This season, vintage style comes in two alternative, and equally appealing, variations: '50s Americana and the Roaring Twenties. But if you don't have time to trawl the musty and mysterious rails of the vintage shops, you can still evoke either era with just a couple of key pieces and accessories. I should know: as a vintage jazz singer I spend more time than is probably healthy dressing as if I've just stepped out of a speakeasy or a diner.
Speakeasy made easy
The 1920s: longer ago and therefore harder to recreate? Not necessarily. While Gucci, Ralph Loren and Sonia Rykiel were rocking the look on the catwalk with ostrich feathers and fabulous beaded caps, '20s-lovers closer to home can always explore the transformative powers of one really fabulous scarf. Tie it around the head, low over the forehead, knot just behind one ear, and bingo, you're The Great Gatsby's Daisy Buchanan. Don't take my word for it: check out Carey Mulligan in the official images for the forthcoming Baz Luhrman adaptation.
Okay, we've got a head start (sorry) but what about the dress? Drop waists, fringes and sparkle are the order of the day, as Gucci demonstrated with some full-on retro bling. Colours on the catwalk were lavish art-deco gold and black, or flesh-toned pinks and ivories - very authentic for the period, as a quick tour of one of London's beautiful '20s emporiums in the Angel, Islington, will demonstrate. Ralph Lauren has created my dream gown in eau-de-nil (even the name of the colour is perfectly twenties) with matching skull cap. But if that piece of gorgeousness is out of your reach (and it's certainly out of mine) then watch the high street for drop waists and fringe skirts in the same colour schemes; or even raid the lingerie department. Seriously. A classic satin slip or nightdress, garnished with a long string of pearls, isn't a million miles away from some of this season's slinky catwalk creations.
The big flop
Meanwhile, for day-wear, a long cardigan and a pair of satin pyjama trousers, topped and tailed with a floppy cloche hat and massive wedge heels, is all you need to conjure up the roaring twenties, if Ralph Lauren's Spring/Summer show is anything to go by. Some of those ingredients you might even find in your wardrobe already, albeit in your lingerie drawer.
If mid-century modern is more your style, the vintage Americana look comes in both prim-and-proper or souped up sweater-girl versions this Spring. The key to the '50s look on this season's catwalk is a high-waisted skirt - whether or not you team it with a teeny tiny cropped top to expose your midriff, à la Prada. (That's a 'not' in my case: English spring weather isn't up to the challenge, even if my midriff were.) But high waists flatter every figure (why on earth we ever left them behind for hip-huggers I have no idea) - and a pencil skirt is a winner whether it's in classic black or bold floral prints (why not throw in another key trend of the season, while we're at it?)
Yet again, the trusty headscarf is key to capturing the vintage look, but this time it's tied under the chin, to full 'Jackie Kennedy' effect. John Rochas led the way on the catwalk, teaming soft chiffon scarves with bold 'cat's eye' sunglasses. It may be a bit early in the year for sunglasses just yet, but it doesn't hurt to be optimistic, right?
Good luck, scarf hunters…
When high fashion embraces any vintage look for a season, it means good news and bad news for those of us who live in a retro glamour bubble all the time. The good news is that we'll be able to find plenty of retro-styled clothes and accessories on the high street to compliment our authentic vintage pieces. The bad news is that we'll be fighting off hawk-eyed stylists to get to the choicest pickings in the vintage shops. And for Spring and Summer, it looks like the biggest bargain-hunters' battle will rage over the traditional bucket of scarves to be found by the till of every second-hand store worth their salt.
A couple of weeks ago, I wandered into a vintage emporium near London's Brick Lane to have a rummage through the scarves, only to find a large tabby cat asleep inside the bucket. That put paid to my scarf-hunting plans, although several tourists were having a great time taking pictures of the feline fashionista. Now I'm starting to wonder whether some particularly canny vintage bargain-hunter didn't put the cat in there on purpose, to keep rival paws off an original '50s Gucci number… And no, the cat wasn't wearing 'cat's eye' sunglasses. Now that would have been a picture.