Sustainable Fashion with a Vintage, Forties Twist!
This month’s movie star sustainable fashion story is a homage to the timeless power of a wasp-waist, a darling hat, and the indispensable twinset! And the creme de la creme of sustainable luxury fashion talent who make it all possible. It is also a scarlet love letter to the fierce, fearless glamour of WW2 and the fortie and its influential aftermath which you can see in Keira Knightley’s new film out today, The Aftermath.
For there is something eternal about forties fashion and the spirit of the ordinary women who managed to dress like Hollywood goddesses with nothing more than ration coupons, parachute silk, faux, drawn on stockings and make do and mend chutzpah.
Ingrid Bergman in a Flying Saucer Hat in Casablanca
Why you might ask? Because fashion is extraordinary in times of war and great social upheaval and so are the movies that help to immortalise a look. Think of Ingrid Bergman in her flying saucer hat and immaculately tailored haute couture suit. This is her fashion suit of armour and she would be just at home at The Paris Ritz as Rick’s Bar in Casablanca. It’s important to keep up appearances, especially in matters of life and death.
“In difficult times fashion is always outrageous”
Right now, the forties are hot. It’s an era which continues to prove a magnet for filmmakers, sustainable fashion designers and leading ladies like Lily James, Keira Knightley, Gemma Atherton and Sophie Cookson, the actress who plays the young Judy Dench in Red Joan. There’s a wave of nostalgic period films set in the midst or aftermath of WW2 – each hoping to capture something of the high drama, glittering glamour and romance of the ultimate wartime story of love and self-sacrifice – the immortal Casablanca. No one tears up the screen like Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart.
Just look at Keira Knightley. In her new film, The Aftermath, she’s caught up in the classic WW2 wartime tryst – trapped in a fractured marriage destroyed by grief, she falls for the enemy, a displaced, German architect played by the magnetic Alexander Skarsgard. As they circle ever closer to each other, she gets to flaunt her simmering desires on her demure, ladylike sleeve in a ravishing, vintage, forties style wardrobe which contrasts sharply with the scenes of utter destruction and devastation amid the rubble of post-war Hamburg.
“I dress for the image. Not for myself, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men”
Glamour has always been a weapon in war. It is good for morale and so are heels, hats, slithery gowns, and rebellious red lipstick. As uncertainty rages around Brexit, prettiness, frills, razor-like tailoring, maxi dresses and optimism is a much-needed foil, and the sustainable fashion spring collections are once again embracing a passionate love affair with timeless forties, movie star sustainable fashion and period style from a fashion as art vintage style embellished cardigan at Peruvian Collection to KOMANA’s pinup girl playsuit in organic cotton. Even better, take no notice of fashion dictates and embrace a sense of eternal style, beyond fads and seasons. And why not I ask you? Forties-style is the foundation of a timeless, impeccable sustainable fashion wardrobe.
“I despise simplicity. It is the negation of all that is beautiful”Norman Hartnell
Take inspiration from Keira Knightley in her buttoned-up chic pussy cat bow blouses, demure straight skirts, and gilded gowns to contradict the cold heart of her steely officer husband. Emulate her style with vintage cashmere twinsets, tailored, wasp-waist suits which can be picked up for a song in posh charity shops and vintage fashion fairs and svelte, investment goddess gowns from the wonderful sustainable fashion stars – Reformation, Alice Lee and Atelier Tammam. The trick is to mix vintage and modern, luxe with thrift. But never go head to toe vintage, you don’t want to look like Miss Marple.
“Cultivate your curves – they may be dangerous but they won’t be avoided”
Keira’s vintage star turn in The Aftermath follows on from the success of Lily James effervescent heroine in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, set in 1946, immediately after the war. Lily’s character, the successful writer Juliet Ashton, has a rather magnificent vintage wardrobe, packed with inspiration for the modern 21st-century woman. By day she is attached to her trusty typewriter and delivers genteel, wide-eyed talks in book emporiums in pretty cardigans, straight skirts and tailored, new look, hourglass coats, and perchy hats. By night she is transformed into an alluring metropolitan goddess who doesn’t need a man to buy her fabulous gold or navy gowns. She treats herself out of her author’s royalties. She’s quite rich according to her agent played with avuncular charm by Matthew Goode.
