Top 5 Tips for Buying A Dress Online that Fits and Flatters

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Everyday we get emails and phone calls from gals wanting to know if our vintage and retro dresses run “true to size”,  or if they run big or small.  Or we are told “I always wear a size 6, but the measurements for the dress I’m interested in suggests I need a size 8″, or “I can’t buy this dress if I have to buy a size 14. I’ve always worn a 10! ”

So I thought it was high time I wrote a blog post that demystifies the whole garment sizing issue, along with my Top 5 dress buying tips that will hopefully help make your online shopping experience a little less frustrating and confusing.

Tip 1. Measure, measure, and measure again!  Before I delve into the mysterious ways of garment making, pattern sizing, fabric choices and designer preferences,  the most important thing you need to know before shopping for a dress is……….YOUR MEASUREMENTS!

Tape measures are way cheaper than trips to the post office and return shipping fees!  We have a guide on our website you can refer to on how to properly measure yourself. It also provides a lot more information about garment sizing.

know your measurements

Always measure yourself first!

 

Tip 2. Ignore the size label-   A lot of people don’t know this, but there really is no size standardization for womens’ apparel.  They tried that years ago and for various reasons it was done away with.  That’s why, today,  there really is no clothing that is “true to size”.  Here’s an enlightening article on why women’s garment sizing makes no sense.  This  is the main reason why you can fit into a size 4 from one designer and a size 8 from another.  It’s doesn’t mean you’ve grown bigger or smaller!  Your measurements are still the same. It’s just that every designer/manufacturer has their own set of sizing standards for their patterns, which has a lot to do with their target customers. Many people refer to it as “Vanity sizing.”    Call it whatever you like, but the best thing to do when shopping for clothing online is to…..IGNORE THE SIZE LABEL  and use the measurement chart* provided, while repeating over and over again “It’s only a number, it’s only a number!”

*A note on size charts-Some companies use generic size charts for all their clothing. This is where it can get tricky. Because measurements  can actually vary  between styles from the same manufacturer. In the case of generic sizing charts, if the company has knowledgeable customer support, they should be able to tell you if a particular style is running true to the measurements listed in their particular size chart. So contact them first to find out.    At Blue Velvet Vintage, because we are a small online boutique, our stockroom people actually have the time to measure every new style that comes in (and if they don’t have the time we make them work 24 hours a day until they get it done) JUST KIDDING!   So that means the measurements in our product descriptions are usually pretty darn close to the actual garment measurements.  That’s why it’s helpful to find an online seller who is actually measuring their products, rather than using a generic chart.  It does  increase your chances of getting  a better fitting dress.

Tip 3. Know your fabrics You have a lot more leeway with fit when the dress you are drooling over for your next party is made of a jersey knit or some other stretchy type material or has a blend of lycra/spandex with something else. So pay close attention  to the fabric content in the description. If the dress is made of a non stretch fabric (called wovens) and you have 38″ hips, then the non-stretch dress size with  36″ hips is NOT GOING TO STRETCH to fit your hips, even if the smaller size has the perfect measurements for your bust and waist.  You always need to choose the size that corresponds with your largest measurement and have the other areas taken in.    Which leads me to this next important tip!

Tip 4. Find a good seamstress   Women come in all shapes and sizes. And the sad truth is  there is no way a designer or manufacturer can make ready to wear “off the rack” dresses that are going to fit every single configuration of body shape out there.  So if you want to expand your wardrobe possibilities,  get over the idea of trying to save money by spending endless hours of browsing for dresses that you think may fit, because you don’t want to pay to have them altered.   With that mindset you severely limit your possibility to have more fabulous dresses in your closet!  Just…..GET YOURSELF A PROFESSIONAL SEAMSTRESS and pay to have her alter your dresses so they fit like they were custom made for you. Even though it will cost you more, you will have way more options for wardrobe choices, knowing you can buy something that doesn’t quite meet your measurements exactly. And trust me on this, you’ll look like you’re wearing a much more expensive dress when you get a fit that is perfect for you!  Especially with evening gowns and other dresses that have form fitting silhouettes made of non stretch fabric,  you should always budget for alterations.  Still beats the expense of a custom dress!  *

*Keep in mind, most clothing nowadays doesn’t have enough seam allowance for letting out.
But most dresses can easily be taken in.

female body shapes chart

Know your shape!

