vrijdag 2 juni 2017

Modemuze collaboration: Vintage style

In this last blog in the series I'm writing for Modemuze (find the Dutch version here) I'll go into creating a vintage look with the help of styling guides from the past. Women knew exactly what should be worn with what and when, all these rules seem quite unattainable to us. Still it is interesting to look at old guidebooks and styling advice, albeit more for inspiration and enjoyment than to strictly follow up on.

The style of the past

Colorful ensembles from Vogue Paris, 1938

Most people wear vintage pieces as part of a modern outfit but some choose to go for a look that entirely fits into the style of a bygone era. This is my personal preference and I see it as a challenge to find ensembles that do not only look like they're from the same period of time but also adhere to the etiquette of the past. In general outfits were more 'matchy-matchy' than what we're used to today, but not neccesarily more 'ton-sur-ton'. Contrary to what many people think (probably because so many black Sunday best dresses survived) bold and bright colors an color combinations were frequently used.

What could be worn during morning, afternoon and evening

Up until the 60's a woman of leisure would change several times a day. Mornings are for simple skirt and blouse/sweater combo's, whilst more dressy frocks and suits are reserved for afternoon visits. You could then change again for dinner, before WWII often in a floor length evening dress. Cocktail dresses came into use in the 1930's and are more versatile as they can be worn during the afternoon as well as the evening. Most vintage that has been preserved consists of the more dressy clothes as these would be the things people kept.

Accessoiries were an important part of an outfit: a lady would not leave the house without a hat and gloves. The hat did not leave her head during the day and it was normal to keep it on in, for example, a restaurant or when visiting friends. Gloves were only taken off for eating. In het booklet 'Fashion and Style' fashion journalist Constance Wibaut writes one should sooner go out without a hat than without gloves. This is almost unimagineable for us and to be honest: I usually pick out gloves to match my outfit and put them on, but they disapear into my purse rather quickly because having them on all the time is cumbersome.

What accessoiries were suitable for which occasion looks like a puzzle to us now. This page from Marie-Claire from 1940 makes a game of it: find the right accessoiries for each of the three suits.

'Game' from Marie-Claire 1940

To the sporty tweed suit with parted skirt (left) belong the felt hat (G), the most sporty material and the only one without a veil, the shoes (D) and bag (H) made from box-calf (also 'sporty') and the gloves of pigskin.

With the blue pinstripe suit (right) bag (J) and shoes (C) of crocodile can be worn because this material is more dressy and types of leather were often matched. The suède gloves (A) do not only go with the color of the suit, suède was considered a more fancy material. The outfit is topped with straw hat with velvet ribbon (B)

The black silk 'visiting' suit (middle) is well matched with the patent leather shoes (E), the handbag with bejeweled clasp (L), the mais yellow embroidered gloves (F) and mais yellow hat with 'birds wings' (K). In short the most fussy accessoiries. Also the gloves and hat are the same color.

When buying accessoiries Constance Wibaut advises women to buy them to go with most of their wardrobe. Because clothing was more expensive than today even 'rich' people usually didn't own nearly as much as we do today. Her tip might be helpful when you start wearing vintage too, as you may find yourself with a limited wardrobe in the beginning.

Personal style

To conclude a few words on my personal style: Though the 'rules' mentioned above interest me I do not always follow them, but I do like to match colors and materials and wearing a hat to finish my outfit. Below you can find some examples of outfits I've worn recently. For more check my Instagram (@birtheweijkamp)

Spring and summer: straw hats and flowers

Early spring: fresh colors

Winter: more subdued colors

I'm not only inspired by sources from the 20-50's I also love to look at others in the vintage community. Social media like Facebook and Instagram play an important part in this. Eventhough most wearers of vintage have a thing for the past they tend to embrace these modern ways of communicating. It is the best way to find likeminded people from all over the world. Sharing what you wear makes creating a vintage look even more fun and also facilitates the sharing of knowledge.

I'll end this post with another game. It is from a Dutch women's magazine from 1937.
Poor Mrs. Ixe had to dress hastily for a ball and it shows. Can you spot the six mistakes?

Her mistakes are:
1 Her beret, should be used as a sports cap
2 She's buttoned her jacket the wrong way (like a man's)
3 She's wearing short gloves, for eveningwear she should have chosen long ones
4 The raincoat over her arm should be an evening cape/coat
5 Two different shoes
6 No evening purse

Will be back soon with regular blogs, planning on a post about some spring acitivities.


donderdag 18 mei 2017

Modemuze collaboration: How to care for your vintage

In this second blog I'm writing for Modemuze (you can find the Dutch version here) I'll go into how to keep your vintage treasures in good shape and get maximum wear out of them. Of key importance is to be aware of their age and handle them conciously of that.

