Image source:

Do you ever look at vintage photos at your grandparent’s house and marvel at how glamorous and beautiful everyone was?  Somehow they all look like they stepped out of a classic film.

It’s not just the black and white film or the cool, old cars either.  They had a sense of style that, strangely, seems to never have gone out of style.  There’s an elegant timelessness about the look and it’s worth replicating today.

So let’s break down just what it is that gave our gorgeous grannies that enviable glamour and what we can do to get it ourselves.

She Was Always Put-Together

These days most of us feel that it’s perfectly fine to run errands or get on an airplane in what amounts to slightly elevated versions of pajamas.  Suffice it to say, this would horrify all past generations of women in our family.   That’s why there are no snapshots of Gran and her friends eating brunch in yoga pants and hoodies.  After all, she never knew who she’d run into…an ex, her boss or even the drop-dead gorgeous man who would become your grandpa.

The Lesson:  No matter how much of a rush you’re in or how informal the place you’re headed, you can manage to pull on a pair of jeans, a cute top and a pair of flats.  You’ll look better and you won’t be terrified of being spotted by someone you know…or want to know.

She Was Modestly Sexy

When it came to looking hot, your grandma knew just how to strike the right balance.  In those old photos, she looks like a total babe but incredibly classy too.  In her day, showing too much was out of the question, so she had to find a way to be dead sexy without creating a scandal.  She did this with feminine silhouettes that emphasized her shape and showing just enough skin to be alluring without giving it all away.

The Lesson:  Approach sexiness with extreme subtlety.  Fitted clothes are OK, but make sure to wear quality undergarments that give a smooth line.  And if you show some cleavage, balance things out by keeping the rest fairly covered up.

Her Clothes Fit Like a Glove

Back in the day, it was commonplace to have clothes tailored to fit you exactly and it showed.  This is one of the biggest secrets of looking amazing.  Commonplace pieces are instantly elevated when they fit well while beautiful pieces look terrible if they’re ill-fitting.  This also allows you to buy something you love that isn’t quite the right fit, because it can easily be altered to be perfect.

The Lesson:  Most common alterations will run you less than $20.  Drop a couple hundred bucks on getting your favorite pieces tailored to fit you right and you’ll instantly look like you bought a new wardrobe that’s much better than the old.

She Valued Quality

Sure, there’s something to be said for those Target steals we grab on a whim…you know the ones I mean:  the dresses that cost $20, the jackets on sale for $12.99, you get the idea.  But realize that your granny knew that a good wardrobe was an investment.  In the 50s, a basic dress from Sears cost the 2015 equivalent of $72.  The reason?  They were better made and lasted longer.

The Lesson:  While we won’t begrudge you the occasional discount steal, you should think quality over quantity for your wardrobe.  It’s better to have 10 outfits that are all made well, fit well and look amazing than to have 20 outfits that are just so-so and will start falling apart within a year.

She Was Neat & Tidy

If your grandmother was getting dressed and noticed a small stain, a missing button or a loose thread, you’d better believe that she’d stop everything and fix that issue or find something else to wear.  She knew that other people noticed these small details and that ignoring them made her look careless. 

The Lesson:  The devil is in the details!  You’re a grownup, so start taking your clothes to the dry cleaner and the tailor to keep them maintained, clean and looking good.  And know when to let a well-loved item die in peace.

She Wore Hats

There’s a reason that women of your nana’s generation wouldn’t be seen at a formal occasion without a beautiful hat – it made her look fabulous.  The right hat framed her pretty face, drew even more eyes to her beautiful look and made any outfit a little more special.  The women of the UK still understand this and frequently don formal hats and fascinators to fancy affairs and we American gals should too.

The Lesson:  Explore the world of hats, especially shapes that bring to mind another era – cloches, pillboxes, bowlers, etc.  They add instant mystique and glamour to your getup and give you just one more opportunity to express your impeccable fashion sense. 

She Had a Signature Style

Women of older generations new the importance of having a signature style – they had a certain perfume, color or piece of jewelry they wore all the time, and it was a part of who they were.  Now that we mention it, you’re probably remembering the smell of your favorite great aunt’s signature scent or the fact that your grandmother always wore blue. 

The Lesson:  Assert your style and stick with it.  Not that you can’t change and try out new trends, but as you mature, try to notice what you’re always drawn to.  Keep it fresh (no one likes a fashion rut) but don’t be afraid to be loyal to a favorite shade of lipstick or silhouette that you adore and know looks fantastic on you.

Before you start trying to replicate every outfit you see on Mad Men, remember that it’s not about looking exactly like the women of a bygone era.  But you can approach your own version of modern style with these tidbits of fashion wisdom inspired by the chic women who have gone before us.

About the Author:  Nicole Betti is a serious vintage fashion fan whose real passion is hats.  This love of fabulous headpieces inspired her to start Gold Coast Couture, an online boutique that specializes in fancy hats and fascinators.  To find out more, check out the collection at