Tip 5. Know your Shape No matter how much you love that 50’s style pencil dress or the mermaid gown with the hourglass silhouette, if your bust, waist and hip measurements are very close (rectangular shape) or you’re a perfect pear shape, then these styles are most likely not going to look flattering on you.   You need to be realistic about your figure. There are lovely silhouettes from every era that will complement and flatter whatever shape you have. Some gals built less curvy can rock the mod 60s look or the 1920s styles. Because  I am more of a pear shape, those styles don’t look good on me. Neither do most pencil dresses.  But I look fab in the 1950s fit and flared silhouettes.  So you just need to figure out which styles are the best for your figure  and purchase accordingly.  This will save you in lost time, return expenses and disappointment.

Ultimately, there are no tips that can positively guarantee you’ll have a 100% foolproof, perfect fit experience every time you’re shopping for dresses online. But, I hope these tips help bring you a bit closer to making your online dress buying experience a bit more stress free!

And any comments you have regarding your trials and tribulations of buying dresses on line are certainly welcome here :)

Have a glamorous day!

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Birthday Tribute to Silent Film Star Dorothy Gish

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Today marks the birthday of Dorothy Gish,  silent film star of the 1920s.   Born on March 11, 1898, many people are familiar with her famous sister, Lillian Gish.  But Dorothy was also a talented actress in her own right, known for her skill at pantomime and her comedic roles.   She had the more outgoing, vivacious personality of the two.  In 1927 her sister wrote of her-

“She is laughter, even on the cloudy days of life. Nothing bothers her or saddens her or concerns her lastingly.”

 

 

Actress Dorothy Gish

Actress Dorothy Gish

Dorothy Gish was only 4 years old when she began her acting career with her sister.  Her mother, also an actress, introduced her daughters to the stage at a young age to help with household expenses. Their father had abandoned the family and Dorothy and Lillian’s mom needed them to work to help pay the bills.

Dorothy and Lillian Gish publicity photo- Orphans of the Storm (1921)

Dorothy and Lillian Gish- Orphans of the Storm 1921

Dorothy and Lillian Gish -Orphans of the Storm 1921

They eventually were befriended by Mary Pickford, another silver screen legend, who later introduced the girls to renowned director D.W. Griffith, who immediately cast them in roles for several movies.  One of his most notable films, and one of the last the sisters starred in together was Orphans of the Storm(1921),  a movie about two orphaned girls during the French Revolution.   In one scene Dorothy was filmed with rats crawling all over her. The director later had to cut the scene because it was considered too horrifying for the general public.    From a 1963 article in the Harvard Crimson, Dorothy was quoted as saying-

Mr. Griffith was excited with the possibilities of a horde of rats, and photographed them covering me.  But I guess the effect was too strong for a ‘twenties’ audience…”

Imagine?  A scene like that would be considered tame by today’s standards!

After her last film appearance with her sister in Romola (1924), she was offered a part  as mistress of the King of England in the British film Nell Gwyn (1926). This was the first time she would star in a film without Lillian and she was really able to shine.   The director, Herbert Wilcox, said “She radiated with the joy of life. It was humor out of the top drawer and sex appeal to boot!”

Dorothy Gish in Nell Gwyn (1926)

Dorothy Gish-Nell Gwyn (1926)

Dorothy Gish-Nell Gwyn (1926)

Dorothy appeared in over 100 films, her first “talkie” being Wolves (1930), a British crime movie.  The “talkies” did not appeal to Dorothy , so she returned to the stage for most of the 1930s and 40s.  She acted in only three more films after that, the last being Otto Preminger’s The Cardinal (1963).  She suffered from ill health the last years of her life and died of pneumonia in 1968, with her sister by her side.

For more facts on the fascinating Dorothy Gish,  see this informative article on the Turner Classic Movies website and the book American Filmmakers Abroad-1945-1945.

Have a glamorous day!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review on “Retro Makeup-Techniques for Applying the Vintage Look”

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Retro Makeup: Techniques for Applying the Vintage Look

Retro Makeup: Techniques for Applying the Vintage Look

Lauren Rennells, author of Vintage Hairstyling, (see my review here)  has recently published another fantastic guide for helping gals get an authentic vintage look, this time with makeup!  Retro Makeup:Techniques for Applying the Vintage Look  has easy to follow tutorials on how to achieve your favorite era specific makeup look.   As you can see from the table of contents, every decade is covered from the 1920s through the 1960s. And you can purchase it here.

Retro Makeup-Table of Contents

Retro Makeup-Table of Contents

There is also plenty of really interesting information on the history of cosmetics and some really fun facts about makeup fads through the ages. For instance, there is something very cool that flappers did to their knees that I never knew about!  But you’ll have to get the book to find out, because I’m not telling!

