Sunday, 4 December 2011

New project: restoring a 1920s beaded dress

During a recent visit to my lovely in-laws, my mother in law mentioned that she still had an original 1920s beaded dress that had belonged to her grandmother that I could have, since she knew I loved vintage clothes. Given that my wedding ring originally belonged to the same grandmother and I am somewhat sentimental, getting to wear this dress is a particularly lovely though.

We did however have to venture into their attic in an attempt to find it (always a somewhat nervouse enterprise in case the ancient dress has somehow got damp or moth ridden and turns out to be no ruined!). After much clambering around and rifling around old boxes and suitcases in the attic with flashlights, it started to look like our search was in vain - could it possibly have been thrown out by accident! Oh Noes!

Luckily my mother-in-law then remembered that she's never put it in the attic in the first place - it was in fact carefully wrapped in the bottom of a draw in the main part of the house, and didn't even have that usual mothball scent of old clothes not worn for a long time and indeed smells quite delightful.

However, it does need some restoration, so this is my new project:

This picture is how it looked as found.

It has been used for fancy dress in decades past (something that has probably stopped many beautiful old clothes from being thrown away, so we should be grateful for it), which means that it had been shortened, and there were rusty staples in it in places where tin foil had been attached for some reason. The beading itself has also come away in several places.

Luckily the shortening only involved a wide hem being added and the shoulders sewn up, so this was easy to fix. The staples also came away with relative ease and left minimal marking.

However fixing the beading will be more challenging. First I need to firmly fix back in place the beading that is still there but loose (which is why I still haven't tried the dress on for fear of loosing more of them - so I have no idea whether it will even fit when I'm finished!). Then I need to decide whether to try to recreate the beading that is missing. The original pattern of the beading can still be clearly seen in the marks that it left in the cloth. However replacing the missing beads presents several challenges. Firstly - finding beads similar enough to the originals. They are a silver/grey shade, which I think I should be able to find, but the difference between old and new (gven they will be made using different techniques) may be too obvious. Secondly, are my sewing skills up to it? I have a little practice at attaching beading from when I made my replica 1920s dress and also from a couple of other projects, but to be honest I found it tricky to do and I'm not sure it's up to the standard of 1920's dressmakers!

So all in all, there's a risk that I could put a lot of effort into trying to recreate how it looked when new without it actually working. So the question is - should I try it, or should I leave it and be content with a dress where some of the beading is missing - and will it show too much for the dress to be wearable?

I will post more pictures as the project progresses and hopefully eventually how it looks on! The colour is so beautiful, I can't wait til I can finally wear it out!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Vintage shopping in Kingston

I've been rather bad at posting here lately - it feels like life has been too busy to actually report on it! I'll post in more detail about some of the things I've been up to soon, but in the meantime, here's to day's vintage find: a new vintage shop in Kingston, 'That Vintage Shop' (Old London Road, Kingston ).

I was actually in Kingston to pick up some fabric for a new re-enactment project, but on the way out of my favourite fabroc shop, FabricLand, I noticed a new vintage shop had opened up almost next door and popped in for a browse around. It's been a while since I had time to pop to this part of town, so I'm not sure how long it's been open, but based on their website, at least since March and I just hadn't noticed it yet.

Anyway, 'That Vintage Shop' is a nicely presented little vintage boutique, with items ranging from around the 1950s up to relatively modern second hand clothing (OK, I'm still in denial that the 1990s should be included in the terms vintage or even retro!). The more modern clothing tends not to have dates and descriptions on the tags, but the older clothes do, something I consider important in a vintage shop. The datings also seemed to be accurate from what I looked at, which is an important criteria in a shop for me. It's very definitely one of the types of vintage shops that tries to find items that match with current trends with maxi dresses and pleated skirts on offer. The clothes were well arranged and easy to rifle through. Prices were reasonable - not the cheapest you'll find, but not outrageously priced either.

The shop also had a good range of bags, hat and accessories, and also some modern vintage inspired clothes and hats as well. There were also cute touches such as an old fashioned style guest book for customers to leave comments in. This is definitely a shop I'll be popping into again when I'm passing, which is luckily fairly often.

Whilst on the subject of vintage shopping in Kingston, I should mention the Antiques market on the same street. A little indoor bazaar of lots of little antiques stalls, it's one of my favourite places to browse for vintage items, from furniture and home wares to clothes. The clothing side has always been hit and miss - a great deal more modern second hand clothes than proper vintage, but it has always been a place where with a good rifle around you can often find some really nice pieces at very good prices. Some of my favourite possessions were found hidden away in an obscure corner of this place. However, of late the clothing side has been going from strength to strength, with more vendors and a better range and quality of vintage clothing. Definitely worth a visit if you're ever in that part of town!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Vintage Cardigans: original vintage or a composite?

Here's a question thats been bothering me for a while and I'm hoping wise folk on the internet can help with: there seem to be a range of supposedly vintage cardigans with fur collars all over the place at the oment, which are all spookily similar. Are they for real?

To explain: at the London Vintage Fair a while back I found a gorgeous cream ardigan with eal fur collar. It had a diamante closure at the waist and a lining consisting of lace covered by chiffon, giving a very pretty effect of the lace showing through. It was quite distinctive and I nearly bought it, but decided to think on it a while as it was £75 and I am still slightly conflicted about wearing real fur, even when its vintage. I went back a little later and unsurprisingly it was old, but what did surprise me is that the vendor gave me her card, saying they got them in regularly. I assumed she meant cardigans with fur collars, but not the identicl thing.

