Remember this?



And this?

I shared these Normal Norell vintage dresses in recent posts here and on Facebook after visiting the IMA exhibit, American Legacy: Norell, Blass, Halston and Sprouse. It’s open until January 27, 2013. Put it on your list if you haven’t made it yet!

Yesterday morning, I opened the New York Times Thursday Styles section and saw this.

And this.

Remind you of anything? I couldn’t believe the similarity between the Dior designs and those two vintage Norells featured in the IMA exhibit.

Both dresses were featured in the Dior fall haute couture shows along with this lede: “The hardest thing to realize in fashion is that the future lies in the past. The second hardest thing is to forget the past.” Those of us who adore the femininity and ease of vintage styles consider that an understatement. In this much-vaunted show, debut designer Raf Simons places a modern lens on styles that Christian Dior and others brought us after World War II. Mercy, aren’t they pretty?

Here’s what regular girls want to know: a) what about more modest alternatives for people who don’t want bare shoulders? and b) where can we find these vintage styles in affordable ready-to-wear stores?

Today, my lovely fashionista friends, I’m sharing a few resources to help you steal these vintage looks.

Sadly, there aren’t a lot of ready-to-wear alternatives for the 1950s full-skirted dress, at least not in the U.S. If you’re prepared to order from the U.K., that’s another story. Our friends over the pond have this covered! I found a lovely 1950s dress at Light in the I would wear it in a heartbeat if I were a bride. Evidently, they ship to the U.S. but I have never tried global shopping. Anyone out there have an experience to share? This dress is so beautiful, I’m almost tempted to try.

If you’re searching for a 1950s look for your wedding, you might want to stick closer to home. And you’re probably prepared to spend a little more for just the right details. For $500 to $700, you can have a custom dress made by Dolly, a dressmaker that specializes in cocktail length bridal gowns and petticoats. They offer vintage-inspired gowns with every imaginable neckline to make your wedding dress especially flattering. Don’t you agree that necklines can make all the difference in the world? For more vintage wedding inspiration, you must read Marnie Fogg’s book, Vintage Weddings: One Hundred Years of Bridal Fashion and Style (Vintage Fashion Series)

For 1950s daywear, you can also choose dressmakers like Michelle Tan, a British-born dressmaker who has been making clothes since she was a child. After studying fashion design and graduating from college in the U.S., Michelle worked for Harpers Bazaar and later designed costumes for a private production company. Michelle had a lightbulb moment when she discovered how difficult it was to find well-preserved vintage clothes in today’s sizes. That’s when she decided to open her own Etsy store, where she sells expertly made custom dresses from the 1950s for as little as $120. Love, LOVE, LOVE her work and I’m mightily tempted to order one for myself. There are other Etsy sellers who do the same thing, but I’m especially fond of Michelle. You can even peek at her sewing room if you visit her Etsy store.

For those who don’t have time to wait for a custom dress, you can find new, vintage-inspired ready-to-wear like the Norell or Dior designs at several online stores. My favorites are Unique,  Blue Velvet, and Pin Up Girl I must admit that I have never ordered from these stores, but they have an amazing variety of vintage and vintage-inspired clothes from this era. On a happy note, they offer a wide range of sizes and reasonable prices. At Pin Up Girl, an extra large offers a bust measurement of 45-46 inches. Unique Vintage also carries plus sizes.

The strapless Dior bustier in the New York Times shows a peplum skirt over cigarette slacks. I found several modest alternatives that I like just as much at Topshop for as little as $96. These skirted versions are more reminiscent of the Norell gown shown in the IMA exhibit—if you don’t mind losing that fabulous fur trim. And I know some of you actually prefer the omission. Here’s a close facscimile.

The beauty of all these steal-the-style options is that they are flattering on so many different body types. What’s your favorite vintage-inspired shopping destination?

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.