Sunday, January 31, 2010

Brighton Rock

Sunny Day! We drove to Brighton for a promenade along the famous Palace Pier. The pier was constructed in the late Victorian era when Brighton was in its heyday, and even in the freezing weather it has that air of seaside resort jollity. Oh I do like to be beside the seaside...

After facing the biting winds on the pier, we visited the Land Girls exhibition in Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, and Matin discouraged me from deciding that breeches and linen shirt was a good look to try out! I love researching the subject of women in the war - even more so since I came across Eileen's diaries.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Two Gardens

A couple of photos from the archives! Top: my Mummy's garden in South Wales. Bottom: A doorstep in Melaka, Malaysia.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

New and Coming Soon

Recently added and coming soon to my Ebay Shop - clockwise from top left: 1940s cocktail dress, £49; 1950s-60s Welsh Wool cape, £65; 1950s cocktail dress, £32; 1940s satin dress suit, £49; 1950s silk faille suit with rhinestones, £45; Cherry print pin-up blouse, £22

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Movie Night: Sherlock Holmes

Yay, finally saw Sherlock Holmes! We were going to see Avatar 3D, but it had sold out (we'll go next week - and book in advance). I was glad of the chance to enjoy Irene Adler's costumes (pity we didn't see more of her), Guy Ritchie's directing (always enjoyable), and the rather nice Hans Matheson (Lord Coward). And of course mountains of popcorn - mmm :)

1940s Girl

Just a quick outfit post! When my new 1940s skirt arrived the other week I was so pleased to see the colours go perfectly with my favourite sweater (a charity shop find), and the set has become one of my staple ensembles. I added a jacket today instead of an overcoat as I'm kidding myself that Spring is in the air, and topped with my new favourite hat.

40s wool skirt, Exquisite Bones; Jacket and sweater, charity shop finds; Chocolate fishnet tights (not seen!), M&S; Hat, ebay; Vintage Swiss necklace, boot fair

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Baking for Haiti

Matin's work organised a bake sale to raise money for Haiti, so I pulled my Domestic Goddess routine, donned a headscarf (thanks to Solanah for instructions on how to tie a headscarf - I cheated a bit by tying my hair up in a bun first, since it's far too long and heavy for a headscarf to hold it!) and my oh-so-fabulous 1950s atomic print apron, and baked.

My tried and tested soft chocolate chip cookie recipe (I've been using it for years - I don't remember where it came from originally):

  • 250g all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 200g butter
  • 165g soft brown sugar
  • 100g white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 100g chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 175°C. Cream the butter and sugar, then mix in the beaten egg and vanilla essence. Fold in the flour, salt and baking soda and mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips. Drop in spoonfuls onto a baking tray, bake for 8-12 minutes until lightly browned around the edges.

1940s dress, Cecelia Murphy on Etsy; Brooch and 1950s apron, charity shop; Vintage headscarf from mother.

Advertising Scare Tactics

Possibly the most non-PC advert ever created, with the message that if you use the wrong washing powder then you've only yourself to blame for domestic violence! Advert scanned from Picture Post magazine, December 1948.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Super Simple Hairstyle

Okay, I have yet to master even the simplest of vintage do's (I'm hoping a haircut will help solve my problems with victory rolls), but this I can manage, and it has a pleasingly retro look. A simple ponytail, turned inside out (pull the ponytail slightly loose, part it in the middle, then reach up through and pull the hair down through the gap). Simples!

Kreml Shampoo advert from flickr here.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ahoy Mateys

Went down to Portsmouth for an afternoon stroll along the seafront. Like most of England's port cities and seaside towns, Portsmouth has a sense of history and of faded grandeur. Besides the shiny modern architecture like the Spinnaker tower (above), there are remnants of the ancient defences, monuments to Naval heroes (the giant anchor commemorates Admiral Lord Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar - the fleet launched from Portsmouth) and the tacky amusements pier.

We got fish & chips for a late lunch, then watched the sun set over the sea.

