Look­ing back decades for fash­ion in­spi­ra­tion.

Why some fash­ion­istas con­tinue to reach into the past for in­spi­ra­tion

Edmonton Journal - - FRONT PAGE - JODIE SIN­NEMA

Walk down Ed­mon­ton’s side­walks and you’ll see lit­tle nods to past fash­ion trends: cropped pants and high waists à la the 1950s. Tas­sels and jump­suits from the ’70s. Belly-bar­ing shirts, Doc Martens, even acid-wash jeans from the ’90s.

There are some women who don’t just dip their toes into the past, but fully em­brace styles from pre­vi­ous decades. They typ­i­cally com­bine vin­tage cloth­ing found in sec­ond-hand or on­line stores with new items lo­cally made or vin­tage-in­spired.

Their fash­ion choices raise cu­rios­ity, won­der, com­pli­ments and con­ster­na­tion.

“Are you go­ing to a cos­tume party?” many peo­ple ask. The an­swer: “It’s the cos­tume party of our lives.” Here in the first of a two-part se­ries, we ex­plore why they love the styles of the past and whether or not they were born in the wrong decade. Part 2 is next Fri­day.

Jill Ma­cLach­lan, 40, free­lance writer, English-as-a-sec­ond­lan­guage teacher, owner of Etsy-based Ade­line’s At­tic vin­tage cloth­ing busi­ness

Style era of choice: 1920s and 1930s The look: Art deco drowsy-frowzy flap­per dresses with beads and dropped waist­lines, as seen in the movie The Great Gatsby. The high-deco pe­riod in the 1930s was more glam­orous with satin gowns cut on the bias, of­ten as­so­ci­ated with Hol­ly­wood starlets such as Jean Har­low.

Ma­cLach­lan’s spin: “I’ve al­ways been more drawn to the day­time stuff that lower class, or peo­ple of more mea­gre means, would have worn or made for them­selves.” Af­ter all, del­i­cate silk from al­most a cen­tury ago (of­ten made in pe­tite styles) isn’t ex­actly prac­ti­cal for the mod­ern-day woman. Ma­cLach­lan hunts for bo­hemian, folk­loric blouses with in­tri­cate em­broi­dery. She pairs them with hand­made cro­cheted or knit­ted bags.

“I love the sense of ge­om­e­try, colour, but also move­ment that re­flected what was go­ing on in cul­ture at time,” Ma­cLach­lan says. Cars were fast for the day and so was a cul­ture push­ing for women’s rights and free­doms.

That push ap­peared in the de­signs of Coco Chanel, who used jer­sey fab­rics, made com­fort­able suits and pants for women, and in­tro­duced the corset­less sil­hou­ette. In­spi­ra­tion: Ma­cLach­lan’s grand­mother, who raised her farm­ing fam­ily on the Al­berta Prairies dur­ing the hun­gry ’30s and taught her­self to be a dress­maker. Where’d you get that? Ma­cLach­lan won’t share all her sources, but she buys vin­tage-in­spired shoes from com­pa­nies that re­pro­duce the Golden Era looks, such as Miss L Fire or Re-mix. She also buys lo­cal la­bels such as Sab­rina But­ter­fly.

“I think a lot of mod­ern de­sign­ers are drawing from vin­tage gar­ments,” Ma­cLach­lan says. “In a way, look­ing back­ward is ac­tu­ally be­ing fash­ion for­ward.” Born too soon? “I’m not one of those Golden Age thinkers — I guess that is what Woody Allen called it in Mid­night in Paris — like ev­ery­thing would have been bet­ter if only I had been born in the Time of Cholera. I’m very much aware of the so­cio-po­lit­i­cal, his­tor­i­cal, med­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions of be­ing born in a dif­fer­ent time pe­riod. But when it comes to cer­tain el­e­ments of dress, what was seen as ideal fem­i­nin­ity in the ’20s, I def­i­nitely re­late to it more. It had a dif­fer­ent feel of strength and in­de­pen­dence wo­ven into the de­signs of ’20s stuff, as well as not hy­per-sex­u­al­ized fem­i­nin­ity.”