Retro Makeup-1920s

Retro Makeup-1920s

Just like nowadays, makeup trends were often fueled by celebrities. The chapter for the 1930s explains how to get the glamorous looks of Claudette Colbert, Jean Harlow and Hedy Lamarr, among others!

 

Retro Makeup-1930s

Retro Makeup-1930s

The chapter on 1940s makeup is fascinating, with information on what women did to  conserve lipstick and alternatives they used for various cosmetics due to war rationing.  Some of the tips are certainly still useful today! Makeup tended toward a more natural look and there are tutorials on getting  a Rita Hayworth or Billie Holiday look.

 

Retro Makeup Book-1940s

Retro Makeup-1940s

Here’s the chapter you go to when you want to channel Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn or famous 50s supermodel Suzy Parker.   Lots of variations on the “cat eye” or “winged” liner look, which I absolutely love, but have yet to master. And I’m hoping with the tips in the book, I’ll finally pull it off!

Retro Makeup-1950s chapter

Retro Makeup-1950s chapter

The 1960s chapter covers all the brighter, more colorful,  eye makeup techniques worn with a paler lip. Trends fueled by models like Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton.

There is also great information on makeup brushes, their different sizes and uses, which I found extremely helpful. I don’t know about you, but when I walk into an Ulta and see the vast array of brushes, I am totally baffled by what to do with all of them. Now I know.  Also, great tips on how to decide which red lipstick shades and eyeshadows are most flattering to your skin tone.

And for those who want to delve even further into the whole vintage makeup history thing, there is an extensive bibliography in the back of the book.

In my opinion, this book  is a must have for every vintage loving dame out there!

Have a glamorous day !

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Top Ten Favorite “Old Hollywood” Oscar Dresses

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Well, it’s that time again when millions of us tune in to the Academy Awards to see who gets to go home with a coveted Oscar this year.   But, it’s not only the suspense of seeing who’s going to win the prestigious awards, but also our fascination for glitz and glamour that keep us glued to the screen.  The celebrity  fashions worn on the red carpet are  truly the highlight of the show and they’re discussed, dissected and analyzed at length,  long after the event is over.

Personally, I usually only see a handful of gowns that really impress me, especially since I’m a lover of vintage fashion and classic “Old Hollywood” style evening wear.   Lately, it seems, many actresses are in a contest as to who can pour themselves into the most revealing, ostentatious,  spectacle of a dress.  For many actresses tasteful, classy dressing seems to have gone the way of the panty girdle!  Not that I have an issue with sexy dressing.  I’m certainly not opposed to dresses showcasing your womanly assets. But my opinion is,  if you want to feature a particular body part, please make it a partial revealing and cover up everywhere else.  It’s overkill to have the breasts spilling completely out of a gown, crotch high slit and fabric so sheer and clinging that they are literally one Louboutin clad step away from a major wardrobe malfunction!  I mean, some of these women don’t even look comfortable attempting to navigate the red carpet while trying not to give us all an anatomy lesson!

So I’ve picked my Top Ten Favorite Oscar Fashion Photos from the past. Photos of  actresses wearing elegant, glamorous dresses and  gowns, styles I’d like to see more of when I  watch the Academy Awards!

1.  Audrey Hepburn’s classic style lace dress was originally designed by Edith Head for Roman Holiday (1953) and a special Oscar night version was  adapted by Hubert Givenchy.  Audrey referred to it as her “Lucky Dress” and had all her costumes designed by Givenchy after that.  A couple of years ago it fetched over $130,000 at auction!

Audrey Hepburn and her Oscar for Roman Holiday-1953.

Audrey Hepburn and her Oscar for Roman Holiday-1953.

2. Grace Kelly’s stunning  seafoam green silk gown worn when she accepted the Oscar in 1955  for The Country Girl (1954). was designed by famous Hollywood costumer,  Edith Head.

Grace Kelly accepts Oscar for The Country Girl (1954)

Grace Kelly accepts Oscar for The Country Girl (1954)

3.  Here is Donna Reed standing with “Ol Blue Eyes” while accepting her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in From Here to Eternity (1953). Love her full skirted gown with the strapless sweetheart bodice and waist flattering ruching.  Definitely a classy, ladylike look!

Donna Reed with Frank Sinatra accepting Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in From Here to Eternity (1953)

Donna Reed with Frank Sinatra accepting Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in From Here to Eternity (1953)

4. Though she didn’t win an Oscar in 1954, Grace Kelly showed up  looking smashing in a sequin embroidered dress, accessorized by the handsome Clark Gable!

