Building a Vintage Wardrobe: Skirts


This is part 3 of 10 of the Building a Vintage Wardrobe Series

What vintage wardrobe is complete without several fantastic skirts? For most of us, skirts aren't difficult to find and if you're like me, you have more skirts than blouses to match!

What length is appropriate for my vintage wardrobe?
When I go shopping for skirts, if the length isn't just right, I don't buy it. I prefer a skirt that is no longer than mid-calf length and no shorter than mid-knee. This is really a matter of personal preference.

I've seen lots of vintage gals wear skirts above the knee or down to the floor and they look fabulous! If your wardrobe goal is to capture the style of a particular decade, study the style from that era and use it as your guide to buying skirts.

skirt timeline from Click to Enlarge

1920's-For the first time in centuries, ladies sported short, knee-length skirts. Dresses and skirts were very straight with a dropped waist (around the hip). Longer skirts were often worn for classy evening attire.

1930's-During the depression era, womens fashion was highly influenced by the glamor of Hollywood. Hemlines dropped to mid-calf to just above ankle length. Floor length dresses and skirts were an evening wear staple. \

With dressmaking techniques such as draping, skirts were made to cling to the body. Day dresses and skirts often hung straight down from the hips or waist.

1940's-With rationing and fabric shortages during WWII, hemlines rose again to knee-length, sometimes longer to mid-calf. Skirts continued to remain close to the body for the most part. Full skirts wouldn't be a common garment until after the war, when Christian Dior invented the "New Look".

1950's- After being deprived of luxury during the war years, ladies of the 50's wanted to indulge. In the early to mid 50's full skirts and crinolines were all the rage! When Dior passed away and left the fashion world in the hands of Yves Saint Laurent, womens fashion saw a dramatic change in skirts with a more fitted look.

Skirt length of the 50's were as short as knee-length and as long as mid-calf. Elegant evening gowns and skirts were often down to the floor.

Types of Skirts

Circle Skirt
A circle skirt is made from an entire circle of fabric. The skirt is full but drapes nicely from the waistline without gathers or pleats. Poodle Skirts were often cut in the circle skirt style. You can buy or make lovely vintage circle skirts with embroidery, beading, applique and other pattered detail along the bottom of the skirt. Circle skirts can be worn with or without a crinoline underneath.

circle skirt from Lulu's Vintage Blog

circle skirt from Snap It Up Vintage Clothing

A-Line Skirts
a-line skirts are fitted at the waist and hip and flare out gently towards the hem, giving the skirt an "A" shape. A-line skirts are easy to find at thrift stores, vintage clothing shops and modern clothing stores. Look for pencil skirts for your vintage wardrobe in solid colors, wool plaid and hounds tooth. A-line skirts are very flattering to most figures.

pattern from Eva Dress

1930's a-line skirt

Pencil Skirt
Pencil skirts are completely fitted from waist to hem. They often have a kick pleat in the back or on the side so you can walk. Pencil skirts are usually knee length to mid-calf length. Curvy gals, don't be afraid to try a pencil skirt! I know that accentuating the hips and rear are usually the last thing you want to do but with the perfect pencil skirt, it can really give you that desired vintage hourglass shape. Use what you have, girls!

 Every pencil skirt is not created equally. If one of them does work for you, keep looking. They all are cut a bit differently, have darts in different lengths and locations so don't be put off by one bad pencil skirt. Pencil skirts are a classic Pin-up girl staple. I love this pleated 40's repro pencil skirt from Stop Staring

In the early days of pencil skirts, they were often worn with jackets as a suit set.

image from

pencil skirt from

Tulip Skirt
Tulip skirts are fitted at the waist and hip, down to the mid-thigh. They flare out at the bottom, creating a lovely ruffle or trumpeted effect. The shape resembles an upside down tulip. Skirts style from the 1930's often had a very tulip look to them, even if they weren't always a true tulip.

I love the stunning Desiree skirt from Re-Vamp Vintage Clothing

simplicity pattern from

Dirndl Skirt
The Dirndl (or Tyrolean peasant skirt) is a very full skirt with gathers at the waistline. This style of skirt was made popular in the United States in the late 1940's-early 50's when a New York society woman brought them back from Europe and wore them around South Hampton and Palm Beach.

