If you think that your summer style options are limited by current trends, you are totally mistaken! Borrow summer styles from the past century and update them to create a look that is uniquely you. The fashion trends from the ’50s to the ’90s have covered a wide range of territory indeed. There were some looks that are best just left in history and admired from afar. But there some that should be brought back into our closets and hearts! Here are thirty vintage looks to bring back this summer… from the ’50s to the ’90s!
1. One-Piece Bathing Suits
Before teeny bikinis made a big splash in the ’60s, it was fashionable to wear one piece suits with boy-cut bottoms and straight-across necklines. This look is worthy of bringing back because it flatters all kinds of body-types. The suits were gathered at the waist, which creates a beautiful hourglass shape. Some people call this bathing-suit cut a “miracle-suit” because of how transforming it can be!
2. Marilyn Monroe Style Dresses
The famous photograph of Marilyn Monroe standing on a subway air vent was taken on a hot summers day in 1954. Her white halter top dress has since become an iconic look. Wear a white halter top this summer to channel your inner Marilyn!
3. The Parasol
Women used to carry parasols as a fashion accessory. They were handy because they kept the sun off of skin, and tans haven’t always been in style. When I traveled to Japan as an exchange student in high school, I saw parasols everywhere. My friend and I each bought one, and were the envy of the crew anytime we were seated in the hot sun. They really work! A portable source of shade is a wonderful thing. A few years ago, Gwen Stafani was seen out and about with a parasol in hand, and it made me think. What if these came back into style? I think our future skin would thank us.
4. High Waist Shorts
Modern day pants and shorts often sit around the hips. But back in the fifties, they buttoned up a few inches higher! Tie your button up shirt-tails in a little knotted bow for real fifties flair!
5. Pedal Pushers
Pedal pushers were an early form of athletic wear for women. They made riding a bike easier (and still do) because the fabric was kept up and away from the gears. One thing to know when you bring this look back is that they are a little bit more casual that capri pants. You can make a pair of pedal pushers by rolling up your skinny jeans until they are mid-calf.
Pedal pushers of the fifties did not go above the knee. They were also not tight like modern leggings and skinny jeans, but rather worn loose around the hips and back side. My grandmother didn’t go one summers day without her trusted pedal pushers. When I ride my bike, I understand the logic. As Audrey Hepburn demonstrates so well above, this pant cut goes great with ballet flats.
6. The Pencil Skirt
The ’50s style pencil skirt used to be called the “hobble skirt” because it was so difficult to walk in ! In the ’50s, pencil skirts often extended below the knees. Of course, a pencil skirt that ends at the knees is easier to walk in. Women in the ’50s workforce wore this suit to office jobs. Working women today can still feel stylish in a pencil skirt, whether or not we work at offices!
Updated pencil skirts are made of material that will have a little bit of give, so you no longer have to hobble in order to pull off this shape. As with most clothing in the ’50s, the design of this skirt is made to sit at your natural waist (not your hips), and because of this it gives you a flattering hourglass figure.
7. White-Framed Sunglasses
If you want to get some compliments out on the town, try out a pair of vintage white-framed sunglasses. Opt for a large, bold shaped lens with thick, fantastically plastic rims. You will be sure to turn some heads!
8. Hippy Hairstyles
The sixties gave birth to the hippy movement. Peace, love, and rock and roll was the mantra for many free spirits. If you love to wear vintage clothing, you’ve probably also tried out a few vintage hairstyles. Have you thought about keeping your locks natural and decorating with a few mini-braids and flowers? This look is maintenance-free. You might consider it for you next out-door concert or park picnic!
9. Bold Geometric Patterns
Sixties fashion was unique in many ways. For the first time, youth culture was a driving force in societal norms. Conventions were crumbling, and artistic expression skyrocketed. All of the molds were being broken, and fashion designers loved to push the limits. Bold, geometric patterns emerged as a result!
10. The miniskirt
One way that conventions were crumbling was that women were becoming liberated from old stereotypes. The women’s liberation movement swept through the fashion industry, and the miniskirt became a popular item. Mini skirts are oh so cool in the hottest hours of a summer day. Just be sure to cross your legs when you sit! No need to give the other passengers on the bus a show.
