This is part 2 of 10 from the Building a Vintage Wardrobe Series.
Blouses are my weakest spot! Not long into my vintage obsession, my blouse to skirt ratio was about 1:3! Knowing what is lacking in your vintage wardrobe really helps when you go shopping. Now, I rarely buy a skirt, unless it's something really wonderful and I focus my efforts on blouses. Separates like blouses, skirts and pants help you to make the most of your wardrobe. I love my dresses but with separates you can mix and match. You have one outfit with a dress but if you have 5 skirts and 5 blouses, you can make up to 25 different outfits! This post probably doesn't cover all types of vintage blouses, but it should be a good starting point! You can study details in the pictures provided and make notes to take with you next tome you go shopping. Hope it helps!
Vintage Blouse Styles
If you've chosen an era to build your wardrobe upon, this will be different for you. Study what types of tops ladies wore and how they paired them with bottoms. Movies, old photos and fashion books are all excellent sources of information.
Button-up blouses are one of those classic vintage staples that can work for many eras. You can buy modern button-up blouses in solid colors mixed with older accessories for a complete vintage look. Sometimes, when you're lucky you can find really fun novelty prints at thrift stores.
image from So Vintage Patterns
Maise Blouse from re-vamp Vintage Clothing
Being more of a 1940's and 50's gal, I'm wild about knit tops for that classic pin-up sweater girl look. They're machine washable (most of the time), stretch to fit my bust, soft and comfy and very easy to find! I try to find knit tops that fall just a few inches below my natural waist or an inch or two above my hips. Look for knit tops with vintage details like puff sleeves, delicate knit, short sleeves, etc.
Wrap tops are so flattering to many shapes so when you see one that you love, grab it!! Wrap tops work for styles of the 1930's -1950's. You can find modern wrap tops that would work well. This repro wrap blouse is from Heyday
Twin Sets (or sweater sets) are one of those classic vintage staples of the 50's and 60's and lucky for us, you can find modern twin sets at thrift stores and modern department stores. A twin set is a simple, often sleeveless jumper/pull-over with a matching cardigan. They are so versatile because you can mix and match the pullover with other cardigans and vice versa. A few twin set sin basic solid colors will make a huge difference in your wardrobe. Pair them with classic pencil skirts, 50's a-line skirts or vintage-inspired pants. There's nothing more lovely than a cashmere sweater set and a cup of hot cocoa on a winter day!
Cardigans, boleros, sweater vests.
In the chilly months, I rely on my cardigans every day! These garments really help to complete and pull an outfit together. As mentioned before, if you are cautious about bearing your arms, a cardigan can help to cover up and make you feel more comfortable. By adding easy, affordable pieces like cardigans and sweater vests, you change the entire look of your outfit. Look for cardigans and boleros in basic, solid colors with both long and 3/4 sleeves. I love long sleeves when it's cold but 3/4 sleeves are great in spring and fall...and you can wear them while showing off your bracelets! For a more vintage feel, choose cardigans and sweater vests that fall a few inches below your natural waist to a few inches above your hip. Add vintage buttons, embroidered monogram, a vintage pin or beading to jazz up a cardigan or bolero. I find most of my cardigans at thrift stores for just a few bucks! Wear them un-buttoned, partially buttoned or buttoned up all the way. To accentuate a nipped-in waist, wear a belt over the top of your cardigan.
from the book "A Stitch in Time"
Peasant Blouses are a hot item for warm weather. They work for a variety of eras and best of all, you can find them on modern racks in the summer! Pair a sweet peasant blouse with a fun circle skirt, overalls or pants. I love peasant tops with bright colors and embroidered designs but a simple cotton blouse is a great staple item! When I think of peasant tops, I am always reminded of the glamorous style of desert flower and fellow blogger Syd Divine of Golden Girl of the West.
Details to look for
The Vintage is in the details, ladies! Keep a look-out for garments with classic vintage details.
Collar Types (click to enlarge)
collars from rubyjane.com
Sleeve Types (click to enlarge)
3.) Cape or flutter
8.) Drop Shoulder
Where to shop for Vintage Blouses
Thrift stores/op shops are my favorite places to find vintage (or modern with vintage style) blouses. I'm often surprised at how often I can find a blouse from the 40's or 50's that actually fits! Curvy gals, don't hang around the plus size racks for too long. I have found loads of great tops to fit my 44 inch bust in the regular size racks. Ebay, etsy and vintage repro sites often have a wide variety of styles and sizes. If you sew, knit or crochet, find a vintage pattern and whip up a few cute easy tops. Don't be afraid to check regular department stores like Walmart, Target, and Penney's for blouses. I am MADLY in love with this blouse from Khols! It's not vintage but paired with a great skirt, victory rolls and a few older accessories who will know the difference?
Curvy Gal Tips Being a busty gal, tops of all varieties can be hard to find but they -are- out there!!
* Always try a blouse on before you buy, even if it's stretchy.
* Wear a great supportive bra when blouse shopping, to allow for the best fit of the blouse.
* If it's a button-up variety and you have "the gap" see if you can make adjustments to fix the gap. Sometimes, you can let the sides out a bit to give more slack in the bust. If there's plenty of slack but you still get a gap, sometimes you can add more buttons or sew a snap in between the buttons to close the gap. Sometimes, it just too snug and there's nothing that can be done to fix it. If there is an obvious pull in the fabric across the width of your bust, it's just too small. In that case, pass on it. You'll find something else that fits perfectly!
* If arms are a confidence issue, layer short sleeve tops with light cardigans and boleros.
This tip is for everyone- When shopping for clothes, keep hair simple. It never fails that my victory rolls get all frizzed out, my snood falls off, faux bangs get all wonky. Now, I try to just stick with a ponytail or something easy when trying on clothes.
Next Building a Vintage Wardrobe Post: Skirts