Style Watch

3 retro party fashions

These cocktail frocks channel the 1940s, ’50s, and ’80s.

Photographs by Tina Sutton
Virginia Billy Barry, Wendy Spindler, Ottilie Cooney.



> Barry’s fabulous ’50s cocktail dress is the real deal. She got it from her grandmother, who happened to be the same 5-foot-7-inch height and trim size. “And that was after having four children,” says the writer for the website Seductive in the most tasteful way, the dress continues to be a showstopper six decades later.

> Barry is always on the hunt for fabulous vintage hats and accessories. Her short knit evening gloves had belonged to her husband’s grandmother. Wearing a bow-shaped ring on top of one glove is an imaginative accent. She found these antique earrings at Bobby From Boston.


> Though her shoes are new (from Marc Jacobs) the peep-toe patent pump is period perfect.

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Favorite Stores: T.J. Maxx on Alewife Brook Parkway in Cambridge for great dressy items, Cambridge Antique Market, Bobby From Boston



> Introduced by Christian Dior in the 1940s, the waist-cinched hip peplum is back in a big way. Spindler bought this little black dress (from Zara) for her birthday. She finds the retro silhouette extremely flattering.

> Spindler’s accessories also take a trip down memory lane, from her Art Deco-inspired cuff bracelet and gold chain necklace (both bought at Forever 21) to her borrowed ’40s-style geometric evening clutch with whimsical frog embellishment.


> A volunteer personal shopper at Dress for Success in Boston, Spindler favors understated elegance, as in her ladylike patterned hose worn with classic — and comfortable — mid-heel patent pumps (from Nordstrom).

Favorite Stores: Zara, Ted Baker, Reiss, French Connection



> Cooney’s black evening tunic, purchased at a consignment shop, is a glamorous ’80s throwback, with exaggerated shoulder and hip detailing in stiffened silk taffeta accented by glittering rhinestone buttons. As was true back then, being tall (5 feet 10 inches) and thin is key.

> Echoing the Yves Saint Laurent glory days of clashing colors, Cooney pairs her dramatic top with cropped purple satin pants (from her closet “archives”) and a bright red patent evening bag (from the Denise Hajjar boutique at the Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel).


> This Merrill Lynch client associate adds one more element of drama with 3½-inch rhinestone-studded silver heels (from Macy’s).

Favorite Stores: Macy’s, H&M, T.J. Maxx