You can easily tell the fashion trends of a certain decade just by looking at what the big designers were creating and what was being featured in the magazines. But what about what everyday women were wearing? How these big trends were interpreted by women from different countries and backgrounds isn’t something that is seen in vintage fashion magazines.
Candid street style photos and personal family photos help piece together how big trends trickled down to certain areas. How women of different areas and socioeconomic backgrounds chose to interpret certain trends while leaving others behind. How they put their own spin on looks and in the process, made them into new trends. These photos give us a glimpse into what life was like back in a particular country, during a specific time. These photos are a key to history.
It is truly sad that vintage photos of Latinas are not necessarily easy to find online. The internet is great for finding information but it gets harder when the content is decades, sometimes hundreds of years old. Add in women and people of color who weren’t represented a lot, or at all, during those moments in history, and it can be like finding a sartorial (and proverbial) needle in a haystack. This makes it important to get people to share their old photos online more, as it not only shares their own family and personal narratives, but also helps the rest of us Latinxs fill in the blanks on our country’s history, culture, pop culture, and our identities.
We are very happy, though, that we found these photographic gems online. The following 30 photos showcase fashion spanning over 100 years, and they are all of Latina women in Latin American countries. Check them out!
Our first photo dates back to the 1860s and was taken by the Cruces y Campa studio, ran by Antioco Cruces and Luis Campa, in Mexico City. It features an indigenous Mexican woman, dressed in traditional garb and holding a handwoven basket. If it is the correct photo, this is “Mujer de Tuxtepec, Oaxaca,” and she is dressed in one of the 200-plus regional dresses from the state of Oaxaca. This photo is part of a series of pics that Cruces y Campa took of “occupations,” or “tipos.” The series showed “men, women, and children in a diversity of occupations or wearing traditional costumes against realistic backgrounds.” This photo has survived time to inform us of what some American Indian women of Mexico were wearing over 150 years ago, and how that compares to the styles of today. We wish more photos like these were readily available to look at and learn from!
A woman’s style during any period in history can vary greatly by the woman’s socioeconomic background, location, culture, race, dedication to fashion (or lack thereof), taste, and several other factors. This photo is also from Mexico, and also from the 1860s, but is completely different. The antique ambrotype shows a woman from Mexico City, dressed in the European-style dress of the day (voluminous sleeves, wide skirt), and matching hairstyle (parted down the middle, smoothed over the ears, and pinned into a roll or low bun at the back of the neck.) These two photos alone shows us how drastically different two women from the same country, during the same decade, could dress.
This photo takes us to Valparaiso, Chile during the late 1880s. This outfit is also European in style and features the much slimmer skirt that was in vogue during that time. The lady’s look is accented with a large fan, and her hair is styled in on-trend soft, up-swept curls, with frizzy bangs. The photo was taken in Valparaiso by Leblanc and Valck (Felix Leblanc and Jorge Valck Wiegand)/Garreaud (Emilio Garreaud).
This photo was taken in Mendoza, Argentina sometime during the 1890s. It shows women working in the vineyards, dressed in the Victorian style of the day. Although they were doing agricultural work, these ladies were dressed in the voluminous-sleeve blouses and usually-darker, long skirts that were seen on women in other parts of the world. Their hair was also in style, swept up in big, romantic updos. As for Mendoza itself, many winegrowers fled Europe, especially during the 1890s, to escape the Great French Wine Blight. This brought the first wave of European immigrants to Argentina. Today, Mendoza produces the majority of wine in the country.
Our next photo takes us to Brazil, in 1914. It shows elite families enjoying the Prado da Moóca in Sao Paulo. You can see the different styles of women’s hats typical of the time period (some featured feathers), as well as the column-like dresses that were softer and not as corseted as the ones from previous years. The men are dressed in three-piece suits, known as lounge suits, that were in style in the 1910s, in addition to their bowler, Hamburg, and straw hats. The pic serves as a glimpse to life in Brazil during the ’10s and how the upper class dressed during that decade.
This photo from Guatemala says it dates sometime between the 1910s and 1920s. It is a safe bet to assume it is from the 1920s because of the cloche and mushroom hats that the women are wearing. The shorter dress length is also a giveaway to the time period.
This photo, taken in Colombia, is also from the 1920s. It features a glam, nighttime look, in the style of the day. Some of the dresses are beaded, while others are more demure. Most of the women are wearing the popular bob haircut of the 20s, and then men are dressed in white tie attire — tuxedo coat, white vest, wingtip collar shirt, and of course, a white tie. The other men are dressed in their military uniforms.
1920s Dominican Republic
This particular roaring ’20s photo is from the Dominican Republic and is a completely different style from what many Latin American women wore during this decade. This look is very Spanish-influenced, from the fringed shawl to the hairstyle decorated in flowers and a large hair comb, to the longer tiered dress. This photo is a great example of how Latin American countries have always balanced multiple styles: the traditional Indigenous and African influences, and the latest trends from Europe and the United States.
We have another 1920s photo from Colombia. This one is especially cool because it really highlights 1920s accessories. You see all the cool cloche and mushroom hats, as well as the shoes of the day. On top of that, you see a bit of the jewelry, with the variety of dress styles, worn during the ’20s.
