How to wear vintage

It’s no surprise that here at Wild Lace, I love vintage style. I’m obsessed with 50’s starlets, craving those classic silhouettes and mad about retro prints. If you’re already a fan of the vintage style or you’re looking for some vintage inspiration to add to your wardrobe, I’m going to cover the basics you need to channel your favourite pin-up.

From patterns to prints and everything in between, let’s step back in time and find out how to recreate this must-have style.

Vintage Fashion Silhouettes

There’s no one way to dress vintage. The term spans multiple decades and one person’s view of vintage fashion could be totally different to another. With that in mind, I’m going to focus this guide on 1950’s fashion. It’s my favourite decade. Firstly, let’s look at some of the most iconic 50s fashion shapes and silhouettes that remain effortlessly stylish, even today!

Hourglass

With a fitted bodice and a flared skirt, the an hourglass silhouette became popular in the late 1940s and remains a staple today. This flattering style can be created through 50’s style dresses or by teaming a flared skirt with a fitted top. For extra oomph add a petticoat for an extra feminine look that’s made for dancing!

Shirt-waist (Tea Dress)

Ideal for day-to-day wear, the shirt-waist silhouette has a collared bodice that buttons like a shirt with a naturally fitted waist. The bottom can range from full, flared skirt to a-line. This look is often associated with 50’s housewives tea dresses but today this is a great choice for workwear or casual days out.

Pencil

One of the most iconic shapes and popular in the rockabilly scene, the pencil silhouette is associated with starlets such as Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield and more recently, Joan Harris from Mad Men. Fitted from top to bottom, the pencil shape accentuates curves. Effortlessly feminine, this is a flattering silhouette for any shape and can be created using either pencil dresses or pencil skirts.

Vintage Prints

Some of the most iconic vintage prints are ones that are just as popular today (leopard print anyone?). 50’s vintage prints are incredibly diverse, with everything from soft pastel shades to bright and bold patterns. Vintage prints are fun, colourful and incredibly easy to style, perfect for anyone looking to add instant retro flair to their wardrobe.

Leopard Print

Leopard print is the calling card for any 50’s bombshell. Sophisticated whilst still having that all-important ‘edge’ – this print was loved by starlets such as Elizabeth Taylor who knew the impact of this bold pattern. Leopard print is incredibly versatile and looks incredible paired with a striking red lip.

Tropical (Tikki)

Tropical prints and patterns were a big hit in the 50s with actresses like Bettie Page embracing this mix of palm leaves, hibiscus flowers and tropical fruits. Ideal for summer months. Go bold with a tropical print dress or add a subtle element into your outfit with a tropical top or skirt.

Polka Dot

Classic polka dot prints will never go out of style, whether you opt for black and white or add a splash of colour. Starlets such as Audrey Hepburn rocked the dots and even today, polka dot is the print of choice for anyone looking to replicate 50’s style. With plenty of variations of the pattern to choose from, polka dot can be worn all over or as a subtle accent piece.

Nautical

Nautical inspired clothing was a huge trend in the 1950s, with many starlets such as Bette Davis and Doris Day showing their love for stars, stripes and sailors. Nautical clothing has always had a place in the heart of modern fashion and many of the sailor dresses and tops give a nod to the women in the 50s. The rule of thumb for nautical clothing is to not go to over the top….it’s a nod to sailor fashion – not a Popeye costume!

Vintage Accessories

Any vintage clothing aficionado knows that the key to a retro-inspired look is the accessories. From head scarves to cinch belts, it’s all about creating that all-important silhouette. My favourite vintage accessories complement the overall look. Simple is usually best, a scarf or bandana tied in your hair, some fakelite jewellery, a couple of hair flowers or a handbag in a matching pattern or motif can tie a whole look together and give it that extra authentic air.

With a selection of vintage accessories in your arsenal, you can even add retro styling to an everyday look. I’ve picked some of my favourite essentials to get your collection off to a good start.