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Vintage Street Fashion Photos Chronicle the Beauty of Candid Moments

by Hanna Brooks Olsen
featured, photo & video

Street fashion bloggers like the Sartorialist may have popularized this style of on-the-street style-spotting, but photographers have been documenting fashion in the wild (or, more accurately, in an urban environment) for ages. Case and point: All of these exquisite vintage street fashion shots from way back in the day.

These photos range from the 1930s to nearly the 1970s, and span the globe. Most of them are from national archives, though some have been collected by citizens with an eye for cool old style.

vintage fashion photography

The title of this photo, which comes from the State Library and Archives of Florida, is simply “Woman models tennis fashions at Burdine’s: Miami, Florida.” It’s dated March 4, 1929, and was taken by William A. Fishbaugh, W. A., who was born in 1873.

vintage fashion

The Library of Congress is quick to point out that the note at the top of this photo is “unverified data provided by the Bain News Service on the negatives or caption cards,” as part of the George Grantham Bain Collection. According to the LOC, “the George Grantham Bain Collection represents the photographic files of one of America’s earliest news picture agencies. The collection richly documents sports events, theater, celebrities, crime, strikes, disasters, political activities including the woman suffrage campaign, conventions and public celebrations.

The photographs Bain produced and gathered for distribution through his news service were worldwide in their coverage, but there was a special emphasis on life in New York City. The bulk of the collection dates from the 1900s to the mid-1920s, but scattered images can be found as early as the 1860s and as late as the 1930s.”

vintage fashion photography

From the same collection, this image is also undated, but likely from the 1930s.

street photography

One more from the Bain Collection, here we meet a fashionable little dog named Noisette. The LOC says that Noisette “won first prize at the April 19, 1914 French Bulldog Specialty Show in New York. In a New York Times article the next day (“Victory For Dr. De Luxe”), Noisette’s owner is listed as John E. Haslam. Haslam had another Frenchie, Melisande, who took “reserve” for the “Winners, Bitches” in the same show. Many experts felt that Melisande was the strongest contender and deserved the award. John Haslam served as president of the French Bulldog Club of America.”

This photo is of his wite, Mrs. Martha Haslam.

sydney street fashion

This photo is courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales. and was taken in front of Minerva French Perfumery at Kings Cross, in Sydney in July 1941. The photographer was Russell Roberts

sydney street fashion

This one is also from Australia, which belongs to the collection of the Powerhouse Museum, and shows a maning on board the SS Mariposa in Sydney Harbour. It’s undated.

street fashion 1969

This 1969 photo comes via the National Library of Ireland, who point out some of the details as such:

“There’s the No. 8 bus on its way to Dalkey, passing by Forte’s Cafe, a Dublin institution, and a cute but overloaded Fiat car complete with L plate, plus a snapshot of Dublin fashion in the Spring or summer of 1969.”

Irish fashion photography

Another from Ireland, though the subject is American. Writes the National Library, “this is American model Linda Ward (O’Reilly) posing, while two local boys give her outfit the once over.” The image is believed to have been shot between 1960 and 1966.

street fashion photography

Another photo from the same year, this time, in London. The National Archives calls this one. “Teenagers in London’s Carnaby Street.”

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Hanna Brooks Olsen

Hanna Brooks Olsen is a writer and editor for CreativeLive, longtime reporter, and the co-founder of Seattlish. Follow her on Twitter at @mshannabrooks or go to her website for more stuff.