In Vintage Inspiration

Casual Vintage Shirts

(Photo viaΒ Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries, DeGolyer Library on Flickr – 1944)

So on my quest to sew more vintage inspired button-up shirts, I decided to seek out some real sewing inspiration from decades past. Here’s a quick look at a few casual vintage shirts from various eras.

Women’s work wear of WWII is some of my favorite style inspiration of all time, so naturally I find this chambray stripe button-up with rainbow accents to be extra inspirational! I’m now on the hunt for some similar fabric so I can make a shirt just like it.


(Photo via The Library of Congress on Flickr – 1946)

This collarless blouse worn by Lilyann Carol features lots of directional stripes and the classic 1940s sleeve with darts to shape the cap. It’s a great example of casual shirt with feminine shaping. I love it!


(Photo via Sears and Roebuck Spring Catalog – 1943)

Browsing old clothing catalogs is the greatest resource for vintage fashion inspiration. Here’s a look at some of 1943’s best selling women’s cotton shirts available at Sears.


(Photo via Acc. 90-105 – Science Service, Records, 1920s-1970s, Smithsonian Institution Archives on Flickr – circa 1920s)

I love the bold stripes, the bias binding on the sleeve cuff, and the decorative buttons on this long sleeve garment worn by Ethel Grace Stiffler. This particular top looks like a pullover, and could very likely be a dress (especially if this photo was taken in the 20s) but it inspires me as a shirt all the same. It’s a great example of women’s wear with a masculine twist.


(Photo via Sears and Roebuck Spring Catalog – 1953)

Even though many old catalog photos are shown in black and white or sepia, you can still read the item descriptions to see what colors were in style during that particular year. It looks like confetti colored stripes, red and blue checks, pastels, and solid colors including lime green and tangerine were fashionable in the Spring of 1953!

A button-up shirt never goes out of style and is essential for building a vintage inspired wardrobe. Just about any modern shirt pattern can be adapted to look more vintage (see my 1940s Archer hack, here), but if you want to try an authentic reproduction shirt, take a look at the Smooth Sailing Blouse by Wearing History or the 1940s Rodeo Gal by Decades of Style.

I made a fun version of the Smooth Sailing Blouse already but the Rodeo Gal is still on my list of patterns to try. It’s adorable!

Have you sewn a vintage or vintage inspired button-up shirt that you love? I’d love to see it!


  • Kate

    I just wanted to tell you that I’m loving your posts recently about your own style, sewing what you’ll ACTUALLY wear, etc — it’s really inspiring to me! I might even finally learn to sew!

  • Olivia


    I LOVE your website! I have been following up on it for a few months now! Every week or so, I check for more new add-ons to your website! This is a great post! I have trouble looking for casual 1950’s clothing, and this helped a bit! I am in LOVE with the 1950’s. I dress vintage almost everyday (or as much as I can…my vintage clothes are limited…FOR NOW.) Your posts are great, thanks for posting them and taking the time to reply to your “fan’s” comments. πŸ˜€ πŸ˜›

  • loranc

    One of these days I should take a picture of all my shirts for you… : )

  • Retweeted

  • OH I really can’t wait to see you make up the Rodeo Gal!!!

  • I particularly love the first one – the plain blue striped chambray with the rainbow accent is awesome, let us know if you find anything similar!
    I have been meaning to make myself a buttondown for a while (particularly after making my husband a flannel shirt, which is so incredibly comfortable) but I know how much faffing around I’ll have to do to make it shaped in the back, so have been putting it off.

  • misscrayolacreepy

    “A” above is so rad! I could totally see you rocking that one!

  • Gina

    This is lovely to look at and is pushing me more and more to make some fun button ups for work. Gotta dress ‘nice’ but want to keep my own personal style. I love reading catalog descriptions and trying to imagine what the colors and prints looked like.
    Thank you for the inspiration boost!

  • Such fun! I’d love to see you experiment with some of these looks!

  • I’m more of a pullover blouse girl, but I do love the classic Peter Pan collar button up shirt.

  • Some of these shirts are just fabulous! I’ve been trying to get hold of some more shirts recently to wear with casual styles so these are great inspiration.

  • Fabulous casual styles! I’ll happily take one of each, pretty please! πŸ™‚ Vintage blouses are something my wardrobe could certainly do with more. I went looking for more when in Vancouver recently, but didn’t turn up any in my price range (a lot of the vintage there was mind-blowingly overpriced – not all, thankfully, but a fair bit for sure). Oh well, just something to keep an eye out for all the more wherever I find myself hunting for vintage this summer.

    β™₯ Jessica

  • I also love casual vintage shirts, and I recently did a post on the blouses working women in WWII wore. It might have some inspiration in it for you:

  • Victoria

    Those are some great shirts!

  • What a great inspiration board for sewing shirts. I’ve picked a few styles and fabric from these pics for myself. Hope you don’t mind! πŸ˜‰

  • I prefer these simple classic non-frilly styles.

  • I can’t sow, but I love this style. It’s such a great way to dress and very feminine. I love this post and the photos!