Thursday, February 2, 2012

The elements of style: collars and necklines

Literally my favorite element of vintage clothing. I could do at least five posts about collars and necklines without breaking a sweat. This one probably counts as two, at any rate.

A7964Gallery Simplicity 4408
Peter Pan
Large or small, this collar is unique and distinguishable by its rounded (rather than pointed) edges. I think of Peter Pan when I see this collar, but also of English nannies in the first half of the 20th century. And brooches. They look very nice with brooches, if you're going for that high-necked collar look.
mccall's halter 3633, 1956
mccall halter 8449 
Halter top
A summery look brought into style largely by Marilyn Monroe, this neckline is timeless and classic, and always alluring. Halters are sometimes backless, and sometimes high-necked with a cross-hatched back. This chic look was popular for dresses - formal and informal - and mostly it was worn with a jacket.
I like it because it drapes, but not in the way a "draping neckline" drapes. It is like a shawl, and provides emphasis for the face and neck because it simplifies the shoulders. I particularly like this one by Doris Dodson - it is elegant and emphasizes the waist well. The pattern to the left is also lovely because it again frames the neck and takes emphasis away from the shoulders.
You can read about the history of the Doris Dodson label and of the rise of "Juniors" fashion here.
from from
Very romantic in every version. Whether it's a heavily-draped cowl or draped delicately just below the neck, this neckline has an air of regality and elegance.
In the 1950s, this neckline (as you can see) was generally seen on dresses rather than blouses. A draped neckline on a blouse would be difficult to get into without the necessary buttons near the collar (either in the front or back, for which this style is not suited). Thus, a blouse with this neckline - although quite romantic in its own right - would look quite different.
from S1685Gallery<
My favorite! So feminine and interesting to look at. In a way, I think I like it because it draws attention to the neck, and also because it adds something to the whole hourglass figure - another hourglass at the top.
Sidenote: I love the dress in this picture not just for the neckline but also for the dropped waist. The hourglass shape is quite defined, but the waistline of the dress falls at the hips. *sigh* What I wouldn't do for a dress like this!
I always think this style is more provocative than strapless (but then, I think strapless tops of any kind are boring and a waste of worlds of creativity).
I often think of the 1978 movie Grease (set in the 1950s) when I see this neckline. It is, I think, most suited to evening gowns, but is famously seen on Sandy's blouse paired with cigarette pants.
Perhaps the only strapless gowns I like are those seen in White Christmas, and that's probably because of the chiffon, not the cut. They were seen on rompers as well as gowns, as you can see. Strapless tops of any kind were very different than what we have today. First of all, there was this wonderful thing called boning that created the shape and kept it that way.
Girdles gained popularity during the 1950s because they were made with elastic and one didn't need help to get it on. However, Christian Dior's New Look of the 1940s and 50s did revive the corset in the form of a waist cincher, or waspie.
S1127 Gallery Vintage 1950's sleeveless summer tops sewing pattern M3550 Gallery
(Sleeveless) Square, Straight, and Round
These three have never been favorites with me, but with the ever-present hourglass shape in the 1950s, they were good simple options. Emphasis is a curious thing, and I think with these three necklines the hourglass was made more poignant because there wasn't a lot of excitement going on at the neck, so one paid more attention to a slender waist. Sometimes blouses like these weren't even darted or tailored - one had to rely on a belt to tuck it all together.
Vintage blouse pattern
simplicity blouse 3882, 1952
A simple neckline full of possibilities, as you can see from these patterns. I love when blouses with this neckline are edged in lace or ribbon.
I also prefer this for gowns (tea- or floor-length) because it accentuates one's hourglass shape, widening the shoulder slightly to counterbalance the waist. This is a great option if you have an athletic build because it gives the impression of more sloping (rather than square) shoulders.
Advance 6326 simplicity blouse 3459
Though this neckline has the potential to be really boring, I often like it because it allows you to focus on your accessories. I have several blouses with lace collars that make for a nice background for a brooch or string of beads. Accessories such as those are more difficult with the other necklines outlined here. And as you can see from the pictures, they don't have to be as boring as that at all. Some are quite creatively done.
I hope you enjoyed this expostulation of 1950s collars and necklines! I encourage you to add to your wardrobe with this element in mind, and as always, enjoy the process. Finding vintage garments can be a challenging task, especially for those of us not a size 0, and makes every piece a treasure. Tune in again for another style elemental soon!

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