Retro and Vintage Fashion, decades of unique style

November 26, 2021 · Written by Tanya Sommers


The distinction between what is called retro and what is considered vintage in fashion can be a little hazy at times. We hope to be able to clarify the difference in this article.

In fashion, vintage refers to clothes manufactured between 20 and 100 years ago. A piece of clothing might qualify as vintage if it contains stylistic characteristics that were popular at the time. 


Rosita Moreno (1920's actress)

Source: IMDB

Apparel, shoes, and accessories inspired by older designs yet produced within the last 20 years are referred to as 'retro'. A style that is relatively new that imitates that of the past can also be called retro. 


Source: That '70s Show

As an example, a dress inspired by fashion in The Great Twenties however made only 10 years ago is considered retro. 


On the other hand, the original dress made during The Great Gatsby era can be called vintage. 


Each decade brings a new set of fashion trends. Throughout the decades, fashion designers have borrowed substantially from clothing designs popular in the past. Styles that were prevalent in the past have been widely adopted in the fashion world over the years because they have uniquely marked their time and legacy in history. Each decade has fashion staples that are distinctive of that particular moment in history. 


Here are a few examples of vintage women fashion trends from the 1920s to the 1970s.


Style in the 1920s

Flapper vintage dresses, drop waists, beading, T-strap shoes, and Mary Janes type heels were all iconic of women's fashion in the 1920s.

Jazz music influenced the unconventionally stylish statement of flapper dress

Photo: Pinterest

Style in the 1930s

Fashion in the 1930s was distinguished by the introduction of puffy sleeves, fur, Bolero jackets, fedoras, evening gowns, and new shoe styles such as the Oxford shoe, peep-toes, and slingbacks, among others.

1930s is considered as the Golden Age of Glamour

Photo: Pinterest

Style in the 1940s

Styles that were very fashionable in the 1940s were voluminous skirts, boiler suits, platform shoes, and handbags made from rare animal skin and other exotic materials.

Rosie the Riverter's blue boiler suit became a cultural symbol of the industrial movement of this time.

Photo: Pinterest

Style in the 1950s

The styles of the 1950s began to draw attention to women's feminine, hourglass figure. Shirtwaist dresses, petticoats, and full skirts, twin sweater sets, clothes with fur trim, 'Wayfarer' sunglasses, and strings of pearls were among the most memorable looks of the decade.

A time of domestic refinement and post war lifestyle wherein women were expected to stay at home and look gorgeous.

Photo: Sportsuburban

Style in the 1960s

The late 1960s' counterculture movement spawned two distinct looks for the decade. Style icons like Jacqueline Kennedy influenced women's fashion. Box-jacket suits and pillbox caps dominated the fashion world. Babydoll dresses were introduced as an expression of second-wave feminism that seeks a not-so-restricting style of clothing. 

Bold colors, loose-fitting cuts influenced by the mod movement.

Photo: Pinterest

Style in the 1970s

Boho-chic features from the late 1960s made their way into the 1970s, as well as flared (bell-bottom) jeans, high boots, platform shoes, block heels, and Birkin handbags were among the most popular fashion designs of the decade.

Hippie-inspired outfits and an expression of individuality.

Photo: Pinterest

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