>Last night I started thinking, which is not always a good thing when that happens at night. Suddenly I couldn’t take it anymore and jumped from bed, gathered about ten dress and etiquette books, and rolled back into bed to look through things until the wee hours of the morning, much to my husband’s dismay.
I was thinking primarily of “pin ups” and vintage culture. If you’ve been studying vintage for a while you know that pin up style and vintage style don’t always run hand in hand, and yet, I am amazed at the percentage of women (and girls) getting into the modern vintage scene who are attracted to and aspire to be “pin up girls.” I am convinced that if we really were living in the 1930s or 1940s most people would be shocked to see women made up as much and wearing so little- that was primarily reserved for women of ill repute or Hollywood, or both, I’d imagine. I do realize that modern vintage is not the same as historic clothing of the period, but I do believe the two should not be confused. It was, and is, entirely possible to be physically and even sexually attractive but not reveal as much as modern women- who are aspiring to be vintage women- do. Strangely enough none of my books addressed “pin up” styles or anything similar, but there were some very interesting points.
Here I need to clarify, for I feel I may upset a few by posting as such. I am not meaning to imply that you should mould your clothing and dress to historic standards if you do not care for them. Not at all! Nor am I saying that no-one in the 30s or 40s subscribed or participated in pin up culture. I am merely saying that modern fashion’s take on vintage fashion is quite a different thing than authentic period dress, in context with social situations.
Etiquette of dress is a thing of the past- it has mostly vanished from modern society with the exclusion of the business man or woman or the very wealthy. In the past, however, there were rules of how to dress, where to wear what, and what not to wear. We see, somewhat, a resurgence of that in terms of dressing proportionally to your figure, but it is not always in reference to social situation, time of day, setting, or event. The lines have blurred so much that it seems everything can run together without so much as a thought. While this can be freeing to some, it is detestable to others. Be that as it may, whatever side of the fence you happen to be on in that regard, when presenting yourself in a period of the past the best thing to do is to look to the past for guidance. If you really aspire to a “vintage lifestyle” in contrast with a modern take on a vintage lifestyle (also known, in my opinion, as what film has shown the 30s or 40s as, which can have little to nothing to do with actual life from then) it is best to go to period sources. I think you will find, if you desire it to be so, the advice as good for modern day as it was for back then. It is possible to be known as a well-dressed vintage lady, if you so desire, but it very rarely comes naturally.
Here’s a slight introduction to what not to wear- taken from the book “Designing Women: The Art, Technique, and Cost of Being Beautiful” by Margaretta Byerts with Consuelo Kamholz. Interestingly enough, for you New York World’s Fair fiends, a copy of this book was included in the time capsule buried in 1939. While this chapter does not focus so much on etiquette of what to wear when, it is interesting to see their take on what many, including me, consider staples of their vintage wardrobes.
What are your thoughts on pin up culture in regards to authentic vintage lifestyles? Are there things in the chapter I mentioned you agree or disagree with? I’d be interested to hear your feedback!
I’m considering posting more book excerpts on here on etiquette. Would that be something you would be interested in?