When it comes to fashion, you can never go wrong by looking at the past and checking out vintage outfits. Retro or vintage clothing will never go out of style. And it is now very easy to shop for vintage clothes for kids and you even online.
So, if you are looking for summer fashion inspiration, you can check out these 12 vintage summer fashion tips to try from every decade.
These retro summer fashion outfits will surely give your wardrobe a much-needed boost.
The 1920s – Duster Cover-Ups
Even though the Ford Model T was invented in 1908, it was during the 1920s when automobiles really became popular. Because of mass production, the prices of cars had gone down and everyone not only the rich was able to afford them. To drive open-top cars, ladies then needed something to protect their clothes from road dust. The necessity led to the invention of the duster coat.
These retro coats were loose fitting to provide comfort during long car drives in the summer. Rich women often had a coat to match their every dress. Middles class ladies though often had just one duster. These dusters were often made from a variety of luxurious fabrics, usually long-wearing lightweight linen.
Later on, of course, duster coats became a fashion item on their own. Now, you can get vintage clothing from the 1930s including summer coats and jackets that are made with light tweeds, knits, and wool. These vintage coats are usually worn open with a fabric belt around the waist. The length was just to the knee and is often worn with a retro sporty skirt or a vintage travelling suit.
The 1920s – Evening Dress
Retro dresses inspired by the 1920s come in two forms: the long evening dress and the short cocktail dress with beautiful beading and fringe. And they are both must-haves in today’s vintage fashion scene. The short-beaded flapper dress is back in style and is perfect for those looking for vintage summer fashion inspiration. For your information though, the original 1920s flapper dress did not have much beading, sequins, and fringe because they were expensive to add.
Thanks to the popularity of movies and TV shows like The Great Gatsby, Downton Abbey, and Peaky Blinders, vintage outfits like long cocktail gowns are also trending. These gowns are the most favourite amongst celebrities attending parties and lavish events.
Beaded formal gowns can be quite expensive. A more affordable option is to get a formal dress embellished with sequins. If you are not much into bling, then you can opt for silk, lace, velvet, or chiffon gown.
To complete your 1920s retro summer look you can accessorize with an evening shawl or a fake fur wrap. Feathered headbands, long gloves, and sparkling heels are also nice to add ons.
The 1930s – Tops
The fashion sense of the 1930s are known for being feminine and it showed in their summer tops. Modest blouses tailored with cute puff sleeves, pretty floral patterns, polka dots, adorable buttons, and solid pastels are all the rage during those days.
There are also 1930s long sleeve blouses that had full arms and wide wristbands completed with a soft bow tie at the neck. Many of these blouses also had ruffles on the front and large puff sleeves. Women back then wore a matching belt to accentuate their tiny little waists.
During the late 30s, blouses or button-down shirts with collars came into fashion. But they all still fit very snug at the waist. The Art Deco movement of the 1930s has also inspired blouses that are streamlined with ornate trim. Retro separates have become a new formal trend with silk evening blouse that featured bell sleeves.
The 1930s – Swimwear
Your summer will not be complete without swimwear of course and the 1930s is a great decade to find summer fashion inspiration on what to wear on the beach. After all, the modern-day swimwear was invented during the decade.
Not everyone has the self-confidence to wear those micro bikinis that we often see on beaches today so they need to thank the fashion gods for bringing back the tank top and boy shorts swimwear that was all the rage during the 30s. This kind of swimwear might be modest by today’s standards but admit it they are still incredibly cute and they are also quite sexy even without showing much.
People looking for summer vintage outfits can even get a 1930s-inspired one-piece skirtini swim dress that features a modest coverage, soft removed cups, and a flattering slim fit. It can hide your tummy with a double layer bottom. It is perfect for women of all shapes, sizes, and body types.
The 1930s – Evening Dress
The 1930s is also a great decade to look for retro summer inspiration if you are looking for vintage outfits for a cocktail party. The evening dresses during the 1930s are long, sleek, and very sexy with designs that hug every curve of the female form. They are also very glamorous. After all, the 1930s is considered by many as the golden age of Hollywood cocktail parties.
Most of these dresses are also decorated with beaded flowers or rhinestones especially around the neckline. They are made with flowing fabric usually with a rhinestone brooch at the shoulder. These gowns are mainly inspired by Egyptian and Grecian goddesses as shown by the extensive draping and column silhouette. Most of these dresses are sleeveless and backless but they are still very tasteful and modest.
Relieve the magical era of Hollywood with a sleek and sophisticated 1930s-inspired dress that is surprisingly still appropriate for contemporary occasions. Complete your look with an Art Deco jewellery and accessories.
- The 1930s – Wide Leg Pants
If you find skinny jeans and tailored pants to be too restrictive then you need to go back in time for vintage outfits like a pair of 1930s-inspired wide leg pants. Women in the 1930s did not wear pants often, but when they would go to the beach, you could usually find them sporting wide leg pants and beach pyjamas.
Nowadays, it is perfectly acceptable and even fashionable to wear a high waisted and wide leg retro pants on the streets or for a casual affair. Wide leg pants with a nautical or sailor look never go out of style and is always a cute outfit during summer. If you are feeling adventurous then go for pants with geometric prints such as stripes and checks. Another variation is to attach overall straps to the pants or wear a full jumpsuit.
