Wednesday, 24 April 2013

STYLE - Vintage Clothes on Celebrities

Pure Silk Flapper Dress of the 1920's - made by Martha Battaglia & Louise M. Battaglia
in their factory in New York City. Sold at auction in  2000

When I was growing up in the 60s and 70s it was easy to come by the vintage treasures of the 20s/30s and 40s and even farther back to the Victorian era ethereal lace blouses with impossibly tiny mother of pearl buttons. Beaded embroidered dresses, velvet opera capes, oriental satin kimonos and fur coats could be picked up at flea markets for very little money. The items our Grandmothers wore were a far cry from the modern attire of the current day, and some of it was a little Hammer Horrorish, but fascinating. I remember the crocodile handbags with heads on the catches, and the fox fur stoles with heads and tails attached. I was tiny in those days and often wore unimaginably fine cotton children's smock dresses which were adorned with hand made lace and embroidery with my jeans and boots.  Over the years and the many moves they were lost in time.

Victorian child's dressvictorian elegance

Hammer Horrorish - Fox shawl

Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac rocks the top hat
with her own design clothes and vintage mix.

Many people wore vintage items, especially celebrities. The look for women was very feminine with a touch of Hollywood starlet. Although some were more restrained than others it was also okay to pile it all on together making for a real vintage queen bohemian look. Janis Joplin wore her vintage clothes all the time, not just onstage. Later this look would become known as 'Rock Chick' or even 'Groupie Couture' a term the infamous Los Angeles groupie Pamela Des Barres used for a label she came out with 30 years later.

Janis Joplin, the cover shot "Pearl" album cover,
Hollywood, California, 1970

Men went through a period of romantic revival as they strutted in their finery like the dandies of the Victorian and Georgian ages. Dickensian orphans meet steampunk before steampink was invented. The Kinks were resplendent in ruffled shirts. Some men took to wearing ladies blouses with mixed results. Roger Daltrey was one who really wore it well.

The Who shot by Jim Marshall. Roger is pretty in vintage pink. Pete is a Pearly King.


Victorian embroidered shawls and diamond patterned patchwork quilts were draped over sofas, hung at windows and piled high on beds with cushions. Sadly some were cut up to make clothes which perished with wear or were discarded as fashion moved on. (Yes, even I was guilty of this ....) But how bright they blazed while they lasted!

Vintage embroidered 'piano' shawl

Jimmy Page wearing a coat made from a vintage shawl and in his peacock chair adorned with one.

Victoria Vanderbuilt so rocked the Victorian patchwork blanket coat.


1920s lariat rope necklace
From Suzanne Duffy's Maisonette de Madness on Etsy

When I was a teenager I inherited  jewellery from one of my Grandmothers which included several 1920's beaded necklaces like the one above from Suzanne Duffy's lovely Etsy shop, Maisonette de Madness. They were good quality glass bead, all hand strung. Intricately put together necklaces, many strands twisted into plaited strings, long with tassles at the end. Brightly coloured with copper and silver beads woven in, they were definitely evening wear but I remember wearing them all of the time. Once while dancing a strand broke and the floor of the old Fillmore West dance hall was covered with tiny glistening beads. Some quite good looking boys helped me pick up some of the beads but as we were all immortal then it never occurred to me that it would be hard to find another necklace like that one. Or that one of the precious links with my Grandmother was gone forever.

Kate Middleton and the tiara
Of course the vintage look comes most naturally to those from old families. On her wedding day Catherine Middleton kept to the tradition of 'something borrowed' by wearing a tasteful but stunning tiara from the royal collection. The Cartier 'Halo’ tiara, lent to Miss Middleton by The Queen was made in 1936 and  purchased by King George VI for his wife, Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother) just three weeks before he succeeded his brother as King. The tiara was presented to Elizabeth II by her mother on the occasion of her 18th birthday. As the tiara is part of the Crown Jewels, it can only be lent to Catherine, and will return there when she dies, or when the Queen requests. I always liked the way that the truly very wealthy, especially of the landed gentry variety, tend to hand things down rather than buy new and think nothing of wearing clothes and items which are from their relatives.


Over the years the vintage look peaked and was replaced by the power dressing of the 90s with the horribly large shoulder pads and the tight short skirts. I kept as many of my old items as my gypsy lifestyle allowed. After much searching for a wedding dress I decided to wear a 1960s Chanel style little black wool and lace dress I'd bought at Antiquarius in the King's Road for £6.00 many years before. I have always preferred vintage to modern. It's better made, the fabric is higher quality and it fits better. Unless you can afford couture the high street shops just do not compare to vintage. Of course vintage couture is the ultimate! Sadly Antiquarius is no more and now another fashion emporium is located there and does carry on the vision, Anthropologie.

