Tips from a vintage maximalist.
How to look stylish in winter!
- Don’t Confuse Style with Fashion
- A Very Brief History of Fashion Copying in Paris and NYC from the 19th century till the 1950s
- The Importance of Warm Undergarments
- The Beauty of Outer Garment
- It’s All in the Accessories
- Style Inspiration Comes from Many Things and Many Periods in Time
- The Winter Care Routine & Vintage-Inspired Make-Up for a Stylish Lady
If you are a minimalist who adores nothing but beige, natural make-up and are fond of blending in with the crowds, this article is not for you. Just to give you a hint, the picture below depicts me in the most natural state.
All pictures of me are the copyright of Gregory Michael King.
If, however, you follow my credo that life is too short to wear ordinary clothes and would love to learn a few of my tricks on how to look stylish in winter, you are in for a treat.
Sit down, relax with a delicious cup of tea and enjoy the read.
Don’t Confuse Style with Fashion
- What is Style?
Style – all who have it share one thing: originality.
2. What is Fashion?
Fashion persuades millions of women that comfort and good lines are not all they should ask in clothes. Fashion swings the female population this way and that through the magic expression that “they” are wearing such and such this season and you must do likewise or be ostracized. Who thought up this idea that just because one-tenth of one per cent of the population needs a certain kind of clothes, I want the same thing? Fashion, my girl, he decided. He swipes ideas from style. (…) He hires press agents and advertising men to assure you that the bright cellophane wrapper is what counts.
Hawes, Elizabeth. Fashion is Spinach.1938, p.10.
Originality Versus Copy-For Those Who LOVE Learning Fashion History.
A Very Brief History of Fashion Copying in Paris and NYC from the 19th century till the 1950s
- Design piracy/theft in fashion, haute couture and even ready-to-wear is nothing new, it’s as old as the sewing machine itself (1846). Well, maybe not quite as old, but it definitely helped, and further technical developments of early 1900 in ready-to-wear clothing, made it easier and faster to copy original designs, most desirably the ones from the best Parisian couture houses.
- Interestingly, In France, the law protected, and still does, its designers who are considered artists. In the U.S.A. the law protects the copyist.
- France had two associations protecting fashion designers.
- The Chambre syndcale de la couture parisienne.
- PAIS-The French association protection artistique de industries saisonnieres was founded in 1923, by the couturiere Madeleine Vionnet. She was very prolific in taking to court anyone who dared copy her designs. Vionnet photographed all her models and put a date and serial number on each picture. She also created a logo and signature that helped with proofing the garment’s authenticity.
- America, on the other hand, had the Fashion Originators Guild of America.
F.O.G.A. was founded in 1932 by one of the biggest clothing manufacturers, Maurice Rentner and his lawyer Sylvan Gotshal. The concept behind this trade organization that consisted of manufacturers and retailers, but not designers, was, in a nutshell, to protect dress manufacturers from being copied. F.O.G.A’s members vowed to create and sell only original designs. If they were caught breaking that rule, they would get a red card which meant that other F.O.G.A. members were prohibited from doing any type of business with them. As you can imagine, that did not go well with many of the retailers who thought it to be unfair.
In 1941, the Supreme Court decided that F.O.G.A violated the Sherman Antitrust Act and was banned from continuing with their anti-design piracy work.
*Fun Fact! Maurice Rentner was notorious for copying French designs and made a fortune from doing so.
First Thing First. What is a Couturier?
Properly speaking, a couturier or couturiere, male or female of the species, is a person who creates clothes for individual women and maintains an establishment where those designs are sold directly to women and made to order. All important couturiers show at least two collections of clothes a year, spring and summer clothes in February, autumn and winter clothes in August or September. (…) They design beautiful clothes for rich and beautiful women, and what the rest of the French population wears is of no importance. It is not only of no importance to the French designer, it is of no importance to anyone in the fashion world. The entire French legend is built upon a few designers who design for a small group of a few hundred or possibly a few thousand women who are “chic.”
Hawes, Elizabeth. Fashion is Spinach.1938, p.14 and 18.
Charles Frederick Worth is considered the Father of Haute Couture. He founded his haute couture house in 1857.
2. The theft of Parisian designs began at home.
I am sure that wherever important couturiers have flourished in sufficient numbers to warrant attention, there have been copy houses. Certainly, when I was in Paris in 1925 there were plenty of them, and they still continue on their illegitimate way.
Hawes, Elizabeth. Fashion is Spinach.1938, p.38.
