dots aren’t something modern fashionistas associate with formal wear, but vintage designers couldn’t get enough of the simple dot in woven or printed patterns. These gowns showcase the romantic allure of spots when paired with hourglass silhouettes, sensual off-the-shoulder necklines and romantic full skirts.

There’s nothing childish about Suzy Parker in that slinky cowl back, or the sensuality of Schiaparelli’s daintily dotted, figure hugging gown from 1953. These dots are decadent, mature and oh so elegant.

Spot On Suits & Coordinates

Woven silks, textured spots and natty polka dots made an appearance in chic coordinates, especially in fifties and sixties fashion. Layered spots made for graphic suits and two pieces, while solid colours made contrasting polka dot blouses and bows look sharp and fresh.

I’m absolutely in love with both the green outfits, from 1958 and 1945 respectively. Having gloves made to match your dress feels like the ultimate in intentional style.

 

Outerwear, Underwear & Accessories

Spots of all sizes pervaded the realm of accessories too. Spotted gloves and hats, worn with solid fabrics or matched to yet more spots. (If there’s one thing we know, it’s that the 1950’s were not intimidated by matchy-matchy outfits).  Outerwear and underwear featured decidedly bold dots in polka and irregular styles.

 

I became slightly obsessed with spotted clothes while researching for this post. The variety of patterns, colours and dot sizes is incredible, and I truly believe that the designers of the past were more inventive with how they used prints than designers are today. There were far too many photos for one post, so I’ve created a Pinterest board dedicated purely to polka dots and spots!

Do you have a favourite dotty design I didn’t feature? Slide into the comments below, or into my Facebook or Instagram DM’s so we can swoon over it together!

 

With Style & Sass,

Velvet DeCollete

Posted by velvetdecollete in FASHION STORIES, 4 comments
Vintage Corsages & How To Wear Them

Vintage Corsages & How To Wear Them

From the 1930’s to the 1950’s corsages were mainstays of fashion. While we reserve their floral beauty for formal occasions, women in the past wore them daily and far more inventively! Corsages are versatile accessory often overlooked by modern aficionados of vintage fashion, probably because we’ve never been taught how to wear them.

But those days are over.  I’m about to walk you through some gorgeous vintage corsage styles and ways to wear them.

A Brief History Of Corsages

The term “corsage” is French and originally referred to the fitted bodice of a dress. The reason the flowers worn to adorn formal attire are now called corsages is because women once wore these flowers pinned to the bodices of their dresses. These flowers were known as the “bouquet de corsage,” and over time this phrase was shortened to just “corsage.”

In ancient times, flowers were often to ward off evil spirits during special events. The scents of herbs and flowers were thought to keep evil at bay, especially during weddings or other momentous occasions. During the reign of the black plague people carried flowers ( A pocket full of posies ) thinking the smell would keep the disease away.

The Victorian era saw a single flower worn at the center of the neckline ( drawing attention to those assets ladies ) or a huge cascade worn on the shoulder. By the 1930’s people were less afraid of evil spirits, and more interested in the fashion aspect of corsages.  Styles and positioning became more creative and it’s the 1930’s to 1950’s era that I’ll be focusing on today!

 

Norman Parkinson for Vogue 1946. Woman in striking purple dress with large floral corsage on the shoulder

Basic Corsage Styles

Looking through photos of vintage fashion, you’ll notice three corsage shapes that pop up again and again. I haven’t been able to find any ‘official’ terminology for these, so this is how I refer to them. Obviously there are exceptions, but these are the basic styles.

The Posy: Designed after a bouquet of flowers, the posy corsage generally looks like a bunch of flowers with the stems still attached.

The Cascade: My personal favourite, the cascade corsage looks like a vine or tumbling row of flowers. This corsage usually features larger flowers at the top and smaller flowers or buds at the bottom.