Tips for caring for your clothes from a women's magazine, ca. 1940-45, mending thin spots before they become holes.

Wearing vintage
Where museum pieces may never be worn vintage is something that can be used on a daily basis. Wearing vintage however requires a different mindset towards garments as when you are wearing modern pieces. This does not mean you can't do your everyday chores in a vintage dress, though there's always a chance of things getting damaged. Working with museum collections has made me more relaxed when wearing vintage through the knowledge that truly expetional pieces are being preserved in these institutions.

Tips for caring for your clothes from a women's magazine, ca. 1940-45, hanging out your clothes instead of throwing them over a chair
It is a good thing to check how strong, water risistant or special clothing is and to keep this in mind when planning what to wear it for. A wild party in a fragile dress that can hardly be cleaned is not a good idea. Also when putting on a dress with a side closure some care must be taken as they tend to be less easy to put on. You have to more or less 'dive' into them whereby you should avoid any sharp accessoiries getting caught and keep lips with lipstick on it tightly pressed to avoid damage. Because we've gotten used to stretchy fabric it can all feel a bit tight-fitted, which is a thing you have to get used to.


Illustrations from a booklet with washing instructions (ca. 1937), washing carefully, rinsing with vinigar, rolling into a towel and drying on a hanger.

Most old clothes are not made to be washed frequently as they used to harly wash them at all back in the day. The Dutch fashion jounalist Constance Wibaut advised women to wash their nylon underwear once a week, even if it was black, in 1958. And that's underwear, the layers that came on top were hung out and only washed if they were really dirty.

You can wash a lot of vintage but just like grandma's old dishes can't be put in the dishwasher you'd be wise to wash your vintage by hand. Instructions from the period are often handy when figuring out how to do this. They unanimously advise to check if the color will bleed before washing first. This may be done by rubbing a wet piece of cloth over a piece of the fabric in a place where a stain would not be visible. If there's a lot of color on the cloth washing has to be done carefully and rather quickly. To reduce colors from bleeding vinigar or salt can be added to the water.

Another important point is to use water that is not too hot and to take care the water for washing and rinsing is of the same temperature, to prevent shrinking. Rayon crêpe is prone to shrinking but can be pulled or ironed back into shape. Washing is always a gamble though. When in doublt or with dresses with a lot of embelishment it is better to go to a good dry-cleaner's. Be careful with early plastic zips and sequins though, they can melt when being dry-cleaned (sequins may also dissovle in water).

Body odour

Add for deoderant from 1939, showing that it's use was all but common, Odo-ro-no add from 'Het Rijk der Vrouw'

Because clothes were not washed as often and deoderant was not at all generally used clothes smelling of sweat is a common problem. I smell the pits of clothes before I buy them but the smell can also only become noticeable through heat (from wearing or ironing).
Washing or dry-cleaning does not remove old sweat most of the time. There are some cheap trics to tackle the problem like treatments with vinigar and/or baking soda. More extensive descriptions on how to do this can be found in two blogs I've written a while ago (see links at the end of this blog).


A large tear in a vintage dress is mended with several shades of embroidery yarn. Back and front of the fabric.

As vintage is often in need of repair it is handy to have basic sewing skills. Popped seams for example are very common but as the fabric isn't broken (only the threads are) it is solved by stitching it back togehter on the original seam. Darning is unkown to many of us but it can save many dresses with wear, holes or even tears. Especially when the fabric has a print many things an be mended almost invisibly. When the fabric is thin putting a piece of fabric underneath can also prevent the forming of actual holes.

I'm very careful when altering a piece of over 60 years old and won't do anything that will drastically change the original design or cut away any fabric. In the back of my mind are all the lovely 30's dresses I've found that were cut short in the '70's.

Because clothes were made to measure there's a good chance they will not fit exactly. This may not always be a problem but sometimes alterations are benificial. Taking things in is not that hard especially when there are darts already. Taking things out is more of an effort and can be visible, but because seams were more generous at least there is more fabric to work with.

A dress has been taken in by adding darts at the back and a sleeve has been laid out by adding a gusset from extra fabric that has been cut away from a seam.

