Monday, 13 January 2014

Dress Like A 1940s Sub-Deb for Spring 2014

I was enjoying my flick through Vogue's Spring/Summer 2014 Catwalk edit when I realised the fashions looked strangely familiar. If you've looked at any 1940s pictures of sub-debs (a term used for young people before the invention of the 'teenager' - you can see it used on the 1945 Life cover below) and 50s teens, particularly those taken by Nina Leen for Life magazine, you'll recognise some of the new season's styles 

Oscar de la Renta, Spring 2014 Ready-To-Wear, via

Nina Leen for Lifevia

Silence + Noise tartan coat, via

Teenage girl in St Louis. Photographed by Nina Leen for Life, December 1944, via

I never though I'd been comparing Oscar de la Renta, Balmain and Carven to teenage fashions but all displayed a love of checks you can see worn by the teenagers in the period photos today. Margaret Howell showed a skirt and shirt combo that would happily sit alongside some of the school outfits. Marc by Marc Jacobs, meanwhile, featured some sporty collegiate looks as part of the collection, and without the rest of the ensemble, these Prada's socks could be more sports club than catwalk.

Prada, Spring 2014, via 

Girls basketball team, 1957. Photographed by Francis Miller for Life, 1957, via


1940s note-passing in class, via


Life, 1940s, via


Students at Warren G. Harding high school, Ohio, c.1950s, via


Take a look at high street style and it reflect  a similar look - the shops are full of sports jackets, plaid skirts, check shirts. Okay, these are more influenced by a 90s take on these preppy looks (think Audrey Horne), just as Marc Jacobs is seemingly more seventies sports luxe than a sweaty kid in a field, but it's ridiculous easy to recreate a version of these 40s and 50s teen looks using mainstream fashion at the moment. And looking down at myself, wearing my Topshop Mom vintage jeans, an old French Connection 'F' sweater and the vintage sports shoes I bought in Berlin, it appears I have done already. 

New York teenager. Photographed by Nina Leen for Life 1949, via


'Sub-Deb Clubs', Life 2 April 1945, via


Plaid dress with pleated skirt as the 'right' schoolwear. Photographed by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life, 1939, via

What I love about the vintage pictures is how they illustrate the tiny styling details that are such an important part of school life whenever you attend - the height of your socks, hanging your jacket over your shoulders rather than using the arms, wearing a precious ring on a chain around your neck. They're fascinating to observe but it makes me thankful that I longer have to subject myself to the microscope of high school life. 
Schoolgirls photographed for Lifevia

Nina Leen for Life, December 1944, via


Girls football game, LA, 1939. Photographed for Life by Peter Stackpole, via

Marc by Marc Jacobs, Spring 2014, via

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2 comments:

  1. So interesting! I'd noticed the letter-sweater trend, but the rest of it had escaped me until reading this. I just bought a pair of two-tone oxfords, and thought I was being influenced more my menswear. I rather prefer the teenage connection.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, it's a curious link but there are so many clothes about that look like they easily could have been pulled from a 40s edition of Life - all those Nina Leen photographs that are constantly reproduced on the internet (and here obviously!) have maybe been filtering into design houses too...

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