These charming skirts were a great casual option for ladies in the suburbs and were often hand-worked with dyes, embroidery and bright colors. This peasant skirt really re-established the common A-line house dress of the 1940's and made way for the full skirted shirtwaist and other full-skirted dresses of the 950's. Dirndl skirt lengths range from knee length to floor length.

Modern versions of these skirts can be found at any clothing store.I love Dirndls but curvy gals beware- those extra gathers at the waistband can make you look heavier at the waist and hip. Try to try on a dirndl skirt before buying to make sure it flatters your figure.

image from LuLu's Vintage Blog

Wrap Skirt
Wrap skirts wrap around your waist and tie to fasten (like the skirts from the 1950's Swirl dress). Wrap skirts can have pleats or gathers or be fitted to the waist and hips in an A-line or pencil fashion. In the 40's and 50's, many play suits were made with matching wrap skirts. My favorite type of vintage wrap skirt are the tiki sarong skirts and dresses- a perfect garment for hot summer bbqs!

tiki wrap from

barkcloth applique wrap skirt
How much do you love this tiki sarong from babygirlboutique?! It's sold out right now, but I hope they get more in stock!

This post certainly doesn't cover every variety of skirt but it should provide a good starting point for building your collection of vintage and vintage-inspired skirts. Good luck!

Next Building a Vintage Wardrobe: Pants

Fashion and Film Friday: Chicago


Fashion and Film Friday: Chicago 1920s flapper fashion
roxie heart chicago

 I'm just packing up to go to the country this weekend so I leave you with this week's Fashion and Film Friday: Chicago

I've said it before, I'm not wild about Renee Zellweger but you can't deny the catchy tunes, bright lights and other fabulous talent in Chicago. For us curvy gals, Catherine Zeta Jones and Queen Latifah both provide inspiration to shimmy and shake...and all that jazz.

velma kelly chicago

queen latifa chicago

Chicago is based on the 1926 play "Chicago" by Maurine Watkins. Watkins was a reporter who was working on the cases of 2 murderesses Belva Gaertner and Beulah Sheriff Annan. These women became the inspiration for the play (and now musical) Chicago.

Beaulah- the read Roxie Heart
Beaulah- the original Roxie Hart

Belva the real velma kelly
Belva- the original Velma Kelly

While many of the costumes of Chicago are fanciful stage costumes, there are plenty of examples of hairstyles of the time. The fantastic costumes were designed by Colleen Atwood (That Thing You Do, Little Women,Big Fish, Alice in Wonderland).

chicago movie flapper fashion and movie costumes

Sponsor Va-Voom Vintage!


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Va-Voom Vintage receives an average of 6,000 visits per month with over 370 dedicated readers worldwide. 59% of my readers are in the US and 13% are in the UK. With links on many other blogs, websites and vintage networking sites, Va-Voom Vintage readership grows more every day!

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I will write a blog post about each sponsor, sharing photos, reviews and talking about the wonderful products and services you have to offer. For this reason, I will only accept sponsorship from businesses that pertain to my blog's contents and whose products I do or would use. I spend a great deal of time making sure that my blog is interesting for my readers and has valid content, so I have to stay true to that goal.
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Now back to our regularly scheduled program....

Tutorial: I'm gonna teach you to sew!


va-voom vintage retro apron sew-along
For all of those who want to learn to sew but don't know where to begin, this is it! I'm hosting a sew-a-long where I will go through the steps to sew this apron and you can sew along with me! Before the sew-a-long, you will need to know the basics of how to work your sewing machine like how to thread it, winding the bobbin and machine operation. All sewing machines are different (otherwise, I'd cover that too!) but you can check your sewing machine manual for detailed instructions on these things.
The sew-a-long will begin on Friday August 13th. In the meantime, everyone who wants to participate will need to gather these items

