Retro & Vintage Clothing & Accessories
Retro & Vintage Clothing & Accessories
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Julie Ann's Vintage Closet Tour: 80s-does-50s Shirt Dress

Posted Julie Ann Davis Fashion

One of the reasons I opened Cats Like Us is that, as long as I can remember, I have loved vintage style. In fact I've been collecting vintage clothes for about 25 years. I always liked the shapes of vintage clothes and how they fit me.

Today I buy them based on what I like, not fancy labels, or even if it is vintage. If something catches my eye and can integrate into my wardrobe, I buy it. I also keep my clothes a very, VERY long time. So if you think I wear something different everyday, I might, but that dress I'm wearing could be retro and/or vintage AND in my closet for 20 years.

The great thing about Retro fashion is that it is more accessible than most vintage. Retro is classic, affordable, is available in a variety of sizes, and most retro brands are machine washable (Halleleujah!) I believe there's a retro shape for everyBODY and I want people to enjoy wearing vintage styles as much as I do! As a result, I've decided to share my vintage finds with everyone, along with tips and tricks for buying vintage and styling vintage and retro together.

If you wait long enough everything is vintage. Growing up in the late '70s / early 80's I watched a lot of "1980s-does-1950s" revival shows on TV. Shows like Sha Na Na, Happy Days and classic TV reruns of I Love Lucy were my inspiration. Those shows trickled down to influence fashion of the era too.

Here's a great example of 80s does 50s in fabric and shape. This is a white and black dotted button down shirt dress that I picked up at a thrift store about 10 years ago. 

Didn't look like much on the hanger, but it's become a wardrobe staple for me. When I wear this I always get complimented on it--I even had someone try to buy it right off my back! Why? Because it's totally awesome, dude!


In the 1980s bubblegum pastels were all the rage, along with geometric, almost atomic prints. And polka dots, SO MANY polka dots! So when you're out thrifting and you see something, but aren't sure if it's 80s does 50s, look for a funky print or contrast color stitching. This particular dress has black stitching on the white fabric along with black buttons.

If you want to look 50s, stick with a neutral palette and stay away from neon colors or giant bright florals, drop waists and pleats--that is unless you WANT to scream 1980's. Polka dots, animal prints, and stripes are usually pretty safe and timeless.

Another giveaway that it's from the 80s is big shoulder pads. Shoulder pads were in everything (including the dress I am wearing). I don't mind them for structure in blazers, but in a casual cotton dress like this one it was a little too much, so I cut them out. It didn't change the structure of the garment, instead it gave me more range of motion in the shoulders. So if you like the pads keep them, but don't be afraid to remove them if they don't work for you!

Can I tell you how much I LOVE a great shirt dress?! It's a classic silhouette that never goes out of style. Some pros of a shirt dress include:

    1. In Buffalo, NY where the weather can be winter 10 months out of the year, a shirt dress is perfect for layering. You can wear a tank, a short sleeve T shirt or a long sleeve T shirt under it, a pullover V neck, a cardigan, or a blazer over it and still look put together.
    2. Shirt dresses are perfect for weight fluctuations. Why? Because of belts. Belts will cinch it in and give you a waist.
      As you can see, this dress is big on me, but I added a belt. Tada! I've even recently sold some of the Cats Like Us shirt dresses to our pregnant customers. They looked adorable.
    3. Full skirt dresses hide a lot. I injured my back and have been going to physical therapy, a chiropractor, and I have to wear a lower back support at work. So this dress even hides my lower back support!

Don't be afraid of 1980s does 1950s. Not all of it is neon, leg warmers and stone wash. Sometimes you can find real gems if you know what to look for and often times it's a lot cheaper than shopping for authentic 1950s with the same look! You can even start small with some 80s does 50s accessories. I added some 80s polka dot earrings, and Hush Puppies oxfords to complete my look for today and I have to say it's comfortable too. 


Have fun vintage shopping, whether it's for 1950s or 1980s and make it your own!

~Julie Ann


Retro Shirt Dresses on

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