Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cold Weather Vintage: Knitwear

There's more to vintage sweater style than the classic twinset. But it's a good place to start.


Unfortunately vintage knitwear is generally hard to find, and expensive when you do, so we often have to rely on the high street for a reasonable imitation of vintage styles. This is just the briefest of overviews of the three 'main' decades (the ones that most vintage-wearers favour), intended primarily as a guide to help define some of the key features to look out for when shopping the high street for vintage-looking sweaters. Indeed, you might be surprised at how modern some of these look.

There are also some repro knitwear companies - Rocket Originals are my absolute favourite, though they're made in acrylic and acrylic blends.

1934 (how much do I want style C?)

Mid-1930s sweaters - like the dresses of the era - often featured extravagant collars and jabots. Sleeves were either long (note the long cuffs) or short and puffed. Dressier styles were blousy over a fitted waistline, while casual knitwear was unfitted and boxy, and cut long.


Throughout the 1940s knitwear necklines were high and rounded (bad news for the large of bosom looking for a flattering-yet-authentically-vintage style, I'm afraid). Short sleeves are puffed in the early 40s, but lose their puff in the postwar styles. The silhouette is semi-fitted, finishing a little below the waistline.

1943 - yes please to the striped yoke!


knitting pattern, c early 40s


In the 1950s there's a lot more neckline variation coming in - from Peter Pan collars to V-necks (with jaunty neck scarf), square necks, turtlenecks and roll collars. The dolman and Raglan sleeve styles are fashionable around the middle of the decade. Sweater wasitlines sit on the waist or just below; cardigans finish a little lower. Bolero cardigans are popular for dressy wear.

While I'd always recommend wool and cashmere for warmth, from the 1950s onwards acrylic is not only washable and easy to find in modern knits, but also perfectly authentic, having been commercially available since the early 50s.


Knitting pattern, c early-mid 50s





  1. Gorgeous knitwear fashions here, thank you for sharing!

    I decided to start knitting so I could do similar models to these, but alas, I am a slow knitter. I recently also bought Vogue knitting books from 40s and 50s at a antiques shops and now want to do all the items.

  2. You can't beat a good jumper! I just love all those that will "glorify my winter costumes" great post. X

  3. I LOVE knitwear. Just love it. I wish I could wear it all year.

    My favourite jumper at the moment is a deep royal blue roll neck with those classic long cuffs/blousy sleeves and neatly finished waist. It works brilliantly with both a mid century or a modern look - it was a snip last year from Matalan of all places!

  4. Moths love them as much as we do!!!!! That's our bigger problem...
    I own a lot of patterns from the 20's till 50's but don't know how to knitt....

  5. A few of my favorite cardigans are acrylic from the 1950s. I have found they are usually fairly inexpensive, easy to find in a variety of colors, are easy to care for. While I don't love acrylic as a fabric compared to wool or cashmere of course, you can't beat them for easy care as you said. In fact I have one that my mom thrifted in the 80s, I "borrowed" in high school, and have been putting it in the washer/dryer ever since. And it still looks fantastic! Though I am an avid sweater knitter, they fill in some wardrobe gaps nicely. Though what I wouldn't do for an armful of 30s and 40s wool sweaters... swoon! ;)


I'd love to hear your thoughts!


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