1.)A Sewing Machine- dig out yours or borrow from a friend or relative.
2.)A sewing machine needle- If you have an old needle, put in a fresh one.
3.)Fabric scissors- make sure they're good and sharp!
4.)Pinking shears- for finishing edges, they look like this

5.)Thread- In the same color as your fabric. Use all-purpose thread. You will need one new spool
6.) An Iron- You will need an iron and ironing board for pressing seams and ironing your pattern.
7.)The Pattern- The pattern will be Butterick's retro apron, pattern number B5435. This is a modern pattern that you can find at any fabric store. Fabric stores often put patterns on sale for $1-$2 each so keep your eyes peeled for pattern sales! We'll be sewing apron view C
8.)Fabric make sure it's cotton. For beginners, it's the easiest to sew on!

Fabric needed (in inches)for U.S. readers
You will need 3/4 yard cotton fabric
3/8 yard fabric in a contrasting color (whatever colors you like!)
5/8 yards sew-in interfacing
1 pack jumbo rick-rack to match your fabric
Fabric needed (in centimeters)for readers using the metric system
You will need 0.70m cotton fabric
0.40m fabric in a contrasting color
0.60, sew-in interfacing
1 pack jumbo rick rack to match your fabric

* Don't be afraid to ask fabric store employees for help! They know a lot about sewing and are always happy to help beginners!

The sew-a-long will be broken up over 3 days.
Day 1- cutting
Day 2- sewing
Day 3- finishing

If the sew-a-long goes well, we'll do a whole dress next time! Always vintage-inspired, of course!!

Snood Snob and the Dress She Made


*gasp!* Is that an outfit post? Why, yes it is! I know, pretty lame to have a fashion blog and hardly any outfit posts! It's my goal to actually take pictures when I get all dolled up in the future!

Several weeks ago, I received my giveaway prize from Arthelia's Attic and now I'm a snood snob! I have several snoods in every color but green. Naomi sent me a beautiful handmade green snood in addition to an Arthelia's Attic tote bag and coffee mug, adorable vintage hat and a vintage copy of one of her favorite books, "Our Hearts Were Young and Gay" I slipped the snood on right away and have hated my cheap rayon snoods ever since!

I bought my snoods from costume or accessory stores in the mall. They're great because they're affordable, easy to find and come in a variety of colors. I thought "a snood is a snood!" I was -so- wrong! Naomi's handmade snood was not only beautiful but incredibly well made! Her snoods are hand crocheted, using vintage patterns. Unlike my cheap-o rayon snoods, the elastic is covered very well by the crocheted thread and you don't need over a dozen pins to secure it in place! I slipped it on and wore it around for hours with no need for an extra pin or clip to keep it from sliding off! The sturdy materials help the snood to keep a nice shape instead of sagging like a sack like the cheapies. Needless to say, I'm hooked (no pun intended)!

For any of your lovelies that have crazy hair days, failed pin curls or are just too busy to deal with your hair, I -highly- recommend a lovely handmade snood from Arthelia's Attic!! She has many beautiful colors to choose from in different styles. You can see her snoods and other pretties on her etsy shop, Arthelia's Attic

On to the outfit....I sewed this 1947 summer day dress about a month ago and haven't worn it till today! I used the retro Butterick re-release of pattern number 5209.
The fabric is that dirt cheap, tissue thin cotton that you find in the bargain bin of your local fabric store. I fell in love with the cameo rose print and with Missouri summers being in the 90's-100's I needed a few really light summer dresses.
The bodice and flutter sleeves are fully lined in the same fabric and it has a side zipper. The skirt is gathered and un-lined so it flows very gently when I walk. Love it! As far as pattern difficulty goes, this one was a bit of a pain for me, mainly because of the lining but then again, I tend to just go with the flow and not read directions! I imagine that if you read the directions and weren't distracted by a screaming baby, things would turn out better.
For a curvy gal, this pattern isn't bad! The flutter sleeves are great to conceal a larger arm. The bodice has a bit of a gather to fit the bust properly. The only thing I would caution about is the low neckline. I went out with a v-neck slip under my dress and had to adjust to not show too much boob! Also, if you're top-heavy like me, the lovely fitted torso area can be kind of lost unless you're sitting up nice and straight. Tall girls, if you like a longer skirt, make sure to account for that when you cut out the fabric. I'm about 5'8 and made the dress according to the pattern and it's almost too short for my taste (hits JUST below the knee with a very tiny hem).It's a great little dress other than that. You can sew it from a day-time cotton like this or something more elegant for the evening.

