Thursday, March 8, 2018

Living The Vintage Life: Dig Those Threads

Clothing, hair, and make-up is a broad area to discuss. The best way, that I know of, to approach this subject is mostly visual since these aspects are very visual. I will provide you with a number of illustrations for men, women, hair, and make-up. I will also supply you with a list of online vendors.

If you sew, there is a wide-selection of reproduction sewing patterns and new retro patterns available. You can make any of these. Patterns for men tend to run scarce, so pick them up or order them before they are no longer in stock at your local fabric store.  I keep an on-going list of all retro patterns HERE.
Keep in mind that there is a STRONG campiness to this subculture.  Some people avoid the campiness as best as they can, leaning more towards vintage and strict historically-correct reproduction.  It's best to have the mindset that "it's okay to laugh at yourself and have fun with style".



The typical greaser look consists of relaxed straight-leg denim with the cuff rolled, engineer boots or combat boots or converse shoes or leather loafers, a t-shirt/undershirt, a button-up shirt or flannel shirt, and a leather jacket or a car club jacket. One of the most prominent aspects of this look is the “greased” hair - achieved by using pomade in the hair.

This is a comfortable and easy look, though the hair can be tricky if you are not use to using any hair product. You can find men’s hair tutorials on youtube.

You may have seen this look: The T-Birds from “Grease”, Johnny from “The Wild One”, and Dude from “Roadracers”.


The suburbanite look is a dressy-casual look and is still fairly common. It consists of trousers (not denim), loafers or creepers, an undershirt, and a button-up shirt (long-sleeve or short-sleeve). Typically the shirts are tucked in, but it’s not always the case. The idea is that you can appear dressy at a moment's notice, but you could probably wear the same clothes to do some yard work or wash the car or barbeque. Fedoras and pork pie hats are common with this style. A modern twist is to wear long shorts instead of trousers. Men can also explore other shirt styles such as gaucho shirts, pull-over shirts, jac shirts, polo shirts, western shirts, and sweaters.

You may have seen this look: Smashmouth the 90s band, the main characters from “Swingers”, and Elvis Presley.


This is an off-shoot of the Suburbanite. The difference being that you only wear bowling or aloha shirts. A plain button up, a flannel shirt, or a sweater are usually not in your fashion vocabulary. Hats are optional. Most any sort of pants work with this style. Shoes are usually loafers, converse, oxfords, or other flat shoes; not boots.

You may have seen this look: Charlie Sheen and Guy Fieri.

Sam Spade

If you are more of a 1940s sort of guy, you might want to try the classic Sam Spade look. Sam Spade, from Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, is the classic 1940s private eye. This look is typically a suit jacket, trousers, button-up long-sleeve shirt, tie, loafers or oxfords, fedora, and trenchcoat. Some choose to wear a vest or suspenders. Trousers are typically relaxed, often with pleats, but not wide-leg as was popular in the ‘30s. Suit jackets were usually one to three buttons and used shoulder pads to create an athletic look. 1940s ties were wide and sometimes hand-painted, if you wanted something fancy.

You may have seen this look: Sam Spade from “The Maltese Falcon”, Dick Tracy, and The Spirit from “The Spirit” comics.

1940s Men’s Hair

1950s Men’s Hair

Men’s Online Vendors


My Baby Jo

Lansky Brothers

Freddie’s of Pinewood

Zoot Suit Store

Rumble 59


Soldier of Fortune

G.H. Bass Shoes

Rocket Originals

Johnson Shoes

Hats in The Belfry




This is a super popular look for women. It generally consists of poodle skirt or pencil skirt or relaxed straight leg denim with rolled cuffs, a t-shirt or plain shirt, a leather jacket or car club jacket, saddle shoes or cowboy boots or converse, and head scarf or neck scarf. The idea behind the look is that you’re comfortable and could quite possibly stop to change a tire without breaking a nail or worrying about getting dirty. Whatever you do, don’t look square!

You may have seen this look: The Pink Ladies from “Grease” and the Cry Baby Gang from “Cry Baby”.

Sweater Girl

This style is pretty simple. You wear a sweater over bullet-bra breasts. For this look, you definitely need a bullet bra and some fitted sweaters - not oversized. You can wear pencil skirts, full circle skirts, high waisted slim trousers, relaxed straight leg denim, etc. You will find popular accessories to be neck scarves, wide belts, jewelry, and brooches. This look is very feminine and very comfortable. This was popular in the 40s and 50s.

You may have seen this look: Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall, and Jayne Mansfield.


The housewife look is a slightly dressier daytime clothes set worn by women who have more morning prep time. The hair is always nicely done. The usual go-to is a day dress or a skirt and blouse combination. There are a lot of novelty prints and more flamboyant colors associated with this look. The underlying expression of this look is “I have time”.