The Buttonhole: The buttonhole is a floral arrangement that sits flat and has no stems. Usually smaller than other styles, the buttonhole could be a single large flower, or an evenly shaped group of smaller flowers which are often backed by leaves or a bow.

Corsages could be made of fresh or artificial flowers and greenery embellished with ribbons, small ornaments, beads or glitter. War years saw a surge in fabric and felt corsages which could be made at home from small fabric scraps, with magazines publishing corsage tutorials and patterns.

The war bride below is wearing a cascade of pink roses and leaves , while the lady in the left is pinning a posy to her friend’s dress. You can just see the stems underneath the ribbon bow.

 

A war bride wear a blue suit and hat with a pink rose corsage. A girl pins a corsage for her friends in the 1930s

 

Posy style corsages were immensely fashionable in the 1950’s and early 1950’s.  From left to right below you’ll see a large round posy on a 1940’s summer outfit, a long posy placed diagonally on a 1950’s suit and a cascade worn on a 1930’s ensemble.

 

Photos of women wearing corsages in the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's

 

Where to Wear Corsages

The short answer? Wherever you want.

The long answer is that corsage placement changes with the era.

Early corsages were worn on the low shoulder and the center of the bodice. The thirties and forties saw corsages climb to the high shoulder, often pinned to a jacket’s shoulder pad or gown strap. Ankle and wrist corsages made an appearance in the thirties. The forties were a bold time for fashion with corsages worn everywhere from the hat to the shoulder, glove top and waist to the ankle.

The photos below show Rita Hayworth and a Vogue magazine cover showcasing waist corsages in the 1940’s, while the middle image features a striking glove top corsage photographed for Vogue. And that flirty flapper? That’s Anita Page accessorising her beaded dress with an ankle corsage.

 

In the 1930's and 1940's corsages were worn in the shoulder, waist or arm, as seen in these images including Rita Hayworth and Lisa Fonsagrives

 

You’ll see that corsages were mostly asymmetric and worn on one side of the body. Symmetric dress clip style corsages did exist, as the photo below demonstrates, but don’t seem to have been as popular. Matching accessories were fashionable, so go ahead and wear matching corsages and hairpieces.

* Can I draw your attention to the plunging low neckline in the 1930’s portrait on the right!? How stunning is that!*

 

1930s and 1940s fashion ladies wearing floral corsages

Vintage Marie Claire cover of a model wearing a white dress with a large brightly coloured floral embellishment

How To Attach A Corsage

Okay so you’re sold on wearing corsages, but how to you actually wear them?

Vintage corsages don’t always have a pin or brooch back attached. Using pins, women would just pin them on wherever they wanted, so you could attach the corsage to your clothing, hat, hair or a wrist or ankle ribbon without a back fixture getting in the way.

I attach a brooch backing to all the handmade corsages in my Etsy boutique for your convenience, but I do recommend tacking them with a few pins as well. The extra pins help distribute the weight of the corsage and allow you to position it exactly how you’d like it! You can get extra long, thicker pins just for corsages, but I find they can leave bigger holes in my clothes than I’m comfortable with.

 

1940's photo of woman in navy blue suit, hat and large orchid corsage Beautiful colorized photograph of young fair haired lady with rose in her hair.

Marlene Dietrich wearing a tuxedo with a white corsage, and a headpiece consisting of two large roses.

Glamour goddess Marlene Dietrich rocked a large buttonhole corsage with her signature tuxedo, and could be seen wearing large corsages and hairpieces on a regular basis.

Now you’ve seen how fantastic corsages can look, go experiment! Be bold! Explore the different styles, textures and colours artificial flowers and materials can offer. Whether you’re a vintage purist or a modern pinup babe there is a corsage that’s perfect for you. I prefer wearing vintage inspired corsages with my dresses from the 40’s and 50’s. You can find my designs in my Etsy boutique and I love making custom orders if you’re after something extra special.

With Style & Sass,

Velvet DeCollete

Posted by velvetdecollete in FASHION STORIES, 3 comments