Dress: Handmade by me
Cruel Shoes: payless
Snood: Arthelia's Attic
Tooled purse: antique mall find

Fashion and Film Friday: Far From Heaven


1950s fashion far from heaven movie
1950s fashion far from heaven movie

It has been a fairly boring week here. In St. Louis, it's been in the high 90's all week, so I've avoided leaving the house as much as possible. Luckily, I've had lots of time to hang out and watch movies for my Fashion and Film Friday Posts.

Far From Heaven is about a housewife, Cathy (Julianne Moore) who lives in a perfect, happy little 1950's world. She has beautiful children, a huge house, a successful husband and a very important social life full of cocktail parties and schmoozing.

1950s fashion far from heaven movie
Her husband, Frank often works long hours at the office. One night, she takes it upon herself to bring him dinner at the office and interrupts him kissing another man and her whole world falls to pieces. Cathy and Frank both struggle to keep up appearances while holding their marriage together, so Frank seeks help from a professional counselor and Cathy finds comfort in her African-American gardener, Raymond (played by the Allstate car insurance guy, Dennis Haysbert). Soon, Cathy and Raymond's casual conversation turn into a scandalous relationship that has both black and white communities talking.

1950s fashion far from heaven movie
The lovely 1950s costumes for this movie were designed by fabulous historical costume designer, Sandy Powell. You may remember some of her work from Gangs of New York, The Aviator, Shakespeare in Love and Shutter Island. Vintage fashion lovers, be sure to look out for Ms. Powell's work in the up-coming films Sinatra, The Tempest and Hugo Cabret.

Building a Vintage Wardrobe: Blouses


This is part 2 of 10 from the Building a Vintage Wardrobe Series.
Blouses are my weakest spot! Not long into my vintage obsession, my blouse to skirt ratio was about 1:3! Knowing what is lacking in your vintage wardrobe really helps when you go shopping.

Now, I rarely buy a skirt, unless it's something really wonderful and I focus my efforts on blouses. Separates like blouses, skirts and pants help you to make the most of your wardrobe. I love my dresses but with separates you can mix and match. You have one outfit with a dress but if you have 5 skirts and 5 blouses, you can make up to 25 different outfits!

This post probably doesn't cover all types of vintage blouses, but it should be a good starting point! You can study details in the pictures provided and make notes to take with you next tome you go shopping. Hope it helps!

Vintage Blouse Styles
If you've chosen an era to build your wardrobe upon, this will be different for you. Study what types of tops ladies wore and how they paired them with bottoms. Movies, old photos and fashion books are all excellent sources of information.

Button-Up Blouses
Button-up blouses are one of those classic vintage staples that can work for many eras. You can buy modern button-up blouses in solid colors mixed with older accessories for a complete vintage look. Sometimes, when you're lucky you can find really fun novelty prints at thrift stores.


image from So Vintage Patterns

Maise Blouse from re-vamp Vintage Clothing

Knit Tops
Being more of a 1940's and 50's gal, I'm wild about knit tops for that classic pin-up sweater girl look. They're machine washable (most of the time), stretch to fit my bust, soft and comfy and very easy to find! I try to find knit tops that fall just a few inches below my natural waist or an inch or two above my hips. Look for knit tops with vintage details like puff sleeves, delicate knit, short sleeves, etc.

Wrap top
Wrap tops are so flattering to many shapes so when you see one that you love, grab it!! Wrap tops work for styles of the 1930's -1950's. You can find modern wrap tops that would work well. This repro wrap blouse is from Heyday

Twin Sets
Twin Sets (or sweater sets) are one of those classic vintage staples of the 50's and 60's and lucky for us, you can find modern twin sets at thrift stores and modern department stores. A twin set is a simple, often sleeveless jumper/pull-over with a matching cardigan.