I then wandered off round the fair a bit more, and to my surprise found another one of these, all the same features (fur collar, diamante closure in the same place, lace and chiffon lining) but in black for about £100.

Since then, I have seen the exact same item in a number of different shops. Looking at them, all the constituent parts do indeed seem to be vintage - the cardigan, the closure, the fur - they're always clearly originals, but he overall design and way its been made is always the same. I find this weird as one of the things about vintage is that even when you find something of the same broad fashion (in this case fur collared carigans), they are usually still distinctively different in some way.

So, my question is - was there really such a string fashion for this tyle at one point that there are lots of these on the market? (baring in mind I've never seen these before this year!) Or is someone making these and selling them on as original vintage, presumably combining original peies to make these more expensive items? I'd really like to know, as they are lovely, but I object to being sold something as original vintage at a high price when it may actually be an 'upcycled' item masquerading as vintage.

Here's the only picture of one of these I've been able to find online - an expired ebay sale I'm afraid, so not a great picture:  I'd be grateful for any information/thoughts on these!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Vintage @ Southbank - a flying visit

London's Southbank is probably one of my favourite places in the world, but I decided a while back not to get tickets for the Vintage @ Southbank last weekend. This was primarily because of the price and the fact it failed to sell itself to me in terms of what you got for that money. The trouble is, London has so much on offer for vintage types as it is, so I suppose the festival needed to offer something really special for the price, and I just wasn't convinced. When the reduced price offers started going around a week or so ago, I was far more tempted - but by then I had got myself booked out busy for pretty much the whole weekend.

On seeing that there were quite a few free things going on outside the Royal Festival Hall, I decided to squeeze a visit into the only two free hours I had all weekend - Sunday morning. So I got up early and headed up to Southbank for 11am.

Royal Festival Hall - the bit I didn't go in!

beach huts

Unfortunately I initially wandered off in the wrong direction along the riverside, but this did mean I got to discover some of the groovy new things that have been set up along there recently, including a roof garden and beach area. I also mooched around the beach huts exhibit outside, which was pretty cool, and included a hut full of vintage swimsuits and bizarrely, and to my excitement, a mention of my grandfathers company and something he invented in one of them.

Granddad gets a mention at the bottom

vintage swimsuits through a window in a beach hut

This took up about half an hour or so before I finally found the vintage market place. This was nicely set up but already crowded. It was a rather hot day and not great for browsing due to having fight past people to get to the stalls, so I didn't actually buy anything, but I was pretty impressed with the range of stalls they had attracted, and found several vendors that I took cards of to look into again at a later date.

vintage market place entrance

My favourite was probably 'Hilary's Vintage', who had a great selection of good quality vintage of the styles I like (1940s, 50s and 60s) but sadly she doesn't have an online presence, so all I could get from her was a list of vintage fairs she'll be at soon, so I'll probably try to track her down again at the Clerkenwell Vintage Fair in September.

shop fronts in the market place

I also liked the stall for giving me a bunch of cute postcards on the theme of 'Which Era are you', and signed up for their newsletter.  Hepburn and Leigh ( had some cute retro lingerie, and Miss Libby Rose (, based in Greenwich looks worth a visit to their store for not just their vintage inspired clothes but also their intriguing sewing and craft lessons and haberdashery. I also loved the Horrocks shop with its reproduction 1950s dresses and gorgeous bedlinen.


There was a rather lovely looking tea room set up that I desperately wanted to sample, but didn't really have enough time. Similarly it would have been fun to take advantage of the beauty boutiques, but I was much more focused on getting round everything. I particularly impressed by the vintage funfair set up to entertain the kids.

traditional fun fair

All in all, I found myself disappointed to have to leave as there was plenty more still to look around, and I certainly could have had an entertaining day in the market and along the southbank without needing to venture into the Royal Festival Hall itself.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Favourite vintage and fashion history websites

So, I've been doing some tidying up of the blog and have also added a list of some of my favourite vintage and fashion history websites to the side bar. It's not exhaustive and I'm sure I'll add plenty more in future, but here's a quick round up of what these sites are and why I like them;

One of the best fashion history reference resources on the web, the  amount of information on here is staggering, covering a huge range of eras and categories, and I owe this lady a great deal for vastly enlarging my knowledge of vintage and fashion history!

Vintage Fashion Guild:

Lots of fascinating articles and a great reference source, particularly it’s clothes labels directory. Also has a useful set of forums

The Vintage Guide to London:

Great information on vintage shops and things to do round and about London

The Costumers Guide to Movie Costumes:

Yes it’s focus is movies, but the information and detail on recreating movie costumes is a great resource for those looking for vintage inspirations and tips on recreating historic clothing

A great vintage pattern resource – even if you’re not into trying to make reproductions yourself,  it’s still useful for the illustrations

Your Wardrobe Unlock’d:

Another site for costumiers, this is still a great resource on fashion history. It’s a subscription site, but there are a number of interesting free articles too

Victoria & Albert Museum:

What London vintage lover doesn’t love the V&A? I visit their fashion exhibitions regularly, I have a number of their gorgeous fashion history books, and they also have a wonderful section of their website devoted to it to, which is hugely enjoyable to drool over as well as having some useful information too…

Book Review: Shopping for Vintage by Funmi Odulate

I got this as a gift from my husband a couple of years ago, and it's a lovely looking book; however it has its frustrations and limitations as a reference book. It's main problem is it feels like it's aimed audience is well out of the average girls price range!