1940s jacket (check the bow detail on the collar and pockets), Fashion Chic Vintage; Polka dot shirt dress, ebay (originally Primark); Merino wool tights, M&S; Shoes, Yoma; Ruched gloves, ebay; 1940s hat, ebay; Penguins handbag, from Thailand

1914 nautical book pages from flickr here.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Topshop Parisienne Collection

Feeling all Fran├žais, inspired by the Parisienne fashion story by Topshop. Clockwise from top left: Polka dot blouse; Bow headband with veil; Bow print navy blue blouse; 1920s style cutout Mary Janes; Breton knit dress; Polka dot vanity case

Movie Date - Gilda

Perfect Saturday - long lie-in, breakfast in bed with fruit smoothie in a martini glass, and my new Gilda DVD. Smooth.

The movie was great. It lives up to the film noir genre - kind of dark, and with not terribly likeable protagonists. It kind of annoyed me that it never bothers to explain why Gilda and Johnny hate each other so much (well, it reveals that he's the one who left her, but doesn't say why). But it's full of eye candy gowns, and those wonderful 40s phrases like "case the joint" (I love using the word "joint") and "cock-eyed" and "gay". Plus of course Rita Hayworth is a goddess! I love that the pin-ups of the 40s were shaped like real women (according to The Internet, she measured about 36-24/25-36, but I suspect that in this movie she was slightly larger than that). On-screen sexuality was so much steamier in those days - the "Put The Blame On Mame, Boys" scene (of which Matin immediately requested a re-enactment) positively sizzled, even though all she removed were her gloves.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Femme Fatale

I haven't got anything erudite to say, so I'll leave you with something from my magazine archive. What wouldn't I give to own this amazing matching suit and leopard print tilt hat! Maxime fabulosum.

Scanned from "Everywoman" magazine July 1946

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My new favourite hat

Among the consignment of hats that arrived yesterday (not all for me! Some are for my shop - today I ordered a display mannequin head so I can photograph them) is my new favourite everyday hat - it's a tilt style with rolled brim with faux pearl strand decoration, and a big bow on top! I wore it for my ebay photoshoot today.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Accessorize Purses

I love purses - they're totally unpractical for carrying cards, notes and change, but they're so cute!

Clockwise from top left: Blue polka dot purse £4.50; Union Jack purse £7; Tattoo purse £7; From Paris with Love purse £7

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Vintage Shopping in Lincoln


Had a wonderful time shopping in Tasty Vintage (recommended by Queens of Vintage). The owner is a vintage collector, and you can tell the shop's stock is cherry-picked, not like most "vintage" shops which are basically racks of 70s and 80s polyester (though of course there is a certain thrill of discovery when you pull a hidden gem from a pile of polyester), and beautifully presented. I absolutely couldn't resist a 1930s velvet peplum jacket with matching hat - how awesome is that?! And a 1950s vibrant cobalt blue wool party dress. Plus I had fun trying on all the wonderful hats - I was tempted by a Robin Hood green felt hat with a tiny real bird on it - v fabulous, but it didn't suit me unfortunately.

There are also several secondhand bookshops along Steep Hill - I could have spent literally hours browsing in them, but we were pressed for time. I did buy half a dozen 1940s Picture Post magazines from one, which are a joy to browse (not least for the vintage adverts - easily as interesting as the articles, probably even more so!). I also indulged in these fabulous pin-up girl glasses from one of the various antique and curio shops. The transfers are very delicate (one of them started to flake off as I gently washed them), but they're so cute!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Day Out in Lincoln


Lincoln is a "typically English" county town - a Cathedral city with cobbled streets, medieval architecture, a castle and lots of interesting nooks and crannies! The well-preserved ancient streets and architecture make it popular with film crews - the Cathedral was actually used as a set for The Da Vinci Code (as a double for Westminster Cathedral). We lunched at a pub-cum-tea-room on the aptly named "Steep Hill" on the way up to the Cathedral (when Daddy first warned us about the climb we didn't believe him. After pushing the pram up the 45-degree slope we conceded he may not have been exaggerating after all!).

The Norman castle houses one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, and - Joanna asked where it was the Magna Carta was signed, and Daddy piped up "at the bottom", and was so pleased with his own wit that he was doubled over in fits of laughter for about twenty minutes! (We eventually established that it was in Runnymede).

