|Retro Perspective; To Everything, There Is a Season|
|Written by Ami Thomas|
At one time in the not so distant past, no one had to write a column about what not to wear in the winter—but since those days are gone, we are is here to help. In this inaugural column, we'll address the dilemma of dress—seasonal dress, that is. Despite the attempts of modern retailers to undermine good fashion sense, there are certain items that are only suitable for their intended season.
We retrophiles are big on doing things properly. Changing one's wardrobe from season to season is one of those things that isn't done much anymore. Even more reason for us to want it done and done right. If you look around, you'll see that your co-workers and neighbors are wearing the same things they've worn all summer—they just put on a sweater, or one of those horrid, shapeless "hoodies."
What they don't realize is that, while it's perfectly acceptable to wear a sweater over a sleeveless shirt, the colors and fabrics are what make the distinction between summer and winter clothes.
The disposable lifestyle is a relatively new concept. Our forebears did not throw away their favorite shoes when the soles were worn. They had them repaired. Socks were darned, hems were stitched, trousers were taken in and let out as necessary.
Clothing was well-made and well-treated and lasted a good long time. Fashion did not change drastically from year to year, and the good stuff stood the test of time. Look around, we're all still wearing it!
Fashion used to be taken very seriously. It was a reflection of everything about you. How you dressed and turned up in public and private spoke volumes about you, so making sure your outfits were proper for the temperature and season was vital to your reputation. Men of style and distinction would no more wear a straw hat in December than a woman of class would go out without lipstick or gloves. Quite simply, it mattered how you looked.
Since that seems like an awful lot of trouble, most people just don't bother. As style has grown almost unbearably casual, no one cares if they're wearing a summer tank top under that sweatshirt—it isn't going to be seen anyway.
Retrophiles know that it doesn’t matter a whit whether it will be seen or not, just ask any man who wears sock garters. They also know that it matters enough to make some change in wardrobe from season to season.
Once upon a time, spring and summer clothes were packed away and stored until the next season. Twin sets were packed flat in boxes with tissue paper, as were shorter formal dresses and linen suits. Items that wrinkle easily would be packed flat, though most men's suits were on hangers in cloth garment bags straight from the cleaners.
Men's shirts would also be stored in whatever method they returned from the cleaners, and this seemed to be purely personal preference—some men liked them on hangers, some prefer folded flat. If you were lucky enough to have a dressing room attached to your bedroom, there would be plenty of room to separate your seasonal items and even chests of drawers and closets for out-of-season items.
While most of us simply can't store everything from summer to winter, we can make some arrangements, and the obvious seasonal items will be cleaned and stored until their time comes around again. Vintage items need to be handled with care, in which case taking a lot of trouble to store those beaded sweaters is well worth the effort.
Newer, retro styled items might not require as much TLC, but will wear and last better if treated respectfully. Store hats in hat boxes, and shoes in shoe boxes stuffed with tissue paper to hold the shape. Some hats can benefit from this, too.
There are some very obvious rules about seasonal dress. White shoes, linen and chiffon, and straw hats are strictly summer attire. For the most part, fur is for winter, but starlets have been known to get away with it year round. Suede is for fall, and early winter, but once the weather gets too bad, put it away or it will be ruined. Boots are also for fall and winter.
Pastels are for spring and summer, as are straw bags. A good cue for color is Nature herself: take a look at the trees. Fall colors are warm and deep and vibrant. Holiday season lends itself more to bright jewel tones. The color rules apply to everything—clothes, accessories, shoes, jewelry. Some exceptions might be pearls and precious stones. And you know what they say about diamonds....
When in doubt, I invariably refer to vintage Vogue magazines and old movies. You can find a wealth of information in mid-century publications and etiquette guide books, which can be found on eBay quite easily these days.
Another great source for the retro lifestyle is RETROspective Café. Peruse the Style and Fashion section—you'll be amazed at the depth and breadth of knowledge of its participants!
I'll be back next month with another installment of Retro Perspective, helping you to enjoy living the vintage lifestyle. Until then, Happy Holidays!