The best thing about these wide leg pants is that you can wear them all day long, from the beach to the nightclubs. They can also be fun and chic at the same time.
The 1940s – Blouses and Tops
For a simpler style, the 1940s is a good source of inspiration, especially for tops. The era is dominated by blouses and button-down shirts with small round or large point collars. Many 1940s blouses provide the appearance of a broad shoulder because of their puffy sleeves. If 1930s look is characterized by femininity, 1940s women fashion are influenced by men’s fitted shirts. The only difference is that they have fun stripes and floral patterns.
This does not mean though that the 1930s style is completely masculine. Touches of femininity can still be seen in peasant blouses that are a summer favourite during the era. Another summer favourite is the striped ringer shirt that is often paired with sailor pants and shorts for a nautical look.
It is easy to find modernized versions of 1940s blouses nowadays. Young people are fond of pairing them with a pair of high waist pants or A-line skirt. For a dressier look, opt for a pussy bow blouse or a pointed collar blouse.
The 1950s – Day Dress
The 1950s popularized what became known as the housewife look. Housewives of the decade are fond of wearing day dresses. These dresses have full skirts and are characterized by having a small waist. Since they are designed for housewives who are busy with household chores, day dresses are comfortable and offer more freedom than dresses made for going out.
If you have seen Lucille Ball then you know that she is fond of wearing button-down dresses with sleeves and a modest high neckline. Often, these dresses are printed with small prints such as checks, florals, or plaid. There are also day dresses that have white cuffs and collars similar to what waitresses wear for their uniforms.
Nowadays, it is perfectly acceptable to wear 1950s-day dresses for going out even for kids. It is perfect for meeting your friends for brunch or even for a more formal day affair. These retro day dresses are ideal for women who value simplicity and comfort.
The 1960s – Mini Skirt
The 1960s shocked the fashion world when it introduced the mini skirt. It was quite a change from the straight fitting sheath and pencil skirt that women were wearing from the previous decade. In the 1960s, skirts shortened up and slimmed down. It was all about showing as much legs as possible, without showing too much of course. It is also the era when designers experimented with new colours and materials.
In more ways than one, the mini skirt became a symbol for the rebellious spirit of the decade. Followers of the 60s counter culture often wear their mini skirts with matching bright coloured tights and high knee socks. The most popular print was plaid but it is also not unusual to see skirts with large dots.
MIni skirts never really went out of style even after the 60s were over. The large prints may have gone but now it is perfectly acceptable to wear mini skirts even at work.
The 1970s – Skirts and Pants
In many ways, the 70s became an extension of the 60s as far as fashion is concerned. The mini skirts still flourished during the era even though the culture that spawned the hippie fashion is starting to die down. Apart from short skirts, long hippie or boho skirts became fashionable during the 70s. These skirts usually have peasant prints and suede fringe.
The 70s working women were often seen wearing A-line wool skirts. On weekends, they would go out wearing denim skirts. Jump dresses and overall dresses were also very trendy during the 70s. These jumpsuits featured bold stripes, solid colours, and sequins to mark the fabulous and crazy disco era.
Seventies-inspired jumpsuits are still popular nowadays. They still have the same 70s silhouette but are available in modern fabric. Nowadays, you can also get inspired co-ord sets for kids that are very cute.
The 1980s – Graphic Tees, Sportswear, and Jeans
If there is one phrase that characterized 80s fashion it is “one size fits all.” Clothes during this decade were cut so full that there was no need for sizes. Designers then did not feel the need to define the human figure. And the colours were more subdued compared to those of the previous decades. Dark, formless, yet elegant styles ruled the 80s fashion world.
During the 80s, sportswear became everyday wear. They were worn not only in gyms but also on the streets and even in the clubs. Basketball shoes became extremely popular. And people everywhere were wearing t-shirts with graphic designs, sports logos, and emblems of sports teams. Brands like Nike and Adidas became household names. Denim jeans also became very popular during the 1980s. Brands like Levi’s and Wrangler ruled the streets.
The 1980s is pretty much influenced by what we now know as street fashion. If not for the 80s, we would not be wearing t-shirts and jeans as fashion staples today.
The 1990s – High Waisted Mom Jeans and Flared Jeans
The 90s gave us the high-waisted mom jeans. It also saw the revival of the flared jeans that became fashionable during the 60s and 70s. Thank God these jeans are now making a comeback.
Gone are the days when we had to wear tight jeans that need to hug the skin tight. All of us can now take a deep sigh of relief. High waisted jeans and flared jeans became so unfashionable at the turn of the millennium that anyone seen wearing them was violating fashion rules of the highest order.
Let’s admit it, we all missed the mom and flared jeans. After all, they are comfortable. And not that they are fashionable again, let’s all take advantage of it while it lasts. The casual aesthetic of the mom jeans makes them perfect for daywear. And they can actually make your figure flattering.
It is fun to look back in history to get inspiration on what you and your kid should wear today and in the future. Lucky for us, we have several decades of sources to get ideas from.