Every season, it seems, fashion designers and editors and stylists look to the past for inspiration. I have no quarrel with this. None at all. I’m always looking to the past for inspiration, or understanding, or solace.

See the vintage inspired brooches on that gorgeous Max Mara coat on the left below? Or on the Prada teal and navy coat on the right? These images warmed my little vintage-loving heart when I spied them in Vogue earlier in the fall. Brooches seem to be everywhere, and are definitely not just for grannies anymore. So I’ve been wearing mine regularly. Make hay while the sun shines, I always say. Jump on that trend while you can, especially if it doesn’t cost you anything. Particularly if it’s a trend that doesn’t make you look like mutton dressed as lamb. Miuccia Prada often seems to mix vintage-looking pieces with very modern prints and colours, doesn’t she? Not to mention those gloves, which are lovely in a quirky Prada kind of way.

Max Mara coat, Vogue September 2015
     Prada Ad, Vogue September 2015
And Chanel is showing some vintage-inspired looks as well this season. Tweed skirt suits that might have sprung from a 1940’s “look book” if it weren’t for the skirt length. Not that I’ll be wearing a form-fitting tweed skirt suit any day soon. No, no, no… tweed skirts are most definitely not forgiving of middle-age middle. Still, the brooches are wonderful.
Chanel ads, fall 2015
I loved these two looks below when I saw them in the November issue of Vogue. The green Greg Lauren army greatcoat with the pale blue collar and cuffs is the picture of edgy chic, if a bit too distressed looking for me. But I love the slim cut and the length. So 1930’s. Or even 1920’s. And I really like the proportions of the outfit on the right. The short coat with the narrow midi-skirt and flat shoes is very vintage-looking and at the same time very, very modern. The mink coat is made by Gucci, and the leather and suede striped skirt by Derek Lam. Not that I can afford a Gucci mink coat, or for that matter, a Derek Lam skirt. But a girl can dream.
Greg Lauren coat, Vogue November 2015
      Gucci coat and Derek Lam skirt, Vogue November 2015
I had never heard of Greg Lauren until I saw that green coat in Vogue. So I looked him up. Apparently he’s the nephew of that other more famous Lauren, Ralph. In her review of Greg Lauren’s fall 2015 Ready To Wear Collection on Vogue.com, Emily Farr describes his “aesthetic” as “post-apocalyptic urban.” Lauren himself says his clothes are “part artist, part nomad, part soldier.” Well, they are interesting, if you’re a fan of sci-fi, and want to channel a sort of vintage Mad Max vibe. I kind of like Lauren’s stuff, though. It reminds me of being a teenager in the seventies when the very coolest kids bought military coats from the Salvation Army store. And my older sister, Connie, snagged my step-father’s old khaki army shirts from World War II. Here’s the same coat as above styled for Lauren’s show during New York Fashion Week.
And here’s another even more “post-apocalyptic” look. Now this one’s too weird even for me. Part army coat, part army blanket. Maybe an uber-cool twenty year old might like this. But priced at over three thousand dollars, who but the well-heeled could afford it? Now…. if I were twenty again… I’d hive off to the Salvation Army Store or to Value Village, buy myself a couple of old coats, find a few pieces of old horse harness in our barn… and commence being creative. Seriously, I would.

But for true lovers of vintage fashion, nothing beats the real thing. Like these ladies striding down a street sometime in the 1930’s, perfectly hatted, coats swinging. I love this picture.