Grace Kelly and Clark Gable at 1954 Academy Awards

Grace Kelly and Clark Gable at 1954 Academy Awards

5.  Norma Shearer wore a sleek, drapey brocade gown to accept her Oscar for Best Actress in The Divorcee (1930).
The  flowers at the waist and the little fur cuffs on the jacket are lovely extra touches.

Norma Shearer accepting her Oscar for the Divorcee 1930

Norma Shearer accepting her Oscar for The Divorcee 1930

6.  Annette Funicello accepting an honorary Oscar for Hayley Mills, who was out of the country at the time. Both she and her presenter, Shirley Temple,
are wearing lovely dresses that are very sophisticated for young ladies.  Though Ms. Temple’s hairdo look a bit matronly, I’m loving Annette’s updo!

Annette Funicello accepting an honorary Oscar from Shirley temple

Shirley Temple presenting an honorary Oscar  to Annette Funicello-1961

7. In 1961 Shirley Jones accepted her Oscar for Best Actress in Elmer Gantry (1960) wearing this sparkly gold and champagne tulle dress with cropped bolero jacket.

Shirley Jones accepting her Oscar for Elmer Gantry - 1960

Shirley Jones accepting her Oscar for Elmer Gantry – 1960

8.   No list of classic red carpet dresses would be complete without a Marilyn Monroe dress! This black sequined tulle mesh
beauty has that ever flattering sweetheart bodice with off the shoulder sleeves that add just the right hint of bareness.
Of course,  with the famous star’s gorgeous hairstyle and makeup and elegant, understated jewelry, the combination
is simply breathtaking!

Marilyn Monroe attended 1951 Academy Awards in this black mesh dress

Marilyn Monroe attended 1951 Academy Awards in this black sequined tulle dress

9. Elzabeth Taylor with husband, Mike Todd, at the 1957 Academy Awards, where he won a Best Director Oscar for Around the World in 80 Days.
I’m totally smitten with her Grecian style gown and that sparkly diamond tiara!

Elizabeth Taylor and Mike Todd at 1950 Academy Awards

Elizabeth Taylor and Mike Todd at 1957 Academy Awards

 10. And last, but certainly not least, Vivien Leigh in this fabulously feminine floral  number designed by Irene Lentz.
She wore it in 1940 to accept her Best Actress Oscar for Gone With the Wind (1939).

Vivien Leigh accepting her Best Actress Oscar for Gone With the Wind

Vivien Leigh accepting her Best Actress Oscar for Gone With the Wind

Which one is your favorite?

 

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Rita Hayworth Inspired Glamour Gowns

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One of my all time favorite classic films is You Were Never Lovelier (1942) starring Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth.  It has everything I love in a movie-music, dancing, comedy,  romance AND  glamorous fashions!   The costumes were designed by none other than Irene Lentz,  the legendary Hollywood designer.  And though I’ve seen this movie at least four times, I never tire of watching it, especially for the exquisite gowns Ms. Hayworth wears.  Beautiful evening  dresses with full,  flowing chiffon skirts, lace overlays, appliques, sequins and illusion netting. Watching her artfully glide across the dance floor in these stunning creations never ceases to put a smile on my face!

So when I began to source some new evening gown styles for the website I had these dresses on my mind. They are so romantic that I wanted to find styles that reminded me of that Old Hollywood feminine elegance of the 1940s that Rita Hayworth captured so well in the film.

Here are some publicity photos from the movie to illustrate the types of gowns Ms. Hayworth wore. Notice she is well covered, but there is always a little teasing hint of sheerness, a bare shoulder or back, a titillating glimpse of skin,  making for a very sexy, yet still very classy look.  These outfits certainly prove you don’t have to bare everything to look sensual and womanly.

Photos of Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire in You Were Never Lovelier (1942)

Photos of Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire in You Were Never Lovelier (1942)

So after some extensive searching I came up with this lovely selection of gowns below.  They’ve definitely got that classic glamour vibe that I so admire and think any of them would make you the star at any formal event, such as a prom or wedding. An occasion where “you were never lovelier” , just like Rita!

Rita Hayworth inspired gowns

Rita Hayworth inspired gowns

Click on links below for color images and more information!

1. Dusty pink chiffon gown  with silver embroidery, sequins and rhinestones.
2. Black chiffon gown with sequined lace overlaying a champagne satin bodice, black satin corset style waistband with rhinestone jewel accent.
3.  Elegant black gown with a full, silky skirt, mesh bodice covered in sequined, beaded lace appliques.
4. Strapless sweetheart bodice gown with gold embroidered design, rhinestones and beading, black chiffon over champagne full skirt.

 

Have a glamorous day!

 

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