Collecting vintage can be an expensive hobby – particularly if you collect clothing and accessories from the 1930s, 1940s and early 50s like me. It is not unusual for me to spend just under £500 on a very special coat or £200 on a dress. I very much see it as an investment, that should times get hard, I can resell and recoup some of it. A pretty pension pot if you like! There was a war on of course and due to rationing, there are far less items available from this era when compared to the late 50s onwards. Add to that, my body shape of a millennial woman with an average 32” waist, and my choices in this country can be very limited.
It is fair to say that my scouring for vintage treasures is more of an obsession than a hobby. Many times, I have loaded up the Internet at 7pm and next looked up to see that the moon is up and it’s time to go to bed! Due to my size and the availability of items, I buy most of my accessories and clothing from the USA. The range of larger items there is so much better and online market places such as Etsy have a huge range of 40s dresses in quite reasonable prices. Of course, when ordering outside of the EU, import duties can be high and postage costs are not cheap. On occasion – particularly with things like Lucite bags – the postage and import duty has cost almost twice as much as the item itself. When coupled with the poor exchange rate at the moment, it can be quite off putting…
So, with the plethora of vintage reproduction businesses creating clothes, accessories and shoes in more vintage styles, I have diverted some of my attention to collecting realistic repro. There’s no doubt that repro fashions don’t hold their value as much as real vintage but if you buy up iconic pieces, they can command quite a price. An example of this is the Lucite, springolator sandals released by Miss L Fire a few years ago, called ‘Cinderella.’ They sold out very quickly at the time and have been almost impossible to get hold of since; they rarely come up on auction websites and when they do, they result in a bidding war.
But in a sea of flowered frocks and cherry printed halter necks, looking for authentic looking repro, which looks like actual vintage, can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. So I have compiled the ultimate 40s/50s look book, which is completely created from vintage reproduction companies – you’ll be stunned at how realistic they look!
No 40s look is complete without a beautiful shirt waist dress. If you peruse any catalogue or advert of the time, it is clear that this design is one of the most popular dress styles of the era. With its collar, A-line shape and buttons down the front, it got its name through the combination of blouse and skirt. It suits all shapes and is perfect for doing errands in or even meeting friends for lunch. This is the style I most often wear for work, due to the fact that it is both smart and practical. Most repro brands sell their own version of a shirt waist dress, but two that particularly caught my eye were this tiki-style white floral dress and a classic lipstick red dress with beautiful details.
Get the look: Red shirt waister dress by House of Foxy from www.thehouseoffoxy.com, £129, Charlene shirt waister dress in Hawaiian print by Rock n Romance from www.rocknromance.co.uk, £49.
Sailor looks are not only a mainstay of mid-century fashion but are also very current. Keeping it simple to avoid a fancy-dress style look is the secret to authenticity here. Giving a twist to traditional nautical style by wearing a jumpsuit also gives a more vintage look.
Get the look: Jolene navy jumpsuit by Voodoo Vixen from www.voodoovixen.co.uk, £55.
Although hats were not rationed during World War 2, they were an expensive luxury and were taxed at 33% (Wikipedia). There was no clear style, with designers taking inspiration from lots of different eras, with styles as diverse as the flat, beret-like Tam hat and the larger, more decorative Victorian-inspired cartwheel hat. The European style was very dramatic and some people were even classed as un-patriotic due to the ostentatiousness of their headgear during a war! Anybody who knows me will know I love a bit of drama and favour the look of the 40s femme fatale, so the larger and more interestingly shaped, the better!
Get the look: Lori 1940s femme fatale tilt hat with cowl blackout black at www.lsgf.uk/shop, £68.00.
We associate plastic today with being a cheap material but after the war, Lucite, a durable acrylic material made from polymethyl methacrylate became a successful material for use in jewellery, handbags and shoes. Lucite handbags are serious collector’s items and recently, on ‘Antiques Roadshow,’ a collector took in her amazing Lucite bags which were worth thousands. There are always a few of these selling on online auction sites for around £80-£100 but for the rarer ones like Willardy, you can pay in excess of over £300. Collecting original Lucite bags also has its issues. Lucite can be quite easily damaged and it is not as hardy a material as we have in today’s handbags. Due to this, cracks, scratches and missing rhinestones are all common faults that buyers recognise. Not many repro-companies make Lucite style bags, so when you see one it is best to buy them up! Modern reproductions seem to be much sturdier and the hinges are newer, so will not stick or rust up.
Get the look: Black vintage inspired handbag at www.lolavonrose.com, $64
Every stylish lady knows the devil is in the detail and no vintage outfit is complete without brooches, bangles and earrings to match the clothing. A classic mid-century look involves carved bracelets, earrings and matching brooches or colourful wire brooches, in primary colours, to match those telephone cord purses.
Get the look: Clear bracelet, earrings and brooches at www.splendette.com, brooch is £8, narrow bangle is £5, wider bangle is £8 and earrings are £8. Novelty brooch from Luxulite at www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Luxulite, £15.
Models: Scarlett Luxe and Lolita Noir / Photographer: Porcelain Photography / Hair and make-up: Lolita Noir’s Beauty Emporium / Clothing and accessories: Voodoo Vixen jumpsuit, Red dress by House of Foxy, Flowered dress by Seamstress of Bloomsbury, Lucite box bag by Lola Von Rose, Brooch by Luxulite, Hat by Little Shop of Gorgeousness and Fripperies, Clear Lucite set by Splendette