The Vintage Era Broken Down

When you enjoy dressing vintage, you come to know a few things about what was in style in every decade, sometimes even each part of a decade. When you’re a person like this, you can make a reference to the 20s, get a response such as “oh, you mean Marilyn Monroe?” and not know whether to laugh or cry. In fact at a recent history inspired event someone said to me “I wasn’t sure if you were WWII or Titanic.” Putting aside the fact that either way it sounds like I looked like an epic disaster, if someone had been on the Titanic looking like I did it would have meant they got there in a time machine. Don’t get me wrong, she was a very sweet lady. But it’s common. I don’t expect the average person to be able to tell the difference between 1870s style and 1880s style, but we only just recently got out of the 20th century. It’s a very near part of our history, and its fashion has a major impact on what we wear today. How can you do 50s if you don’t really know what the 50s looked like?
Even if you don’t take style queues from the past, it can be extremely interesting to track its progress. And one thing I love doing is watching old movies and trying to guess their year or the year they were based on by the clothes they wore. I’m getting sort of good at it – I can usually guess within 3 years.

I was going to try explaining each decade typically considered part of the vintage era, but then realized there were way too many intricacies to do this properly. It would be too complicated and I would probably get it wrong somewhere along the way. In fact when I see a vintage outfit, I don’t find myself mentally deconstructing it in order to tell what decade it’s from, it’s simply recognizable. So here is a compilation of pictures, to help you become more familiar with the look of each decade and what makes it unique.

1920’s

1930’s


1940’s

1950’s

Early 1960’s


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8 comments on “The Vintage Era Broken Down

  1. Magnolia says:

    I’m a big fan of vintage. Great Post, I like the way you laid it all out:)

  2. I always get lost in the 1930s…your pics help. My problem is I love 1940s hair and 1950s dresses… luckily, as you say, most people don’t recognise the mismatch!

    • So true. Besides, the 40s hair and 50s dress combo is actually a very common one, one I myself do a whole lot. Don’t worry about mixing eras to put together a look you love that’s uniquely you πŸ™‚

  3. Shari says:

    This post is absolutely amazing! I don’t vintage on a regular basis, but I do love vintage shopping and have a few vintage pieces. I love this post a lot. My only question is it looks like in the 30’s they dressed fancy wear all the time or was their regular clothes similar to what was worn in the 20’s? or did their regular clothes go over into the 40’s?

    • This is something a lot of people have noticed. From what I understand, the Great Depression was one of the main reasons we see so much formalwear. Most people couldn’t afford to shop, so they would wear old clothes and then lose themselves in the glamorous fantasies that Hollywood created. This of course doesn’t mean that there wasn’t any 30s street wear. It mainly differs from the 20s in that it changed from the relaxed tomboy look into something more feminine and romantic, more structured and body conscious, and the waist returned to its natural position. Here is a perfect example of an average 1930s dress.
      1930s dress

      • Shari says:

        thank you so much for answering my question! I do love vintage clothes, but as of lately, I havent bought any new clothes. And i prefer vintage or vintage inspired because EVERYTHING looks the same in the stores these days. And the things that I actually like and want to wear are vintage. This post has helped me so much! I love all the era’s really, thank you once again for posting this.

    • You’re very welcome! (Sorry if it shows me replying to the wrong comment, there was no button under the latest one!) I just added a bunch of pictures to the 30s section since this is the decade most people have trouble with, and I should have forseen it enough to try harder getting more pictures of every day people and clothes. I hope this helps you further πŸ™‚ And I can totally understand what you mean about everything now looking SO generic, it’s so boring! Vintage clothes also have a tendency to be MUCH more flattering to the female form, you just can’t go wrong.

      • Shari says:

        wow! thank you again for posting the extra photos – they are so pretty! And you are right about vintage clothing being more flattering to the female form – that is the reason why I love it so much! πŸ™‚

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