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.