Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Do You Like 1980s-Made "40s Clothes?"

This is a 1980s-made, "40s dress" on Etsy right now.  Even though it looks okay, there is a part of me that sees my mom. I do not get a 40s vibe at all.  All it needs is a pair of tan Underall pantyhose, white socks, and a pair of white Reeboks. As a girl who grew up in the 80s and wears 40s and 50s vintage daily,  I have tried to browse the 80s, '40s-inspired' dresses to see if anything strikes my fancy but I just see 80s and nothing even close to a 40s look. Maybe I am being silly.

A lot 1980s dresses, especially from 1985 and beyond, had longer lines like the 40s. They were made with polyester and in prints like geometric waves or paisley. Shoulder pads were in and boy, were they big! Buttons were big too.  Belts were made of silky fabric with round buckles and some belts made with a heavy stretch material adorned with a plastic seashell or oval buckle. Right now as I type this, I can hear "Head to Toe" by Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam.

I guess I am a '40s/50s purist' because something about "70s does 40s" or "80s does 40s" just bugs me. Maybe because I lived in the 70s and 80s I am biased. I do not want to relive shoulder pads, L'Eggs, Reebok Hightops, acid-washed and zipper ankle jeans, and polyester designers like A. Byer, Kasper, and Jonathan Martin.

So, when you are browsing for your 40s, do you ever buy 70s or 80s clothing with '40s inspired looks?'


  1. I can't bring myself to do it. It's usually the fabric that is the deal breaker for me. Having had a professional career in a bank from 1980 to 1997, well, let's just say been there, done that and no thanks. Your image of hose, socks and reeboks made me shudder. I have a rule - if i'm going to wear vintage it can't be from any decade I already existed in - though the early to mid 60's are negotiable if it's the right item (and i was only born in '60). ick. 80's.

  2. Hell no!! I was alive in the 80s and I know for certain that the clothes did not look 40s or 50s at all. I know its all how you style it but I would much rather have the real thing, or a modern reproduction. I hate the cut and fabrics of the 80s so I just can't bring myself to do it!

  3. Shrinky Inky,

    My mom worked in a bank as a data processor. I remember all her silk-weight polyester dresses. My sister was in high school and graduated in 1986 and she had this one green dress with a frilly white collar. She hated it but she got it for job interviews. The 80s with its Jean Nate Body Splash, Lip Quencher, Preppy Handbook, and polyester can just stay in the past. I know that stores like Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters all have helped to bring the 80s back for the indie set but I refuse. Like you said, I have been there and done that. I was born in 1975. I lived the 80s and it was bad the first time around! lol

    I think pantyhose in general area just bad. I only wear girdles and stockings.

  4. lol, i am old enough to be your Mom. That is just bizarre to me but hey, in my head I am still 17 :)

    I actually burned my pantyhose in a liberating ceremony when I left the bank, gave all my suits to a women's shelter and refuse to wear pantyhose. I may occasionally wear tights if it's unusually cold (i'm in california) but I don't even wear stockings often (don't send the vintage police hahaha)

  5. I never do! They just don't look right. One reason I prefer clothing from the 40s and 50s is the tailoring and fabrics used. They just didn't use gabardines and silks, and even the cottons were a lower quality. The colors aren't right it just isn't the same. I feel the same about a lot of reproduction clothing, too.

  6. Holly,

    Your opening comment made me bust out laughing! lol I agree that most of the 80s stuff does not look 40s at all.

  7. Shrinky Inky,

    I see parents with window stickers on their cars that say their high school kid is class of 2013 and I am floored. I would been 20 when they were born!

    I only wear stockings in the fall and winter and for nights out. During the spring and summer, it's girdle panties or petty pants. I cannot do stockings in the summer heat!

  8. Kim,

    I agree with you and Holly! The 80s fabrics were bad. I prefer polished cotton, rayon, dacron, cotton, crepe, and crepe de chine. I do not like poly and silk. Silk is pretty but it is so delicate and not to be gross, if I have underarm sweat, it ruins the fabric. The modern repros, like Stop Staring, seem hellbent on using garbardine for their dresses. Sometimes the designs are pretty but the fabric takes away from the overall look.

  9. What an interesting conversation! I'm also a purist, I guess. When I buy vintage to sell or wear myself, I want the real thing. Yeah, I know that makes it a lot tougher to find nice, wearable dresses, but the challenge is worth it. A reproduction just won't do.

    Although I suppose if an old pattern is used to make the dress, and old sewing methods (for finishing the seams, hemming, etc), and the fabric and buttons and snaps are definitely of the period - then I suppose it could come close. But I would still miss the vintage label, one of my favorite details on old clothing!