I say this because this book feels like it will be of most use to those jet setting around the world collecting signed designer vintage pieces. As you would expect from the title, it's very much a book about buying vintage, with sections on 'The Art of buying and collecting', 'Vintage Going Forward' (about which current designers to collect that will be valuable in the future) and an extensive directory of vintage fashion stores across the world. The emphasis is very much on prominent designers, with the first section 'Designers and their Decades' swiftly taking you through the key designers of each decade. Whilst this is interesting to flick through, each designer is given a very short profile and not in-depth, so it feels more like a portable reference book for those able to buy designer rather than something for those interested in fashion history to really learn much from.

1950s introduction page

In fairness, the 'Shopping for Vintage' section does cover charity and thrift shops, car boot and garage sales, flea markets and the internet, and the directory has a range of outlets of different price ranges. It's also generally nicely and concisely written.

Vintage shop directory

The biggest frustration is the stylised illustrations. They are very prettily done, but this is all that the book contains - no photographs at all. I honestly believe that the only way you can really learn about fashion history is by studying photos, looking at and touching the originals, and wearing it. Stylised illustrations really let down the written descriptions they accompany.

Stylised illustrations, not photos

All in all, it's a pleasant enough little book to flick through, but it's not one I would recommend putting high on your 'to buy' list, as there's many other much better and more interesting books on vintage out there.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Vintage fashion finds on my summer holidays

I'm back from my lovely summer holiday, a Mediterranean cruise! It was entirely lovely and just what I needed...

I had dithered about whether to pack any of my favourite vintage pieces to wear and decided against it, primarily because I'm averse to the idea of wearing delicate aged fabrics in heat I'm not used too (yes, I know 'ladies don't sweat, they glow', but getting real, perspiration has been the death of too many lovely old clothes). This turned out to be a good plan asthe weather was indeed gloriously hot all week. What I did discover is that maxi dresses are a really good idea on cruise ships - light and airy in the heat, but also long enough that when it's breezy up on deck they just wrap themselves round your legs instead of revealing all! Luckily, I'm a bit of a maxi dress addict, whether it be old or new ones, so I had plenty to take with me, so I did manage a vaguely 1970s vibe, even without the genuine article with me.

On holiday, I rule the camera and my hubby rarely gets a look in, so I have few outfit photos to share, but here's a suitable summery sunset picture of me in a dress I picked up very cheaply in Barcelona, complete with a Kir Royale cocktail.

On the vintage front, there were a couple of interesting discoveries on our journey. Hubby didn't really allow for many opportunities to shop - he was too keen on climbing big hills, volcano's etc to allow much time for that. One of our stops in Toulon allowed for a bit of market browsing (the smell of the market, combining fresh fruit, herbs and the traditional Provence lavender was just divine in places), and it turns out it's a pretty good market for interesting chep clothing. We also took a cable car up to a viewpoint there where there's also a small world war 2 museum at the summit, which had quite a few original bits of uniform on display that were of a bit of interest from a militaria point of view.

Barcelona was more promising.  After taking in the amazing Gaudi church and park, we had a little time to wander round the shops near the Cathedral. As well as picking up the dress above, I stumbled on a couple of vintage shops. Now, Barcelona apparently has quite a few vintage shops at the cheaper end of the market, but these weren't the ones we found. Oh no, these were the kind that have doorbells you have to ring to get into 'because they're scared of being robbed' (or want to keep out the riffraff, more like). Having ogled the items in the window of one but chickened out of ringing the doorbell at the sight of the scarey proprietor, the second one, to our surprise let us in (baring in mind that by this time in the day, we were very  obviously sweaty, dusty tourists).

This is Heritage Plus on the Carrer Dels Banys Nous street. It was a real Alladin's cave of top end vintage - I saw nothing cheaper than about 400 Euros, and that was the most basic items on the rails. There was a huge range of eras, including what looked like an amazing Edwardian dress, and also the most remarkable, full blown 1950s ball gown in white and black on one of the mannequins. something only a film star on the red carpet could get away with wearing. I barely dared to even touch anything, but anyone with a passion for high end designer vintage who happens to be in Barcelona should most definitely check this shop out. (The other shop that scared us off was on the same street, for those braver than me!)

The next day was our last, which we spent wandering round Palma in Mallorca. My favourite part was the Palau March Museum. It's not a big place, but has lovely 1930s architecture and decor, a series of interesting Dali's and a lovely courtyard with amazing views and filled with interesting modern art sculptures. What it also has is a slightly bizarre display of nativity scenes from the Eighteenth Century. These are of great interest to anyone interested in fashion history, as they are made up of literally hundreds of figures dressed in tiny recreations of 18th Century spanish clothing. Apparently these models were designed to be very accurate minatures, so they are an impressive history of what clothing of the time looked like. I could have stared at it for hours...

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

1970s make up

A couple of weeks ago my friend Lynsey fancied trying out a seventies look, so we had a fun evening putting her in some of my outfits, messing about with make-up, and taking photos.

