Shopping for Vintage clothes and accessories.

What is the appeal of Vintage clothing? Fit, repairs and fabrics…..

If you are interested in the history of fashion, you are interested in vintage clothing, and maybe already be knowledgeable about different eras and styles , about specific designers and about the development of signature looks.   Choosing to wear vintage often means expressing your personality through a specific look, from a hairstyle to an outfit, right down to your shoes and accessories. You can choose a specific era, e.g the 1960s or the 1940s, and style yourself accordingly as a 60s dolly bird or as a 40s land girl.  Or, you can choose key vintage pieces, e.g a coat, a dress, a knit, and combine them with your contemporary wardrobe to add a vintage twist.

The great thing about shopping for an wearing vintage is that you are often looking at unique pieces, and when you create your own style you can be sure that your look is your own!

It is still possible to come across clothes that date from the late 1800’s, and those would be classified as antique.  Victorian and Edwardian pieces are often fragile, and personally, I would regard  them as collectors or museum pieces.  Similarly, pieces from the first two decades of the 1900’s are often un-wearable…with some exceptions. Probably the best preserved pieces from the early 1900s are evening dresses as they were often stored well , particularly the expensive heavily beaded pieces that we associate with 1920s flappers.

If you want to look into 1920s fashions, the names and labels you can look for include Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, Elsa Shiaparelli, Madeleine Vionnet & Norman Hartnell.

For practical purposes, Anything over twenty years old is regarded as vintage, and wearable styles can be found from every decade stretching from the 1980s to the 1930s.

If you are aiming for a complete look, do your research. Look at books and fashion magazines from the era that interests you, do some on-line research, visit fashion collections in museums….there are plenty of resources out there!

When shopping for Vintage clothes there are a few things to bear in mind.


When you are looking at vintage clothes, particularly at anything pre-1960, production methods are quite different. Unlike today, when clothes are mass produced, often abroad, vintage pieces are often made in small runs, or even made for individuals by a tailor or dressmaker.  Some pieces that you find will have been made at home, probably cut from a commercially available paper pattern produced for the home dressmaker.  The size charts that are more or less standardised today, i.e bust waist and hips measurements, were often quite variable before the 1960s.  It is also true that the changes reflect the current average body shape of the 21st century woman or man, which is taller and broader than it was in our mothers or grandmothers era.

Do not take the size on the label  for granted! Generally waists are smaller and the general silhouette is curvier on older pieces, so make sure that you know your own measurements and take a tape measure with you when you shop!   Expect to have to make a few alterations to the fit of your vintage garment to suit your own body shape, so check seam allowances and depth of hems, or check if there is room to move buttons etc.  If you do not already own a sewing machine, think about investing in one so that you can make your own alterations!


It is useful if you are handy with a needle and thread, or with a sewing machine ( see above).  Some alterations are easy for beginners, e.g. Sewing on buttons, stitching a split seam….but some take a bit more skill, e.g. Replacing a zip, adding tucks or darts to a bodice.  Check over your vintage finds carefully for any obvious flaws, rips, moth holes, stains etc., and before you buy, consider if you can remedy the flaw . Sometimes, a piece is beyond repair, but some beautiful fabric can be salvaged and up-cycled.


Vintage clothing up until the 1960s is likely to be made from a quality fabric such as wool, silk or cotton, with rayon or viscose or early synthetics like Tricel mimicking silk.  These fabrics drape and hang well, and looked after properly, will last for many years. However, they often need specialist cleaning. True synthetics, polyester, nylon etc. Came in to their own in the 1960s. 1960s fabrics are often harder and harsher, distinguished by their bright colours  and  designs. This was the start of easily washable fabrics that can often be drip dried or spun and that need no ironing. Much of the fashion clothing from this era was aimed at a young consumer, and was not made to last!

Smock dress
1960s smock dress


The stylish man….

Coolclobber shop has a men’s department! Well, it has several sections devoted to men’s vintage clothing and accessories. Traditional men’s dressing gowns and pyjamas are always popular, as are hats and wallets. And, for the discerning traveller….what better than a shaving/grooming kit all zipped up in a leather case!

I always have favourite items. At the moment, one of my favourites is an immaculate silk lined British Bowler hat. Think Steed in the Avengers and there you have it….animal magnetism and elegance under one hat!

Featured here…..gorgeous brown leather wallet (un-used) with pre-decimal markings. Tootal 50s/60s Tricel dressing gown, traditional Paisley cotton pyjamas, neat and compact shaving/grooming kit in amazing condition….and hats…..Harris tweed countrymans hat, Jackaru black leather bushmans hat, Kangol street style black felt cap, beautiful British Bowler, traditional cloth cap……..

Vintage menswear and accessories
Vintage for the elegant gent.
A hat for every occasion

What is Tricel?

The British company Courtaulds, developed Tricel in the 1950s. A cellulose acetate spun fibre, it was a popular substitute for silk.  Tricel is a trademarked name owned by Courtaulds and British Celanese. Among its many qualities, it was easy to wash, retained its shape and retained its colour.  Acetate fibres are still used in garment construction, mainly for clothes linings. Tricel itself was superseded in the 1960s by Polyester, which has numerous extra properties and  can be crease resistant. The Tricel dressing gown by Tootal, shown above, is a great example . The colours have not faded and the fabric feels and handles like Medium weight silk.