Only a small percentage of Parisians could afford haute couture prices, so a copy of the original design was the only option for those who wished to look chic, but their purse did not match their taste. The best copy houses in Paris made their clothes in the exact same fabric, with the exact same trimmings, as the original design which was reflected in the very high price of the exquisite copy. Interesting fact, some of the copy houses bought the original models and then made copies of them. Others paid handsomely to sketchers attending fashion shows per sketch. Sometimes they borrowed, for a fee, of course, original pieces from clients who wanted to recoup some of the money they spent on their lavishly expensive haute couture.
In other words, buy, borrow, steal.
- Copying was illegal in France and the punishment was dependant on the number of times a copy house was caught red-handed.
- First-time offenders received a fine, but if caught again, they could face going to prison for up to six months.
In France, a couturier could protect their fashion business by;
- Obtaining a patent for their designs.
- Copyright their designs and their brand.
- Apply for a trademark.
In the U.S.A. the matter was handled very differently, as copyright law did not cover fashion designs.
- A designer in America could patent an innovation.
- Apply for a trademark for their brand and logo.
The lack of protection of fashion designs meant that those who spent a fortune on buying original Paris couture and the right to reproduce it could legally be copied by every manufacturer in the U.S.
3. Sue, Sue, Sue!
In 1948, several haute couture designers including; Christian Dior, Jeanne Lanvin, Molyneux, Pierre Balmain and Jacques Fath sued Wolfson & Greenbaum, an American manufacturer, for stealing their designs and using labels with the French designers’ names suggesting that those were in fact originals!
Believe it or not but the couturiers won! Unfortunately, thousands of knock-offs had already been in circulation.
*Over the years, I’ve seen several cheap copies of Dior dresses. They had two things in common, they were made of cotton and they had flower print on them. Buyers, be aware!
4. “Money Makes The World Go Round.”
Dior and Fath realised that there was a lot of money to be made selling cheaper garments so they started their American prêt-a-porter adventure by creating more affordable lines than haute couture.
If you come across a vintage gown with the Jaques Fath Originals label, you will know that it was for the American mass market.
The Importance of Warm Undergarments
If you are averse to bulky, unattractive coats that make you look like you are wearing a sleeping bag, but you want to be warm under your beautiful non-puffer coat, winter-appropriate underwear is the key to staying warm.
- Woollen long johns, also known as union suits, are nothing new. You can find ads for them from as early as the 1890s. They are a great idea if you are wearing a long dress, skirt or slacks, but won’t do, worn with anything showing off legs.
- Knit underwear, be it vintage or vintage-inspired, is a great alternative to long johns. There are vintage patterns on Etsy which you can purchase for as little as $4.
- I found some of my warmest long underwear in an equestrian shop.
- A base layer made of merino wool will also help you stay warm and not cause bulkiness to your clothes.
The Beauty of the Outer Garment
- The Coat
A beautiful, well-cut, good quality coat is one of the most important garments you should not feel guilty for splurging on, but as I demonstrated with my find of the year, you don’t have to break the bank in order to find one. Etsy, eBay and your local charity shop is great starting point. If, however, money is no object, take a look at my luxury coat recommendations in the, Best Coats for Autumn and Winter-Vintage style! article.
Do you see how similar the brown coat on the cover of “Przeglad Mody” is to the one I found on eBay? I dare say that the collar is virtually identical.
2. The Cape
I simply adore capes and cloaks, and I know I’m not the only one. I’ve seen many contemporary designers copying the 1930s and 1940s styles. Some went as back as the 19th century with their inspiration and I say, good for them!
- Velvet and silk capes are best to be left for spring and summer, although I do have a very thick velvet cape I wear in winter.
- A woollen cape is your best friend in winter and if you are lucky enough to find an original one from the 1940s, you won’t be disappointed. I suggest you opt for a nurse’s cape, as they are extremely warm!
It’s All in the Accessories
Winter gives us plenty of opportunities to accessorise our ensemble with a hat, pair of beauteous leather gloves, dramatic faux fur scarfs or stoles, and go larger than life with costume jewellery.
- A pretty faux fur hat, like the one I’m wearing in the pictures below, will not only keep you warm but it will also go with any style of outfit I can think of. The Helen Moore Pillbox hat is suitable for every face shape and can be worn either straight or slightly tilted. I choose the latter with all my headpieces as it’s most flattering to my rectangular face.
The Long Scarf
A very long faux fur scarf will add a little bit of glamour to any look, and it will certainly make even the simplest coat stand out. Black is my preferred colour but I wouldn’t mind a scarf with a splash of fuchsia or emerald green. At Helen Moore, you can create your own colour combo for the Vixen scarf!
The Short Scarf
If the long scarf is a tad too dramatic for you there is a perfect alternative for it, the Tippet scarf.