As I was when I first started messing around with seventies looks (my 'home' era's are more usually 1940s and 1950s, so this has been a new direction for me this year), she was surprised with how flattering some of the seventies looks can be, although it did make her look drastically different than usual.

The big difference was the make up, so this seems like a good opportunity to describe a basic 1970s make up look. Its quite simple to acheive, but very different from modern make up ideas and indeed the more usualy vintage looks I would go for. It's also very different than Lynsey would normally do with her complexion.

1970s make up was all about getting away from the last couple of decades heavy make up looks and being fresh faced, tanned, and 'natural' (to a certain notion of natural).

Lynsey has very pale, English rose compleion, so the first step was to darken that and introduce the tanned bronzer look - something she'd certainly never played with before.

I used a foundation darker than her natural skin, but not too brown, over her whole face. I used Helen E UltiMax for this, a foundation compact I picked up a few years ago but never used much because it gives a dewey, moist finish rather than the matte look I'm usually after for 1950s style. Well dewey and moist is perfect for 1970s. The compact also has highlighter, so after making her face look very flat with the base, I used the highlighter on the top of her cheek bones, eyebrows and nose to give her face back its definition. I then used a big brush o softly put some matte bronzer over her whole face to give the tanned look.

I then used a more glittery bronzer instead of blusher to bring out her cheekbones.

For eyes and lips, the 'natural' rule of the seventies gets a bit odd. 'Natural' didn't mean no colour, it meant irridescent and shiney. For the eyes, I used one of my favourite bits of make up, No 7 Stay Perfect Eye mousse in 'Sky' blue. In the seventies they would instead have more likely used ordinary pale blue eyeshadow and then put vaseline over the top to give it the required shiney look. Having read about this, I have tried it, and basically it feels very odd, and then within about half an hour it just forms horrid lines of blue across your lid. I thought the vaseline story must have been a myth, but asking friends who were young in the seventies, they really did use vaseline, and yes, it always made those horrid lines. So the vaseline lines look is sort of authentic., but not one you necessarily want to replicate!

The eye mousse does a pretty good job of getting the effect they were trying for, but with the advantage it stays in place much longer. If used with a primer underneath, I've found it will stay in place most of a day.

I used my finger tips to liberally smear it over Lynsey's eyelids, and then finished off the look with some white eyeliner. One of the odder seventies trends, white eyeliner is very authentic, and ha been seen on the catwalk models this year so is also quite 'now'. It works great on blondes like Lyn (especially if you don't use mascarra and just leave her lashes blonde like we did), although its harder to pull off when you'r dark like myself. I took the white line right round her eyes, fully into the inner corners, then finished with a small flick on the outside. The great thing with white is that you don't have to worry too much bout accuracy - just smear it on!

Finally for the lips I used a nude lip liner to act as a base, then liberally applied that seventies staple, pink lip gloss, in my favourite Rimmel Vinyl Gloss in 'Take a Chance' pink.

So all in all, the seventies look is easy - some bronzer, blue eyeshadow, white eyeliner, pink lipgloss, and you're done. If you're pale like myself or Lynsey, it needs a bit more work (particularly remember not to neglect the rest of your body - bronzed face looks very odd next to white neck and limbs). Its not a look that Lynsey would go for day to day, but it certainly makes the difference if you're trying to get the look right for a night out.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Focus on: Pink polkadot 1950s dress

I've been away for quite some time: unfortunately I've been quite ill and real life, serious stuff has had to take priority over fun vintage inspired frollicks for a while. But now - I'm back, I'm well again, and I'm fully recovered, so getting back into my various obsessions, so I will be posting here more often again!

Mind you, one trouble I currently have is that, due to over indulgence in Green and Blacks Butterscotch choc bars when i was ill, I've put on several pounds and a number of my favourite vintage outfits are rather too snug for comfort on. So now I'm on a diet in the hopes that I'll get into my lovely fifties summer dresses when the British summer decides to show it's face. But in the meantime, I shall be digging out some old photos to share and posting a few book reviews...


Starting with an old favourite of mine: my pink 1950s polkadot dress. I bought this to wear to a friends wedding a few years ago:

Now, I'm not much of a pink kind of girl - my inner 7 year old tomboy still objects - but I couldn't resist such a lovely summery style for a summer wedding (naturally it rained all day - the great British summer!!).

I bought it from Cloud Cuckoo Land in Islington. They had it listed as 1950s, which I think is right, but the slightly dropped waistline of the dress makes me think very late fifties - I'd be interested to know what others think? The cream piping on it also seemed a little reminiscent of the sixties, plus when I bought it it had a very prky (I mean sticking out perty to the sides) bow at the neck. Now, I do hate changing original features on a dress, but it has to be said, everyone I showed it to liked the dress, but giggled insanely at the sight of the perky bow, so it had to come off. I still have it somewhere, and could re-attach it any time - but that's unlikely to happen.

As I say, I don't usually wear much pink, so it hasn't had many outings, but it becmes much more do-able with some slightly more edgy accessories - so here for example, is me wearing it to a vintage fair a few months ago, teamed with a funcky leather jaccket to take the sweetness off all that pink:

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

A trip to the 1970s

So a few weeks ago I spent a weekend in a country house with some friends pretending it was 1971. We had a huge amount of fun - 70's music, 70's food, lava lamps and lots of fun dressing up in vintage seventies outfits!