Jo Wood wears a vintage green
beaded dress
Recent fashion saw the bohemian look return and vintage is massive with nearly everyone admitting they look in charity shops or at markets. It is nice to see but does make it harder to find bargains. I dream of finding out that a long lost Aunt has left me trunks full of her clothes and jewels.
Many modern celebrities have kept the vintage look alive for a new generation of fans, Kate Moss, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and still all of those rock stars and their ladies who rocked the vintage look so well that they remain icons 40 years later.  
Television and film wield a mighty influence on fashion - or is it the other around? The Victorian look has been in for sometime on television with  Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes and films continue to showcase vintage costume. I love the Dickens meets Vivienne Westwood look. Today the clothes which we wore in the 80's are making a comeback, but I will always prefer something older and more elegant.
Helena Bonham-Carter wears vintage costume
 for a photo shoot in North London in February 2013
Matt Smith as Doctor Who in the Tardis with the HG Wells Victorian time machine look
in a frock coat, bow tie, waistcoat and pocket watch.

And those victorian shawls? Some did survive and are still enthralling beautiful creative people (and cats!) today.

Jane Aldridge of Seaofshoes
Her blog


  1. You've hit the nail soundly on the head when you say that we never thought about there being a time when these things wouldn't be available. Since teenage years I have enjoyed scouting out things from the past and I remember having a wardrobe full of clothes from the 1930s and 40s - with the delicate florals and oh so soft cotton. Of course I don't have them now - not sure what happened to them. I remember looking at photographs of my mum sporting beautiful full dresses from the 1950's and giving her a bit of a 'how could you?' look when she said she had given them away years before! Hindsight is indeed a wonderful thing! Let's just hope that the power dressing of the 1980's doesn't quite make it back (although I do remember saying that about flares) Really interesting post x Jane

  2. Jane, Thank you for the comments and sharing the realisation that items we loved and lived with would not last. Ha Ha! The flares comment makes me laugh .... some fashion should not have come back. Minerva x

  3. I remember CUTTING UP piano shawls to patch jeans with. . .but then you just had to wait for the next Saturday jumble sale to find another. Oh bliss!

    1. Gosh it was bliss wasn't it? If only we knew then what we know now .... but I bet those jeans you patched looked so fabulous though .....

      Minerva x

  4. What an interesting read. You put a lot of work into this post, and I thank you.
    Have a marvelous day.
    Connie :)

  5. Japanese didn't used to sell/buy second hand clothes, bags etc. until really recently. We used to throw away everything. But recession changed people's habits, I have heard. There was at least one good thing in recession! I love those Victorian laces. Beautiful!

    1. Midori, How interesting! My teenage years in America were spent in vintage but many of my friends and family would not touch anything old. x

  6. Gorgeous fashion in the 60's and 70's. So feminine with the vintage lace and even the men looked pretty too! :-)
    I love those silk shawls and velvet jackets. I think it should be an ongoing fashion because it always looks good, unlike the horrible power dressing of the 80's. I really disliked those boxy jackets. Lovely informative post and photos.

    1. Yes, the boys did look pretty too! Like romantic heroes. The 80's and 90's were an ugly era. x

  7. Oh my god, I love this article! I also think there always were the times when people used to buy vintage. many people in the 60s loved to buy 20s furniture and hated the designs that were modern at their time. maybe in 20 years people tent to collect old ikea furniture? propably not ;) hopefully ;)

    1. Really glad you enjoyed this. It reminded me of you when writing.

      Can you imagine, ha ha, Ikea and flat pack collections! Mind you some of the Ikea items are very good design...... x

  8. Great post and photo's, being a vintage girl myself :-)!!

    Madelief x

  9. What beautiful clothes our great-grandmothers wore. When I see photos from the early 20th century of families on the prairies I am always amazed at the little girls in pure white, starched dresses and big white hair bows. Those immigrant women had no help at all. They must have been boiling and starching for days!

    1. es, victorian and early 20th century clothes are amazingl intricate and delicate. And, as you say even more awe inspiring to think how the women and girls wore these no matter what they were doing.

  10. This was such a treat! Thank you for putting all that effort into this post and sharing. Love those shawls. Ann

  11. Oh, if only...I recall those same vintage pieces in trunks and closets of relatives now long gone. I didn't understand the value of the past then.

    1. I alwas adored vintage things, but ou are right, their true value never hit us until they were gone. x

  12. How very interesting - I had quite forgotten all those old outfits. Sadly if I were to wear (or even get into) some of the outfits that I have I would look like an old lady wearing a tablecloth....
    Sorry to hear about your necklace - that made me wince...
    Best wishes

    1. Jenny, I know what you mean! I could not squeeze into the dainty things I once wore heavily belted. Sigh. x

  13. Just like Ted & Bunny, I used to cut jumble sale treasures up and turn 1930s tea gowns into minis. Oh the shame!

    1. I think a lot of us are guilty of this indulgence, Eeek! Thank you for stopping by. x


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