    I didn't realize I felt so passionate about this... :-)

  10. Sarsaparilla,

    I agree about the label being part of the charm of owning and wearing vintage! I would love to be able to sew! I have a machine but it is still in the darn box! I need to learn! I see so many vintage patterns on Etsy! I also find lots of vintage fabric for sale.

    I do like Trashy Diva but the prices are insane. I think the real thing is better. I have found real, 1940s and 50s deadstock dresses for under $50 so why would I shell out $150 and up for a repro?

  11. I wish Stop Staring used Gabardine! They use that poly stretch "bengaline" or some strange name like that. I think it's a lycra blend. I heart me some real wool gab.

    I love the silk rayon of the 40s and silk chiffon of the 50s. I did discover the sweat issue at Viva and decided I shouldn't dance in chiffon!

  12. Sarsaparilla is right, this is a great topic of discussion.

  13. You are right, Kim. Stop Staring *does* use bengaline which is pretty name for stretch poly! lol! Wool garbardine is amazing and I have a 40s jacket made from it.

    I agree about the silk blends. They are lovely to smooze in but not great to dance in! 40s rayon, especially black with a floral print is okay because the dark fabric and flowers hide the sweat.

  14. I have a vintage polished cotton dress that came with pit guards sewn into the dress! I remember as a child my mother having loose pit guards in her drawer that had her old gloves and beaded sweaters from her college days. I didn't know what they were then, but now I do. Have you ever seen those or gotten a piece that had them? It's amazing what kinds of details went into garments back then.

  15. Nope! Living through the 70's and 80's once was quite enough, thanks! While not all-vintage-all the time (yet!) I do tend to gravitate towards the real 40's 50's(and maybe very early 60's) items - you just can't beat the fabric, construction and attention to details! I am venturing out a bit and will be trying to make some pieces using vintage patterns - gathering up the courage to start!

  16. Sorry, I just have to jump in one more time because I worry I've given the impression that I'm a vintage purist snob and turn up my nose at newly sewn vintage-inspired clothes.

    I can't even sew - so who am I to criticize! I truly admire those who have that skill that I lack. There's no question that if I knew how to sew (I really do want to learn!)that I would definitely be supplementing my "real" vintage clothes with some that I've sewn myself.

    And I would definitely make a habit of sewing pit guards into my dresses!

  17. ahh, I would love to be a purist, but the problem where I live is that there isn't much option! I'm more or less down to "what I can find" and "what I can make" -- the latter being the more previlant. My luck comes with having an antique mall where one of the vendors has a lot of vintage hats. :S

  18. I have some later stuff that's 40s or 50s inspired and I like to wear it to swing dance in, sometimes (I don't like getting my real stuff all sweaty and I can't afford too much repro)...but it IS the fabric. All that polyester, etc., just doesn't breathe and there's also a lot of static electricity going on too.
    But I love fashion from the 80s, anyway. I don't know why, really. ;] And the 70s and the 60s...just because I don't wear it doesn't mean I can't appreciate it. I even love some early 90s looks! But, for some reason, I don't like seeing them come back. Some things are nice to look back on but perhaps should be left there. (But I was born in 86 so I don't really have many memories of the 80s, if any at all).
    -Andi x

  19. Nope I never think it looks like, I'm still to be convinced! It's the material, even if the style is right - which in my opinion it rarely is - the material is always soooo wrong!

    Since I gained weight I struggle to find vintage so I make stuff but I try really really hard to find vintage material or good modern material to sew my vintage patterns, material is just as key as the style!

  20. No, I remain to be convinced. I think it's the quality of the fabric and how well made (or not) a good deal of Eighties stuff is that does it for me. I didn't much like Eighties clothes when I was there, so I tend to avoid them now!

  21. Great topic! I don't usually buy 40s inspired 80s (gack!) but I do have a few 40s inspired 70s pieces in my closet and I sew from 40s inspired 70s patterns all the time. I hardly ever buy repro like Stop Staring or Trashy Diva because of the expense and, since I sew, I can repro stuff myself! :) I do try to rock a daily vintage look but I'm not a purist by any means. I might do 40s inspired today, 50s tomorrow, and 60s on Saturday night. Of course all this means I will never ever look as perfectly put together as the rest of you vintage gals, but I'm cool with that. You are all super inspirational and I love reading your blogs!

  22. Thank you all so much for your wonderful thoughts and comments! It seems like most of us are not fans of the polyester and poly-blend fabrics of the 70s and 80s! Also, we seem to agree that repro does not top the real deal! Trashy Diva, Stop Staring, Pin Up Girl have have cute designs from time to time but overpriced bengaline (stretch poly) dresses do not hold a candle to owning a unique, one of a kind (at least nowadays) vintage collectible.