I took a lot of photo's, but sadly didn't get many of myself, but I've finally had time to go through all the photos and edit them so that I can share them. Sadly I didn't get photos of every outfit I wore over the weekend, as there were quite a few...

This one was my favourite outfit of the weekend, consisting of a maxi dress passed down from my mum and my favourite little seventies suede jacket;

I just love the colour, pattern and sheer volume of the dress. You can't quite see due to the suede jacket, but the arms are absolutely ENORMOUS when not tucked in like this. I've found this to be a common feature of original seventies maxi-dresses, and can make them difficult wear in a more contemporary context. Modern versions don't tend to go all the way on the sleeves! But this is one of the reasons why the little suede jacket is one of my favourites. I've had it many years and have found that it can transform even the most over the top seventies item (whether it be enormous dresses, sack like Kafkans or brightly coloured shirts) and make it look cool and funky.

Oddly, I once saw it's twin in a shop in Camden, and there it was being sold with matching suede hotpants. I now regret not buying it, so that I had a spare, plus those amazing hotpants! What's the chances I'll ever come across the same item a third time?

This picture shows a gorgeous midi I just love.

it's cotton and has a wonderfully 'typical' ppattern to it. It has big round shaped collars that make me think it is probably actually late 1960s. It buttons up through the front, so here I was wearing it in a manner I've heard was popular in he 1970's - long layers over much shorter skirts or shorts (in this case denim hotpants). I really do love this look. On me the dress is rather short - very much a midi length, especially once I put high wedges on! However, on a shorter lady it looks even better, I think, as a full maxi, as shown here on my more petite friend Faye back at a party last year;

I tried mixing lengths in a similar way with this outfit too, although I have to say I wasn't as pleased with the look of this one when I saw the photo's - I suspect I look like some kind of weird pixie! Too much brown, I think... Involves original seventies shirt and leather waistcoat/dress, worn with a long brown cardi recently bought at H&M. This is my favourite picture of it - dancing in the middle of the day to Led Zepplin!:

I also just love a big wide-brimmed hat - so right for the era! I got this one on a beach in Sri Lanka many years ago:

Meanwhile, my friend Faye and I had planned a little photoshoot over the weekend so I could share a few more of my outfits on here. Unfortunately we were too busy having lots of fun to ver get round to doing it, so we only got a few 'test shots' when she was trying them on in her bedroom the first night.

This dress I just adore - another of my mothers. Like she says, you feel like a princess when you wear it, it's so floaty. It's a 1970s dress but feels like wearing a 1950s ball dress. It also has this floaty little jacket to go with it;

Meanwhile, this is one of my very first vitage finds when I was a teenager, one of my fist steps into the world of vintage and old clothes. Admittedly that was 15 years ago, so would hardly have been described as vintage back then. I have worn it many times, but it was nice to get Faye into it. My mum made the stole to go with it for me, and the jewelry Faye is wearing is my mum's vintage 1970s diamante.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Birthday Afternoon Tea at the Soho Secret Tea Room

So my hubby had been rather smug for the last week about some surprise he had in store for me to celebrate my birthday. I hadn't made any plans myself, as life has been so busy lately that I've barely had time to think about impending age increases.

Saturday dawned beautifully sunny, I went and did a charity shop round in the morning (picking up a 1950s vanity case and a pair of tap shoes, needed for next week), then set about pampering and preening myself for the afternoon. He encouraged me to wear one of my favourite 1950s day dresses (with lovely matching bolero) which gave me an inkling of what was in store;


I ws a bit confused as he led me through Soho and then pulled me into a pub - the Coach and Horses - but it turns out this place has a tea room upstairs - the 'Soho Secret Tea Room': And there waiting for me was a bunch of my friends and afternoon tea, all part of a surprise party actually arranged by one of my best mates!

I've never actually had a suprise party done for me, so this was all rather exciting. The decor, cakes and tea were all gorgeous, and I just loved these bobbly knitted tea cosies;

I was also given a Twenties fashion cut out and dress u dolls book - and my mate had photo-shopped my face  onto the dolls, so now I can dress myself up in all sorts of twenties designer clothes I could never afford in real life!:

Rather sugar dazed, we all headed out to the pub afterwards, and then to Twickenham to another friends party also happening that evening. All in all, for what I expected to be a rather low key birthday celebrations this year, the whole day was full of win!

Monday, 11 April 2011

quick outfit post

Another experiment with wearing vintage to work: a little dark brown velvet 1970s dress. As usual velvet doesn't show up too well on camera, but the cutest part of the dress is the gathers on the shoulders.

Also rather liked wearing it with this little jacket - a Topshop find in a charity shop a few years ago;

Sunday, 3 April 2011

1920s tap dancing outfit

So a friend of mine is running a twenties themed evening in a couple of weeks - based around a talent show! Now, I don't have many talents, but  I did do quite a bit of dancing as a child, so I'm going to dig out the tap shoes and see what I can remember.