The Thrill of the Vintage Sustainable Fashion Treasure Hunt!
Now, reader, you can emulate Juliet with a mix of clever investment buys and by unearthing genuine, one of a kind, preloved, sustainable and vintage pieces which offer terrific value, quality and a wonderful slice of fashion history, not forgetting the thrill of the thrifty vintage fashion treasure hunt! I especially love the long, elongated gowns she wore for those swell nights out with her dashing American officer beau, before she traded champagne nights out at The Savoy for sweet tea tresses on the pig farm with her true love Dorsey Adams played with a quiet, steadfast charm and hidden depths by Michiel Huisman from Game of Thrones.
Unlike some critics, I don’t for a moment think there is a lack of chemistry between Lily and Michiel. I believe they are simply following the more formal social and moral code of the time. It wouldn’t do to go after another man’s fiancée until the coast is clear. When Dorsey realises the depths of his feelings for fair Juliet he doesn’t hold back! Luckily, Juliet feels the same and asks the man she fell in love with through the power of letter writing to marry her. Ah, reader, we do love a happy ending, along with a heavenly sustainable fashion wardrobe to match.
Our Forties Inspired Sustainable, Slow and Vintage Fashion Edit
Meet the Riegan Dress by Reformation, the ethical and circular Biba of the 21st century. This dress in vintage forest green is perfect for lovers of the vintage aesthetic who want their clothes to be timeless, modern and classic simultaneously. With its gathered bust, a fitted waist and décolleté, adorned with frilled sleeves and hem, the dress is made from sustainable viscose and would be perfect for a date or spring wedding. Sizes 0-12 US, price $248 (186) . Sustainable Cred – 6lbs of carbon dioxide, 4 gallons of water and 1.3lbs of waste were saved during its creation, according to Reformation’s own sustainability RefScale.
Komana Jolly Dress*
We are charmed by KOMANA’s delightful tea dress in a classical shirt-waister style. This delightful dress comes in a sunny yellow eye, hand-blocked, fair-trade organic cotton print. A dress that captures the ladylike grace of the forties, with long sleeves, self-tie belt and demure collar – a timeless piece to add to your wardrobe and wear forever and a day. Contact KOMANA for delivery dates, price, and sizes.
Vivienne Westwood Heritage Polina Asymmetric Skirt
How could we create dream up a feature inspired by vintage 1940s movie star sustainable fashion without adding a piece or two from Vivienne Westwood collections? Dame Vivienne has mastered the art of fusing classical menswear tailoring and delightful feminine and feline draping to enhance our curves. The Polina Asymmetric Skirt as above – is a flawless example of Vivienne’s consummate ability to create enduring classic pieces that are simply beautiful to look at. One of Vivienne’s key beliefs is that as consumers we should “buy less and make it last”, and this skirt has the enduring power and elegance to achieve just that. We can imagine Keira Knightley in The Aftermath adorned in this elegant piece. The Polina skirt is available in sizes 6-16, £375, from Net a Porter.
The forties pinup is an enduring image from the forties and this practical playsuit by KOMANA is just the ticket for high summer days. Now don’t forget the golden rule of fashion. If you are going to show an expanse of leg and your feminine curves, everything else should be covered. This playful SS19 summer staple features four useful pockets and buttons to the nape of the neck. Contact KOMANA for delivery, sizes and details.
