Casual Vintage Shirts

June 19, 2014

(Photo via 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!