Naturally this means I need a tap outfit. Despite ordinary twenties outfits actually still being pretty conservative by modern standards, show biz was, of course, a bit more risque and revealing. You only need to watch 42nd street to see that tap dancers were comfortable in often tiny little tap pants. A little searching on the web also found me this photo of a rather lovely, but pretty revealing, original outfit:

So I'm pretty happy to reveal a little leg this time. I'm thinking of adapting this showgirl outfit I put together for a new year party a couple of years ago:

They don't glitter much in the photos, but I just love my sequin tap pants (snapped up when they were briefly in fashion 18 months ago). Pictures of Ginger Rogers suggests the fish net tights are viable, as tights were used by dancers long before they replaced stockings for the average women in the 1960s. I'm considering seamed ballet tights with frilly anckle socks as a more authentic period touch though. I'm also considering whether to use my dinner jacket as in these pictures, or a very tacky gold glittery jacket I've had kicking round for years.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Vintage glasses

I have an opticians appointment tomorrow, so today I popped into specsavers to have a quick browse. Like any vintage obsessed specs wearer, I'm always looking for vintage styled, but flattering, eyewear. But for me, as I have to wear my glasses all the time, they can't be too OTT as I want my look to be flexible.

In addition, I have the complication of, because I like to play with lots of different era's, it's quite hard to pick just one pair of vintage styled glasses as, for example, a 1950s styled pair may look out of place worn with a full 1920s outfit. Not that anyone else would notice, but I would know. There are of course lots of '2 for 1' offers out there, but unfortunately my eyesight is so bad that the main cost for me is in the lenses, so this is not a cheap option for me.

There are a few specialist providers of vintage frames out there. For example, Dead Men's Spex lists their original vintage frames by period: (I've not used this company myself so this is not a recommendation, but I do enjoy browsing their website!).

I am lazy though and just want something convenient on the high street.

So, browsing in Specsavers today (since that's my usual opticians), it was nice to see quite a few vintage styled frames. Even in their cheapo £25 range, there were a few interesting wire framed and slightly 1950s/60s style looks.

What got me more excited though was the Gok Wan range:

These are the ones that really caught my attention - dramatically geeky 1920's style round frames: I just love them, but I tried tham on and - they're just not flattering! It would take a very brave person to pull these off. Maybe if I only wore them for reading, I might give them a go, but sadly they're not something to wear all the time.

These are a slightly more accessible 'geek chic' pair, I think:

However, I think I'm more tempted by these rather funky 1950s style ones:

Admittedly, at a starting price of £99 for the frames, buying original vintage frames may be a far cheaper option, although I'm not keen on buying glasses I can't try on first. Specs are too big and important an investment for me not to try before I buy. I will update on what I choose after my appointment tomorrow!


Meanwhile my blogging is somewhat limited at the moment by the fact that I've filled my computer with too many photographs and family films!! I literally don't have enough memory left to load up or edit any more pictures, which is making it rather hard to get my backlog of blog entries posted.

Luckily, I think my hubbies picked up on my rather heavy hints that I'd like some extra storage for my birthday, so this should all be resolved in the next couple of weeks, but in the mean time, it may be a little quiet round here...

Friday, 25 March 2011

wearing vintage for work

So, I've been a little AWOL from both blogging and twittering the last couple of weeks, primarily due to being busy doing exciting things,and also a lot of energy going into my work situation, which is somewhat complicated atthe moment!

I will post about my fabulous 1970s weekend last week, with lots of outfit pictures, on Monday when I get back from yet another weekend away (starting to forget what to do with a free weekend!), but in the meantime, here's a quick outfit post.

I've ways found it hard to get vintage into my work wear, as I enjoy a rather dressed up style of vintage, whilst my workplace is more of the dressed down vibe. I've slipped accessories in for years of course, and I have a gorgeous 1950s overcoat I wore to work all the time for years (so much so that I sadly wore it out!).

Now I'm making a renewed effort, and so today I wore this lovely 1960s shift dress into work (apologies for the awful photo, neither I or the hubby are good at mornings!)

1960s is very easy to wear for work, especially this style since many modern work dresses are effectively based on this style. But the great thing about vintage is it's often just that little bit different - in this case the unusual and unique neckline. I got no fewer than 3 compliments on it from workmates, so I think this counts as a success!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

A thirties tea party with a thirties dress!

As mentioned before, my Dad has just turned 80 and celebrated it with a lovely tea party last Saturday, inspired by the tea parties his mother used to hold when he was young. Here's a clip from our family films of one of those tea parties of old, this one on the occasion of my aunt's christening;

I just love all the glorious hats all the ladies are wearing. Compared to that long gone sunny day it turned into a rather rainy day on Saturday, so we all stayed indoors. But it was still a truly lovely day, and included speeches full of fascinating anecdotes from a school friend he has stayed in contact with his whole life. My film edit of the family cinefilms was projected against the wall and made a nice talking point, and I got to see lots of people from his and our families past again, which was really nice.

I chose to wear an original 1930s dress to match the theme of the day (bought in Islington a couple of years ago at a vintage shop that's sadly now disappeared). I was nervous about wearing it because it's quite hard to wear - unforgiving on the figure, and as with many thirties dresses of this style, difficult to wear a bra with! It was also quite dressy compared to what others would be wearing, which made me feel self conscious. However, I got lots of compliments and felt great wearing it.

The dress is pale blue lace over a blue satin lining. It has the most amazing back and arm features, so very typical of the 1930s.