To conclude this blog I'd like to stress that you should enjoy wearing vintage and not be affraid of things getting damaged. Something can always go wrong but they are only clothes after all, and with some common sense a lot can be prevented.

In previous blogposts I've described washing and mending in more detail:

From frump to fab: mending and washion a vintage dress

Cleaning my summer coat: how to use baking soda to remove body odour

More information on caring and cleaning can be found on the website of The Vintage Fashion Guild

In the next and last blog in these series I'll discuss my personal style, etiquette and styling rules from the 30-50's and how to compose an entire vintage look.


woensdag 10 mei 2017

Modemuze collaboration: How to recognise Vintage

Three dresses with typical silhouettes from the 30's, 40's and 50's

For the Dutch fashion platform Modemuze I'm writing a series of three blogs on vintage that will be published in Dutch on their website and in English here.
These blogs explore the themes I've addressed in a reading for the programme that coincides with their exhibition at the OBA (public library of Amsterdam). This first blog will deal with buying and recognising true vintage pieces from the 20's to 60's
For more information about Modemuze and the Dutch version of this blog:

Buying vintage:
One of the questions I'm most frequently asked is where I find my clothes. The answer is not simple but it starts with a lot of searching. I started buying and wearing vintage when I moved to 'the big city'  (Amsterdam) for my studies in 2008. My first and best place to buy vintage was the stall of Maaike at the Waterlooplein flea-market, that sadly closed only a few weeks ago. But I think Amsterdam is still a good place to buy vintage for a reasonable price.

There are several vintage shops that sell carefully selected vintage in Amsterdam, like Laura Dols and Bis Vintage, prices are fair, especially compared to what I see om websites like Etsy. Some chains with multiple stores within the city, Episode and Marbles, sell older vintage for even lower prices next to an abundance of 70's-90's stuff. At places like this it is key to know what you are looking for. Below you can find some tips on what to look out for.

For all my vintage shopping addresses you can look at the vintage shopping guide to Amsterdam, a blogpost I wrote last year. It contains detailed information an little maps with routes you can easily  walk:

Shopping at the Waterlooplein flea-maket

Recognising vintage:
First and foremost you can recognise vintage by the style of a certain period, like a dopped waist for the '20's, puffed sleeves for the late '30s and 40's and cut on sleeves with wide long skirts for the 50's (see first picture).

Fashion plates and photographs can be helpful, but this is only a first step because styles were often recycled. The 70's and 80's saw many revivals of 30's-50's fashions. It is also good to realise certain styles were worn over a long period of time. This is why I always use the most recent element of a design to determine it's age. This is often found in the details for which you have to develop a certain eye and feeling. There are, however, several things that can help you when you are just starting out.

A lot of vintage garments from before 1960 don't have labels, especially in Europe. Clothes were made at home or by a seamstress. Ready to wear did have small size tags but not always a label (sizes were different though a vintage 40 might feel like a modern-day 36). When there is a label it might help to google it for more infomation about the brand. Other types of labels have to do with production standards, like the Brittish 'CC41' utility labels used during and after the Second World War and American labels that guarantee fair working conditions. Because these labels were only used during a certain period they can help dating a garment. You can sometimes even find the name of the original owner sewn into a dress, this might well indicate the dress traveled with them to a home for elderly people.  

Labels: clockwise Alexon in a Brittish utility coat, name tag, American 'recovery act' label used between 1933 and 1935, (European) size tag

Natural fibers like cotton, wool and silk were and still are being used and say nothing about the age. Other fabrics are more specific for a certain era. Rayon, for example, was a much used fabric from the 20's through to the early 50's that came in many varieties.

Several kinds of 1940's rayon crêpe

Nylon was patented just before the war but did not come into general use until the early 50's and is quite specific for that era.

Nylon floral fabric, mid to late 50's

Dresses from the 30's-50's typically have a closure in the sideseam. It can consist of buttons, hooks and eyes or poppers but from the mid 30's onwards metal zippers came into use. A dress with a thin nylon zip at the back is almost certainly from after 1960. There are exceptions but in general this is a good way to detemine age.

Fastenings: buttons, poppers, metal zip

Looking at the inside of a garment can tell you a lot about how it is made. Seams were finished differently than what we're used to today. When something was homemade seams were not finished or finished by hand. Other finishings are hemming, pinking and a zig-zag stitch. Nowadays most seams are serged and garments that are finished this way are usually post 1960. But here too there are exceptions: (knitted)underwear was serged much earlier on.

