February 6, 2012

Building a rainbow of vintage dresses


Perhaps it's because I'm a child of the 80s, a decade bedecked with Lisa Frank stickers, that I find myself drawn towards rainbows, or maybe it's because I spent a part of my life living in Ireland, the country that all but claims to have invented this meteorological phenomenon. Or it could be the fact I've always adored the fascinating world of colours. Whatever the case, I've long found myself drawn toward  broad array of colours and love arranging items around my house in rainbow patterns, where applicable.

Take my closet for example, each item of clothing in it is arranged by type, and some further by subtype, and each of those categories is arranged in a rainbow inspired order starting with pale pink and ending in midnight black.

Organizing my wardrobe in such away makes finding the garments I'm looking for when I get dressed an absolute breeze and also helps me to quickly know where gaps in my wardrobe exist (e.g., if I'm missing wardrobe staple like a white button down blouse or black pair of pumps).

Like many of us, I've been building up my vintage dress collection gradually over the years. As each new (technically "old") dress found its journey had landed it in my closet, it was placed in order of where it fell on the colour spectrum, sandwiched between a lighter and a darker hues (unless of course it was the palest or blackest piece in my dress collection).

Last week, in preparation for our upcoming cross country move, I began packing up a lot of my wardrobe. Leaving out only the pieces which I'll be wearing between then and now, and which will be travelling with me in my suitcase. It's always a little odd to suddenly open your closest and see the bulk of your wardrobe gone, but at the same time, I'm excited about the fact that I'll soon have a larger closet in my new house to hang all of those now packed items of clothing up in.

As I took each dress out of the closet, wrapping it in archival paper and fabric safe plastic, sandwiching layers of bubble wrap, where applicable, I was struck by just how much of the rainbow my humble dress collection has come to represent.

There are holes in the spectrum still for sure - dresses in shades of orange and yellow are sparse, and I could use more in the deep green and navy blue field, too - but overall I've got the makings of a delightful sartorial rainbow.

This process didn't happen over night by any means, and I believe that it will always be a work in progress. Even if every main colour was accounted for, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of possible shades that one could always expand the breadth of the rainbow with. A thought that can't help but make me smile!

Given that my own dress collection is carefully packed up right now and awaiting life in its new closet in British Columbia, I thought it would oodles of fun to put together a sampling of vintage dresses, all handpicked from etsy (which seems especially fitting, given that so many of my own frocks were found there), that span the classic Roy G. Biv colour spectrum for you to enjoy - and who knows, perhaps even grow your own wardrobe rainbow with.

{Sweet and cheerful as the cotton candy its hue resembles, this classic pale pink button front dress is such a charming way to help your wardrobe hop back into warm weather dressing once more. Fits 38" bust/27" waist; price $52.00; available from Bohemian Bisoux Vintage.}

{Elegantly lovely as the first blushing carnations of spring, this wonderful pink lace vintage frock would be perfect for everything from afternoon teas to PTA meetings. Fits 38" bust/32" waist; price $80.00; available from Vintage Frocks of Fancy.}

{Sporting a darling fluffy white angora collar, this medium (as in hue intensity) red wool jersey dress, with matching belt, calls to mind a bowl of fresh strawberries drizzled with milk, and would be equally fitting for Christmas or a sunny July day (thanks to the short sleeves). Fits 36" bust/27" waist; price $124.00; available from The Vintage Mistress.}

{Fresh, vibrant and timelessly tailored, this deep crimson 1940s rayon dress would be so fantastically well suited to Valentine's Day. Fits 40" bust/29" waist; price $98.00; available from The Greedy Seagull.}

{There is a certain lovely quaintness to this soft peach hued dress that draws you in. Perhaps it's the upbeat hue or the dainty lace collar, and of course one can't forget the sweet tie waist either. Whatever it is, this wonderful 1950s dress is just the sort I'd be on the prowl for if I needed a pale orange frock right now. Fits 32-34" bust/32" waist; price $38.00; available from VintageNsome.}

{Bursting with a sunflower field's hues and boasting a super cute Peter Pan collar, this wonderful 1950s yellow and orange floral print cotton sundress is the sort of garment that cannot help but lift your spirits every time you put it on it. Fits 34" bust/25-26" waist; price $205.00; available from Simplicity is Bliss.}

{Zesty, fiery, and fabulous, this deep, bright orange wiggle dress is a stellar way to wear a lot of bold colour, yet still be as classy and gorgeous as the day is long. Fits 35" bust/34" waist ; price $33.80; available from Atticville.}

{Beautifully redolent of a springtime chick's fuzzy, downy feather, this happily hued yellow dress is so sophisticated, youthful, and becoming. Perfect for fancier daytime events or for an evening of fun when the sun sets, this is the kind of solid coloured, but in absolutely no way boring, vintage dress that everyone's wardrobe needs. Fits 36" bust/25" waist; price $125.00; available from Vintage Frocks of Fancy.}

