Tuesday, November 11, 2008

If These Dresses Could Talk: Vintage Fashions with Mary Lewis

In addition to the 25th Anniversary of the Glitter Sale, Seattle Goodwill is also celebrating its 85th Anniversary! Thanks to the donations of area residents these past 85 years, we have received some truly remarkable items of clothing and have gathered these into a permanent vintage collection that is curated by Mary Lewis, our Vintage Fashion Coordinator. Mary takes this collection to interested groups and organizations in the area, offering fashion shows such as "The Fashions of America's First Ladies". It's one small way to thank the community that has given so much. If you or an organization you belong to would be interested in a vintage fashion show, you can contact Mary for more information or to schedule an event.

In preparation for the 25th Anniversary Glitter Sale, Mary shared with me some fashion history and showed off some vintage pieces that will actually be available at the sale. "Fashion," she began, "is a mirror on history, and it repeats itself."

The Roaring '20s
In fashion, the 1920's are remembered as the Flapper Era where "anything goes". The First World War was over and women were freer than ever before. The look was androgynous, not at all fitted. Lines were long and straight and the skirt allowed for movement. You'll note that dresses were often sheer and so the slip was meant to show.

This georgette Flapper dress is embellished with velvet trim and beading. Note the asymmetrical hem. Given the dance craze at the time - Charleston, anyone? - the hem allows for free and exuberant movement.

The Great Depression of the 1930s
After the stock market crash, hemlines went down and there was a return to a more feminine and a more romantic silhouette.

This early '30s chiffon dress, perhaps for afternoon tea dancing, is still sheer and does not yet have a natural waistline. But the hemline has gotten longer and with the detail of the bow, it's a move toward more feminine styling.

The War Years of the 1940s
During the war years women's fashions showed their patriotism by adding shoulder pads and focusing on dark colors, especially brown, black and navy. Fabrics were rationed and designers and manufacturers could no longer look to other countries to supply them with cloth, embellishments and trim. But sequins and beads were still available and used to soften the look.

This blue crepe evening dress has a boxy military look with shoulder pads, a fitted waist and peplum.

The Fabulous '50s
After the war, having worked in the factories and worn uniform-like clothing, women wanted to look pretty. The new look was again feminine, with a fitted waistline and flared skirt. Now that rationing was over, dresses were often cut on the bias, a style that required a great deal of fabric. The 1950s were the era of the "living doll," so you'll see fabulous ensembles with coordinating hats, gloves and shoes that match the dresses of the day.

This flirty pink and yellow stripe dress has a fitted waistline and bias-cut skirt.

In the late '50s and early '60s the Cocktail Dress became a wardrobe necessity. This piece, with its draped neckline, organza skirt and luscious raspberry color, would have been a great "after five" dress.

Camelot and the '60s
When Jackie Kennedy became First Lady she also became the country's fashion muse. Everyone wanted to dress as she did, so the sleeveless A-line dress became de rigueur.

This white damask A-line shift has beautiful beading at the neck.

This melon-colored party dress is both stunning and a stunning example of 1960s eveningwear. Of all the decades in the 20th century, vintage enthusiasts these days seem to be drawn to the 1960s. The pieces are so pretty in and of themselves, there's no need for a lot of embellishments or accessories.

The Psychedelic '70s
The 1970s marked a sea change in fashion. Pants became acceptable for day and evening and polyester ruled. The look was easy to wear and easy to maintain. You could throw most clothes into the wash, no ironing necessary.

This sky blue polyester pantsuit

and this short flowing psychedelic dress are the epitome of '70s fashions.

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