 They are so versatile because you can mix and match the pullover with other cardigans and vice versa. A few twin set sin basic solid colors will make a huge difference in your wardrobe. Pair them with classic pencil skirts, 50's a-line skirts or vintage-inspired pants. There's nothing more lovely than a cashmere sweater set and a cup of hot cocoa on a winter day!

Cardigans, boleros, sweater vests
In the chilly months, I rely on my cardigans every day! These garments really help to complete and pull an outfit together. As mentioned before, if you are cautious about bearing your arms, a cardigan can help to cover up and make you feel more comfortable. By adding easy, affordable pieces like cardigans and sweater vests, you change the entire look of your outfit.

 Look for cardigans and boleros in basic, solid colors with both long and 3/4 sleeves. I love long sleeves when it's cold but 3/4 sleeves are great in spring and fall...and you can wear them while showing off your bracelets! For a more vintage feel, choose cardigans and sweater vests that fall a few inches below your natural waist to a few inches above your hip.

 Add vintage buttons, embroidered monogram, a vintage pin or beading to jazz up a cardigan or bolero. I find most of my cardigans at thrift stores for just a few bucks! Wear them un-buttoned, partially buttoned or buttoned up all the way. To accentuate a nipped-in waist, wear a belt over the top of your cardigan.

from the book "A Stitch in Time"

Peasant Blouses
Peasant Blouses are a hot item for warm weather. They work for a variety of eras and best of all, you can find them on modern racks in the summer! Pair a sweet peasant blouse with a fun circle skirt, overalls or pants. I love peasant tops with bright colors and embroidered designs but a simple cotton blouse is a great staple item! When I think of peasant tops, I am always reminded of the glamorous style of desert flower and fellow blogger Syd Divine of Golden Girl of the West.

Details to look for
The Vintage is in the details, ladies! Keep a look-out for garments with classic vintage details.

Collar Types (click to enlarge)

collars from

Sleeve Types (click to enlarge)

1.) Puffed
2.) Kimono
3.) Cape or flutter
4.) Drop
5.) Sleevless
6.) Set-in
7.) Raglan
8.) Drop Shoulder
9.)Saddle Shoulder
10.) Dolman

Where to shop for Vintage Blouses
Thrift stores/op shops are my favorite places to find vintage (or modern with vintage style) blouses. I'm often surprised at how often I can find a blouse from the 40's or 50's that actually fits! Curvy gals, don't hang around the plus size racks for too long. I have found loads of great tops to fit my 44 inch bust in the regular size racks.

Ebay, etsy and vintage repro sites often have a wide variety of styles and sizes. If you sew, knit or crochet, find a vintage pattern and whip up a few cute easy tops. Don't be afraid to check regular department stores like Walmart, Target, and Penney's for blouses. I am MADLY in love with this blouse from Khols! It's not vintage but paired with a great skirt, victory rolls and a few older accessories who will know the difference?

Curvy Gal Tips Being a busty gal, tops of all varieties can be hard to find but they -are- out there!!

* Always try a blouse on before you buy, even if it's stretchy.

* Wear a great supportive bra when blouse shopping, to allow for the best fit of the blouse.

* If it's a button-up variety and you have "the gap" see if you can make adjustments to fix the gap.
Sometimes, you can let the sides out a bit to give more slack in the bust. If there's plenty of slack but you still get a gap, sometimes you can add more buttons or sew a snap in between the buttons to close the gap. Sometimes, it just too snug and there's nothing that can be done to fix it. If there is an obvious pull in the fabric across the width of your bust, it's just too small. In that case, pass on it. You'll find something else that fits perfectly!

* If arms are a confidence issue, layer short sleeve tops with light cardigans and boleros.
This tip is for everyone- When shopping for clothes, keep hair simple. It never fails that my victory rolls get all frizzed out, my snood falls off, faux bangs get all wonky. Now, I try to just stick with a ponytail or something easy when trying on clothes.

Next Building a Vintage Wardrobe Post: Skirts
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