    I have a few Stop Staring dresses in my closet and I think they are nice for the occasional cocktail party or evening out. But when I see Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian (barf!) in Stop Staring, I never want to buy Stop Staring again. I have a few 40s crepe cocktail dresses that I adore and they are head-turners way more than a dress donned by a celeb-wannabe.

    The 80s had some cute looks but overall, it was bad. Do you all remember Coca-Cola Clothes? Yes, in 1986-1987, I remember getting a white and mint green Coca-Cola sweatshirt for Christmas and I thought I was the coolest girl! LOL! My sister, who was in college, got a Swatch sweatshirt (as in Swatch watches). I was so jealous.

    The 80s. Ah, yes. If it wasn't about wearing the biggest shoulder pads and the most bleached jeans, it was about wearing name brands on your chest! Esprit, Swatch, Express, Oakley, OP, and Benetton!

  23. wow, I guess I'm the only one in the world that will buy 70's or 80's! I agree, this dress is NOT 80's does 40's. It's 80's does 80's!
    I do buy 70's and 80's dresses with 40's-50's inspired details, though. I tweak them by making the dress a bit shorter since many 80's dresses are "mom" length. I rip off the sleeves and adding more of a puff at the shoulder or tucks. Sometimes I put a few darts in the bodice to make it more fitted. Sometimes I replace buttons with vintage ones or dye the dress if the color isn't quite right. It takes a little bit of work but if you can get a great vintage looking dress for a few bucks at a thrift store, why not?! I style it up with authentic vintage shoes, jewelry and hair and when it's all said and done, most people can't tell the difference. Plus, that kind of thing is fun for me. Oh, and I ALWAYS rip out the shoulder pads. 80's shoulder pads feel like I have overnight maxi pads on! *shudder* If it needs shoulder pads to give it the sculptured 40's look, I have a 40's shoulder pad pattern and I make my own.

  24. Brittany,

    That is so funny about dresses in the 80s being "mom length!" Lol! That is so so true! I remember most of the jeans, no matter what brand or style, were all high-waist! Mom jeans! lol! I even remember jeans with pleats and "paper bag" style! Can we say sick!?

    That is so cool that not only can you sew, you are a TRUE seamstress! Have you ever thought about designing your own line?

    I love the way you describe your re-working of 70s and 80s vintage-inspired clothing. Ingenious! The shoulder pad idea is also cool! And yes, 80s shoulder pads were gross. What did designers think women wanted to look like? Linebackers for the Chiefs?

  25. Oh man, did you have to remind me of the jeans with pleats and the "paper bag" style? I had obviously blocked those images from my memory :)

  26. Sue,

    Isn't it funny? What we wore in the 80s what just hideous!!

    I remember Express made these acid-wash, button-fly jeans that had these two "flaps" on the front of the waist! These were the "PLEASE, MOM! I must have these jeans or I will die" jeans! To make matters worse, my friends and I pinch-rolled our jeans and wore bright-colored socks that matched our tops! The top had either Esprit or Express written on it in big letters!

    Imagine us, with our Rave hairspray-coated claw bangs, logo sweatshirts, matching socks, and Reebok hightops with glitter laces prancing around the halls of our junior high. Sick! Sick! Sick! lol!

  27. I bought one because it was cheap and it's so hard for me to find anything genuine within my price range and size. However, now I regret buying it because I never wear it. It just doesn't feel right. Also it's a yucky fabric, probably polyester. Teach me to read the description closer.
    I guess I'll just have to keep searching for the real stuff! :)

  28. Kir,

    I also bought an 80s "40s dress" once and it did not "feel right" like you said. Polyester and poly blends are just bad.

    As for vintage clothing descriptions, look for phrases like "40s inspired," 50s style," etc. If the dress is the real deal the item will state something like "40s vintage," "50s dress." Also if there is a photo showing the dress tag/label, the designer or company name will be the feature. It will not have "made in..." or "see over for care." Those are more modern tag characteristics. Also, many real vintage dresses that were made in the United States before teh 1970s will have the "ILGWU" label. This was the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

    If you are on the search for great vintage give Etsy.com a try. I found MANY wonderful 40s and 50s vintage stuff there and for great prices!

  29. i just did a post on this too and i linked you :)
    but yeah personally i have no problem with it and i like dresses that were made in the 80s that look like 40s.

  30. i find that there's stiff competition for 40s sewing patterns but these 80s ones are CHEAP and the SAME style!