You may have seen this look: Dita von Teese, Grace Kelly, and Lucille Ball.

Factory Girl

This is a 1940s trouser look for women. It consists of a basic button-up shirt, 1940s women’s trousers or overalls, and boots or loafers or saddle shoes. The hair is usually up and out of the face, sometimes with a snood or a headscarf. This is very much a working woman’s clothing style.  If you live in a colder climate this could definitely be your go-to winter style.

You may have seen this look: Rosie the Riveter, women from “Bomb Girls” tv series, and any photos of women working in factories from the 1940s.


This is a 40s and 50s look for women. It consists of either a dress or a skirt and blouse combination. Sleeves are often short, not long. If chilled, add a cardigan. Dresses and skirts were usually modest is cut and color. Hair is typically showcased. Explore different styles of blouses. Blouses can have novelty prints to them. Regular accessories shouldn’t impede typing and are usually: necklaces, earrings, neck scarves, rings, brooches, and collar pins. Circle skirts, billowing sleeves, and anything that might knock over items on your desk are to be avoided.

You may have seen this look: Peggy Carter from “Agent Carter” tv series, women from “Cable Girls” tv series, and Della Street from “Perry Mason” tv series.

1940s Women’s Hair

There are so many hairstyles for the 40s that I feel it’s best to skip the general collage picture and go right into style details. These are five popular styles from the 40s. Make sure you look at books, youtube videos, pinterest, and blogs for more ideas and tutorials.

Victory Rolls - The most popular hairstyle with two rolls on top of the head and the rest of the hair curled and kept either loose or tied back.

Dutch Braids - Often overlooked, but super easy to do with long enough hair. This works well for any style that requires hair out of your face. Two long braids that are pinned over your head like a headband.

Waves - Curl your hair, brush it out, and wear it loose in vintage waves. Requires practicing pincurls and shaping your hair with a brush.

Bumper Bangs - Taken from Betty Grable, bumper bangs are a large curved (like a smile) faux bang. Requires learning how to use a rat.

Chignon - This is a tucked and rolled bun, essentially. It’s not super showy, but it’s fast and easy.

1950s Women’s Hair

Just like the 40s hairstyles, there are a lot of 50s hairstyles. Here are five basic 1950s hairstyles to try out. Make sure you look at books, youtube videos, pinterest, and blogs for more ideas and tutorials.

Pageboy - Curl your hair and brush into a bob with the hair rolled inward. May be pinned back at the sides with barrettes. Sandy, in “Grease”, wore this style when she first got to Rydell High.

Ponytail - Easy and simple. You can wear it with a little curl to the pony tail or a curl at the front of your hair or with a scarf.

Bettie Bangs - If you have bangs or really want bangs, you can get Bettie Bangs. They are cut in a slight U-shape, like a smile. Refer to Bettie Page so you are familiar with the look.

Poodle - Start with curled hair. The base is brushed back into a vertical twist, while the curls are piled high on the top of your head. Refer to Lucille Ball for this look.

Middy Cut - If you have the desire to cut your hair in a true 40s and 50s fashion, you need the middy. Modern stylists don’t know what this is, so search online for reference - you’ll find it. It is perfect for the pageboy, wearing waves, and for styles with headbands. Essentially it’s like your hair is cut in a U-shape. Types of Middy’s: “The baby” is short, “The Middy” almost touches the shoulders, “Middy Plus” touches the shoulders, and the “Femme Fatale” hangs below the shoulders.


Make-up is generally fairly simple. Most people tend to want winged eyeliner and red lips. There are plenty of folks who use powder, so definitely feel free to play around with make-up. If you’re not into red, try pink or coral lip color. Besame Cosmetics makes retro make-up only and was the supplier for Peggy’s make-up in “Agent Carter” tv series.

One of the best ways to get an idea for make-up is to watch old movies with female leads and make note of what you like. There is a basic natural look (usually without winged eyeliner) and the classic look (with winged eyeliner).

On a personal note: I don’t do a lot with make-up. I make sure my eyes are done and if I wear lipstick, I try to make sure it’s something that won’t easily come off. I hate worrying about lipstick smears when I eat.

If you are wondering about vintage colors, you can find many charts from Besame, Revlon, L’Oreal, and other companies. A google search or pinterest search should pull them up. Try “vintage lipstick colors”.

Women’s Online Vendors

Stop Staring Clothing

Pin Up Girl Clothing


My Baby Jo

Freddie’s of Pinewood

Rumble 59


Soldier of Fortune

G.H. Bass Shoes

Rocket Originals

Johnson Shoes

Remix Shoes

Hats in The Belfry

Secrets in Lace

What Katie Did

Dollhouse Bettie

Besame Cosmetics

Up Next: Living The Vintage Life: Rethink Your Pad

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