Who Said I Can’t Wear Brown?

1930s brown and green outfit

Well, me actually! At least that’s what I used to tell myself before I started getting inspired by other vintage bloggers who seemed to pull off brown with amazing finesse. In my eyes brown has always been a dank, fuddy-duddy colour worn by older ladies with no clue about style. They chose brown as an alternative to black and filled their wardrobes with it. But no more, brown is definitely the new black!

At the beginning of the year I set myself a goal to add some brown to my wardrobe. At first I was rather skeptical about it, not really sure it suited me or if I would like it at all. However, when my favourite fabric shop, Clothspot, added a rather stunning brown wool crepe to their website I immediately ordered a sample. I fell in love straight away. It wasn’t just brown, oh no, it was a mix of brown, bronze and black and it was gorgeous. I had to have it!

1930s brown and green outfit

When the fabric arrived I instantly knew I wanted to make a long slimline 1930s skirt that could be a real staple in my wardrobe. I already had an original pattern I’d bought from Top Tottie Vintage that would perfect for it and I set to work. The first thing I will say is this fabric is an absolute dream to work with. It sits exactly where you place it, it’s a breeze to cut out and presses so beautifully. It also has that fabulous 100% wool smell that always brings back memories of when I worked for a tailor. I would love it if Clothspot offered this in many other colour ways. I’d be first in the queue to buy some!

The skirt was really simple to make, just two pieces, a front and a back. The back has two darts in it and the waistband was simply a strip of fabric. I finished it off with an invisible zip in the side and a bronze button I had in my stash. I try to do as many authentic finishes to my work now and always add the zip on the side. However, I do find invisible ones are just so much neater than the more traditional lapped ones. I’m sure if invisible zips had been around in the 30s women would’ve used them a lot too. (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!).

I lined it with my favourite type of lining, a lightweight crepe. I hate modern polyester lining, I find it way too stiff and this skirt definitely needed something more fluid. The drape on the wool is gorgeous and I just didn’t want anything to spoil it.  I buy my lightweight crepe from Cheap Fabrics and it’s only £1.89 a metre. However, don’t be shocked when it turns up all crumpled (yes, that’s happened!), it presses out beautifully.

I added a cute 1930s style triangle pocket to the front, which wasn’t on the original pattern, because it looked a bit plain as it was. It really needed something to add a bit of interest and I think this works perfectly. I also made a belt from the same fabric and had a buckle covered by London Button Company. I didn’t wear this in these photos because I wanted a tan belt to team with the shoes but it’s always nice to have a choice.

Green and brown stripe vintage blouse

Just after I finished making the skirt I stumbled across this beautiful cotton 1950s blouse at Shepton Mallet Flea Market. I immediately knew it would go with the brown of the skirt and I was so happy when I tried it on and it fitted. Despite being 1950s it has a real 1930s look about it and I’m always a sucker for a big bow. I’ve worn and washed this blouse many times since and, after a press, it comes out perfectly every time. They just don’t make clothes like that anymore, do they?

1930s outfit - Vintage Gal

I teamed this outfit with a few pieces of brown I’ve collected over the last few months. The handbag was a bargain at Molly’s Den in Bournemouth. It’s really unusual with a double handle, something that was popular in the 1930s. The clasps are on the side corners of the top and slide off outwards to allow the opening to appear. I absolutely love it and use it constantly.

The shoes are from Hotter and were gifted to me by the company in exchange for a review on In Retrospect magazine’s Latest Dispatches blog. I’ve been writing for them for a while but haven’t really talked about it on here. However, please go and check out the blog because there’s all sorts of vintage bloggers involved. I’m currently doing a series on there which gives tips for achieving a vintage finish on your handmade garments, if you’re interested.

Fontana Heels by Hotter Shoes

The Hotter shoes are called Fontana and I chose them because they reminded me of 1930s Spectator shoes. They’re exactly the same colours as many of their original counterparts would’ve been, tan and white. These have a rather more rounded toe than the 30s ones but they still have loads of the same elements. These include the tan section at the back, the tan heel, the punched holes and the tan bow.