What is felt?

Felt is a non-woven fabric created by wetting and aggitating natural fibres, like wool or fur, until they merge together, forming a mat.  Felt is a popular fabric for use by hatters and milliners as it can be cut without fraying, and can be steamed and shaped over blocks to form permanent shapes. Felt can be made in various thicknesses and densities, and left soft or treated to become stiff.  The classic British Bowler and the Kangol street cap are great examples of men’s felt hats.

What’s so special about Harris Tweed?

Every length of Harris Tweed, every garment made from Harris Tweed, has its origins in the Outer Hebrides . Harris Tweed is made from pure virgin wool, spun and dyed in the Outer Hebrides and woven by individual weavers , often crofters who live off the land and weave at home.  Harris Tweed is protected by its own Act of Parliament, and always carries the Orb logo that distinguishes it as unique to the Outer Hebrides. Weavers have developed their own colour blends and the fabric is much sought after for both traditional suiting and by contemporary designers.  Harris Tweed is special . It is hand woven by individual artisans. It is only produced in one place and is both beautiful and hardwearing.

If you find a Harris Tweed jacket or hat….treasure it!

Pre-decimal markings?

The first decimal coins were introduced to the British population in 1968. The five new pence and ten new pence coins, the equivalent of    a shilling and a florin, were used alongside the old coins, as the old coins were phased out. Other coins followed, and in February 1971 Britain was fully decimal.  In the old coinage there were twelve pence to a shilling and twenty shillings to a pound.  Old money was £sd, £ or pound after a pound weight of silver, s or shilling and d for pence, after the Roman coin the denarius. If you hunt, you can still find items like the 60s vintage leather wallet shown above, marked with pre-decimal markings.



No muffin tops, no diets…

Just a big pair of knickers from Floslingerie

What gives you the best silhouette under your vintage clothes?

Spandex, Elastane and Lycra……are all basically the same synthetic fibre, developed by DuPont in the very late 1950s and early 1960s.  Up to the 1960s, the girdle or corset was a very restrictive garment, generally worn from under the bust to the top or mid thighs and consisting of unyielding layers of stiff fabric with channels of “boning”, often metal, and complex lacing or buckles and straps to shape and hold the body. The girdle or corset also had sets of suspenders to hold up ladies stockings and was open bottomed, i.e. put on an worn like a very wide belt. The earliest Victorian and Edwardian laced up garments needed an extra pair of hands to tighten and do up the laces. They would have been worn over a cotton chemise or combination garment, one of several layers of undergarments. Later versions from the 1930s and 1940s had long lines of hook and eye fastenings.  So, when Lycra came on the scene in the early 1960s, it was liberating! Two new sorts of girdles became available, the roll- on, an open bottomed pull on garment with no boning or fastenings, usually with neat elasticated suspenders, often detachable, and the pantie girdle. The pantie girdle combined knickers and girdle as one, and again, often, but not always, had detachable suspenders. The pantie girdle became the preferred control garment as it created a smooth body shape, perfect under popular clothing styles such as the mini skirt and slim fitting trousers. Lycra is still used in many different types of shapewear, sportswear, swimwear and fashion garments. Occasionally, I come across old shop stock, and it is always good to be able to offer these for sale at Floslingerie.  Right now I have pantie girdles and control briefs in Small, Medium and Large, in white and in black. I also have a stock of Mary Quant body stockings from the 1980s….but that’s another story!

1870s combinations
White cotton chemise, split drawers
1960s girdle
1960s roll-on Girdle with suspenders
Mary Quant 1980s body stocking

It is worth noting that when you wear vintage you may notice that the fit of your vintage clothes is quite different to modern garments. The average body shape has changed dramatically over the last fifty years, with women becoming both taller and wider! You may notice that a vintage item from the 60s, for example, could be labelled as a 10, but fits like a 6 !  Often, waists are smaller, busts and hips cut for more curves. When you buy vintage, check the measurements will suit your body shape. If you are buying on-line, check the measurements against something from your wardrobe that fits you well.

Vintage fabrics hang differently to modern fabrics. When you are planning your outfit, think about how the fabric drapes or clings. Is it bias cut? Is it a stiff fabric like taffeta, or is it a soft pile like cotton velvet? Choose your undergarments to enhance the look of your vintage outfit.  Modern shapewear is pretty good….but if you can find lingerie from the same era as your outfit you will carry yourself with more confidence, knowing that you have created the perfect silhouette!

New Year’s Eve 2017

Ready for New Year’s Eve 2017 ! Sparkle and Shine from

Long and elegant and looking like a goddess…or short and sassy…glitter a go go!


New Year, New Blog….2017

As the New Year approaches, I decided to begin a blog about all things vintage….behind the scenes at my two Etsy shops, Coolclobber and Floslingerie, and life in the country…..