May 31, 2013

Plus Size Vintage Clothing circa 1941

One of the myths of vintage clothing is that it's all so small.  There are a few reasons why this seems to be. 
  • people were more likely malnourished a century ago and grew to smaller stature
  • the smallest sizes survived over time because they were only worn for a few years, as women likely took larger sizes after childbirth
  • women trained their bodies into smaller silhouettes with corsets and the like
All of these speculations had some impact on the size of existing vintage and antique clothes.  However, Doris Langley Moore long ago refuted much of these claims by measuring and comparing extant Victorian garments and reporting an average 26-inch waist - a modern size 6.  We recently cataloged an 1870s silk ensemble with a 41-inch bust and 33-inch waist, close to a modern size 16.  Not everybody was tiny.

And this catalog of 1941 Lane Bryant fashions shows many more recent vintage clothes in "stout" yet "slenderizing" examples.  The history of Lane Bryant with its initial focus on maternity wear, surpassed in the 1920s by the demand for plus-size clothing, bears out the real need for mass production of larger women's clothes early in the last century.  Sales of plus-size women's clothing exceeded half of Lane Bryant's $5 million revenue in 1923.

These pages show model after model in cherubic profiles with "smart" vintage dresses at "sensible" prices.  Sizes range from a 37-inch bust to a 59-inch bust, which is approximately equivalent to
women's sizes 12 to 40 today.
Even the shoes offered a generous range of sizes, from 4 to 11.  Lane Bryant was a single source for plus-size women over the last century, including everything from underwear to hats and bathrobes for larger ladies.
For a glimpse of plus sizes on our site, check our women's vintage clothing section and choose your size from the left column.  We offer over 400 authentic items in a size 13 to 26... and over 6,000 items site-wide.

May 30, 2013

"If I were allowed to choose...

...from the pile of books which will be published one hundred years after my death, do you know which one I would take?  I would simply take a fashion magazine so that I could see how women dress one century after my departure.  And these rags would tell me more about the humanity of the future than all the philosophers, novelists, prophets and scholars."

So said Anatole France, a French novelist who died in 1924 at the age of 80.  The women's clothes he saw in his day ranged from Civil War era hoop skirts to enormous leg-o-mutton sleeves to the liberation from corsets to the high peak of flapper frivolity in his last years.  Imagine that variety over a lifetime, and he a man of letters who paid attention to such things.

And nearly a hundred years have indeed passed since his death.  Imagine the developments since then.  Just a few years after his passing, fashion dictated swimsuits that show all a woman has, and ladies in hard-tailored suits as severe as men's... Would he think us too feminine and yet too masculine?

Then there's the reprise of the Victorian era in the 1950s, the Gibson Girl in the 1970s, the re-created flapper during the 60s, and so on... Are our closets today a split personality of sorts?  Too many acceptable looks run awry of the dictum of fashion?

Look at the mainstream fashion of vintage clothing today... Would he think us unabashedly nostalgic?

I wonder what he would think about our humanity.  What would you guess?

May 27, 2013

Memorial Day: A Vintage Vixen In Uniform

From the yellowed pages of a wartime Life magazine, a Vixen in uniform smiles brightly on this Memorial Day.  During World War II when this photograph was taken, women were entering the military in numbers previously unheard of.  And the designer of the WAVES uniforms (among others) was none other than the couturier Mainbocher.  These ladies not only served well, they looked well too!

Happy Memorial Day to those who have served, and to those who enjoy the benefits of those serving. 

May 23, 2013

1960s Vintage Puritan Men's Shirts

In the 1960s, gents wore sport shirts on the weekends that were polo style or button down, often with cool retro crests embroidered on the pocket.  Puritan men's shirts were among the most popular, worn by many a pipe-smoking dad reminiscent of Fred MacMurray of 'My Three Sons' and similar sitcoms.

Puritan shirts, like those pictured in these 1964 displays, had unique details seen only in 1960s vintage sport shirts.  Wing lapels, button & loop closures, notched sleeves and buttoned-tab accents at the waist are common details that distinguish these vintage styles from their modern counterparts.  In the above display, Puritan sold polo shirts alongside dyed-to-match socks.

One interesting pairing Puritan designed in the mid-1960s was the In And Outer Set seen above, essentially a men's twin set with a ring-neck tee matched to a short-sleeved shirt jacket.  These were marketed to women to buy 'For Him' as a thoughtful and practical gift.

To step back in time and virtually visit these vintage displays, check our current selection of 1960s men's shirts.  We've just updated with lots of choices for summer!

May 21, 2013

Dressing Great Gatsby Style

As The Great Gatsby debuts on-screen, vintage vixens far and wide will be craving flapper looks in the coming seasons.  Already their presence is seen on the runway, where rugby style stripes are pairing with fluid, femme Gatsby style jerseys.

Au Revoir by Georges Barbier, 1924.

The look was pioneered by Gatsby's fictional flappers and real-life fashionistas of the 1920s.  Everyone from the forward-thinking local gal to the haute designer Coco Chanel was wearing their hair short and their dresses high (though Coco couldn't bear to bare her own knees, or anyone else's, in her fashion collections).

Regardless of Coco's decorum, she and the rest of 1920s fashion offered us worthy looks we're inspired by.  And sometimes inspiration is all we can take from some garments of this era.  Because the 1920s were nearly a century ago, original 1920s clothing is often fragile (read: unwearable) but take heart, there are flapper looks made in later decades. 

Also, it's often easier to shop 20s jewelry and flapper accessories like long strings of beads and the ever-chic 1920s cloche hat.  Beautiful flapper finds both antique and recent can be had at vintage clothing shops, and the varied looks, from Deco to darling, are simply the bee's knees.  Here's a profile of our favorite looks:

Flapper Afternoon

The Sporting Look

Evening Drama
Vintage fashion has graciously copied motifs from the classic flapper era and reworked them time and again, most notably with the premiere of 1959 film Some Like It Hot with Marilyn Monroe and through the mid-1960s. We offer a variety of clothes not only from the 1920s, but reprised decades later and still reminiscent of 20s flapper style finds.
Until next time, Vixens... 23-skidoo!

May 10, 2013

Letter Sizes In Vintage Men's Pajamas

Vintage pajamas for men have funny sizing... at least, that's what we always thought.  Men's sizes are usually so pragmatic.  A size 38 means a 38-inch chest, for example.  Easy.
But when it comes to pajamas, not so easy.  Many vintage men's pajamas have letters for sizes, and who knows what a size C is? 

This company does.  Diplomat made pajamas for men in the middle of last century, and they used the lettered sizes that sometimes seem mystifying.  Luckily we came across their size chart on a recent deadstock hangtag:

Interesting.  It's reasonable that size A is the smallest, and size E is the largest.  But it divides the sizes into something a bit finer than small, medium, large... like those plus extra-small and extra-large. 
At Vintage Vixen we always translate the measurements of an item into our modern size chart, so the lettered sizes (at least on our site) become nothing more than a quirky vestige of times gone by... and one of the many intriguing aspects of vintage clothing.   
Nonetheless, this chart can be a helpful resource for those trying to size pajamas and stymied by the old size descriptors. Also interesting to note is the smallest size for men. We don't know too many adult males who take a 32-inch chest!