Everyone remembers the iconic scene in Grease when plain Jane Sandy trades in her ponytail and poodle skirts for red lipstick and a leather catsuit that electrifies Danny so much they feel the need to burst into song and dance. Good gravy, I only wish an outfit I wore would have that effect on people! But, there is a way to get as close as you can…
This edgy style was most popular amongst the rebellious young women of the 1950s, divided into a variety of subculture groups dubbed as greasers, rockabilly, and pin-up looks. While there are a few subtle differences between these three looks, they are all rooted in the idea of women sticking it to the man and not being afraid to flaunt their assets.
When you think of the classic vintage pin-up girl look, you probably think of the twenty-something-year-old women with tattoos who populate rock n’ roll concerts and not forty-five-year-old women who spend all day working in a cubicle. But women in their 40s absolutely deserve to feel like a sexy bombshell as often as they want to! Why restrict that kind of feeling to date nights and going out on the town? Of course, with this style there is definitely a limit of how sexy you want to look at work and still appear professional while also not looking like you’re dressing up in a Halloween costume, but even a few little tweaks to your normal workwear style can boost up the volume and make you walk a little taller as if you really are Sandy flying away in that cherry red vintage car at the end of Grease.
Not too long ago, my new assistant Natalie started working with me and I found myself admiring her relaxed, vintage vibes that inspired me to write this blog and do a cool photoshoot at the local skate park together. The thing I loved the most was her enormous collection of square handkerchief scarves, folded and tied up in her hair. When I asked her where she got so many, she says most of them were inherited from her grandmother, but the others she purchased for a dollar at a garage sale! You can find so many different colors and styles at vintage clothing stores, but you might even have a few hanging out at home already. You can wear your hair up in a french twist, in cute space buns, or down in a braid, or just let it all hang loose and curly; just fold your scarf a few times and tie it in a knot on top of your head, tucking in the ends. Voila! Pin-up hair. Putting your hair up in a fun colored scarf is such a simple way to add an extra bit of boom-boom to your daily look even if you don’t change anything else!
The greasers of the 1950s blessed us all with the popularization of black leather jackets, accented with silver zippers and a popped collar. As we transition into fall especially, making a sexy black leather jacket your go-to outer layer on chilly mornings will certainly bring you a wave of butt-kicking confidence that will make you seriously consider purchasing a motorcycle or vintage convertible. If you aren’t feeling like being a full fledged punk chick at work and prefer to err on the side of sweet and conservative, adding a leather jacket on top of your usual workwear gives you an instant bump and creates some intriguing contrast that you can remove during the day and throw back on for a post work cocktail with your office buds. It’s almost as if it transforms you into some kind of magical undercover pop star– Hannah Montana, is that you under all that leather?
A Curvaceous Silhouette
One thing that really sticks out for me about pin-up fashion is how the silhouettes of the different pieces accentuate your bodacious bod. It’s refreshing to see a kind of fashion that breaks away from the traditional long and lean look we see in most high fashion modeling and instead focuses on flaunting a different kind of shape where women of many shapes and sizes can embrace the style. Think about our curvy heros Kim K and Joan from Mad Men. Don’t have many curves of your own? Don’t sweat it! Luckily it’s super easy to trick the eye into adding a few extra for the day without needing to turn to the more expensive route like Kim does… A slender pencil skirt that hugs your bum paired with a wide belt nips in your waist and draws the eye to your hips to make you like Shakiria because those hips certainly don’t lie.
This sexy silhouette is definitely not at all about showing skin, so don’t worry, I’m not telling you to wear all your super short skirts or low cut tops to strut around the office now– that is still pretty much a no no. What makes this style awesome is its ability to be sexy without being too revealing. A skirt that extends just past the knee or a boat-neck sweater exude both sexiness and classiness at the same time. The beauty of this style is that you can take some of the more daring sexy pieces and pair them with something a little more tame from your wardrobe, allowing you to bring the exact level of va-va-voom to your ensemble that you feel is appropriate for the occasion.
Patterns and Colors that Pop
If the traditional form fitting pin-up silhouette is not for you, there are still plenty of ways that you can channel the vintage era via certain patterns and colors. Most often, the signature colors of the rockabilly universe are black, white, navy, and of course, a pop of ultra rich cherry red. Putting on a bright red lipstick, red pumps, or red hair scarf creates and instant transformation to any outfit. Some patterns every pin-up babe can’t get enough of are bold stripes, polkadots, plaid, and some risky novelty patterns like anchors, fruit, hearts, or animals. Without even changing your most comfortable flattering silhouettes that have been working for you, taking a risk with some wild patterns makes you the edgiest chick at the water cooler.
Kitten or T-Strap? …or Both?
Of course, how can I possibly leave shoe choice out of this blog? I am so obsessed with my brand new black kitten heels from Vionic with the most adorable cheetah print accent across the top. The height of these heels are so amazing because they are comfortable enough to wear all day at work and dance all through the night as well. Women of the 1950s loved a good kitten heel and it’s easy to see why! If you are looking for something a bit more dramatic, Natalie chose a sky high velvet maroon t-strap heel for this photoshoot from Modcloth. T-strap heels, named because of the t-shaped strap that goes up the center of the foot and also around the ankle, come in a variety of heights so you can be sure that the Cinderella t-strap shoe is out there somewhere waiting for you. This unusual style will make your footwear stand out in a crowd no matter what you choose to wear on top!
A Cateye That Makes You Say Me-Yow!
Cat suits, cheetah prints, kitten heels, Cateye glasses, and Cateye eyeliner? I couldn’t say why exactly, but for some reason greaser girls love their cats. I wouldn’t be surprised if the kitty ear headband trend was around in the 1950s that the alternative girls would be all over it. Cat Woman knew what she was doing when she decided to become a Batman villain by choosing cats as her schtick– it definitely wouldn’t be the same if she decided to become Dog Woman or Guinea Pig Woman. A fabulous way to vibe the glam vintage edge in a subtle yet effective way is to throw on a hot black winged cat eyeliner. Using a felt tipped eyeliner marker in the darkest black you can find such as Stila’s Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner or Urban Decay’s Kat Von D Tattoo Liner will give you that extra crisp, bold look in just a minute or two. Pop on a pair of big false lashes for an extra bit of wow before going out for a night on the town. If you lack the mastery of drawing on a pair of matching cat eyes, there are so many great Youtube videos out there to show you how! Pair this with a red hot lip and you will bring the fire to any room you enter.
Learning to Walk Tall
This sexy vintage style can look a little intimidating at first glance and make you wonder if you’re cool enough to pull it off, but trust me, as soon as you embrace just a taste of this look with something small like a scarf or a pair of shoes or a new color palette, an instant new found confidence will envelope your entire personality. During this photoshoot, I felt like those bad girls back in high school who would skip class to hide behind the gym to smoke cigarettes, but as a 45-year-old adult woman, I knew I could take that same badass energy and channel it towards my confidence in the workplace and show everyone who is boss.
Photo credit: @colorandgrace // @v.stoimirov
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