Film Fashion Friday 18. Ladies’ Handkerchiefs

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Today is Friday, so it’s time for another Film Fashion Friday article. I started this series to encourage people to take fashion inspiration from the vintage glamour in classic films, as we do. The costumes from Code films provide a wealth of outfit ideas for ladies and gentlemen of all ages. By providing links to similar products on Amazon, I show my readers how to recreate these vintage styles with modern clothes.

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Lana Turner in These Glamour Girls, 1939.

I usually choose an individual outfit from a Code movie (1934-1954) and describe it piece by piece. Occasionally, however, I talk about a general fashion concept rather than one particular outfit. That is what I have decided to do this week. I am going to talk about an important accessory in vintage ladies’ fashion, handkerchiefs. They date back centuries. Like most accessories, they began as practical items and quickly became prized for style. Naturally, a lady needed a handkerchief to dab her nose or dry her tears. However, it also could prove to be a charming accent to her outfit if nicely matched. It also could be used to encourage chivalry if dropped at a gentleman’s feet. A whole secret language of signs and signals was developed with handkerchiefs.

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Jane Powell and Thomas E. Breen in Luxury Liner, 1948.

Handkerchiefs were not quite as popular in the 1930s-50s as they were in the Victorian Era, since they had some competition by that point. With the invention of the Kleenex in 1924, originally invented to remove cold cream, handkerchiefs were not the only option for tear-drying. However, no matter how convenient and clean a Kleenex may be, it can’t compare to the glamour and style of a handkerchief. Thus, many ladies still used them. They were sold in all department stores and drug stores. You can see them in some films.

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Thomas E. Breen and Jane Powell in Luxury Liner, 1948.

In one of the scenes in Luxury Liner from 1948, Polly Bradford (Jane Powell) carries a white lacy handkerchief which matches her white lacy blouse. She uses it to great advantage as she speaks and sings in this scene. As she holds it loosely in one of her hands, she waves it around to punctuate her sentences and accent her points. The white handkerchief, especially one trimmed with lace, is one of the most charming and versatile accessories available to a lady. Let’s see what options Amazon offers for white handkerchiefs.

The above handkerchiefs from Amazon are an excellent set of lacy white handkerchiefs. They are 100% 60S cotton, which is reputed to be softer, more durable, and more absorbent. They are trimmed with dainty white lace. At 10″ x 10″, these square handkerchiefs are a very dainty size. These are white and identical. There are seven different style options. They are all white cotton. The only difference is in the pattern and design of the lace edging. They come in a set of six for $10.99-$12.79 or twelve for $15.59.

The above handkerchiefs from Amazon are a good option for plainer white ladies’ handkerchiefs. They are 100% 60S cotton. They are plain with a lace insert on one corner and flowers embroidered in white thread on one side. They are 11″ x 11″. They are white and identical. They come in a set of six for $8.99. At this page, another plain white design with a different embroidered image is also offered for $8.99. There are also two options with lace edging, which are $12.99 each. There are three other options which are the same as the first described set except for the fact that their floral embroidered images are colored; each is $8.99.

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Once you get used to making a handkerchief a standard part of your wardrobe, you will want more color options than white. The color which I find the most standard for my attire is black, and it is one which any lady needs. When trimmed with lace, a black handkerchief is a charming accessory which looks lovely with any black outfit. Amazon offers a lovely black lacy handkerchief, which is pictured below. It is 100% cotton with a large lace border. It is 10.5″ x 10.5″. It is $6.95 for only one handkerchief, which isn’t as good a deal as one can find for white handkerchiefs. However, this is the only lacy black handkerchief  offered on Amazon, and it is lovely.

The above handkerchiefs from Amazon are the only real set of black handkerchiefs for ladies. They are 100% organic cotton. They are plain black with no lace, embroidery, or embellishment of any sort. Unfortunately, Amazon offers no more decorative black handkerchiefs in sets. The handkerchiefs are 11″ x 11″. They come in sets of three for $16.99.

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Black and white are lovely, but one of the most charming styles in classic fashion is the consistency with colors. In old Technicolor films, you are more likely to see shoes, hats, purses, and handkerchiefs which match the base color of the outfit. It can be very convenient to get a collection of assorted handkerchiefs of various colors, patterns, and floral designs. Thus, you will have a lovely handkerchief to match every outfit.

The above handkerchiefs from Amazon are a lovely floral set. They are 100% 60S cotton. They have scalloped edges and ornate rose embroidery on one side. They come in an array of lovely pastel hues, which are randomly assigned to each set. They are 17″ x 17″. They cost $7.99 for a set of three and $18.99 for a set of six. You can buy a set of up to twenty-four handkerchiefs from third party sellers.

The above handkerchiefs from Amazon are an assorted novelty set. They are 100% cotton. They have scalloped edges, and they have embroidery and various pastel colors to match various cute designs, such as poodles, butterflies, and bows. They are 38 cm squared. They come in a set of three for $7.99 or a set of six for $19.99.

The above set of handkerchiefs from Amazon features many different prints. They are 100% cotton. They have slightly scalloped edges and varied floral prints. They are not embroidered, so their material is smooth. They are 29 cm x 29 cm. They come in a set of six for $5.99 or ten for $9.99. This page also offers sets of handkerchiefs in pastel colors with embroidered flowers, white handkerchiefs with varied prints, and colored handkerchiefs with embroidery on the edges and floral decorations.

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Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Doris Nolan in  Holiday, 1938.

An evening gown in the 1930s wasn’t complete without a matching chiffon handkerchief. These formal handkerchiefs are more like small scarves. They are larger than regular ladies’ handkerchiefs, and they are made of a sheer, silky material. They were scented with perfume and tied to one of the fingers of the left hand. Thus, they dangled from the hand like an accessory rather than a functional handkerchief. One might see an actress in a movie dab at her eyes with such a handkerchief, but its main purpose was decoration. One can recreate this style with small fashion scarves. The below options from Amazon are both very appropriate for this purpose.


Tiffany Brannan in a 1930s evening gown with a chiffon handkerchief aboard the Queen Mary.

That concludes my description of handkerchiefs. I hope that you have found it interesting. A handkerchief is a lovely accessory which every lady should have in her collection. Once you have one, you will want to use it for more than special occasions. Thus, you will soon find yourself with dozens of them, like me!

Remember, take pictures of yourself in vintage style and send them to me to be featured in a future Film Fashion Fridays article! I will gladly republish your pictures, advice, and experiences in vintage clothing for others to see and read.  Let’s make Friday a day for film fashion!

Casablanca Fashion

To every Glamour Girl and Dapper Dan, “Here’s looking at you, kid!”

The Second Annual (3)

This year, on November 8-10, we of PEPS will be hosting The Second Annual Claude Rains Blogathon, the thrilling sequel to last year’s gala! Our previous blogathon honoring this beloved actor proved to be our most successful ever, so how could we help but reprise it? Join us for three thrilling days as we celebrate all the brilliant performances of this illustrious star of the cinema!

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This year, PEPS is celebrating the holidays with a blogathon! It is called The Happy Holidays Blogathon, and it will run December 6-8. It is all about films which feature the winter holidays. Eligible holidays include Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, News Years, The Twelve Days of Christmas, The Epiphany, Russian Christmas, and Russian New Years! Whether it is just one scene or the whole film, this is your chance to write about your favorite holiday movies!

Follow us to bring back the Code and save the arts in America!

We are lifting our voices in classical song to help the sun rise on a new day of pure entertainment!

Only the Code can make the sun rise on a new day of pure entertainment!

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