Campus-inspired vintage fashions for fall

Autumn! Crunching leaves, cooler temperatures…oh I know, I know, it’s still summer! But if I don’t start thinking about fall/winter sewing and knitting now, I may not get to the projects I have in mind until it’s starting to warm up again next year!

August is when everyone involved in school life beings to gear up for the start of a new school year. While my own 10-year college reunion took place two years ago, reminding me that it’s been quite some time since I headed back to school in September, I’m not sure I’ve ever really lost that feeling that a new school year is about to start. And that’s had me thinking a lot lately about campus-inspired vintage fashions for fall!

I’ve been having a marvelous time bouncing around ideas for my fall wardrobe. I’m thinking about basics this season: pieces that that would have served me well if I went off to college in New England in the 1940s (instead of the mid-90s as I actually did). I’m picturing crisp blouses, trousers, plaid jackets, wedges. Loafers and socks. Smart printed dresses that could be layered with cardigans. Slightly oversize handknit pullover and cardigans. Like many people I rarely think of the old adage “less is more” in terms of clothing and accessories, and my small closet is busting at the seams as proof. I’d like to simplify a bit for fall and try to focus on less pieces. Great staples that I can mix and match as opposed to just more pieces, period.

In order to do that, there will have to be some accessories to pair with the basics to to keep things interesting! Perhaps fun scarves, brooches, earrings… souvenir jewelry from all of the places I traveled to during my holidays away from school to remind me of my adventures when my nose is buried back in the books. That’s a good excuse to occasionally include a peasant blouse or my Mexican felt jacket in the lineup, too. (This is built around a fantasy, after all!)

I’ll share some of the photos that are inspiring me right now! Some straight off a college campus, some just along that vein.

I like the variety of clothing in the photo of these college girls playing cards below. Two basic pullovers, two basic dresses, and a plaid skirt peeking out under the table.

{source}

I like the well-worn saddle shoes, wool skirt and plaid shirt below on the girl to the left. And there’s knitting in the far corner! Those do look like they might be handknit socks, though it’s hard to say for sure.

{source}

Here are a few images from a 1940 LIFE magazine spread on the popular campus trend at the time of wearing men’s clothing. This girl was wearing men’s trousers, shirt and moccasins (though I think of those more as loafers)…

{source: LIFE Magazine September 30, 1940}

Men’s trousers paired with an oversize pullover on one girl, and with suspenders and dress shirt on the other…

{source: LIFE Magazine September 30, 1940}

I particularly like these girls since they were from my alma mater. The girl on the right is wearing argyle socks with her plaid men’s blazer.

{source: LIFE Magazine September 30, 1940}

I love the slacks featured in this 1943 Sears catalog, combined with tailored blouses or what looks like a t-shirt (even though it’s called a pullover)…and as low as $1.59 at the time! I’d happily wear any of their outfits, head to toe.

These “Lady Hercules” overalls, trousers and jacket were designed as work-wear, but I’d include them in my casual wardrobe…

Dresses like these in checks, plaids, and solids would pair nicely with knit cardigans to transition into cooler fall temperatures…

Now I don’t usually go for plaid skirts, but they are unarguably a campus staple in the 40s. These girls sure look sharp.

I know I’ll need to knit some good staple sweaters this fall. I’ve had my eye on this pattern for awhile, and have even set aside some bright red yarn for it. We’ll see if I get to it before winter.

This pattern from 1945 says, “Try and top it…Just what you’ve been wanting…long sleeved pullover, its stripes sharp and clear”. I definitely think of stripes as fitting into a campus look. (A good thing, too, as I’m currently knitting a striped cardigan.)

Lately I’m loving the look of slightly oversize and longer sweaters. These boxier pullovers and cardigans were very popular in junior and women’s fashions in the 1940s. Here are two examples below from the 1946 Sears catalog…

Here’s another version below from a 1940 knitting booklet. This pattern is called Rough Diamond. The amusing thing is the description says it’s a “cardigan with super-pockets”. What’s a super pocket? I admit, pockets are pretty super in general! I will definitely be knitting at least one cardigan with pockets this fall or winter.

And in 1945, Sears featured several cardigans of this general shape, including a variety of necklines from a crew neck to a v-neck to a shawl collar on what they’re calling a Shaker sweater.

This style was also featured in my 1947 copy of Fleisher’s Campus Classics knitting booklet. These were both knit with worsted weight yarn and labeled “jiffy” sweaters, because you could knit them in a jiffy compared to fingering weight sweaters!

Of course, sensible shoes will be a must. I don’t wear heels that often but adore the cutouts on style K shown below…

And I love all these “casual wedgies”…

Solid-colored blouses fit the look, too. I’m so used to wearing patterns that these white blouses are very appealing to me right now.

I’m finding all kinds of inspirations for fall and am already starting to think about how I may incorporate some of these campus-inspired fashions into my wardrobe. There are items in my closet that I can build on: a few pair of “sensible” shoes, cardigans, a couple of pair of dark trousers. I’m really lacking in solid-colored blouses, so that will be a sewing priority for sure. I also need to knit a boxy pullover, and a cardigan or two. I’d like to sew at least one pair of trousers as well. And I’ll need to hunt down a solid-colored tailored fall jacket to contrast with my more casual plaid, boxier ones.

I don’t know what ideas and inspirations will actually turn into reality, but it sure is fun to think about. I hope I’ve helped inspire you some! Have you started thinking about fall yet, too?

