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the NIFTY FIFTIES; 20-something student Ellen takes her style inspiration from ...
Fifties fashion is all about looking and feeling feminine.
That's why 23-year-old Huddersfield student Ellen Rey de
Castro enjoys wearing the styles of more than five decades ago. Her
wardrobe is packed with circle skirts, 'wiggle' dresses and
net petticoats and she's not afraid to be seen in them. She talked
to Hilarie Stelfox about her love of vintage chic UNUSUALLY for a
student, Ellen Rey de Castro never wears jeans. That's because the
23-year-old costume and textiles undergraduate much prefers the
ultra-feminine fashions of the 1950s, so much so that on most days she
can be seen out and about in stylish vintage clothes.
Ellen, who is in her second year at the
University of Huddersfield
says the fitted and waist-enhancing garments of the Fifties were made
for her figure. "They play to my curves," she says, "the
first time I tried a Fifties dress on it just felt fantastic and did
everything that modern clothes don't do for me.
"I find them very feminine and quite empowering."
Ellen, whose father is South American, was born in Peru but raised
from the age of 11 in Southampton. She fell in love with Fifties styling
as a teenager. "I'd always been interested in fashion but
people in Peru are quite conservative in how they dress. When I came to
England I felt free to experiment and I was a bit of a Goth because it
seemed different at the time," she explained. "I discovered
Fifties clothes when I went into a
A shop that sells used articles, especially clothing, as to benefit a charitable organization.
in Southampton and tried
on a dress. I had always felt fat and
1. A girl or woman regarded as dull, plain, or unfashionable.
2. A person regarded as colorless and primly sedate.
because of my curves, but
the dress just felt
Featuring minimally clothed or naked women typically in pornographic contexts:
and sexy, although not overtly so."
After leaving school Ellen went to study politics at university but
says the course didn't suit her creative leanings. "I felt
like a bit of a weirdo there and didn't fit in at all so I dropped
out after four months and went to work in London in a vintage
shop," she said.
It was there that she learned how to spot an original Fifties
garment and how to put the look together. She also discovered that her
love of past styles could become her future.
"We had a lot of costume designers come into the shop and I
realised that it could be a career rather than just a hobby," she
added. "I chose the course in Huddersfield because of the
facilities and because I wanted an all-round education in fashion and
textiles." She hopes to become a costume designer for television
and film. "Dr Who would be my dream job," she says.
Ellen's personal collection of Fifties clothes and accessories
- the more valuable pieces are still at home in Southampton - was bought
from specialist shops. She often mixes and matches original, authentic
garments with new, contemporary clothes. "My style can be quite
[Ger.,=trash], term most frequently applied since the early 20th cent. to works considered pretentious and tasteless. Exploitative commercial objects such as Mona Lisa scarves and abominable plaster reproductions of sculptural masterpieces are described as
and a bit over the top," she said. "Some of my friends
say 'don't you care that people stare at you' but I say
'no' because it's how I feel comfortable."
As well as the clothes of the period, Ellen also loves the music
and is a fan of the television series Mad Men, which encapsulated the
"It was a sexist, racist time and I wouldn't have wanted
to live then," she explains, "but things were beginning to
change and people were starting to challenge the way it was. And the
clothes were fantastic."
is now only available from specialist shops
and dealers and it can command high prices. Ellen has paid as much as
pounds 300 for a
early Fifties dress that was made in
Hawaii. "But there are still bargains," she says, "I
found a late Forties blouse for pounds 20."
Because more people made their own clothes in the 1950s quite a few
of Ellen's originals are hand sewn. She has even created her own
using authentic period patterns, bought on e-Bay or re-prints from
McCalls. Original accessories are more difficult to find than clothes
and tend to be in poor condition. There's also the problem that
women in the Fifties had smaller feet than they do today. "My feet
are only a size five, which is quite small today, but in the Fifties
sizes two and three were standard," explained Ellen.
She does, however, have a collection of jewellery from the era.
including a number of Lucite brooches and a pair of Bakelite earrings.
Such accessories, however, don't come cheaply and a small
can fetch up to pounds 30.
"Plastic was still new in the Forties and Fifties so it was
quite desirable," said Ellen. There's no doubt that Ellen cuts
a striking figure in her Fifties-inspired outfits and it is a style that
she says she will never tire of: "It celebrates everything about a
woman and the female form. It's timeless."
? Do you have a collection of period, vintage or
you would like to share with us? If so, contact
[bar] CLASSIC: A typical Fifties dress with nipped-in waist and fur
fabric collar. Notice the bow detail at the back and the Bakelite
earrings - a gift from Ellen's brother (PW131011Kfifties-09) [bar]
FAKE: Fur fabric replaced rear fur for the fashionable woman of the
Fifties (PW131011Kfifties-11) [bar] FEMININE: The ultimate Fifties
feminine silhouette, left, and accessories from the period, above
(PW131011Kfifties-08) [bar] FULL CIRCLE: Skirts cut from a circle of
fabric were a typical style of the decade (PW131011Kfifties-03)