What makes these different from the originals, though, is the technology that goes on inside the shoe. They have amazing cushion sections in the sole, under the heel and the ball of the foot, which makes these quite literally the most comfortable pair of shoes I’ve ever worn! I had them on all day when I took these photos and I felt like I was wearing slippers the whole time.

1930s skirt and blouse

The last accessory is the hat that nearly wasn’t mine. I bought it from a small online vintage website which has different sellers offering their goods. I’d never purchased on there before and after about 10 days of waiting for it I contacted the seller but had no reply. I started getting worried. Then I contacted the person who manages the site and they were much more helpful. She got in contact with the seller and it turned out the seller couldn’t find the hat! Cue a very unhappy me. I was refunded my money and once again went on a hunt for the perfect brown hat.

Then a few days later I got an email from the original seller saying she’d found the hat and did I still want it? Yes, yes, yes I screamed. Okay, emailed. A couple of days later it arrived, rather badly packaged, it was folded in half!!! After a lot of steaming, and shaping it on my own head, it came back to life. And I have to say I love it! It’s so unusual with a brown velvet half bow, that then transforms into felt for the other part of the bow. This then curves over and looks like it’s going into the top of the hat and eventually coming out the other side as a piece of velvet again. Genius!

So, who says I can’t wear brown now? Not me, that’s for sure! I love this outfit and wear it a lot. The skirt is my absolute favourite skirt in my wardrobe and I mix and match it with so many of my tops. So thank you, you lovely vintage community, for being such wonderful inspiration!

Outfit Details

1930s Brown Wool Crepe Skirt – Made by Me
1950s Green and Brown Striped Blouse – Shepton Mallet Flea Market
Brown Vintage Hat – Vintassion
Brown 1930s Style Handbag – Molly’s Den
Fontana Shoes – Hotter
1930s Jade Earrings – A Gift
Brown Seam Stockings – What Katie Did

Cate

Just a vintage gal suffering from the Golden Age syndrome. Lover of all things old, lingerie obsessive, crafter and enjoys rummaging at flea markets.

45 Comments

  1. Love love love this! I actually saw this outfit a few days ago on the In Retrospect dispatches section, and I was completely enamoured of it even then. The Hotter shoes look great with those colours, and your hair – as ever – looks perfect! You should definitely wear brown more often, it really does look grand on you! 🙂

    • Thank you Jenny, I thought you’d probably approve of the Hotter shoes! 🙂 Yes, this was definitely one of my better hair days, I’m just hoping it works out as well when I see you. xx

  2. All around fabulous! Love that darling little deco pocket- it adds just the perfect touch of authenticity. 🙂 And your hat…. oh me, oh my. I’m trying to rejoice in your happiness rather than seethe in my own jealousy right now… 😉 I *am* beyond-a-doubt delighted that it has come to a happy home now, though! Especially since it sounds like its previous abode wasn’t as appreciative of its charms… :-/

    Your posts are always a delight! I’m resolving to now visit blogs on my laptop, which is so much more conducive to commenting than my silly phone. 🙂

    • Thank you Lily! I actually initially thought of doing your cute little 1930s pocket on your Penny Rose dress but decided it was going to be too bulky on this skirt. The fabric is really quite lightweight and it wouldn’t have worked so well. However, I am determined to add that pocket to something in the future, it’s exactly my sort of style. xx

  3. Beautiful outfit! I am glad to finally see a pic of you in the striped blouse after you reported on your last flea trip, I would have picked it up too, stripes and a bow are always winners!! You’ve done a smashing job on the skirt. Thank you for the lining fabric tip, I can’t abide poly linings either. I look forward to reading more tips on In Retrospect! Lovely photos xx

    • Thank you Sarah! Yes, crepe lining is much softer and less scratchy on your skin. If you can’t find a lightweight crepe then a crepe-de-chine is also a good alternative. I had to succumb to the modern polyester stuff for my coral linen skirt because I just couldn’t find anything that even vaguely matched it. xx

  4. Another fabulous outfit, it’s the perfect long 1930s look! I love the way you added the jade earrings; that little pop of green ties in beautifully with the stripes of the blouse.