Alexander McQueen Forever Ruffle Double Breasted Coast
Do you long to discover an evening coat that is just as magnificent and breath-taking as the gown that adorns you underneath? My, with this Alexander McQueen Ruffle Double-Breasted Coat, you won’t need to worry about the outfit underneath, in fact, the coat alone will do! The swathes of fabric erupting from the hips enhance the hourglass figure that was admired in the forties and the double-breasted front and structured shoulders nod towards classical menswear. Masterfully tailored, this piece will last multiple lifetimes; you might never want to take it off! Sizes – 6-14, price £3,745, Alexander McQueen.
Swarovski Dance Ring
Where would be without the perfect conscious luxury dress ring? Swarovski’s Sparkling Dance Round Ring in rhodium is lined with tiny crystals and one opulent central crystal. This head-turning ring could represent romantic love, platonic love or familial love. Swarovski is the perfect jewelry brand for any ethical and sustainable fashion lover to invest in. The brand uses lead-free crystal and strives to maintain transparency within their supply chain and has a long term commitment to improving every aspect of the social, cultural, economic and physical environment. Price, £89, Swarovski.
Atelier Tammam Upcycled Forties Couture Suit
In the spirit of make do and mend, we were delighted to find this immaculate vintage 1940s suit, repaired, updated and upcycled by the skilled seamstresses at Atelier Tammam, London’s original slow, conscious couture salon. The suit in the sunniest of yellows is embellished with hand embroidered peacock feathers. POA, Atelier Tammam.
Penélope Cruz at Swarovski Moonsun Limited Edition Brooch
Want to add some stellar stardust to your lapel? Then we present Penelope Cruz conscious luxury collaboration with Swarovski in an iconic dream of a crystal-encrusted brooch, in the shape of a romantic crescent moon swaying over a magic velvet night sky The Moonsun Limited Edition Brooch in rhodium or rose gold plating. This bewitching brooch celebrates Penélope’s childhood admiration for her mother’s jewellery collection. The distinctive design created with Swarovski’s world-class craftsmanship. Price, £349. Now, it could become a heritage piece within your own lineage.
Teatum Jones Golden Amelia Dress
Wonderful British and Irish Heritage brand Teatum Jones are a brand we think you should keep a close watch of, Dear Reader. Shortlisted for the Green Carpet Challenge 2018, their draped dresses and structured tailoring combined with their ability to create accessible designs make Teatum Jones a brand worth investing in. The Gold Amelia dress above, chosen by us as it emulates the femininity of the evening gown worn by Lily James in the Guernesey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society combines flowing swathes of material and a fitted bust, allowing you to feel cocoone, invincible and sexy in one beautifully designed outfit. firstname.lastname@example.org
Peruvian Connection Vintage Cardigan
Vintage style black cardigan embellished with sprays of hand-embroidered posies in dusty lilac, apricot and gold. A fully fashioned knit in luxurious Pima cotton with a V-neck, three quarter sleeves, shell buttons and ribbed trim. This collector’s piece, made by skilled artisans in Peru is priced at £202, down from £250 in the sale.
Garrard Charisma Engagement Ring
Ever imagined owning an engagement ring fit for a Princess? The kind of engagement ring you perhaps received once in a dream, reader? The three stone Platinum Garrard Charisma Engagement Ring with a white diamond centre may be just that ring that appeared once upon a reverie. This exquisite diamond ring by the crown jewellers would fit the hand of any princess and would be the perfect investment piece for any jewelry collector enthusiast, a heritage piece in the making. The Charisma Engagement ring is just as exquisite as the engagement ring adorned by Juliet Ashton in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Price on application, Garrard.
Atelier Tammam Feather Gown
Recreate the sinuous, alluring forties gilded evening looks worn by Lily James and Keira Knightley as wartime heroines in this less is more full-length bias cut couture peace silk evening gown handcrafted with feather embellishment detail by Atelier Tammam of Bloomsbury. Price and sizes POA. Atelier Tammam.
