Desperately Seeking Deco

I really love the fashions of the earlier part of the 20th century, the 20s and 30s in particular. Not only is the interwar period fascinating, the fashions of the time beautifully illustrated the seismic changes society was experiencing in the aftermath of WWI. And, of course, they just look really cool, so there's that...

But, as I've said before, it's really quite difficult to track down authentic pieces from that era, and they are often not wearable or very expensive. There are a few companies out there making reproductions, but they can be a bit pricey if you're on a budget. So what to do if you're crazy about an era in fashion that's hard to get your hands on?

Well, sewing is one option - I think Emileigh of Flashback Summer does an amazing job creating pitch perfect 20s and 30s inspired looks, and seeing her creations always makes me wish I was more dedicated to improving my sewing skills. I'm not much of a seamstress, though, so I, well, fake it. Good news - you can too!

1. Know your silhouettes. 

Everyone knows the look of the 1920s - that drop waist is so distinctive, and it's the one specific feature that I look for when I'm trying to source a 20s inspired look from a fast fashion store. You can also fake a drop waist with a long or slightly oversize sweater, which is great for a casual look. If you have a belt in a fabric that matches or coordinates with the look, belting it at your hips can help reinforce the look of the drop waist.


I've found the 30s to be a little harder to pin down, mostly because it's so clearly a period of transition between the 20s and the 40s. A couple of things that I think help sell something as 30s are longer hemlines (anywhere from below the knee to lower calf), a slightly fluted shape to skirts, and interesting sleeve details.

2. Sell it with styling. 
Nicole from The Artyologist did an excellent job illustrating how much of an impact accessories have in defining a look in her guest post for me back in September. Shoes, hats, and jewelry all add to the distinctive character of an era, and can take an outfit from "I dunno... 50s maybe?" to "oh, I love your deco style!"

I think hats are probably the most transformative accessory, just because they're as closely tied to a particular era as the clothes are, but are often way easier to find or fake. You think 20s, you think cloche hats. You think 30s, you think sleek little asymmetrical tilt hats (or at least I do, anyway). I must admit that I don't know nearly enough about jewelry to peg a piece to a particular era, but as a general rule, long necklaces are a good addition to a 20s inspired look, and dress clips were quite popular throughout the interwar period.
Hair and makeup also play a key role, and they're one of the easiest and least expensive ways to nod to a particular era. I really recommend watching some YouTube tutorials and giving the looks a crack - you may surprise yourself with how much you like the results.

3. Don't sweat the small stuff. 
I really like looking at fashion illustrations to get a sense of the small details that can really help create a period specific look. Fashion illustrations have a way of distilling the general idea of a look with a few broad strokes. I love looking at period photos, but if you're trying to figure out, for instance, the general hallmarks of 1930s style, things like the shape of a skirt or a sleeve tend to stand out a bit more in the illustrations.

I say this because if you're pulling on a skirt for the 80s and a sweater from the 90s and a pair of modern shoes and maybe a 1950s scarf, you're not going to get everything right - it's all about the impression, the suggestion. And that's OK! Trust me, the people that know vintage will know what you're going for, and people that don't know vintage tend to think every look that's identifiably vintage-inspired is from the 50s anyway.

Do you ever fake a period look? What are your tips for when you want to give the impression of a certain era, but don't necessarily have the pieces?