{Like an autumnal wheat field gleaming in the soothing sun of a warm October afternoon, this golden hued vintage dress and bolero combo is a sure fire way to garner compliments. Fits; 28-29" bust (with a little extra room due to the design of the dress)/24" waist; price $88.00; available from Adeline's Attic.}

{Serenely done up in a becoming shade of celadon, this beguiling 1940s evening dress and matching jacket almost look like a shimmering treasure plucked from a mermaid's closet, and would definitely ensure all eyes were on you. Fits 36" bust/28" waist; price $148.00; available from Blacklist Vintage.}

{Calling to mind the first new shoots and blades of grass that spring returns to the earth, this beautiful green floral dress from the 1940s is as classic and lovely as they possibly come. Fits 38-40" bust/30" waist; price $83.00; available from Very Vintage Store.}

{Medium to dark hues of green have always been a favourite of mine (especially hunter and pine), so naturally my attention was instantly drawn to this fetchingly pretty emerald coloured knit wiggle dress (which is actually a matching sweater and skirt) from the forties. Fits 36-38" bust (with some stretch)/28-30" waist; price $275.00; available from Timeless Vixen Vintage.}

{I think that blue is one of the best and most versatile of all colours, as many of its shades have a natural affinity to partner so well with other hues. This lovely soft baby blue belted, button front vintage frock, for example, would look terrific with everything from red to camel, chocolate to ivory - making it a terrific wardrobe staple for sure. Fits 36" bust/25" waist; price $62.00; available from Center Stage Vintage.}


{Inviting, wonderfully relaxing shades of blue that call to mind a tropical sea reside on this darling 1950s floral print dress, complete with matching belt. I love hues like this for the dog days of summer, when anything darker is out of the question, but you don't quite feel like wearing plain white either. Fits Bust 34"/waist 44"; price $64.00; available from Vint Condition.}

{A navy blue vintage dress, like this elegant embroidered cotton example, is one of the hues in the rainbow of my closet that is currently missing - a fact which I'd love to rectify at some point during 2012. Too bad this beauty isn't my size, or I would have swopped down on it in a flash! Fits 50" bust/40" waist; price $85.00; available from Honey Bear Vintage.}

{There is such a gentle, flattering appeal to this pale dusty lilac hued 1950s dress, that's further enhanced by its trio of plum coloured buttons and charming pleated pockets. Fits 42" bust/32" waist; price $68.00; available from Raleigh Vintage.}

{You'll feel regal and playful all at once in this fantastic purple party dress from the 1950s. Pair it with hues as diverse as gold, coral, mint, or silver for an outfit that's bursting with style and pizzazz. Fits 36" bust/26" waist; price $115.00; available from Small Earth Vintage.}

{Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved wearing velvet frocks come the holiday season, especially those in rich, captivating jewel tones like this gorgeous eggplant hued charmer from the 1950s. Fits 35" bust/25" waist; price $55.00; available from Nicola's Vintage.}

There are many perks to building a rainbow of vintage dresses. Far beyond how beautiful it looks unto itself, it means that you'll rarely, if ever, find yourself in need of a garment in a certain colour and not having at least one dress in that hue. This point is a constant source of fashion related comfort for me, the perpetual Girl Guide, who always likes to be prepared.

If you're the type who likes to dress up your frocks further by wearing cardigans, scarves, blouses (underneath jumpers or sheaths), coloured hosiery or shoes, having dresses in all manner of hues means that you can accessorize to the moon and back. You can also pick out your dress colour for the day based on your mood, the season, a holiday, or anything that inspires you.

And speaking of inspiration, having a good selection of different coloured vintage dresses makes it all the more easy to emulate a yesteryear look you happen see  and love (for example in an old movie or vintage magazine), without having to spend any money in the moment on a new frock.

It's exciting to think about how my vintage rainbow of dresses will continue to expand as the years continue, and I look forward to sharing many of my beloved frocks with all of you in future wardrobe posts once we're settled into our new home.

For the moment though, I hope today's spectrum of vintage dresses inspires you and your own colourful closet, and would love to hear about your own vintage wardrobe rainbows.


  1. So many beautiful dresses. This post had me drooling!

  2. such pretty dresses! and i LOVED lisa frank, too, especially her unicorn stuff :) i've always been drawn to cheerful, bright, happy colors. especially with clothing, and dresses in particular. i also have a weakness for prints, especially wacky novelty prints, and florals, too... i looove a good floral print!

  3. i would SO buy that second red one with the tie collar if it were my size. i rarely wear very colorful clothing but have lately developed an affinity for red.

  4. How cute this was. I too place my clothes in my closet in rainbow order. The examples of vintage dresses were adorable. What a cute blog!!!! I hope you have a good move!

  5. All of them are adorable and classy.