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Want to incorporate some retro or vintage items into your wardrobe, but aren’t sure where to start? As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m in the midst of a blog project in which I’m sewing every fashion from a 1952 book called Vogue’s New Book for Better Sewing. The book is comprised of 14 essential items for a well-rounded wardrobe. So far, I’ve made 7 or the 14 projects, and having these basics has transformed the way I dress.

Here are five great fundamental pieces that you can make too. These are all easy to sew, and they can be effortlessly integrated into a contemporary wardrobe. For instance, I’ll pair a pencil skirt with a modern knit top, or my bow-tied blouse with jeans and heels. Just because you like vintage doesn’t mean you have to dress like you’re going to a sock-hop!

1. The full skirt

A full skirt is a versatile piece that can be paired with blouses, jackets, or even tank tops. Slip on a pair of brightly-colored pumps and you’re good to go. Try my tutorial to make a gathered skirt like the one above or if you prefer a circle skirt without a gathered waist, try the Linda pattern here on BurdaStyle.

2. The high-waisted pencil skirt

Pencil skirts are a flattering wardrobe staple. Add a high waistband and it’s a classic retro look. I love to make them in jewel-toned wool crepe, like the emerald green one above made from Burda 8155. Also try the new Jenny Variation A or the Kasia skirt.

3. The sheath dress

A classic! Make it in any and every fabric, from wool flannel to duchess satin. With a square neckline and a matching fabric belt, this screams 50’s glamour. In cold weather, wear it as a jumper with a cashmere sweater, tights, and boots!

4. The bow-tied blouse

Also called a “secretary blouse,” this is a piece that always looks polished. I made mine in baby blue wool jersey and it’s comfy and chic for the office. Try BurdaStyle’s adorable Ute blouse or the keyhole version of the Sencha blouse from the brand-new line of Colette Patterns.

5. The cropped jacket

I don’t know how I lived without my black velveteen bolero (paired with my bow-tied blouse above!). I wear it with dresses, jeans, you name it. Try Burda 7686 for a similar effect.

Okay, your turn! What retro basics can you not live without?


  • Missing

    Dec 10, 2009, 09.30 AMby sweet-saboo

    Any kind of body-skimming sleeveless tunic vest, which sounds boring & bland, but i have upcycled several – with the fit & proportion of a 1960’s mini dress (skimming over the body, sometimes with a waist-tie in the back, ending at or near fingertip length when your arm rests next to your side). One is in purple stretch velvet, one is in a caramel rib knit, another is a melon-colored indian ebroidered tie-tye rayon, and another one is in a bias-cut linen plaid in shades of celandon & turquoise, another one in a black windowpane plaid, and another in a red cotton with variegated ochre-colored pinstripes (great with khahis in summertime). These are so comfortable to wear with jeans, leggings, and a little bolero tie-front sweater….i’ve also worn the less bohemian versions of these tops for work, layered under hip-length blazer, with slim black pants.

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    Dec 5, 2009, 09.38 PMby amandahaas

    I cant say. All are an essential. I know I have all those essentials in my closet. :)

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    Dec 5, 2009, 07.42 PMby starryeyes11

    The shirtdress/shirtwaist dress. Throw one on with some cute ballet flats in the summer, or over some tights/leggings in the winter and you’re good to go!

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    Dec 5, 2009, 12.10 PMby nikkishell

    I love the 50’s style. I’ve just about finished making the Jenny skirt, i have a couple of Kasia skirts and a Heidi dress. I need a good cropped jacket (or two) and lots of basic tops to mix and match.

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    Dec 5, 2009, 11.07 AMby mprevitali

    I have to find a pattern for a dress like yours! It’s so glamor ! I love it and you look so beautiful!

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    Dec 5, 2009, 10.21 AMby nessys

    Darl, you are the Queen of Vintage and the Queen of GLAMOR! I am in awe of you and your creations. That pencil skirt fits like a glove and the bow-tied blouse and cropped jacket combo are the cats pajamas! Love it!

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    Dec 5, 2009, 09.13 AMby frkbustad

    I think is must be the pencil skirt, but I’m also planning on making more than one “shirt-dress” with wide skir, and hope that’ll be the hit for me.

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    Dec 5, 2009, 09.08 AMby twohippos

    I love the sheath dress, I have made a few and they are just fab. A pencil slirt has also made it into my wardrobe and am planning on making another for before Christmas, perfect with a cute pair of heels!

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    Dec 5, 2009, 06.54 AMby claireokc

    OMG – I remember my first sheath dress and the zipper – I was pencil thin at the time, so fit wasn’t a problem, but getting that zipper in straight was a major accomplishment which I was unashamedly proud!

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    Dec 4, 2009, 09.16 PMby ashchaser

    Mine is a simple navy and white polka dot high waisted skirt, it’s perfect for cold weather since it is made from doublecloth, yet still good in warm weather too.

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    Dec 4, 2009, 06.38 PMby nenasew

    Love the 1950’s look. I love the red dress. It looks fiftish but so wearable today.

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    Dec 4, 2009, 05.56 PMby Juliana Mateus

    I still don’t have one, but – to be focusing on VoNBBS – I think the portrait blouse is a MUST. I’m looking for the pattern….

    you look awesome in the sheath dress. the color….. ahhh.

    • This is a question
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