    • Thank you! Those earrings are just gorgeous aren’t they? My best friend, who is not the slightest bit interested in vintage, bought them for me a few years ago and they are my absolute favourites. They are genuine 1930s jade and have just had modern hooks added to replace the original screw ones. I wear them as often as I can xx

  5. Brown is fantastic! I choose it over black most times, especially for 1920s and 30s, and nearly always for trousers (or blue). You look amazing in it – not fuddy-duddy at all!

    • Aw, thank you Lauren! Yes, I am a complete convert. I’m currently looking for a beautiful chocolate brown crepe with a white print on it for an autumn dress but so far I’m really struggling. xx

  6. Hi Cate, I have just started to follow you and I think you look amazing, you look so authentic and beautifully dressed and groomed. I am just starting my vintage journey and want to get it right (like yourself). Where do I begin? Im a 30s 40s fanatic.

    • Thank you Julie! My advice would be to research, research, research. I never stop looking at clothes from the periods I like, whether that be in books, online, original magazines or even films. There’s so much out there to indulge in and feel free to follow the different decade boards on my Pinterest account here – https://uk.pinterest.com/vintagegalb1og/. As you can imagine the 1930s one is the one with most images!

      What I will say about the 30s and 40s is that it’s all about the detailing. Both eras had fairly minimal silhouettes due to the frugality of the time, but they made their clothing interesting with the use of unusual details and colour combinations. For example, clothing in the 1930s had really interesting necklines and sleeves. These are really important for an authentic look.

      Lastly, if you can’t afford original pieces (they can be rather pricey!) then look at mixing and matching original pieces with good quality repro pieces from brands such as The House of Foxy (http://www.thehouseoffoxy.com/). Accessories is always a good place to start with genuine vintage as they’re often much cheaper and give your outfit a more cohesive vintage look.

      Hope that helps! xx

      • Thank you so much, yes that helps loads. Will start with accessories I think. Is your house vintage too?
        I will check out your pinterest
        Thank you again
        Julie

        • My house is getting that way! I’m currently in the process of renovating so have a bit of modern and a bit of vintage but I’m slowly getting rid of the modern. xx

  7. I am loving all of the great 30s skirts that you are wearing this summer! I think brown compliments your auburn hair beautifully. It definitely can be a tricky colour to pull off and it’s a colour I myself tend to avoid. I always love and marvel at your ability to put together so many great pieces into one outfit, it definitely makes me realise that I need to put more work into accessorising!

    • Aw, thank you! I do love a 1930s skirt. Separates were such popular daywear and I’ve really fallen in love with them over the last couple of years. xx

  8. You look beautiful! I love every detail of your outfit. I really like Hotter shoes but they’re mostly leather and suede and I personally choose not to buy shoes and boots made of these materials, so I just admire them on others x

    • Thank you Melanie! Yes, unfortunately Hotter shoes are mostly leather. My problem is I find most man made synthetic alternatives always make my feet stink (nice!!), however, I totally respect why you don’t wear them yourself. xx

  9. This is such a lovely outfit, and the blouse was a real find! I also don’t have much brown, but I am gradually adding some pieces. I love your shoes, and it’s great to hear that they are so comfortable. Kx

    • Thank you Karen! Yes, these really are incredibly comfortable and I find most Hotter shoes are. They’re a great brand and well worth spending the money on. They’ve got a sale on at the moment, in case you’re interested! xx

  10. You look fab in brown. The blouse keeps everything looking fresh and crisp.

    When faced with a ‘difficult’ colour, I always try to start off with it in luxe fabrics. Nothing can look dowdy in satin, lace or velvet!

