I sometimes get asked whether I can do everything in my vintage clothes. The answer is yes, technically I can, and usually I do. But I do take care what I wear for which occassion, just as you'd do with modern clothes and as they did even more so back in the day. When I was going on a cycling trip through the Netherlands with one of my best friends I had to pack practical clothes, that's always a challenge for me.... I thought it'd be nice to share my packing choices and looks with you (and a little bit of the sights we saw)
The trip would take three days of cycling 45-70 km a day. Now I cycle a lot in Amsterdam but never greater distances so I wanted to be sure I my clothes were comfy and practical enough. Also: temperatures were around 26-30 degrees. The clothes had to be cool enough but also protect me from burning as we were outside almost the entire day. My first plan was to go for shorts and blouses/tops but I actually feel more secure in a skirt. I'd feel too naked walking around in shorts in the museums we planned to visit. The skirts could not be too narrow (your legs should be able to move) or too wide (or the skirt would not stay in place). In packing descriptions from old magazines you see a lot of separates. I'm usually a one piece dress kind of girl but I went for blouses and skirts this time. I wore one outfit and packed two, normally I would take one extra just in case but space on the back of a bike is limited.
So here you can see my packing 'list'
A 30's-50's Hungarian blouse I recently found was the starting point. It could be combined with all three skirts. Just like the 30's knitted blouse. The top of the dark blue set is the only thing that didn't look right when combined with the other skirts.
On the first day I paired the Hungarian blouse with a late 40's jersey skirt. This skirt is the only original vintage 'bottom' I packed.
The look was inspired by this picture of my grandma (with my grandpa) in the early 50's wearing a similar blouse and skirt.
On this day we cycled accross the Veluwe. First we visited the Kröller-Müller Museum and Jachthuis Sint-Hubertus (built as a hunting lodge for the founders of the museum around 1920 by Dutch architect Berlage)
In front of the hunting lodge
The interior is amazing: lots of brightly glazed brickwork
The painting in the back of the room in a copy of the original by Jan Toorop we saw at the museum.
We continued our journey to Radio Kootwijk. A radio station built to make contact with the Dutch Indies in the 20's. In the middle of the barren landscape of hills and heath it looks futuristic. The architect was inspiredd by the mythical Sphinx.
Then we cycled to Epe where we had booked an hotel.
On the second day I wore a pinafore dress I made from an old curtain. We cycled along the river IJssel. The landscape is exceptionally dry because we are having the worst drought in 40 years at the moment.
We picked some flowers from the side of the road. I tied them in the red ribbon I wore with my 30s knit top.
Not the best photo but proof we were actually by bike.
We visited Het Nijenhuis a castle where part of the art collection of a bigger museum in Zwolle is on show.
Modern mixed with historical.
My favorite painting in the museum is by Carel Willink: a portrait of his wife Wilma in the late 30's
I later found out it wasn't the first time I'd been at this museum. Though I had no memory of it I was there with my grandparents when I was 4 or 5.
Another place from my childhood: The Lourdesgrotto in Luttenberg, where my grandma often took me.
We stayed at my grandfathers' near the Sallandse Heuvelrug. We had an evening picknick
on the top of the Haarlerberg (Haarler mountain, though it's only a hill, we don't have mountains in the Netherlands)
A picture from a book my gran got for het confirmation at 14. The pictures are so pretty and inspiring and the story features a cycling trip on the Veluwe with a girl visiting her grandfather. Maybe it was somewhere in the back of my mind when I planned this trip :)
Because this was going to be the hottest day of the trip we got up at 6 and made an early morning walk on the moors before breakfast. I wore a skirt and top set made and worn by my gran in the 70's or 80's out of cotton seersucker. In the morning I wore the knit top over it because it was still a little 'chilly'.
After our walk we cycled to Gorssel to museum MORE (modern realism)
Such a stunning portrait!
After lunch we went to Deventer and visited the toy museum.
Again not the first time I visited!
The Walstraat in Deventer features several painted walls, most of them with scenes from Dickens. This however was called 'The Secret Garden' one of my favorite books (and movies) when I was a child.
And that concluded out trip & my 'practical' outfits. I'm thinking about writing on vintage swimwear next time as I get asked about that a lot too.
As I wrote in my last post I was concerned about this blog being no more than a collection of outfits I wore, nice events I attended and of it becoming a mere repetition of my Instagram account. So instead I'm giving an insight into some of the things that inspire me when I put looks together. Old fashion magazines have always been one of my biggest inspirations. Digitization has taken such a flight over the years meaning many things have become available online and eventhough I do prefer to leaf through an actual magazine I will take two online sources as an example in this blog. Both are French and can be found through Gallica the website of the French National Library. In this blog I will explore how both offered women (and myself) styling advice in very different but equally attractive fashions. Still there will be a lot of pictures as usual, but in a less narcisistic way ;)
First up is Vogue, which is available until 1940. A lot of 'vintage' pictures used online come from catalogs or pattern books that aim to convey a precise picture of a certain style. The illustraions in Vogue and other more high end magazines do something completely different. They are more sketchy, showing an impression of style rather than documenting it. The picture above is one of my favorites: a lady with a parrot. Her style mimics the easthetics of the late 19th century and the feathers on her hat match those of the bird. The fur she's wearing is only roughly defined and the fact that she is wearing gloves just suggested by the slit at the wrist. Images like this are more dream than reality, more idea than an actual form. They work well with my lively imagination, like the pictures in fairytale books did when I was little. The work of the illustrator 'Eric' (Carl Erickson) is so in keeping with the escapist vintage bubble I sometimes find myself in.
