Is there a vintage era for each body shape?

One of the things I genuinely don’t understand when it comes to vintage is the styling advice that certain eras are for particular body types. Twenties and Sixties, as is often suggested, is only for the boyish figure, the Thirties look great on athletic bodies or pear shapes and for the curvaceous girls it’s Fifties all the way. Really?

Well, not really. I’m a firm believer that any period look is perfectly adaptable to any silhouette, and to think a whole decade could be reduced to one silhouette, fails to do justice to the true versatility of fashion design.

Point in case, the Fifties. Dior designed his New Look – all corsetted waists and big crinoline skirts harking back to 19th century dress – for a slender, regal looking woman like Grace Kelly. In contrast take Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for example. All big-boobed and big-hipped they wear tight dresses that emphasize – not distort – their hourglass silhouettes. It just shows that there is plenty of Fifties vintage out there for you, regardless of your body shape.

And this is something I find true for the other decades too. Don’t have the boyish body to pull off a Twenties drop-waist dress? Then opt for separates instead.
Can’t do Sixties mini? Go Jackie O in a waisted dress suit.

What do you think? Is there such a thing as a vintage era for each body shape?

12 responses to “Is there a vintage era for each body shape?

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. I get mildly frustrated when someone who is curvy says, “oh, I could never wear 1920s styles.” The ideal female body type was not nearly as tall and thin as high fashion illustrations from this era might suggest. Clara Bow was quite curvy, for example….the lines of the dress actually create the illusion of a thinner line (provided the wearer is wearing the right size of frock, etc). Ditto with the 1950s…much of the New Look clothing CREATED the look of curves for lithe women. Great post!!

  2. HERE HERE! I am an hourglass shape… do I look good in 1950s poofy skirts? NO! Do I look like one of those dolls your Granny had in the loo to go over the top of a bog roll… YES!

  3. stylehighclub

    Thanks Jill, I so agree! Clara Bow, the very IT girl, didn’t have a typical flapper body at all.

    Gemma, oh me too, that look makes my behind look twice the size!

  4. I so agree Lena. What do they think all those curvy 20s women were wearing, or skinny 50s chicks? There is always something from any era to suit your body shape, the same as there is always something modern to suit you.

  5. There is an “ideal figure” associated with wealth and prestige in each era. Because it was the “look” that’s what we are left with in print to guide us through fashion history. It is a skewed view and we loose sight of some really awesome trends in the process of recreating that ideal.

  6. Agree totally- the stars of Mad Men really show how different styles suit their different figures.I’m all about the wiggle dress!

  7. in a fanatsty archival way I suppose there is, because as lailaann put so eloquently certain body shapes were desired at certain times. I have to be honest I love the 60’s shift dresses but they don’t love me that much which is annoying, but it’s not as if somehow everybody morphed into another shape as the eras passed- everybody had to wear clothes! I don’t really like these rules that get given to clothes on body shape, if you like it wear it, it’s from your point of of view. Any clothing can be made to look retro and antique, it depends on how you style it- I am in agreement with you!

  8. I agree. I am pear shaped but pretty much anything with a waist suits me because it is my smallest area. And as Penny Dreadful pointed out not every women in every era conformed to the ideal body shape of their time. I am pretty sure women have always had to use the same shopping techniques as we do now, in that we cannot just go into any shop and choose any item of clothing and expect it to suit our figure.

  9. I’m sure you’re right…but having a thick waist and flat arse (my mother’s words!) I do find 50s dresses are a difficult fit. But then that’s where dress altertion shops come in I guess….

  10. I’m with Ms Wanda here – I’m a waist-heavy apple and 50s looks are not my best, although I can work with most other eras. I actually find 20s and 60s are good for thick-in-the-middle me because it’s easier to find garments that fit once my disproportionate waist is taken out of the equation. Of course, happiness with one’s outfit is always the best accessory, and will carry any look.

  11. I think some eras are certainly easier for for some body types than others. Size can also be an issue, particularly if you are ‘average’ now, it’s pretty huge for some periods. I know that there are certain looks I’ll never be able to pull off, but that doesn’t mean I have to write of entire decades! Reproductions and making your own can help a lot. Recently I’ve been attracted to 30s separates. Pattern resizing, here I come!

  12. Absolutely – look at any fashion photo or illustration from the thirties (particularly the early half of it) and all the ladies are tall, have hips, slim waists and and very slim and flat upper bodies. I am short as a bush, have no hips and a mountainous upper body and thirties dresses still work much much better on me than designs of any other decade.
    Its all about knowing what you like and feel comfortable in, and how to wear it. X

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