Lau­rie Callsen, 24, works in gov­ern­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tions, au­thor of Retro-Re­porter, an Ed­mon­ton vin­tage life­style blog. Style era of choice: 1940s The look: More struc­tured cloth­ing with lots of darts and pleats, re­plac­ing the blousy loose­ness of the ’20s and ’30s. Waist bands are on a woman’s nat­u­ral waist rather than dropped to the hips. Callsen’s spin: “I feel like it looks re­ally good on me,” says Callsen. “I feel very com­fort­able and my­self. I also iden­tify a lot with the era: I feel like the 1940s in terms of cloth­ing and makeup and the fash­ion had a lot of fem­i­nism el­e­ments that I don’t think a lot of peo­ple re­al­ize.” Land­mine or Fac­tory girls wore jump­suits and trousers. Women, limited by wartime ra­tioning, tai­lored hus­bands’ suits and re­pur­posed them for them­selves to wear to the of­fice as sec­re­taries.

“Men were off to war and women were told to boost their own morale by wear­ing lip­stick,” Callsen says. “It wasn’t just for the men any­more.”

“I do wear mod­ern cloth­ing, but I put a 1940s spin on it,” she says. “It’s not like one day I woke up and ev­ery­thing mod­ern is hor­ri­ble and ter­ri­ble and I don’t like it. It’s just what looks good on me. I like the way my butt looks in skirts bet­ter than how they look in pants. I don’t like low-- waisted pants.” In­spi­ra­tion: 1940s his­tory, black-and-white cat­a­logues from the time pe­riod, film noirs with moody, dark at­mos­pheres. Where’d you get that? Callsen sews her own cloth­ing us­ing vin­tage dress pat­terns; she pur­chases from B.A.I.T. Footwear and Hey­day Vin­tage Style. Born too soon? “I know some other peo­ple in­ter­ested in vin­tage or his­tory will say that they were born in the wrong decade, but I love living in 2015. I love hav­ing cell­phones. I wouldn’t have the job that I do now if it was 1940, that’s for sure. I like the free­dom to be able to dress like this. I don’t think if you lived in the 1940s and de­cided to dress like it was the late 1800s that it would be as ac­cepted. …

“Peo­ple (say) they wish more peo­ple dressed like this nowa­days — which I don’t nec­es­sar­ily agree with,” Callsen says. “I hope that me dress­ing the way I want to en­cour­ages peo­ple to em­brace what­ever their per­sonal style is.”

Kayla Hotte, 23, hos­pi­tal porter, lead singer and mu­si­cian in Kayla Hotte and Her Rodeo Pals Style era of choice: 1940s coun­try west­ern fash­ion The look: Cow­boy hat and boots, vin­tage gui­tar, dresses with fit­ted waists and wide, long skirts, but­ton-up shirts dec­o­rated with chain stitch em­broi­dery. “I pre­fer dresses over pants and I al­ways have, even when I was a kid,” Hotte said. She also likes mod­est cuts with high neck­lines and long skirts. Hotte’s spin: Hotte loves the Al­berta Prairies and wears a golden pin of wheat sheaves on her coat. When she tried to con­vince her hos­pi­tal bosses that she’d like to wear skirts to work rather than navy blue pants and a white shirt, they shook their heads. In­spi­ra­tion: Amer­i­can Hey Good Lookin’ singer Hank Wil­liams, grow­ing up on an acreage, play­ing blue­grass mu­sic when she first started. She now plays ob­scure west­ern swing mu­sic. Where’d you get that? EBay, thrift stores, Swish. There weren’t too many fash­ion choices for women in the coun­try-west­ern world in the 1940s. Fa­mous rodeo tai­lors, such as Nudie Cohn, be­gan sewing rhine­stones onto elab­o­rate west­ern suits (Nudie suits), and cre­ated west­ern getups for Roy Rogers, Elvis Pres­ley, Hank Wil­liams, even Robert Red­ford. Some fe­male singers at the time, Hotte says, would take shirts de­signed for men and tai­lor them to fit women. Born too soon? “I wouldn’t have wanted to live back then,” Hotte says. “What I do, me lead­ing my own band, that wouldn’t have been done.”


Free­lance writer Jill Ma­cLach­lan finds fash­ion ful­fil­ment in the styles, fab­rics and cuts of the pe­riod be­tween the World Wars. She even wears her hair in an era-in­spired bob.


Mu­si­cian Kayla Hotte wears west­ern gear from the 1940s. “I pre­fer dresses over pants and I al­ways have, even when I was a kid,” she says.


Lau­rie Callsen wears an emer­ald green blouse she sewed with puffed, three-quar­ter length sleeves. The black skirt is an a-line 1940s skirt from a friend. The shoes are vin­tagein­spired from B.A.I.T. Footwear.

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