What to Wear

Mens 1930's Hart SchaffnerOne of the first questions that people ask is “where do I buy an outfit at an affordable price?”  Well the answer is easier than you may think as long you follow this simple step:  Do your homework!  For every bit of research you do you will save yourself double the time, energy, and cost that you would spend on buying the wrong items.  There are many ways you can learn about vintage clothing and the internet makes it extremely easy to learn it all.  Do an internet image search for phrases like “1940’s clothing”, “formal wear”, “vintage clothing catalog photos”, etc.  Also, documentaries and movies can be a wonderful source for inspiration and color/fabric examples.  At the GBVS “Newport Art Deco Weekend” event, there were two classes that gave introductory advice on fashion from the 1920’s-40’s.  Watching these videos is a great place to start your research:

Women’s Art Deco Fashion — Presented by Raissa Bretana, Boston MFA
Men’s Art Deco Fashion — Presented by Jason Volk, GBVS

This is not an expensive hobby if you start slow.  There are no authenticity requirements set forth in GBVS.  You don’t need to have every item perfect for the first event.  The best deals are usually found when you are not it need of something so always keep a lookout for something down the road and just do your best in the meantime!

Womens 1920 SearsAlmost no one ever wears a complete outfit made of all original vintage.  Vintage stores are great for getting one or two signature items and then the rest can be outfitted with modern day clothes that fit the look.  Many stores these days carry “vintage inspired” pieces that are perfect for the period.  Also, past years like the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s did the same.  Sometimes the best “1920’s” item is actually a near-exact copy made in the 1960’s!  The best advice is to stay away from inexpensive synthetic (polyester) clothing.  Costume stores generally carry one-time-use synthetic items that are not very authentic for the periods they are designed for.  In the long run you can actually spend more money on these items and they will not look, fit, or wear as well as something found elsewhere!

There are some culture basics that should be mentioned for the total newbie.  People of the art deco age dressed much more proper than we do today.  Everyone but children wore a hat at all times when outside.  Also, a gentlemen almost always wore a tie unless it was a very casual affair or physical labor, pay respect to the past and do the same.  Beyond that, common clothes like, colored t-shirts, short-sleeve shirts, shorts, tall high heels, etc didn’t exist till around the mid-1930’s.  When starting out in this hobby, you may think you will be too hot or too uncomfortable with these options.  Well it takes a little getting used to, but it’s not as bad as you think and you’ll gain a lot of respect from your ancestors!

Here are some great links that should be visit to start to your research:

Art Deco Society of California:  http://www.artdecosociety.org/gatsby/howto.htm

Vintage Dancer Website:  http://www.vintagedancer.com

The Fedora Lounge:  http://www.thefedoralounge.com/   (Facebook Version)

The Black Tie Guide (History Section):  http://www.blacktieguide.com/History/00-HistoryIntro.htm