Luckily it also comes with a jacket in the same lace and a pretty peplum effect, which helped me feel less self conscious about my figure.

None of the photo's of me in it from the front without the jacket were terribly good, this is the best of the bunch!

The lace is terribly delicate - or at least the netting it is set on to is. There are already several holes in the netting, and pulling it on and off is a delicate maneuver - there's no openings to help you get it on, and every movement feels like you might tear it. I gave myself a complete heart attack during the party when, clambering over a chair, I managed to put my heel through some of the lace in the hem! Luckily, it's very hard to spot holes in the net as it's virtually invisible against the satin, and I hadn't damaged the lace itself.

I'd like to get some more pictures of this in better light - a nice sunny day perhaps - to show of the delicate colour and lace much better. I will just have to find some lovely garden party some time soon, now spring is on the horizon!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Review: Vintage Life Magazine

I first picked up a copy of Vintage Life Magazine last year at a fair, but now it's available in WHSmiths for the first time, which makes it an awful lot easier to get hold of without subscribing. This is a good thing because I always like to read several issues of a magazine before I decide to subscribe.

My impression of the magazine last year was that it was very enjoyable, but still a bit rough round the edges - very much a magazine for its community, but not a mainstream mag. I don't mean this as a criticism - it was still a good read. But the point is, it really needed to step up to the plate if its going to sell in shops like WHSmiths.

From reading this, I think it's fair to say it has succeeded! It still has all the things that made it good in the first place (that certain special understanding of the vintage ethos) but it's all much more polished in look and writing, and with extra pages now, better value for money too.

One of the things that it hasn't lost from  before is it's use of real (though gorgeous) women to illustrate it's articles. thank goodness! It's so hard to find magazines on fashion and beauty that do that rather than endless images of unobtainable size zeroes!

I love the use of vintage fashion pictures, and for once this is a magazine where I actually enjoy looking at the adverts instead of just flicking past them.

The most useful part for me is the advice around hair and make-up. For all the will in the world I am rubbish at those things, so I need all the help I can get! Their articles are so much better than mainstream beauty magazines because they're about showing you how to actually recreate a look, instead of just trying to sell you certain products.

On the detail of vintage fashion, there's plenty here, but naturally I wouLd like to see more. There was another in depth article about a vintage compact, but I would like to see similar dissections of specific dresses, talking about construction, style and design history etc. (I accept this may well have appeared in other issues I haven't read!). The  article on vintage sizing was very interesting and useful, as well as having a healthy and reassuring message (Marilyn Munro didn't obsess about her size; why should we?).

The articles on people in the vintage community, such as Kitten, were enjoyable reads and her independence of style is certainly inspiring! Being a lover of social history, I also loved the article on socialising during the war, hearing from the writers granny about her experiences.

If there's any critique I have it is that, while the Aya Smith fashion spread was very pretty to look at, I would have liked to see some more details about what she was wearing and where she bought them from. This isn't as simple as in modern fashion, of course, but it's frustrating to look at pretty clothes thinking "I think that's 1940s, but I'm not sure..." I wish they'd tell us! Maybe that makes me geeky!

Overall I really enjoyed the magazine, and certainly will be picking up the next copy - and since three issues is the charm, that may mean I finally give in and subscribe!

A thirties style tea party

It's my father's 80th birthday today and this week I have been rather busy preparing a variety of things in relation to this. He rather loves recreating the 1930s style afternoon teas he remembers from childhood, and so he has organised an afternoon tea party for friends and family this Saturday to celebrate. (I had planned to organise something for him, but he got there first - but then he loves playing host!)

My grandfather was a keen cinefilm user, and so we have many hours of footage from Dad's childhood, and I have been busy this week finishing off editing together a short film of his life to play at the party. Going through all the old film, there are some glorious dresses that my grandmother and her friends used to wear. I thought I'd share here these clips of a lovely red patterned dress she wore while gardening with my Dad one beautiful summers day all those years ago;

I love the colour and pattern (though the colour in the film has faded over the years), but I also love the way the collar and sleeves fall over each other. I'm now looking out for vintage patterns that have a similar style so I can try and recreate it.

Meanwhile, I have also bought a set of very cute vintage-style bunting to help decorate the hall he's hired, and hopefully will make some more if I have time tomorrow. I've also had printed off a range of old family photo's captured from the films, as part of one of his presents.

Now I just need to work out what to wear. I had been veering towards my favourite white with blue pattern cotton 50s dress with bolero, but it's occurred to me that my 1930s blue lace dress with matching peplum jacket doesn't get many outings because of it's delicacy. After watching these clips of my grandmothers lovely thirties dresses, this seems like a very appropriate special occasion to wear it to...

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Creating a 1920s weekend wardrobe

So last weekend I went to an event set in 1924 in a fabulous big house in Norfolk. The easiest way to describe the event is '1920s murder mystery with added fear' - basically me and my friends go to these things to flaunt around in fabulous period outfits and also scare each other witless while solving a mystery.

I love incorporating vintage into my day to day dress, but that's usually a mix of modern and vintage. Weekends like this are for me an opportunity to wear authentic outfits from head to toe and really feel what it was like to dress in that era. This includes everything from underwear, nightwear to luggage.

Well, I had great fun, both going to the event and putting together the wardrobe, so I thought I would share the process here.

