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Vintage Maxi Dresses

It is just over 100 years since hems started to scandalously stray above the ankle bone.  The full length dress (or close to it) was once the fashion uniform for western women.  Now, designer maxi dresses are a choice we make from our wardrobes of plenty, and a great one at that. Though they remained de rigour for evening wear and did appear in the decades of the first half of the century for day wear too, it seemed to take the progression up the leg to the mini dress or skirt in the 1960’s which finally brought about a subversive effect, bringing skirts back to earth in the bohemian age with maxi length dresses.

The 1960’s was a decade where many styles and aesthetics rubbed shoulders and while some aspired to geometric shapes and bold colours of the ‘London look’ others harked back to earlier eras to source their clothing and the concept of ‘Vintage’ fashion was born.  Contemporary designers such as Thea Porter and Gina Fratini took inspiration from antique Edwardian sources to create romantic dresses and kaftans.  Other designers such as Emilio Pucci and Ossie Clark with his wife Celia Birtwell were experimenting with psychedelic print and colour and nowhere could these have more impact than the full skirt of a maxi dress.

However, if there is a decade of the 20th century to which the maxi skirt belongs, it is surely the 1970’s.  Carrying forward the riotous colour of the late 1960’s, designers such as Bill Gibb, Louis Féraud, Zandra Rhodes, Yuki London and Yves Saint Laurent (often with ensemble pieces) took up the mantel and played with shape and form.  A long line was in with trouser suits and dinner suits becoming a very popular choice for many women.  The elegance of this form matched a similar aesthetic shift in maxi dresses.  With his silky, plunging and fluid creations, American designer Halston brought the full length dress to a wider, sleeker, more urban audience with dresses designed to wear from day to night.  In his simple and minimalist designs, women could feel like goddesses and certainly his greatest fans such as Pat Cleveland and Bianca Jagger looked like minor deities in them.  Today vintage maxi dresses or, what some might call retro maxi dresses, prove to be great style hits not just for the beach.  A perfect choice for summer, worn with a great platform heel, a neat pair of trainers, a biker jacket and a belt, these dresses can take on a new life.

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YVES SAINT LAURENT ruffled long jersey dress

YVES SAINT LAURENT black ruffled long jersey dress

Bob Mackie 1990s Nude Vintage Black Lace Dress

Bob Mackie Vintage 1990s Sequinned Nude & Black Lace Pointed Bodice Evening Gown

Anthony James Couture 1970s Vintage Peach Chiffon Dress

Anthony James Peach Chiffon & Macramé Balloon Sleeve Maxi Evening Gown, 1970s

Nina Ricci 1980s Black & Orange Vintage Evening Dress

Nina Ricci Vintage Strapless Polka Dot Taffeta & Linen Cocktail Party Dress, 1980s

Liberty of London 1970s Vintage Floral Maxi Dress

Vintage Floral Print Cotton & Green Silk Shantung Patchwork Maxi Dress, 1970s

Louis Feraud 1970s Haute Couture Vintage Silk Dress

Louis Féraud Haute Couture Brown Sheer Silk Chiffon & Bias Cut Satin Gown, 1970s

Frank Usher 1970s Purple Jersey Vintage Pleated Dress

A breathtaking vintage evening gown from the 1970s by iconic British label, Frank Usher

Jean Varon 1970s Kimono Sleeve Vintage Maxi Dress

An incredible vintage evening dress from the 1970s by highly collectible and genius vintage designer Jean Varon

Bob Mackie 1980s Vintage Beaded Maxi Dress

Bob Mackie Black Bugle Beaded Evening Gown, 1980s

I Magnin 1980s Vintage Black Pleated Evening Dress

George F Couture Black & Gold Fortuny Pleat Beaded Evening Gown, 1980s

Valditevere 1970s Vintage Boho Maxi Dress

Valditevere Vintage Cotton Voile Blue & Yellow Floral Print Maxi Dress, 1970s

Giulietta 1970s Red Velour Evening Dress

Vintage Scarlet Velvet Velour Deep Back Puff Sleeve Evening Dress, 1970s

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