Nothing New Under the Fashion Sun


September 17, 2013

There is nothing new under the sun.

This is something my Mama used to say a lot. Peggy was a seamstress and a tailor, and she had a keen eye for fashion. She’s the one who taught me that fashion repeats itself every twenty years or so.

I have been a fan of Project Runway since the first season. I love it when the judges say, “We’ve seen this before.” Truer words were never spoken. While it may be that some of the designers on the show are One Trick Ponies,  what’s closer to the truth is that 90% of the designs have been around since the 1920s – if not earlier.

So, let’s start with three examples of fabulous dress styles from the 1950s. Just because I love the era.

All photos from

From Left to right, we have an open back modified halter style cocktail dress once owned by Lauren Bacall.
I’d guess this was rather risqué for it’s day.
The middle dress is a divine Hankie Hemline number with wonderful detail at the waistline.
On the far right we have a beautifully draped evening gown in shades of the ocean.

There is nothing wrong with re-vamping a great design. Adding a twist to a tried & true style has been the mode of many great designers throughout time. Think of the Egyptian Revival look or the Grecian Goddess, still very much used for evening gowns. Many women still love the structured suit made popular by Joan Crawford in the 1940s. Coco Chanel designed wonderfully detailed suits, as did Gilbert Adrian, most commonly known as simply Adrian.

I have seen very similar designs not just on Project Runway, but on the catwalk at Fashion Week, on designer boutique websites, and on modern retail sites.

Left to right : / /

Left to right : / /
All three of the dresses shown are from 2013 collections.

It isn’t as if today’s designers suddenly rediscovered these great looks, either.

I found all of these wonderful Vintage 1970s & 80s dresses on


(L)The modified halter dress from the 70s can be found at
(It comes with an adorable bolero jacket!)
(M)The 1970s sleeveless hanky hem dress is from
(Love how it’s shown with Modern High Heels!)
(R)The beautiful black & white 80s dress is from
(It really takes draping to a new level!)

So, if you just love the new designs, make note of the key words used when their pieces are described.
You can almost always find very similar garments from another era. They are usually better made and with more sumptous fabrics.
This is just one of the many reasons it is smart to mix eras. Pairing modern accessories with a vintage garment can make an ‘old’ look brand new again.

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13 Responses to Nothing New Under the Fashion Sun

  1. heindesign says:

    Informative and fantastic photos! Love it!

  2. Heather says:

    Great blog!

  3. cinthia505 says:

    You have a gift. : ))

  4. Marc Joseph says:

    How true! Everything I see is revamped from another era. Walking into a Kate Spade store looks like 1963. They do it well, but the quality is nowhere near the same as the originals.

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