Unfortunately I was so busy having fun that I only had time to get photo's of a couple of my outfits, so some of the dresses are illustrated just on their hangers. All of the vintage items I'll go into more detail about in the future.

So, what makes up a 1920s lower-upper class lady's weekend away wardrobe?

First up: luggage. I own a gorgeous old portmanteau, bought in Camden Market for a snip some years ago.

Its of a slightly different design to the drawer style ones that seem to be more common, but I suspect this works better for fitting in dresses rather than men's suits. Here it is packed, including my Victorian jewelery box and a (not vintage) box to hold vintage style face creams etc

The hats are carried in a vintage hat box:

Second consideration is underwear. From many descriptions of 1920s clothes, you would think that twenties undergarments are terribly simple. Whilst simpler than previous eras, this is not entirely true. The key issue is how to keep your stockings up, and how to control your bust. While you usually hear about skinny young girls with boy like figures wearing minimal underwear, clearly not all women at the time were shaped like that, and I'm certainly not now. A lot of women in the twenties did wear corsetry and serious support wear, it was just designed hold you in and to flatten instead of boost your bust. The classic example of this is a favourite of the time, the Symington Side Lacer, which from the pictures looks a rather formidable garment, but I have never been able to track one down.

I own a 1930s corselette which works well, but this weekend I actually wore my 1940s style What Katie Did corselette, as it is considerably more comfortable, and holds my stockings up well.

I also own an original, terribly pretty lace 1920s bra, but having no under-wiring and being a very basic design, provides no support at all, so I wear it with a modern bra of the same colour to give extra support. Annoyingly, the ribbon strap broke on the original bra this weekend, so now needs some mending.

Beyond that, I have a choice of original french knickers, camibockers and directoire knickers to wear (admittedly with modern pants underneath to preserve them), proper seamed stockings, and then of course a shift in cream and a shift in black (vital for underneath sheer 1920s dresses).

Beyond that, I essentially had six outfits to wear over the weekend.

Outfit 1: Travelling

I arrived in what I would have traveled in. I had made a new coat based on a 1920s pattern, worn with black lace up shoes (modern but the right style and heel), black gloves and the black piped hat I showed in a previous post. I was concerned about wearing the hat; it's delicate, and I squeezed it on over a blonde bob wig, plus it was raining when we arrived and for most of the weekend. Luckily I had also brought along a modern reproduction black cloche I wore the rest of the weekend, that I didn't need to worry about damaging. I also had a (modern) plain little black satin handbag, string of (fake) pearls, and an original cream and black 1930s bakelite bracelet.

Hats and gloves are so important to an authentic twenties outfit. No self respecting lady would have gone outside without hat and gloves on: it was a matter of propriety, and little hang over from the Victorian era that didn't really die out until the 1960s.

Underneath was this original 1920s day dress; one of my favourite purchases but one I find hard to adapt for contempory wear. I also wore this as my day dress on Sunday.

Outfit 2: Friday night dinner

After arriving and having welcoming drinks, we dressed for dinner. The dress here is actually a modern Monsoon dress, found in a charity shop. I can't afford an original beaded twenties dress, much as I wish I could! The original vintage items were all in the accessories, my favourite parts being the shawl and long white kid leather gloves. The shawl is probably actually 1950s, but it is large enough and beautifully embroidered to give the impression of those amazing shawls that were so popular at the time. The leather gloves came from a stall in Islington's Camden passage, and I was terrified of ruining them. Jewelery is my mum's 1970's diamante (as I was being aristocratic, I wanted to pretend I was wearing the family jewels!) with a string of diamante around my head as part of the feathered head dress. The outfit was finished off with cream satin 1980s shoes that looked the part and an original little cream beaded handbag.

Outfit 3: sleepwear

Sleepwear is important because, due to the 'scary' nature of the event, a lot of the spooky things happen at night, so I needed to be authentic looking, decent and warm. I went for a (not original) cream satin long negligee and a white cotton dressing gown with a slight Kimono look to it and a grey art deco-ish pattern. I dream of buying a proper full Kimono for a more authentic look!

Outfit 4: The morning stroll

We went for a bit of a stroll round the grounds in the morning. It was very muddy, so I wasn't wearing anything original, so this outfit consisted of wool tights, a mid-calf pleated tweed skirt, cream wide collared blouse and a long thick wool light brown cardigan. The most vintage part of the outfit was probably the boots: I have no idea their actual age, but I have some lovely brown leather ankle boots that look exactly like originals. A string of beads completed the outfit, which was then worn with the coat, gloves and hat mentioned before.

Outfit 5:Afternoon tea

Original 1920s chiffon flowery dress (rather see though so needed the cream shift underneath), with red suede matching shoes, and a dark brown long cardigan. Apologies that I got no photograph of this outfit (I didn't wear it for long) but this is how the dress looks on the hanger to give you an idea:

Outfit 6: Saturday dinner

Original 1920's dark red crepe de chine dress with beading detail round the neckline, worn with long black satin gloves, black shawl, black beaded bag and red shoes (none original), plus marcatite jewelery; again I only have a shot of the dress on the hanger here:

I had also taken along a variety of 'spare' bits of clothing in case I changed my mind about what to wear. At past occasions, I have also added morning dresses to the mix, but you get to the point when you wonder how ladies had enough time in the day for all these changes of clothes!