When it comes to purchasing apparel on line, nothing is more heartbreaking than waiting all week long for your new dress, just to have it delivered and it doesn't fit, the color is completely different, or it is, overall, simply less than what you were expecting. Well, double that disappointment when you find that your virtually one of a kind vintage dress isn't "The One". To keep you from that heartache, especially if you are new to vintage, I'm going to give you a few tricks of the vintage trade to decrease the chances of ordering a vintage dud.
CARDINAL RULE OF VINTAGE PURCHASING- Know your MEASUREMENTS. Take the time to measure your bust, waist and hips. These measurements are usually the most important to know. If your numbers are an exact match or an inch or so smaller than the seller has indicated, then you most likely have a winner. Most sellers, myself included, will give you the measurements of the dress instead of a generalized size (S,M,L) for many reasons. For example in the 1940s, many dresses were still being made at home or by a neighborhood seamstress. Thus the measurements differ quite a bit from dress to dress. If you are purchasing a suit, wedding dress, our blouse , knowing your shoulder width and arm length measurements become just as important. Here is the proper way to take your measurements:
KNOW YOUR VINTAGE TERMINOLOGY: While this is simply a good idea in general and you will no doubt learn your lingo the more you shop, when you're purchasing off of sites such as Ebay or Etsy, knowing your vintage terminology will save you time and frustration and get you just where you want to be. Remember, the seller uses vintage lingo to describe their items and to appeal to the mass majority of vintage enthusiasts will post their items accordingly. Here are some terms and definitions that will help you to identify clothing by type and era:
Flapper- No doubt if you are over the age of fourteen, you have seen some version of this style dress. The flapper dress is a shapeless , usually thin strapped "sack" style dress that usually stops at the knees. This dress was popular in the twenties, when the corseted prim and proper mode of dress was no longer desired by the women who wore them. They were more than their bodies, and as such the flapper style dress was born. These dresses were all the rage and became more refined, daring and decorative as time went on. The fringed flapper dress is a well known example of this. Popular from the 20's to the 30's and can , depending on the seller, be listed under "antique" apparel. Some tag words you might use in searching for this type of dress in Ebay or Etsy would be 1920s, 20s, Antique, Pre WWII.
Rockabilly- This word usually indicates the 1950s. The emergence of rock and roll, coupled with country music, is what we know today as Rockabilly (they simply called it "hillbilly" in the 50s). Rockabilly subculture brought about fashion that offered a wide variety of styling, but with a few basic fashion templates to follow. Full circle skirts (aka "poodle skirt") , high waisted pencil skirts, "cigarette pants" (slim fitted pant; think cropped skinny jean), halter dress with sweet heart necklines all fit into this category. In women over twenty, you would find the same full skirts, but you might also see boat necked bodices, and demure cardigans (every age). With older women, their "rockabilly" still followed the fashion template, but you might see a sequined bodice for evening wear. Some search words you might use when shopping online would be Rockabilly, 1950s, 50s, circle skirt, day dress (use in conjunction with coordinating year, as many dresses are described this way by the seller).
Wiggle Dress- Around the mid 1950's, the wiggle dress made its way to the scene. This sexy form fitting dress celebrated the female form; to see walking, talking hourglasses was not uncommon then (heehee!). The TRUE wiggle dress or skirt by definition means that the hem of the dress is cut more narrow than the waist of the dress , thus keeping the knees closer together and shortening your steps, creating a "wiggle" effect. In fact, while the full circle skirt was still popular, and many women went to the store to pick out their dress patterns, many of those patterns came with a full skirt option or a slim skirt option (wiggle) to create two remarkably different looks. The necklines were often pretty demure, although there were clearly exceptions to the rule. The wiggle dress was popular during the mid fifties into the early 60's before the a-line dress became popular. Some search words that will help you locate your perfect wiggle dress on sites like Ebay or Etsy would be: pinup, bombshell, 1950s 50s, wiggle, sheath (some sellers use this terminology, but I find, more often than not, it does not represent a true wiggle dress, but in the interest of fairness, blah, blah...) Here's a stunning wiggle dress in my Ebay store you might like to own!:
Mod- Mod represents the emergence of less form fitting clothing, with waistlines less on display and usually only prominent with the assistance of a belt. This trend was actually started on the streets on London, with the young generation purchasing more clothing for themselves than in past decades. Fashion houses paid attention and created a look that is mimicked in some way shape or form every year. A-Line dresses were the soup du jour , ranging anywhere from long (maxi) to short (mini). The Mini skirt, which reached amazingly tiny proportions were typical front he early to mid sixties. While waist lines weren't prominent, the sixties weren't slouchy; the women's clothing included a tailored look; sever masculine, narrow cut shirts and maybe a pair of your boyfriends jeans (yes, that's where "boyfriend jeans" came from) could be your look, then maybe later you could throw on a micro mini and give your parents the blues! Some words you might try are Mod, mod mini, mod maxi, a line dress, 1960s 60s, 60s color block dress/ mini/ maxi.
Next Week we'll talk more in depth 1940s terminology, Disco era of the Seventies and the Punk look of the eighties, as well as tell- tale signs to identify what year your vintage find comes from if you're out and about shopping. We welcome questions and LOVE suggested topics, so drop a line! We'd love to chat!
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