Vivienne Westwood Puppytooth Blazer
Dame Vivienne’s timeless tailored, oversized menswear style jacket in a Grey Puppytooth. This classic wool jacket can be styled formally with the matching trousers in a fashion similar to Lily James’ refined and modern character or styled casually with an organic white cotton t-shirt and a pair of ethically and sustainably produced organic blue jeans. This piece is suitable for any occasion, and, reader, we believe a good investment piece such as the Puppytooth Blazer is essential for every sophisticated contemporary woman. Price, £1,000, sizes 6-16, at Net-a-Porter UK.
Salvatore Ferragamo Greci Column Heel Sandals
A forties fashion goddess must be shod in heels to elevate and make her feel invincible. Salvatore Ferragamo, the King of Hollywood shoe makers lives on in the perfect gilded evening shoes – The Greci column sandal with a block art deco heel and satin strap. Price £625, sizes 34.5 – 41 EU and Italian sizes, at Matches Fashion.
Jetti Criss Cross Shirt
We at Ethical Hedonist are admirers of Jetti, a sustainable fashion brand that takes the classic men’s shirt and subverts it brilliantly into thoroughly arresting, form-fitting day to night elegant dresses and shirts for women The Jetti Criss Cross Shirt includes an elegant, body-conscious wrap around feature, tying at the back while contouring the body, with short kimono sleeves. All the fabrics used are certified green fabrics and are produced in a family run factory in Portugal, where all material waste is disposed of responsibly. This modern take on the formal shirt is similar in style to the beautiful blouses worn in the forties with a modern twist! Price, £148, sizes xs-xl.
Mother of Pearl Recycled Organic Wool Lester Coat
Mother of Pearl is a contemporary high octane fashion brand with sustainability at the heart of their film-star beautiful creations. Finding a fine balance between distinctly feminine features and menswear tailoring, the brand is socially responsible and includes an organic collection. The camel coloured organic Lester Coat and is embellished with large pearls placed delicately between the ebbs of the gathered sleeve and are a traditional Mother of Pearl feature, and a talisman to the brand. A modern take on the styling of Keira Knightley’s character in The Aftermath, this coat will happily take you from the chillier months into the warmer spring evenings and be a firm fashion favourite. We think it’s perfect to recreate the movie star sustainable fashion look that is style eternal. Price £975, sizes 8-12.
Alice Lee Dress
Long black midi dress in the softest lightweight wool featuring a turtleneck, long sleeves, flattering pinched embellished detail to one side of the waist and hip accentuated by multicoloured hand embroidered flowers to the front and rear of the gown. The dress is lined, comes with an asymmetric hemline and offers a gently relaxed fit. Sizes 6-14, price £640, Young British Designers.
Gabriela Hearst Vesta Checked High-Rise Wool-Blend Trousers
Gabriela Hearst believes that luxury fashion can and should represent the past, present and future. Her timeless designs are made lovingly and skillfully, using sustainably sourced fabrics, Gabriela is keen to make her fashion brand plastic free by April of this year. At Ethical Hedonist we believe it’s of utmost importance to buy pieces for your wardrobe that are timeless, beautiful and made with expertise, flair and craftsmanship which is why we have chosen these classically tailored checked blue trousers for your consideration, and why we believe Juliet Ashton would be a fan herself. A comfortable and flattering fit, these straight leg traditional trousers elongate the leg and compliment the waist with buckle detailing, and are an excellent transitional piece from day time to evening wear. Price, £995, 6-16.
Help Our Ethical Journalism to Grow and Flourish on Patreon!
We hope you have thoroughly enjoyed this original handcrafted piece of fashion journalism and research. It took hours to lovingly research, write and create. Support more delightfully ethical journalism from us @Patreon, our monthly crowdfunding platform here- Patreon – inspiring a sustainable future one piece of storytelling at a time!
Feature By Alison Jane Reid, Assisted by Fashion Intern Millicent Wellington. Millicent has a BA Hons in Fashion Design and Technology from Manchester Metropolitan University.
Film Stills Courtesy of Fox/Searchlight, Copyright March 2019. No Reproduction without Permission.