Styling Adventure: Taking inspiration from a retro look


It is possible to create a retro inspired look interpreted through your own style sensibility. You do not even need to have authentic vintage fashions and accessories to do this. What you do need is a sense of adventure and a keen eye. These can be applied when evaluating the clothes and accessories you already have or shop for. The goal is to get a sense of feeling and look from the vintage fashion. Then express in such a way that it’s a combo of something old and something new!

The Look I took inspiration from

Claire McCardell was an American designer who had her peak popularity during the 1940s and 1950s. She designed comfortable fashions aimed at the American woman and her active lifestyle. Claire worked with knitwear as well as wovens. Her goal was to make elegance something that could be achieved in the simple pieces that make up a capsule wardrobe. She taught her followers how to do this in her book What shall I wear? By having comfortable, well fitting coordinates a woman was already on her way to elegant dressing every day of the week and any time of the day. Colors that worked well together and flattered the woman were important. Individual expression was achieved through beautiful accessories.

This photo comes from What shall I wear? I love the look of the chunky beaded necklace. And the multiple charm bracelets are enough to convey elegance and individuality.

The second outfit I took inspiration from is a trio of coordinates McCardell designed for beach wear. I especially like the slacks. The deep tucks at the waist and tapering legs of the slacks create a comfortable, easy garment flattering to a wide range of sizes. What I also love is the look of these slacks with the sandals.

With these inspirations in mind I set about recreating the look and making it my own.

How I expressed the look using modern clothing and accessories

I did not want a chunky beaded necklace. In the 1950s beading and sequins were very popular on cardigans and pullover sweaters. When I found this knitwear top it was perfect for starting the look. I also bought one in grey with silver beading.

I looked through the collection of costume jewlery my Mom left me and found the charm bracelets for the outfit.

The next step was to find a comfortable pair of slacks that approximated the look of the ones I liked. I also had to find sandals that worked with the slacks.

I ended up at the bargain store where I’d bought the tops. I found two pairs of floral print slacks: one with pink blossoms and one with grey blossoms.

When I saw the sandals I knew I now had the right combination to channel the expression of my vintage inspired vibe.

Photo of the completed look

I am very pleased with the way this look came together. It expresses my own style yet has some of the elements of the original outfit. I hope you take some ideas from this to start your own creative style expression using vintage fashions as a starting point.


Close-up from What shall I wear? by Claire Mccardell

Full length photo: Claire McCardell Beach Outfit
Public domain-WikimediaCommons

Published by EmilyAnn Frances

I was born and raised in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, New York. I attended Hunter College where I graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in English Language Arts. After graduation I worked in various industries such as publishing, fashion, financial services, investment banking, and for government. My passion for fashion was nurtured at the French Fashion Academy where I learned dressmaking, patternmaking, sketching and draping. My enjoyment of dressmaking and family history find a wonderful home here at WordPress. I hope you enjoy both of my blogs.