Choosing vintage-style dresses

You may have noticed an increasing number of high street stores not only producing vintage-inspired dresses, but now also labelling them as such. The latest big launch, with accompanying window displays in every store, is New Vintage by Oasis. The dresses in the collection are beautiful and well designed, but they still miss the mark in my opinion because of one simple detail: they’re made from soft silk. Choosing silk doesn’t seem like a massive faux pas for any reason other than the fact it puts these dresses over £100 – perhaps a bit too expensive for your average Oasis shopper – but there are a couple of other reasons why I think this is a bad idea. First of all, most genuine vintage party frocks I have seen are constructed from stiffer silk dupion or taffeta which hold structure better than the sort of floaty easily-ripped silk that these frocks are made from. The fabric feels beautiful but is much better suited to soft scarves or lingerie. In addition, this makes the dresses ‘hand wash only’.

A much better bet, and at a similar price point to the Oasis dresses, is the first collection of vintage style dresses designed by Natasha Bailie. Not only are they beautiful, and not from a chain store so you won’t see lots of women wearing the same one, they are also 100% cotton which is pleasingly sturdy and easy to care for. The dress is also thoughtfully designed, with no built-in petticoats – so you can dress it up or down as much as you like – and no unnecessary sequins. You can buy the design in five different floral fabrics too which is useful, unless you’re very indecisive!

So, what’s the key to hunting for the ideal vintage-style frock? Research, research, research! Google is your friend with this one and, if you have limited knowledge fashion history, you should probably start by taking a look at exactly what style of dress women wore in days gone by. You might think you already know, but a little bit of fashion research online could save you a lot of time when browsing in stores. If you know that 1950s style frocks are your thing, a quick glance at high street stores’ dresses will be all you need to see if anything’s worth a closer look as different parts of the 20th century had very distinctively different designs.

Next, you need to find something modern that draws inspiration from your favourite era, and simply by searching for ‘vintage style dresses’ or ‘vintage inspired dresses’ you will get quite a few fantastic links to start you off. For example, Fever London’s dresses are all vintage-inspired with stuff from pretty much every decade from the 1930s to the 1970s. Rock my Vintage realise that wearing original vintage is not for everyone and so they have got together a nice selection of vintage-inspired pieces available in multiple modern sizes. Well-known reproduction brands like Heyday and Vivien of Holloway have a selection of ‘modern vintage’ dresses, and blogs like Retro Chick and Diary of a Vintage Girl will be able to provide lots of links to more sites selling vintage-inspired and reproduction dresses. A little bit of background knowledge goes a long way, so take some time to arm yourself with a bit of information before parting with your cash. If you’re lucky, it’ll help you find something even prettier and cheaper than the high street has to offer.

2 thoughts on “Choosing vintage-style dresses

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  1. One vital thing I find and it applies to every fifties style dress on the High Street is skirt length..way too short. They show too much leg and it spoils the proportions..these are not 'leg' dresses but boob and waist dresses. Should be well below the knee. I think the shorter lenght just looks..well..immature and a bit lolita ish.
    I'm with you on the fabric front, crisp taffeta for evening wear, strong cotton for day wear. …

  2. I agree about high street 50s-style dresses needing to be longer, only mid calf is sadly really unflattering on me. Just below the knee is perfect but so many dresses, like you say, are insanely short and make anyone other than a model look a bit too childish.

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