11. Floral Shorts
Sixties style floral shorts are fun. Bring your own personal sense of celebration of joy out into the world with you! It will be hard to take anything too seriously when you’re wearing shorts like this. It seems to me that often printed tops get all of the attention. Shorts can be just as beautiful! I usually take note when I see a particularly pretty printed pair of shorts about town. Don’t you? They really stand out! If you are ready to handle a little bit of attention, don’t shy away from this look.
12. Bold Solid Colors
This summer try wearing a dress of a solid color along with a headband of the exact same color. You will get bonus mod points if this outfit is dark golden-rod yellow, or sixties sea-foam green! Mod (short for “modernist”) style first started emerging in the ’50s in British suburbs, and became popularized in America in the ’60s. There was money floating around because the economy was on an upswing, and people finally had a little bit of extra cash to spend on the latest fashions.
The model Twiggy personified the mod look. Mod fashion is characterized by bold colors, minimalist style shift dresses with sleek lines, tailored coats, and knee high boots. These clothing items were usually worn with several flashy accessories to top off the impression, including wide headbands (like in the picture above), or chunky, geometric earrings.
13. Vintage Graphic Tee
Simple tee-shirts with designs on the front became a staple in ’70s style. Baseball-style tees had sleeves of different colors. The photograph of John Lennon in his “I Love New York” tee shirt made state pride a popular fashion. Levi’s, Coca-Cola, and Dr. Pepper also enjoyed a lot of free advertising.
14. Wooden-Soled Platform Shoes
In the era of disco clubs, women wore shoes like this to boogie all night long. Can you dig? Tall platforms will spice up any outfit. You can wear them with bell-bottoms and a seventies tee, or let them be your only vintage item, paired with a modern outfit.
15. Long Summer Dresses
It seems that the short miniskirts of the sixties left people yearning for length. The long look of the seventies gave women a sweeping flow of fabric around their legs. Despite the length, this style can be cool and comfortable on a hot day. You practically create your own breeze as you move about!
16. Psychedelic Print
The ’70s drug culture included experimentation with various forms of LSD and other psychedelics on many levels. Society grew more aware of the drug trends, which until then had been kept in certain circles and fringe groups. Fashion, as always, reflected the cultural movement of the time and there was an influx of ‘trippy’ textiles in colors like celery green, mustard yellow, and hot pink. Some of these prints are a little bit too much to handle, but the right one can be a real gem.
17. Bohemian Necklaces
The bohemian style of the seventies valued freedom of movement. Nothing was constricting or binding (probably in reaction to years of too-tight fashions!). Everything drooped and flowed in a loose, casual way, including the necklaces. These were worn long and contains layers of beads, feathers, or metal work.
18. Athletic Short Shorts
While I was in college in Boston, I picked up a pair of bright red retro gym shorts while out shopping one day. They had white piping along the bottom and sides. At first, I thought I’d only wear them to bed as PJ pants, but then I found myself wearing them during the day! I’d wear them while cleaning the house because they were so comfy, and then out in the evening to water the community garden. I started wearing them on the hottest of hot humid days when walking to the river for a dunk. They were amazingly comfortable! And cute too.
The seventies was known as the “Me Generation” because personal exercise to stay fit became a nation-wide pass-time for the first time in history. Richard Simmons became an icon, and people hit the pavement to jog and get toned. The ’70s athletic short short is a timeless look that might never fade. And I, for one, am glad!
19. Off-The-Shoulder Sweatshirt
Though summer time is known for its sun and heat, it is nice to have a cozy item or two on hand. A casual off-the-shoulder sweatshirt is the perfect item to ward off a cool beach breeze! This ’80s look deserves to be brought back this summer because it is so easy to make. Find solid colored sweatshirts at the thrift store for dollars a pop. Cut the crew-neck off of the sweatshirt to give it that retro look. Cut a little bit less than you think you should at first, because you can always trim some more!
20. Sweat Bands
Lately, I’ve become massively obsessed with dancing as a form of exercise. Are any of you out there into Youtube’s star “The Fitness Marshall”? I am. And boy, do those videos make a girl work up a sweat. This is the reason that I propose we bring back the eighties terry-cloth sweatband.
21. Hot Pink Nails
Hot pink nails? Why not! You know all about that hot pink color that the eighties is infamous for. While you might not feel like wearing a whole hot pink outfit, how about just doing your nails in this festive hue? Hello pool party!
