Dressing like your grandparents doesn’t mean high-waisted pants and cardigan sweaters on men, or long, poofy June Cleaver dresses on women. If you’ve ever looked at photos from their youth, you might just see that during the 1940s, the old folks were a lot more stylish than you give them credit for – and you might just want to borrow a few things from their closet.
We may think of our grandparents as buttoned-down and boring, but the styles of their day were nothing of the sort. In the present decade, we’re beginning to see some of the best styles of the 1920s through the 1960s coming back into vogue, and being incorporated into modern fashion designers’ repertoires, with this year’s and last year’s Fashion Week offering some surprising and absolutely fabulous designs and colors in delightfully retro originals.
In our review of the best vintage fashions to incorporate into today’s wardrobe, we will start with the 1920s, and subtly ignore the less comfortable clothing from the 19th century. We certainly wouldn’t want to recommend bustles and petticoats to anyone (although we wouldn’t mind seeing a man in a top hat every now and then).
The Roaring Twenties
The 1920s were full of color and imaginative design, with grandees of the time incorporating flamboyant headdresses, outrageous Art Deco jewelry, and knee-baring dresses. Earrings were often worn long, and inexpensive jewelry with plenty of semi-precious gems added color, and the style can be easily and affordably replicated.
Women of the 1920s weren’t the only ones who enjoyed peacocking, there was plenty of color for men, too. Some of these wonderful fashions are making a comeback, especially with 1920s-themed television shows like Boardwalk Empire accurately illustrating some of the bolder fashions of the time. Menswear during this fun decade made a statement. A solid or pinstripe suit was standard, but men certainly didn’t shy away from big plaids or flashy broad pinstripes if they were in the right mood. And even with the black or grey suit, men were definitely not afraid to add a little color to their wardrobe, and the 1920s man cut a particularly dashing figure in a black pinstripe suit, two-tone Wingtips, and a pink button-down shirt with French cuffs and gold cuff links.
The Fabulous Forties
Some of the flash of the 1920s ended with the Depression, but enjoyed a bit of a comeback in the 1940s, when men in the 1940s enjoyed the freedom to wear colorful, hand-painted neckties with their fedoras tilted just so, a fashion that today is also enjoying a comeback as young men begin to wear hats and pocket squares again.
Mens’ suits were just a bit more sedate than they were in the 1920s, but still had just enough style to stand out. The classic double-breasted suit with peaked lapels, with a bright necktie and matching handkerchief ironed into crisp points sticking out of the breast pocket isn’t worn too much today, but when it is, it really makes a statement.
Of course, the outrageous “zoot suit” style of the 1940s is still seen in some version of modern streetwear culture today, with big patterns, bright colors and somewhat oversized features, although it may be just a bit too much for everyday wear in the 2010’s.
Women in the 1940s had pulled back ever-so-slightly from the jazz era, but they weren’t afraid to wear form-fitting dresses that showed off their shape. Accessories were a big part of a woman’s outfit, from beautiful hats, to brooches and pins, to gloves and purses.
The Seductive Sixties
Just think of the 1920s, but with more marijuana.
Those hippies in the 1960s may have thought they were being completely original, but their fringe, flowing dresses and bright flower-power colors were really just a revival of the 1920s jazz era.
During that decade, young people rebelled against the staid and conservative 1950s style with a flashy, colorful and experimental mood, and attention to comfort. This was the era of the mini-skirt and long hair. That said, the sixties saw a great range, beginning with the New England elegance of Jackie Kennedy in the first part of the decade, to the brighter pop-art inspired colors later on. Jewelry, and lots of it, was loud and big, and meant to be noticed, and this may be the easiest piece of the 1960s to replicate in a wardrobe today. Start with some huge silver hoop earrings and teen fashions from In Season Jewelry, and add some colorful pendants. Jewelry designs for women was colorful, and young women of the time often favored less expensive costume jewelry made of plastics and artificial materials over more expensive gems and precious metals.
Men had just as much range in the 1960s, from Mad Men suits and trilby hats – still a standout fashion even today – to Woodstock-era flared pants with fringe jackets, depending on whether you were going to the office or to a “happening.”
If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation – and if you don’t like the fashions of today, change the decade. Styles from the 1920s through the 1960s are all coming back in bits and pieces, and whether you’re wearing a flapper skirt or hippie fringe, you’ll still be in style in 2018.