1930s street looks, Camerique/Getty Images
Camerique/Getty Images
And this one below from the forties. I love the perfect fit of the glen plaid jacket on the far left, and the dress with the short-sleeved bolero and contrasting belt. And hats and gloves all round. My mum used to say that, when she was a girl, a lady did not go into town without her hat and gloves. This shot is from the exhibit “Fashion on the Ration” that opened at the Imperial War Museum in London last winter. War made fabrics and materials scarce, but invention and creativity triumphed. Women made over and made do, believing that their appearance affected their morale, and low morale was bad for the war effort. I’d love to read Julie Summer’s book Fashion on the Ration which accompanied the exhibit. There’s a great article in The Telegraph about the exhibit and Summer’s book; if you’re interested, you can find it here.
1940s street looks, Imperial War Museum
This is a shot of my mum’s two sisters taken sometime in the forties. My aunt Gwyneth has fashioned a “turban” to match her trench coat. According the the Telegraph article, turbans became popular during the war when women working in the factories tried to cover their hair in creative ways. Born out of necessity, they became all the rage.
Marion and Gwyneth Sullivan, 1940s
Here’s a shot of my mum and her buddies on a day out. My mum said that they rode their bikes all the way from Fredericton to Gagetown that day, a not inconsiderable distance. That’s Mum second from the right in her sunglasses… and her turban. Yep. Even if I didn’t know that was Mum, I’d recognize those skinny ankles anywhere. Sullivan family feature, those ankles. The guy in the uniform is the local bus driver who decided to get into the shot. I just love old photographs. I look at this photo and I wonder who the girl is on Mum’s right. And what her plaid jacket looked like in real life. And if she reapplied her lipstick just before the shot was taken.
Mum and her chums, 1940s, Fredericton New Brunswick
I think it’s great that designers, like Miuccia Prada and Greg Lauren, and fashion editors, like Camilla Nickerson and Tabitha Simmons of Vogue, look to our past for inspiration. Their work is an homage to those that came before us. A kind of fashion “Remembrance of Things Past,” if you’ll pardon my borrowing from Proust. Although… actually… Proust’s original title was À la recherche du temps perdu  (In Search of Lost Time.) So I guess his translators or maybe his English publishers borrowed that line from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30, before I borrowed it. Homage after homage.
And speaking of homage, last weekend I went off to the Ottawa Vintage Clothing Show, where I worshiped at the temple of all things vintage. And… I may even have made a couple of judicious purchases. But I’ll save them for another post, wherein I will pay my own homage to those wonderful looks from the past.
WWII ambulance driver, Imperial War Museum

I know there have been all manner of terrible events happening in the world this weekend. Especially in Paris. I chose not to talk about them in my post. And I felt a little guilty about that at first, a bit shallow. But then I saw this shot from the Imperial War Museum’s exhibit, of a young WWII Air Raid Precautions staff member reapplying her lipstick. And I thought of the comment in the article that “fashion survives and even flourishes” during difficult days. And so I went ahead anyway.
What about you dear readers… any thoughts on vintage you might want to share? Or thoughts on anything, really.
Additional Photo Credits: Max Mara coat: photo by Mikale Jansson, styled by Tabitha Simmons, Vogue, September 2015; Prada coats, Prada print ad in Vogue September 2015; Greg Lauren coat and Gucci mink coat with Derek Lam skirt: photos by Patrick Demerchelier, styled by Camilla Nickerson, Vogue November 2015.


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23 thoughts on “Fall’s Homage to Vintage”

  1. I always love looking at vintage shots, and especially those of real people dressed for their every day lives. Thanks for sharing these! And yes, I'll be pulling out my brooches again soon!

  2. Vintage just speaks of classy ladies with such refine look and attitude. Love the photo's you shared today. I was just looking at some vintage brooches I have in my drawer from my grandmother and wondering how I could bring them to life. Thanks for igniting the light bulb, I'm now searching for the perfect coat or possibly a vintage hat?

  3. Interesting post Sue. Especially the comparisons of "original" and "new" vintage! Great photographs! I especially like the one of your mum and her friends.
    I understand your comment re writing your post and Paris. So many of us have Paris in our hearts and have been there this year, that I know our thoughts and prayers are with them regardless of what else we may be doing.
    Have a good week .. I hope your hubby's physio is still going well.

  4. For me, I love vintage home interior more than vintage fashion. I like trends taken from other era's like the 70's trend more than actual vintage plus I like the costumes in costume drama;s. Great post!

  5. I love vintage photos and style as women then really knew how to look well put together. I get distressed everytime I see american women out and about in "active-wear", what happened to our sense of style?

    1. I love looking at the ensembles in vintage photos. Hats, bags, gloves… all the time. Still it's kind of nice to be able to run to the store in my Lulu Lemon pants if I need to do sol:)

  6. Whoa… we haven't actually met, in real time, but !! You can guess how I lo.v.e. that photo of your mom, her chums, and thier bikes! Go ! Ladies! Yes, I love their jackets aand outfits. But what I wonder is ….. what their gear ratios were and how much their bikes weighed. Bet it was waaaay harder in those days. Thanks!

    1. I couldn't believe it when I looked up the distance between Fredericton and Gagetown, where my mum and her friends biked the day of the picture. And with NO gears, and in their blouses and sweaters! I'll be their bikes weighed a ton, too. It doesn't surprise me that when I was looking at the jackets…you were looking at the bikes. 🙂

  7. I'll look forward to seeing your vintage finds! I enjoy your writing style…always look forward to reading when it arrives in my email.
    Your "Shiniest Star" friend,

  8. Susan I love this post! The photos are brilliant!! It makes me wish for a simpler time when people knew they were in a war, not when war is being waged on us randomly. 🙁 Thank you for sharing.

    Stopping by from the Pleated Poppy link-up!


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