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Golly, 23 Comments!

  • LOVE that ‘Date Maker’ sweater! and all the shoes, too. I have a real soft spot for saddle shoes. I keep looking for some local, but no luck yet.

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  • Allso love that Date Maker Sweater! There should be a patternmaker….
    Greetings and thank you for that inspiring post!

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  • So inspirational! Love these. I’m totally thinking about fall already, and looking up lots of vintage patterns 🙂

    xo,
    Em

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  • I’m so glad I’m not the only one who has been day dreaming about fall lately! Perhaps it has been the weather in Chicago this week that has been teasing us? I already started knitting a fall sweater and have been mending my wool skirts in preparation for the next season. Thanks for these images – some great inspiration here.

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  • Love your inspiration photos! I adore all the plaid skirts!!!

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  • I’ve been eying that buckle cardi for a while, too. How about a fall knit-a-long? If you find some closed-toe wedges, let me know. I’ve been looking for good winter shoes forever.

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  • I feel like the autumn is here now… at least the weather is like in autumn – windy, cold, rainy…
    And I like the fashion pictures you’ve posted. The shoes are adorable!

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  • Oh these sweaters make me excited for fall, Mmm and that smell of fall..!
    but my favorite is the girl with the record player, how in the world did she get it to play way out in that field? 😉

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  • I also am loving that buckle cardi!! I too, have been thinking about fall and about what kind of items I want to wear this year. Great photos, thanks for sharing!!

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  • I hate hot weather so I start pining for fall around the end of sring most years 😉

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  • I love your pictures. I have been wanting a plaid skirt so bad, but being a plus sized girl, they are hard to find. I am going to learn the sew this fall (I hope), so maybe I will make myself one. I love the cardigan and plaid skirt look, always have, so thank you for supporting my favorite fashion choice!

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  • Great images!! The shoes are killing me; they’re so gorgeous! Love the slacks, too!
    It’s funny, I’m putting together my Fall campus-style inspiration post right now, too; autumn is definitely in the air!

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  • Ooh yes! All of this is absolutely my kind of style! I am itching to get started on my autumn wardrobe but it’s still too early to buy wool fabric so I am having to concentrate on the knitting.

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  • I’m glad you all like the photos! I had no idea the Date Maker cardigan would be so popular, maybe I will consider a knit-along for fall! 🙂

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  • I just bought a knife pleat wool plaid skirt like the Kerrybrooks one on the left in the catalog layout you posted, and have been trying to think of Andy Hardy collegiate, 40’s styles to match with it. In the words of Edwyn Collins, “And then YOU come along…”! Most well-timed post ever! I really love all the styles featured, especially the t-shirt/pullover. But man oh man that model’s waist! If it were any narrower, it would be inverse. I now also want some cut-out pumps or wedges pretty badly (though I wasn’t much of a hard sell on that one). Look forward to seeing your striped sweater upon completion, the one in the catalog is killer. GREAT POST!

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  • Love ’40s collegiate style! I’ll take one of everything, please!

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  • Thanks for sharing all of these lovely images. I love the girl with the men’s pants and suspenders, too cute.

    If you ever post some knitting patterns I’d love to make the “date-maker”. It looks like such a warm, comfy and chic knit for the winter. 🙂

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  • Eeeeep! I just read through the comments and everyone loves the “Date-Maker”. I’d second a KAL for this little number if you’re up for it again.

    Oooh that reminds me, how is your own knitting design project going?

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  • OOOOH! You pretty much hit the nail on the head for my fall inspirations! 🙂 I’m just loving these simple, yet classic looks from the 40s. Especially the blazers and solid color blouses (I too am missing some white blouses from my closet–though I’ve been hoarding some thrifted silk skirts to chop up and use). I need to go through my closet first and figure out what I do have, although I’m already thinking about lots of corduroy and snuggly wools. Plus sensible shoes. Goodness knows I have spent most of my early 20s wearing highly impractical footwear, and I think my poor feet (and knees :p) are ready for something a bit more gentle. I’m especially looking forward to sporting my Muffy saddle shoes this year! With a plaid skirt and darling sweater, of course (since I seem to have lucked out big time at the thrift stores this spring, finding 1950s caridgans…)!

    Thanks for sharing all these! 🙂

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  • I love autumn – or Fall as you guys call it ;o)!

    I have already sent on some knitting patterns to my mum, I’m thinking economy this year so I’m going for practical longer cardis for in the house when I’m working from home so I can turn the heating down a bit!!

    I’m also hoping to get sewing again soon as well, I have the material, but it’s the time eeek!

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  • Oh wow, I just bought a vintage plaid skirt very similar to the left one in the kerrybrooke ad two weeks ago. Now I only need a nice pair of sears-like shoes…

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  • If you’re feeling nostalgic for your college days, I suggest you read “College Girls” by my friend Lynn Peril (she writes an article for Bust magazine about vintage collectables) She is a modern feminist who loves vintage pop culture and punk rock music. She was on the cover of the book about ‘zines. There’s also a section about her in Incredibly Strange Music book put out by Research I believe.

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  • I love this post, these outfits are fantastic! Oh, the good old days. Have you been on campus lately? You’ll think you’re at a strip club or a pajama party. (Someone please tell me when dignity went out of style.) Congratulations on your wedding also!

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