Accessorise a Vintage Party Dress

Hair and Makeup

If you’ve got a dress that distinctly recalls a different era – a flapper dress, for example – the temptation is always to echo the kind of hairstyle that was popular in that day and age. If you’re attending a costume party, then that’s a great idea, but if you’re hoping to remain in the here and now, it’s best to be a bit more subtle.

A small hint toward the era of your dress is more than enough. For our flapper dress, it’s not necessary to go for the full bob, but if you want to give your hair a bit of a wave and pull it low at the nape of your neck, you can suggest the era without looking like you just came from there. You can also give a hint in your makeup with just one vintage look, like big lashes or red lips. Don’t overdo it. You want to suggest the era, not embody it.


With your jewel, stay small and simple. You’ve already pulled out the spectacular vintage party dress, so let that be the center of attention. If you have a pair of earrings or a necklace that fit the era, by all means wear them, but don’t break out the big costume jewelry even if it’s period-appropriate. Subtle touches will be far more effective than a head-to-toe reenactment of a different era.

One exception: if you have a hair comb or clip that suits the style you’re going for, it can be an effective way to offset a modern-day hairstyle with a vintage vibe.


Vintage dresses often look their best with vintage shoes, so this is a good place to go nuts on the vintage wear. If you don’t have vintage, fake it with shoes in a similar style. Kitten heels were very popular in the 1950s, for example, and they’re much more difficult to find now – but you can usually find shoes with a similar shape and a taller, more modern heel.

Several styles are coming back around, too. Ballet flats are easy to find in today’s boutiques, and cork-soled shoes have been popular off and on since the beginning of the century. When in doubt, it is very difficult to go wrong with a classic black pump with a round toe.