New and Coming Soon


Clockwise from top left: Vintage 1940s chocolate brown coat dress £49; 1990s wool mini kilt £25; 80s-does-40s velvet collar peplum jacket £29; 1940s style New Look pansy ruffle hem tea dress £24; Laura Lees for Topshop tattoo embroidery leopard-print dress £30; 40s style Laura Ashley wool herringbone pencil skirt £14

Available in my ebay shop.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Schoolgirl Chic Part II

Channeling the spirit of St. Trinian's - the 1950s original, of course, not the modern ones - I grew up with a vintage/retro fan as a stepfather, so we used to watch all the classics - we had a great collection of Laurel & Hardy and Marilyn Monroe on Betamax.

Blazer, hand-me-down from my sister; Polka dot bow pin, home-made; 1990s M&S wool mini kilt, charity shop (it's listed in my shop, so I'm making the most of it before it sells); Cotton shirt, made to order in Thailand.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Essential Lingerie


Following from my Vintage Capsule Wardrobe post the other day, I felt I ought to address the issue of essential lingerie too...

  • Corset or girdle. I've got a cheap corset, which is perfectly fine, but I'm saving up for one with properly gored hips by What Katie Did. Which also brings us to...

  • The Bullet Bra. For the sweater girl silhouette. Love What Katie Did's Harlow Bra.

  • French Knickers. Down with the thong! Nothing beats silk French knickers for figure-flattery and pin-up appeal! I like Marks & Spencer's modern take on the French Knicker, in silk.

  • Seamed stockings - and something to hold them up with. I'm selling off some original vintage fully fashioned nylons in my ebay shop. A few places do suspender-knickers, which I quite like.

  • Full petticoat. An indispensable accessory for full-skirted 50s fashions. Am v excited about the cherry trim red slip I just purchased!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Snow Day Sweater Girl


I love Argyle sweaters! I went into town to do some snowy photos and bring Matin his lunch. Just round the corner from his work I found this blue door which I decided to use as a background, and just as I started taking pictures I got a phonecall: "er, honey, what are you doing?" His colleagues had spotted me from the office window. I think he was quite embarrassed.

I also love fascinators - I tie my hair up a lot (really really need to go get that haircut - there's just far too much hair at the moment), which means a hat won't go over it, but having something on my head does make an outfit feel more complete. Today was all about the fascinators - I wore one as a corsage, and my feather headband (you can't see in the picture, but some of the feathers have polka dots in hot pink and turquoise, so it matches the sweater).

Cashmere mix argyle sweater, in my wardrobe for many years, originally from Marks & Spencer; My trusty black satin pencil skirt; Silk rose & feather fascinator worn as corsage, Feather fascinator headband, Accessorize.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Snow in Chichester

Along my street
Berry Birdie

Chichester Cathedral

Vintage Capsule Wardrobe

Yesterday's post ("every vintage girl needs a bombshell dress...") got me to thinking about what other essential pieces a vintage gal's wardrobe should contain - what are the must-haves of vintage style? Something I should probably consider, as I try to build up my vintage wardrobe.
  1. The Tailored Suit. I'm still working on this one - it's hard to find anything big enough in the bust while still small enough on the waist.
  2. The Pencil Skirt. I've got two - one black satin, which I love to wear (I don't believe in reserving black satin for eveningwear). I also have one in subtle plaid check.
  3. The Circle Skirt. Still working on this one too! I would love a red and white candy stripe one.
  4. The Sweater. I saw a fabulous 1930s sweater on ebay recently, with a picture of a skier knitted into it.
  5. The Demure Blouse. Mine's a 1940s silk blouse with cutwork decoration, it used to belong to my grandmother. I'm waiting for Spring so I can wear it!
  6. The Bombshell Dress.
  7. The Little Black Cocktail Dress. Pick an era, any era! 20s flapper, 30s elegance, 40s vamp, 50s bombshell, 60s mini - it's all good. I've ordered a 1950s crepe and satin number with a big bow, just waiting for it to arrive.
  8. The Full-skirted dress. Can there be a more flattering style? I have a couple of late 40s gabardine full-skirted dresses which I adore - need more for spring/summer.
  9. The Shirtwaister. Flattering, comfortable, versatile, and available in myriad colours and prints - this might be a good one to get the essential floral print into the mix.
  10. The Overcoat. Obviously, otherwise we'd get cold. I have two coats, neither of which are original vintage (for some reason coats only ever come up in very small sizes - did larger ladies have better resistance to cold or something?). I've a black princess coat with corded buttons from the ever-reliable M&S, and a fun periwinkle blue polka dot jacket from White Stuff (warning - this website will make you want to spend money).
  11. Black Mary Janes. Comfortable and versatile.
  12. Hats, of course. I would say a pillbox, a beret, and some sort of whimsy or fascinator are the basics.