Our next pic takes us to Bolivia, in 1927. Although the photo was taken in South America, the style is total Spain. The lady pictured has an on-trend 1920s bob, with a flower in her hair, and a red and black fringed shawl. The extra flowers on the front of her outfit adds an unexpected touch and pop of color.
Now, we move on to 1930s Brazil. The styles changed a lot from the ’20s to the ’30s, but not so much in swimwear. Wearing clothing in the water to swim was still a new concept, and women were expected to be very modest and covered up. The styles became a slight bit more body conscious and feminine during the ’30s, but this photo shows styles that are more 1920s.
This photo was taken in Cuba in 1933. It is hard to tell if the lady pictured is wearing a dress, or a blouse and skirt combo. The look is relaxed yet elegant and perfect for tropical weather. The small clutch and rounded pumps are on-trend and complete her look.
1930s/1940s Costa Rica
This fashionable photo was taken in Costa Rica, during the 1930s or ’40s. It features several ladies dressed in the style of the time — long dresses with cinched in waists, high necklines, flutter sleeves, and bigger shoulders. Based on the trends of the 1930s, day dresses versus those of the 1940s, it is safe to say that this photo was most likely taken during the ’30s (unless trends were adopted in Costa Rica later than in other countries).
1940s Dominican Republic
When Christian Dior introduced his “New Look” in 1947, it heralded the beginning of dramatic, full skirts with tiny, nipped-in waists, and soft, rounded shoulders. This continued into the 1950s. The photo you see here is of a group of ladies in the Dominican Republic. It is credited as being from the 1940s; because of Dior’s New Look, we know that it has to be from 1947 or after.
We are back in Cuba for this glamorous 1940s photo. The 1946 snapshot, by Nina Leen for LIFE magazine, shows Cuban socialite Aline Johnson getting a pedicure while hanging out with her friend Nina Gomez de Freyre. The longer (than what was worn in the ’30s), shoulder-length hairstyle, clothing, and accessories are pure 1940s-era glam.
This 1940s Havana, Cuba pic shows that not every woman grew her hair out longer during the 1940s. The woman on the left has more of a 1930s-style hairstyle, and her day dress is also more ’30s (in the ’40s, day dresses were often button up, with a collar). The woman on the left’s look is definitely more 1940s, from her hair to the dress, and the shoes.
1950 Puerto Rico
This photo was taken in Puerto Rico, at the Naval base in San Juan, during the 1950s. One of the ladies is seen wearing a day dress, while the other two are in blouse and skirt outfits that were in style during both the 1940s and ’50s. The snapshot is a cool look into what women were wearing over 60 years ago on the island.
How badass is this photo?! It was taken in Cuba during the 1950s, and features a lady on a motorcycle. She is wearing a scarf-like top, the high-waisted, cropped black pants that were iconic during that decade, and Mary Jane shoes. It proved that the ’50s cool “bad girl” wasn’t just an American concept.
1956 Dominican Republic
This photo was taken in the Dominican Republic during the 1950s. It gives us a look into the different types of dresses, and shirt/skirt combos that Dominican women were wearing during that decade. You have the on-trend nipped-in waists, full skirts that were in vogue. You also see the popular, short curly hairstyles that were on-trend in the ’50s.
No, this sleek and fashionable vintage photo was not taken in Italy or France. It was taken in Cuba! The snapshot, by famed Cuban photographer Korda, is of a secretary, dressed in sleek head-to-toe black. This entire look is so classic and timeless, that it could have been taken today.
In our Latinx fashion roundup, we are now in the 1960s. This photo was taken in Pueblo Tuzantla, Michoacan and features two women in the style of the day. Shift dresses, pencil skirts, low-heeled pumps, and bouffants were all style indicators from the decade (most often from the first half of the decade).
The shift dress, which was especially in style during the 1960s, is actually based on the same dresses of the ’20s. They are classic, easy to wear, and more modest than the ’60s tighter wiggle dresses. This photo, of a woman wearing a shift dress, was taken in Cuba in 1963.
Indigenous style is a super important part of any Latin American country’s history, present, and future. These clothes have been worn for thousands of years, and are an integral part of each nation’s culture. They’re not just fashion, they’re identity. This photo is of indigenous women and their traditional garb in 1970s Guatemala.
This throwback photo is of a Reddit user’s mother and was taken in Peru during the 1980s. Home photos like these are so important because they show what everyday people were wearing, in different countries, during a certain time period. We all know what all the big trends were, but it’s cool to see how they were interpreted by individuals.
Our next vintage Latinx photo takes us to 1980s Renaca Beach in Chile. Photographer Don Terpstra captured beachgoers in a series of pics during the decade, that now can be seen on the vintage photo site, Vintage Everyday. It’s safe to say everyone was on-trend, with their big, feathered hair, crop tops, high-cut string bikinis, and cool sunglasses.
We have another Peruvian ’80s style shot for you. This one is also of someone’s mom, as she was preparing to compete in the Miss Peru pageant. The feathered hair is a dead giveaway that the photo was taken in the ’80s, and the cute, vintage-y summer look is something you’d see on a stylish hipster today. Super cute!
The ’80s was not afraid of bold pops of color, even if it was worn from head-to-almost-toe. This vintage 1980s photo, taken in Venezuela, feature two young ladies traveling on their equally-throwback rainbow train. Their colorful outfits are anchored by white accessories, which were so popular at the time.