Monday, November 19, 2012

The Joy of Separates

I love dresses. I really love dresses. They're an instant outfit - you're co-ordinated without even having to open your eyes, and yet it somehow makes it look as though you made a real effort. But the thing is, dresses don't offer the range of stylistic possibilities that separates provide (which of course is why I'm currently obsessed with sewing skirts, and I'm planning a number of blouses too).

At a time of rationing it was especially important that each garment worked hard to earn its place in one's wardrobe, so it was a chief consideration that every item could do double duty. This feature from 1945 neatly demonstrates how two ensembles can take you from morning to evening:

Everywoman magazine, October 1945

Wear the suit alone - the jacket buttoned up - and you have a jumper suit. Take off the jacket and add our enchantingly pretty blouse (it has a matching camisole) and you could go to any party. An evening date? Switch the coloured skirt for the black one and you are "dressed". If you want a morning outfit put the coloured jacket of the suit with the black skirt and, without spending another penny, you have got another ensemble.

The same theme is picked up again in a 1949 article, extolling the virtues and versatility of a simple full skirt (it recommends light wool, "black would be most useful").

This three-in-one outfit will see you through any festive holiday occasion and - those of you who are going away - your luggage will be lighter than you thought.

Everywoman magazine, December 1949

For morning, a sweater or jersey blouse ("the carefully casual collar and batwing sleeves are very up-to-the-minute"). Pair it with a dainty blouse for afternoon (or Christmas tea). Worn with an off-the-shoulder or strapless number it even makes a stylish evening dress.


  1. Ha, I've been obsessed with sewing skirts too! I love that first picture it is too cute!!! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Well, I'm more into sewing tops... but in the end it comes to the same consent. Seperates are gorgeous and it's a pleasure to combine them^^

  3. Love it! Those are amazing. I've definitely got the skirt sewing thing DOWN, now I need to work on coming up with a collection of blouses to complete the wardrobe.

  4. I'm definitely into separates - I just love the look of a blouse tucked into a skirt. But when I'm shopping I definitely gravitate towards dresses - they're just so pretty. :D

    I have a confession to make that I hope will sound flattering instead of creepy - I read your whole blog! It took me a few weeks but I liked it so I just kept reading all the way back to the beginning. You have a lot of really informative posts - how to put a wardrobe together, dressing for the cold, etc that I found very helpful as I am pretty new to really dressing vintage and wearing the clothes that I like rather than the unobtrusive clothes that nobody will notice me in so I don't ever look like I'm "trying too hard" (not sure why my middle school fears followed me into adulthood). Anyhow, just wanted to say thanks and great blog!

  5. I'm a huge fan of separates, esp. 30s blouses and skirts!

  6. This is very 'me'... strangely although I love the look of dresses I rarely wear them every day.

    Now my skirts and trousers (and MANY tops) on the other hand... they never make it into the wardrobe! If they're not in the wash they are being worn daily.

  7. I love this, can't wait for my 40's suit for christmas,
    Love Lil x

  8. I mostly live in dresses in the Summer and change to separates in the later part of the year.

  9. Look at the teeny tiny waists on these illustrated gals!

    I must say though, they certainly had the mix and match thing down to a fine art!

  10. Count me amongst the separates fans, too. I wear dresses a lot, but separates get a ton of play in my wardrobe, too, especially when I'm just doing run-of-the-mill kinds of things like visiting family or grocery shopping. During the winter in particular, as I don't have all that many (Canadian) winter weight dresses, I really tend to turn to my beloved vintage staples.

    ♥ Jessica

  11. I agree that a dress is quicker and effortless but can't always find them to fit properly so mostly go for separates. These wonderful articles are leaning towards the idea of a capsule wardrobe and I've enjoyed your posts on that topic greatly. I'm just about to start a skirt for my winter capsule wardrobe as I haven't been able to find a vintage one to suit. Then it will be blouses and blouses as they're like gold dust for me! I will be busy. Thank you for sharing these Charlotte! x


I'd love to hear your thoughts!


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