    • Thanks Mim! You’re absolutely right there, satin, silk, lace and velvet will never look dowdy. Oh, now you’ve got me thinking about chocolate coloured silk satin! Could you imagine a 1930s bias cut evening gown in that?!! xx

      • It would be gorgeous! I’m sure Able Grable used to offer chocolate coloured satin as one of their options, and it always looked beautiful.

        Thinking about it, brown tweed is also one of my very favourite fabrics. Warm, earthy, natural yet stylish. Brown is definitely a colour that needs some texture, some tactile quality that makes you want to touch it as well as look at it.

        • Oh I’ve not heard of them before but have had a good look at their site. Oh my word, their stuff is amazing! Uh-oh, more things I want to buy xx

  11. I used to have a fear of brown too, but I’m completely over it now. Your whole outfit is lovely, and that stripy blouse is gorgeous. See, you can wear brown! xxx

  12. Brown is a complete triumph on you, dear Cate. So warm, elegant and timeless. It’s wonderful that you’ve developed a liking for it, as I think you two are a match made in style heaven.

    xoxo ♥ Jessica

    • Thank you Jessica! I’m really glad I was brave enough to just give it a go. Next it’s on to orange. Now that really scares me!!!! xx

  13. This is such a cute outfit! Your skirt turned out amazing. I think brown is a great basic color and can easily be paired with more eye catching designs/colors to make it more interesting. The blouse is such a great find!

    • Thank you Anthea! Yes, I’m just learning the different colours is can be teamed with. I do love it with green, but also navy or burgundy. I’m sure I’ll explore mixing and matching with other colours as I go along my venture into colours that scare me. xx

  14. Brown is your colour! Suits you perfectly. I love that skirt you made, so very pretty.

    Liz 🙂

  15. I was surprised to read that you had not previously considered brown as with your hair and skin colour I thought it would look lovely. And it does! The skirt is beautiful, what a great make! I’m glad that you finally got to own the hat as it suits you marvellously. The bold stripes on the blouse are lovely to. I now own two pairs of Hotter shoes and both are very comfy. These ones look great.

    • Thank you Kate-Em! It’s funny, for years I’ve tended to stick to the same colours and have been afraid to branch out to others. That is now all changing and I’ve even recently added an orange blouse to my wardrobe, a colour I never thought suited me. xx

  16. I think you pull off the color beautifully. I really like the combination of brown and that fresh green color in your shirt. The brown hat also looks lovely on your copper locks.

    I definitely need more brown in my wardrobe, but it’s incredibly hard to come across the right shades that don’t look too musty or drab.
    I recently bought a what I thought looked like a beautiful chocolate brown wool fabric from an estate sale, and when I came out in to the sun it turned out to be this hideous greenish brown mash of fibers D: No thank you!

    • Thank you Cherise! Oh, I hate it when you purchase something in a dark venue and then when you see it in natural light it’s completely different. My worst one lately was a 1930s skirt that looked fine indoors but once outside I noticed huge grubby stains on the back panel. I’ve soaked it but they haven’t come out at all. Thankfully it’s a little big for me so I’m going to hide the stains inside an additional pleat.

  17. I love brown! What a beautiful ensemble you’ve created. That hat is spectacular, as is your new skirt. Your description of the beautiful fabric made me want to run and buy some right away!

    • Thanks Lauren! It really is the most gorgeous fabric and I really, really wish I could find some similar. I’d make so many things from it. xx

  18. This ensemble is just perfectly wonderful, I love the striped blouse so much! I have been on the look out for striped fabric all spring/summer and can’t seem to find anything in a good weight for a blouse so I am very jealous of such a lovely find. The skirt looks so classically thirties and will work so well into fall and winter too. You definitely can wear brown and wear it well 😉

    • Thank you Bianca! I’m so glad I found this blouse too, I have worn and worn it and it goes with so many of my separates. xx

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