The Gloves-Don’t Be Afraid of Colour
I’m always amazed when I hear women complain about having to wear gloves in winter. And then I realize that it’s because they stick exclusively to wearing black, and that’s a mistake or at least a wasted opportunity of adding oomph to your winter ensemble. Personally, I love to play with different colours, the more shocking the better. Also, I wear gloves all year round, as I find them to be a very elegant accessory, and they are great in slowing down the ageing process of your hands.
If, however, you are not fond of gloves you can always opt for a faux fur muff to keep your hands out of cold weather harm ways.
Jewellery-Not Just For The Evening
There was a time when wearing statement jewellery during the daytime was considered in bad taste, but to quote my favourite American poet Dorothy Parker; “Bad taste is like a nice dash of paprika.”
I rarely leave the house without an antique or vintage brooch pinned to my coat. The bigger the costume jewellery the better. It doesn’t have to be expensive either, most of my 1940s and 1950s pieces cost $30-$60, and most importantly, their sparkle always brightens a gloomy winter day.
Style Inspiration Comes from Many Things and Many Periods in Time
When I need a little bit of inspiration in choosing my outfits, I look at my favourite paintings, mainly from the 19th century, I re-watch one of my favourite 1930s or 1940s films, or I look at pictures of some of the most exciting women of their time. Like Cleo de Merode (1875-1966) who was a French dancer, a muse, an icon of style, and one of the most beautiful women of her generation. She is also the inspiration behind several of my ensembles. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to imitate anyone, after all, that wouldn’t be very original, and originality is what personal style is all about. Rather, I focus on one particular detail I like, be it the colour of the fabric, I see in a painting, or the type of fabric, or perhaps the shape of sleeves.
My Tip For You!
- Start a folder on Pinterest with nothing but your favourite winter fashion in paintings, not photographs! You will be amazed after you add 20-30 pins how much they all have in common.
- What is it you like most about them? Is it the hat or the gloves? That’s how I started my Pillbox hat obsession!
The Winter Care Routine & Vintage-Inspired Make-Up for a Stylish Lady
The Beauty Routine
A truly stylish lady knows that even the most glamorous piece of couture will not deflect from unhealthy looking skin, so get into the habit of a daily skin routine!
I’ve recently published an article about Best Winter Skin Care Products 2022 which you should take a look at if you struggle with your skincare routine in winter.
Not so long ago, I discovered a brilliant Polish cosmetics brand Dr Irena Eris. I’ve been testing products from several of their lines; AQUALITY, CIRCALOGY, CLINIC WAY and ALGORITHM and I already have my favourites!
- The Radical Renewal Day Cream SPF 20 from the AQUALITY line is what I use nowadays first thing in the morning. Like all the other products from this line, it improves skin’s elasticity and visibly reduces wrinkles! Dr Eris is a genius in the field of cosmetology and I’m not sure exactly how she did it, but surface to say, she created a line of products that could probably replace botox. I say probably because when it comes to ageing, it’s all about prevention.
- Dr Eris Clinic Way Ultra Sensitive Skin Anti-Ageing SPF 50 cream is what I use when it’s very sunny outside. I can tell you with all certainty that this will be my day cream in the summer!
- Currently, my No1 night cream that gives a photoshop effect to the skin, is Dr Irena Eris Impressive Recovery Night Cream from the ALGORITHM line. The deep line I had between my eyebrows nearly completely disappeared! I also use the Ordinary AHA 30%+BHA 2% peeling solution twice a week so it is possible that the magical disappearance of my fine lines is the result of me using both products. One thing is for sure, the cream fills fine lines and hydrates the skin. If you were to buy one product from the ALGORITHM line that’s the one to choose.
- Let’s not forget about the eyes, after all, they are the window to the soul.
The Splendid Wrinkle Filler Eye Cream from my favourite ALGORITHM line is exactly what the name suggests. The Lipofiller reduces the appearance of already existing wrinkles around the delicate eye area and gel-like consistency makes for the perfect make-up base.
The Statment Make-up
- I NEVER use foundation, powder or rouge because I don’t like to cover up my freckles.
- Eyeshadow, lipstick/lip gloss and faux eyelashes are all I ever use. I swap faux eyelashes for mascara when I travel.
- The Eyes-For the 1920s/1930s inspired make-up, I opted for Pat McGrath Eye Ecstasy Sublime palette. I used Corruption on my eyelids and Sextrovert on my brow bone to deflect from my hooded eyelids. It’s also the reason why I use faux eyelashes.
- The Lips – I always use Kiehl’s Buttermask For Lips before applying my signature orange/red lipstick. For this particular look, I wanted something very Vamp-like and the Oh, Carmine lip gloss from Dr Irean Eris was a perfect choice!