22. Neon Accents
Neon can be used in other ways besides nail polish. Add a dash here and there, and you’ll look like an ’80s star. This DIY tee shirt is a fun way to go for a splash of neon sunniness. You can make this DIY tee shirt with an ’80s throwback tee from a thrift store. Choose a really bright neon, that almost hurts the eyes. You’ll be pairing it with white to tone it down, and it only peeks out through the slits, so be brave! Choose the brightest of the bright.
Orange, green, purple, or yellow would look great with this pattern. Cut out a heart in the size that you like. In the tutorial, the designer uses a large shape, but you could opt for a smaller one. You can also alter the tutorial by placing your heart in the bottom right or left of the tee, or even on the back!
23. Peplum Dress
The peplum dress was an eighties hit. These dressed have two tiers, one short skirt layer that flares out around the hips, followed by another longer layer that goes down to about the knees or above. This look is an excellent one to bring back if you crave some volume and curves.
24. Neon Eighties Shades
When you wear this ’80s style, you’ll feel like a million bucks. Get ready to do some serious business. You’ll be wheeling and dealing like Tom Cruise in “Risky Business”. Just don’t forget to have some fun while you’re at it!
25. Classic Black and White Chuck Taylors
Did you have a pair of Converse sneakers in the ’90s? I sure did! Chuck Taylor All Stars were a hot item in the ’90s. This shoe is a fun one to add to your footwear collection. You can wear Converse sneakers on the days that a sandal, heel, or other summery shoe just won’t do (going for a motorcycle ride? Anyone?). Converse have a quirky, old-school vibe that will make people smile and recall their own Converse-wearing days.
26. Crop Tops
One of the best looks to bring back this summer is the ’90s crop top. Show off your toned tummy with a top that ends just barely above the navel. This look was popularized by celebrities in the ’90s and embraced whole heartedly by mass culture. For an authentic ’90s look, wear your crop top with mom jeans. Knit crop tops that are fitted have a nice clinging quality, that will really show off your shape, if that is what you are looking for.
As time keeps on trucking, the rules and parameters about fashion widen, and the “anything goes” attitude that first came about in the ’60s becomes more and more true. You can wear exactly what you want, and how you want it. So if you want to show some skin, go for it! A crop top is the perfect way to embrace summer skin and show off a little.
27. Denim Overalls
Overalls had their hay-day in the ’90s. Guess jeans were popular, and denim was a hot ticket item. Overalls were cool — everyone from Tupac to Will Smith was wearing this style. They were worn with straps up, one strap down, or both straps down! This style came back briefly in the summer of 2013 when it started to hit fashion magazines again. This is an awesome vintage look to bring back regardless of what is trendy.
Seventies style overalls have a fuller bib (front section) while the cuts from the last thirty years are worn lower down and show more of the shirt that you are wearing underneath. When denim overall shorts are worn loose-fitting, it has the look of a dress. Any way your wear them, overalls are totally lighthearted and impish. This look is great for anyone who has days when they feel like a kid inside. I have days like that! Don’t you?
28. Tee Shirt Under Spaghetti Straps
This look says “sweetheart” to me, and that is an appropriate word for the ’90s. Jennifer Aniston and Meg Ryan capture the iconic ’90s sweetheart vibe. The tee shirt under spaghetti straps looks innocent and playful. The look is easy to create. You can use a white baby tee or opt for something chunkier and printed, as in the photo above.
29. Goth Tattoo Chokers
Remember these little stretchy plastic chokers? I definitely used to have one, and I loved it! Let’s bring it back this summer. The choker goes back to as early as the 1500s. During the French Revolution, women expressed solidarity to those who’d been guillotined by wearing a red ribbon around their necks. Chokers became popular in the 19th century. In the nineties, they were everywhere! The “tattoo chokers” were especially in. These black netted chokers were worn by goth kids and Sabrina The Teenage Witch fans alike.
30. Adidas Sandals
Oh Adidas sandals, how I loved you! Did you ever own a pair of these? The little rubber knobs massaged your feet as you walked. Delightful! True, these are not the most fashionable footwear out there perhaps, but I think that Sporty Spice would approve! Besides, even a fashionista loves a foot-rub.
Summer styles are fun and playful. Vintage pieces from the ’50s to the ’90s give you a unique look that will sure to start some conversations under the sun. This journey through fashion history made me nostalgic for the past. What about you? What other vintage or retro looks deserve a come-back this summer? Leave a comment below!