I keep wanting to add more! Where do you stop? I do feel that every girl ought to have a polka dot dress. And a peasant blouse is always useful for pin-up style. And some sort of tweed skirt should probably feature in any self-respecting vintage lass's wardrobe. And can a wardrobe really be considered complete without a wrap dress?... What do you think? What wardrobe staples could you not live without?

Photo from The Vintage Rose.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Clothes!

Every vintage gal needs a bomshell dress! I'm gradually increasing my collection of cold-weather-appropriate clothing - this one's cosy wool, handmade in the 50s, and a perfect fit! It arrived today along with my lovely 1940s Forstmann jacket. The jacket, though it doesn't quite fit the bill of the perfect jacket, is all the same rather marvellous, and a great example of the inventive tailoring of the 40s - check out the crossover collar and matching pocket detail - adorable! Frosty weather photo shoot.

I'm buying practically all my vintage from the US at the moment - it's so hard to find affordable quality vintage in the UK - is it because we threw everything out in the postwar quest for modernisation or subsequent "declutterings", or perhaps it's because we've been "doing vintage" for so long that all the good stuff is already a treasured part of someone's vintage wardrobe? Whatever the reason, vintage stores are invariably expensive (even for ugly 60s-70s synthetics), and whenever something good comes up on ebay UK the bids spiral out of control, whereas it's still eminently possible to bag a bargain on etsy or (they would be even better value if it weren't for the $30 priority shipping charges, since most sellers now refuse to use an untracked service - as do I, but Royal Mail signed-for only costs about half that).

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Swallow Bakery, Chichester


Just for fun, a photo from the archives - January 2008. I named it "Fairy Cake Kingdom". I love the way the shop (which makes deliciously decadent cupcakes, by the way) shone bright against the dreary street - a haven of cosy kitsch in the British winter.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Working the Schoolgirl Chic

I need a haircut. it'll be a chance to get something a bit more forties. I'm toying with the idea of getting "bangs" (also known as a fringe in British English - I feel weird saying bangs!) for the first time in my life, I think it'll make hats look better. Probably nothing too dramatic, something like Casey's.

Maxing up the bows! 1960s/70s polka dot and bow print schoolgirl dress (it does have its original matching belt, but I thought I'd mix it up), ebay; 1940s rayon gabardine jacket (came as part of a suit, but the skirt is too small), ebay; Birthday shoes, Yoma; Bow beret, Accessorize.

French alphabet book pages from the Vintage Children's Books pool on flickr.

Give us a Swirl!

I picked up this vintage Swirl dress. I did a bit of research - mainly Fuzzy Lizzie's History of the Swirl Dress - and I'm pretty sure it's quite an early one. One, the Swirl wrap dress was originally conceived as an apron, and this one retains its apron styling. Two, the print on the fruit appliques also points to 1940s. Three, Fuzzy Lizzie's history indicates that the pockets can help to date Swirls - later ones have patch pockets, but this one has pockets sewn into the side seams. It's so cute, but it's not really a colour for me, so I'm going to have to part with it to fund my vintage shopping habit!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Design your own fabric!

Ohmygoodness check it out! Digital fabric printing on demand! What a concept. How cool it would be to be able to repro vintage fabric designs from a single scrap!

Which Fashion Era Suits Your Figure?

I'm a classic vintage hourglass, which means I look great in 1940s-50s clothes, but I can't get away with 60s A-line trapeze dresses, or shapeless flapper numbers, as fabulous as they are. An athletic acquaintance, on the other hand, looks great in 60s fashion but her lack of a defined waistline practically prohibits anything of the New Look era.

Through the decades, the fashionable figure has changed. A lot. From the bustle-toting Victorian, through the flat-chested 1920s flapper, to the wasp-waisted lovelies of the New Look and the buxom pin-ups of the 50s, the re-emergence of the waif in the sixties, and so on. Practically every variation of body type has been idealised at some point in history - it's just a case of dressing to your era.