Seam finishings: clockwise handfinished, unfinished, hemmed, pinked, serged, zig-zag stitch

The infomation in this blog may be useful when you are looking for vintage but it does not guarantee that you will find it. Older vintage is getting harder and harder to find so be prepared to invest time (and enthousiasm) in your search!

In the next blog I'll go into how to care for your vintage treasures. Wearing, mending and -very important- washing vintage is quite different from what we are used to.


zaterdag 1 april 2017

Trip to Bavaria: outfits & packing with a color scheme

So it has been a while since my last post. Though I fully intended to do a 'new to me' blogpost I had other things on my mind lately that kept me from sitting down for it. I will write that some time soon but here's a quick recap of last weekend's outfits (there were many). I went on a trip to Bavaria (or actually Frankonia) with a group of vintage enthousiasts from Germany. In the pictures you only see two of them, the ones I know are OK with pics being posted, so you can enjoy their lovely outfits too :) 
(if you'd like to see more of them check out their Instagram accounts @20_2_40_style and @jg_photographica_)


Packing is always tricky when you have to carry you own luggage when switching trains etc. This time I had a color scheme and stuck to it. Normally it is only an intention to pack totally color coordinated and I'll fail but this time it worked. The basic color was brown with easter-y pastels to brighten up the palette. This way everything could be combined with everything, in theory. Above you see most of what I packed.

Not in that picture is this jacket. I'm in love with it at the moment. I don't usually think straight silhouettes look good on me but this has such a good shoulderpad game going on it is very flattering.

For travel I wore a skirt-suit I bought for an upcomming tweedride, but I figured it'd do very well for this occasion too.

This is a first attempt to capture our outfits with selfie mode. That is what Instagram does to you ;)
Someone else cought us posing.

Luckily there was no need for selfies for the rest of the weekend. So finally some ouftit pictures that are not so horribly posed (well still posed but more natural than usual)
I wore a dress and hat that already featured in another blogpost but finally with the right shoes (last time it snowed...). My first pair of vintage shoes, and probably my favorite.

We wore coats too, such a color splash! Such warm sunlight!

I enjoy dressing up even more when I'm not the only one doing so. When you're in a group where everyone is wearing vintage you can just be you dressing in a pretty frock.


Our color combo's reminded me a bit of some pictures from French Vogue of 1938. Not exactly alike but the idea of a group of three ladies in bright colors.

The next day we went for a walk (see the first picture of this post too)
This is so dreamy, it truly captures the escapist aspect of a trip like this, away from it all ;)

And also the magic of early spring, when the warm sunlight is something special. 

My ouftit of that day: That jacket, 1930's/40's celadon green dress with yellow ajour embroidery, yellow late 30's rayon crêpe hat with burgundy ribbon, burgundy gloves with yellow stitching, sensible shoes.

What we wore underneath.

We changed for dinner/the evening. I wore a dress I bought myself as a birhtday present last year. It's made of a liquid silk velvet. Because of the bias cut it clings beautifully/unforgivingly to the body, a thing I love and loathe at the same time.
Such a good hairday too, dit not have to do anything to it after a day with a hat on in the open air.

One of the best things about 1930's eveningdresses: back-cleavages

Another day and some new outfits. I'm wearing a cute embroidered 1940's dress & pretty shiny rayon stockings in a matching tone. But just look at the outfit of outfits next to me!

Because we visited a cave in the afternoon we changed into more sturdy wear. I wore my skirt-suit again.

Inside the cave.

We could join a tweedride dressed like that.

And then a third outfit of the day. This would have been my girlhood dream: dressing three times a day (maybe it still is ;P) !

This year's birthday present to myself: A pink pastel, ruffle ridden, puffy sleeved petit four of a dress.

This pic taken in my kitchen a few weeks ago gives a better idea of the color.

And that concludes the cascade of weekend outfits. My next post will probably be a new to me post as I've found some lovely things lately. I've sold quite a few dresses since the beginning of this year and there was also a kind of 'flea-market' during this trip. I took 10 extra dresses I could let go of and 9 found new homes, but I also took some new things home.
Here's just one of them:
This is actually man's coat but it fitted me quite well, a little oversized but I like it that way. Only tried it on for fun but as I've been looking for a grey coat to add to my collection I bought it anyway. Don't think that many people will notice it buttons on the wrong side, and also: who cares if it works.


zaterdag 11 februari 2017

Winter Outfits: Classic Black & White vs. Glorious Technicolor

Just a quick update post with lots of outfits and pictures.
It was my intention to wear a lot of color at the beginning of this year. But I also wore some black and white dresses/ combo's because they are just so classic and always good! So hence the title of this post ;)

Black and white:
The dress above is from the mid/late 40's. It had been laid out at some point in its life, but I decided to put the darts at the front back in, such a tight but good fit now!