The outfit I'm wearing is also late 30's doing 1890's with leg 'o mutton sleeves and a tiny tilt hat and it shows how the feeling a picture evokes can turn into actual outfit inspiration (only selfie in this post though).
Below are some more of the dreams Vogue is selling.
Daring color blocking and a few dabs suggesting a holiday in a faraway sunny place. Yes please!
To have such choice! Fairytale for a grown-up girl
Fur and flowers, so subtly drawn...
One of the things I find particularly inspiring are the bold colors and combinations. We tend to think of the period as more 'ton sur ton' in subdued hues.
This illustration lead me to combine my fuchsia hat with a green coat, something I might not have dared otherwise.
For all I know this could be Cinderella making an entrance.
I like this picture not only because of the outfit but also because of the suggestion of place and action. Sitting in front of a window opening to a French balcony the setting reminds me strongly of Paris. The woman is looking at something, but at what? And is she visiting, waiting to leave or on someone? The questions a picture asks are all part of the dream. This is nothing new, as a student I once wrote a piece comparing 19th century fashion illustrations to genre painting and came to the same conclusion. The fact that the clothes can be worn on occasions that have the promise of being exciting or desirable but that these are not yet defined in the illustration leave the imagination to make up it's own relatable story.
These are more abstract with no real setting, though there is a hint of interaction between the figures. They are part of a series I used in one of my blogs before because they show such surprizing color combinations. I love blue and am forever looking to combine it without it getting too dull. Light blues and reddish browns are such a good match:
A lot of light blue in 1938 en '39.
These should be me when spring comes...
The second magazine I love to look at for inspiration is Marie Claire. Compared to Vogue, Marie Claire catered for a more middle class public and hence their advice is more practical, sometimes so much so you could even call it schematic. Marie Claire does not give you a whiff of style or a huddle of colors but clearly states what should go with what. This is often illustrated by colorful drawings that visualize matching your outfits together.
Just look at this page with bright suits, even the different shades of stockings that should be paired with each of them are mentioned. I imagine being able to choose from so many colors of hosiery in a store instead of being glad with any affordable pair of seamed stockings you find in the right size (I'm passionate about wearing original stockings and wrote about it here and might do a folow up) !
Marie Claire is a sharp contrast with Vogue that is full of ifs, maybes, ridiculous scenarios and only suggests what one might wear. But I do love Marie Claire's sensible illustrations quite as much. It appeals to a different side of me, the one that loves clarity and planning ahead (might well be a slightly annoying part of me too). To plan outfits is something I really enjoy doing, it can be for a certain occasion or the other way round.
Safe color schemes (a bit boring I must admit) but you can see how this is useful for everyday. And even here you there are several red-brown/light blue combos.
One dress worn in different seasons, very realistic for most women. For me it also makes sense because I don't like wearing exactly the same outfit all to often. Something Vogue wouldn't make her reader ponder about.
I also think Marie Claire is a good historical source when looking at how things were worn. We might consider any hat dressy: well a simple felt hat was considered 'sporty' at the time whereas something crazy was intended for pretty dresses in the afternoon.
Sets of accessoiries that go well together. Very recognisable as it shows how the same accessoiries can go with different colors. I too have a few of those sets that just go well together and work with different outfits.
Jackets that can go with a range of dresses. I find these quite surprizing, especially for the checkered jacket to go with an evening gown, that would not be something I'd have thought appropriate.
And there's some very honest styling advice for 'faults' in your figure. They used to be so much more straightforward about these things back then. Nowadays we try to cover negative words up with feelgood euphemisms. And yes body positivity is a great thing, but dressing in a way to make your figure look the way you want it is a much easier (and realistic) way to feel happy when looking in the mirror.
I'll go with the an example that applies to myself: big hips. They even make a difference between 'high hips' (which I have) and 'low hips' and how to masque them. I think the advice is quite true and more helpful to me than a magazine just telling me to love myself the way I am. This magazine does not tell me to go on a diet either, it very practically points out how to make what you've got work.
And just like Vogue it's got these cutesy gatherings of colorfully dressed figures that seem to be going on holiday the entire summer! Asking me what I need for summer, well that is actually the right question in the beginning of spring.
Seasonal ispiration is what I'll end this post with! How I long to go out in just a dress and not worry about catching a cold from the icy wind!
So that was it, a little peek into how I think about dressing and magazines as a historical source I guess, with both my imaginative and more grounded side. I hope you liked it and check out these magazines for yourself, if only for the pictures!
I'm not sure what I'll write about next, it could either be about outfit dreams or some practical how to advice ;)