Body type: Hourglass

The Hourglass is supposedly the most coveted female shape, but it's not always plain sailing. Generously endowed in the bust, with large hips, but a comparatively small waist, it's easy to look frumpy or matronly if you're not careful. Jayne Mansfield, pictured, works her curves.
  • Absolute number one rule: Define the waist! Celebrate your waistline with belts, and the nipped-in styles of the 1940s-50s.
  • V-necklines and sweetheart necklines are super-flattering to a larger bust, and the shelf bustline is a godsend as it allows a fitted waist but plenty of extra fabric in the bust. Victorian high necks and 50s-60s slash necks result in a large expanse of chest, so should be worn with caution, but you don't necessarily need to avoid them altogether - a V-neck jacket or cardigan can break up the expanse and help to elongate the torso.
  • Wrap dresses work well as they follow all your curves - look for the Swirl wrap dress (1940s-60s) or Diane von Furstenburg (1970s onwards).
  • 1950s wiggle skirts or full skirts are equally flattering as they nip in on the waist (just make sure the wiggle skirt is narrow enough on the waist and large enough on the hips, or it will ride up, totally hiding your waist. Original vintage is cut much better than new for the Hourglass figure).
  • Keep cosy with a belted trench, a full-skirted New Look coat, or 1950s short boxy jackets (which stop above the waistline, so still show off the curves).
  • Avoid: 1920s flapper dresses. I know they're fabulous, but they're specifically designed to de-emphasise the waist and hang flat in the front. It won't work.
  • Avoid: 1960s A-line shift dresses. A large bust ruins the line of ultra mod shift dresses. It's just not worth it.

The Pear

Pears have a slim upper body, carrying any excess weight further down on the tummy, bum and hips.
  • Empire waistlines of Regency fashions and 1970s maxi dresses look fabulous as they hug where you're slim and skim the "problem areas" (pictured: Emma Watson in a vintage Ossie Clark maxi dress). In the same way, strapless 50s gowns highlight shapely arms and shoulders and disguise big bottoms.
  • Unlike the busty Hourglass, you can get away with a lot more 1960s mod fashions, as those trapezoid A-lines work perfectly on your figure.
  • Go Victoriana and play up your shape with bustle skirts and high-necked blouses, or take it to the 1970s version, in a maxi skirt and turtleneck, because you can.
  • 1940s and 1980s shoulder pads help to balance out your hips. Chunky jewellery - like 1960s big plastic beads - also brings attention upwards.
  • Avoid: pleated skirts, and hip-hugger jeans as you're prone to muffin-tops - try 1950s styles instead.

Rectangle / Cylinder

You're slender everywhere, you lucky thing, but sometimes lament your lack of womanly curves. The biggest bonus is it's dead easy to find vintage clothes in your size!
  • 1920s styles were made for your figure, so indulge in beaded, fringed, floaty and silky flapper dresses like Louise Brooks, pictured.
  • Ditto Twiggy mod chic - work those mini shift dresses in bold monochromatic and flower power prints.
  • Other eras aren't out of reach either - create the illusion of curves with darts, and the ruching and draped detailing of the 1930s-1940s. Belts help to create a waistline.
  • Use swishy shawls, stoles and circle skirts to add flow and movement to your ensemble.
  • Enjoy backless styles - you can get away with them!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Fabulous Forties

I love the fifties. I do. I love the movies, the glamour and the whimsey, and I've been crazy about fifties interior design for a long while, but I do find fifties dresses kind of... well... you'll hate me for saying this, but... samey. There are two basic styles - slim-fitting and full-skirted, and dress patterns of the fifties show little variance. They seem to lack the innovation, the structure and the detailing of the 1940s. Forties dress patterns just seem to have that extra je ne sais quoi, whether it's a bit of ruching here, a shaped seam there, a scalloped edge or a hip swag, there's so often a little something to add a touch of drama.

Happy New Year!


We were by the Thames watching the fireworks at the London Eye, after a mad dash down the road from where we'd parked illegally with only minutes to spare before the midnight bell tolled! After midnight we even had a light sprinkling of snowflakes!

We're also celebrating New Year 1941 with Eileen Kelly's real life Blitz Diary - I'll be posting her journal entries in real-time, so stay tuned!


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