The dress I wore on Christmas Day with another slip.

This was an off day really, hence the black stockings. But the dress is fab.

Just recently got this picture of when I was candygirl at Tuschinki. Love that it is such a candid shot and not a selfie.

Not technically black but it befits the simple always good style. I wore this dress for filming at the Openluchtmuseum in Arnhem. I was to depict a middle class 1930's housewife.

I posted this picture in my newyears post as dresses I was planning on wearing. I have worn them all :)
Plaid wool dress I bought in Brussels in December.
Just such a lovely daydress with great padded shoulders.

Oh this blue dress! I adore the color and that it is so simple and clean. Last time I wore it was at the Tweedride Rotterdam in 2015 with that same cardigan. I fell and hurt my leg rather badly. This time the outfit was not so unlucky.

I wore it in the beginning of January when my fahter came over for a visit, we both had a bit of a post-Christmas blues and we decided to have a trip down memory lane to battle it.
We visited all the addresses I lived in in and around Amsterdam since moving out at 18. These are just two of them.

Then we went to the beach.

And had poffertjes (Dutch mini-pancakes)

This dress in technicolor pur-sang. And those sleeves! It is wool so nice and warm for winter.

Like every year we had a newyears meeting of Club Interbellum. I wore a new to me dress I found the week before with a cardigan my mother knit from a 1939 pattern.
It was rather cold so I was glad the skirt was made out of thick cotton velvet.

Woolen stockings and boots, because of the expected snow/rain ;) I would have had some lovely 1940's suede shoes to pair with this outfit but I didn't want to expose them to winter weather.

The ladies from Club Interbellum in Amersfoort where we had our meeting this year.

Afterwards I had drinks at Amsterdam Centraal with some of the girls. You can see I paired my brown coat with a fur capelet.

The week after my birthday we had a shopping weekend with some vintage girls. A few were also staying at my place for a sleepover.

I wore this 1930's lace dress. A long time favorite of mine I bought in a shop in Antwerp.
My curls turned out very good and very short that day.
I used spongerollers with a strip of fabric instead of the plastic.

This is what it looked like before the brushout. Rather pretty in a way but a bit too Annie/Shirley to be taken serious ;)

Shopping with Marjolein, Jip and Willemien (who looks so tall next to the dwarfy rest of us)

Having lunch at the Waterlooplein.

In the evening I had a closet sale and sold a lot of dresses I didn't wear anymore. It had not been my intention to buy anything during the day but I found this salmon pink party-dress at Episode I couldn't resist. It's so sweet, I might as well wear it while I still can! Could imagine this being a dress for a young girl, mabe a first formal gown.

I also got some belated birthday presents. Annemarie gave me the cutest boudoir slippers and Martine gave me a dress. Both are so me, it's such a pleasure to have friends that know my taste so well!

I wore the blue dress for the first time last Saturday when going out for a coffee with a friend.

On Sunday I met up with Noortje to do some sewing an talking ;)
This is a dress the skirt is attached. The 'blouse' has a very interesting novelty print of what looks like coats of arms that are fantasy though they do bear some resemblance to coats of arms of some Dutch provinces.

The dress I mended makes me long for spring. I got it for a mere 10 euro's but it was a wounded bird, the fabric underneath the arms was worn and thin so I backed it to prevent holes.

Noortje behind her sewing machine.

Another very bright dress worn for going out to see a few movies (so rather a waste given that I was sitting in a dark room). I kinda forgot about it eventhough I put new shoulderpads in it during the summer. But it is quite amazing. I'm wearing a black turtleneck underneath because it is cold!

And to end this post some very wintry new additions:

Ski-pants, probably from the 1940's though it could be earlier or later.
They are Hungarian and a friend found them. It is rather small so I was affraid it wouldn't fit me.

But it did!
The back has a lot of room for movement. Might not be the most flattering of cuts, but I think I can just about get away with it & I can still touch my toes ;).

Also got this American 'sports' jumper.
So I'm ready for walks in the cold, or lots of snow!

Hope to be back soon,