Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sale Sale Sale!

The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things. Mostly the fact that I'm running a SALE in my etsy shop. I've got some fabulous vintage clothes listed (modelled beautifully by Aimee of Bright Young Twins), along with original vintage fully fashioned stockings, my upcycled record bags and fascinators, and fabulous embellished shoes. And the best news is I'm offering readers 20% off with coupon code tuppenceblog20. If you've had your eye on something now's your chance to nab it for a bargain!

Clockwise from top left: Upcycled record hat embellished with 60s millinery; 70s does 30s gown with flocked strawberry print; Upcycled record clutch bag; 1950s crepe wiggle cocktail dress.

Go ahead and treat yourself, and support this blog - because if I can't make my rent I'll have to go out and get a real job, which will mean no more blog, and that would be very sad. So time to start dropping hints about what you reeeally want for your birthday / mother's day / Easter / early Christmas / Anniversary / Monday. And tell your friends - spread the word!

Clockwise from top left: Laura Ashley wool plaid suit with velvet accents; Upcycled record bag with Paris Kitty fabric lining; 1960s Chinese brocade satin cocktail ensemble; Upcycled record hat embellished with vintage millinery flowers.
Besides, how can you resist all this gorgeousness? Especially at 20% off!

1970s floral stripe sundress by Carnegie of London; Upcycled record handbag with vintage 50s atomic feedsack lining; Upcycled record hat with vintage millinery flowers; Vintage fully fashioned stockings.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Why You Should Love The Seventies

I've got to say, lately I'm finding myself drawn to some distinctly seventies looks! It sometimes seems like enjoying the 70s is some sort of "guilty pleasure", unfashionable amongst the vintage scene. It's a decade which sometimes gets a bad rap in fashion history (second only to the eighties) and - held responsible for the rise of poor quality, itchy crimplene and other synthetics, and a reputation for brown and orange everything - is often neglected by "vintagists" (while being embraced by mainstream fashion, in heavily diluted form). But the 70s did actually provide a wealth of fashion within quite a short time - one of the reasons it's been regularly plundered for inspiration by designers almost since it closed! So here are my four top reasons why you should love the Seventies:

1. Diversity Rules

To some, it's a decade where fashion was directionless, with diametrically opposed subcultures including punk, hippie and disco competing for the style spotlight. But, contrarily, I see these as reasons to love the seventies. It was in many ways the first "anything goes" era, where fashion became truly divergent. Really for the first time, fashion was not prescriptive: Skirts could hit anywhere from mini to maxi, you could opt for blousy and romantic, sharp tailoring, "ethnic" fashions like kaftans, or skintight lycra.

2. The Fit n Flare Silhouette

The standard silhouette - if there were such a thing in the 70s - was a fit-and-flare shape, flattering to virtually all figure types and a welcome alternative to the boxy, waist-eliminating shapes of the mid- to late-sixties.

3. Pick A Revival

Brands like Laura Ashley and Gunne Sax headed up the Victorian-Edwardian revival with high collared ditsy-printed cotton prairie dresses decorated in crochet lace edging.


Meanwhile, mainstream fashion was taking influences from the 1930s, 40s and 50s - each of which I'll be examining in more detail over the coming weeks.

4. Easycare fabrics

The frail silk crepe-de-chines and notoriously temperamental rayons of the 1930s and 40s are totally gorgeous, but so delicate that even entrusting it to the dry cleaners can be a nerve-wracking experience. So there's really something to be said for being able to chuck 1970s polyester and heavy cottons in the washing machine.

So come on, what do you love about the 70s? Who are your 70s style icons?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Spoonflower Bicycles Contest

It's competition time again over at Spoonflower! This week's theme is bicycles, and I've entered a retro "kitties on bicycles" print inspired by a 1950s dress fabric. The standard of entries is, as ever, incredibly high, but I'd appreciate it endlessly if you could get over and vote for me. Heck, even if you don't want to vote for mine I'd thoroughly recommend looking through all the wonderful designs - there are several I'd happily make up into a dress!

Vintage Bookshelf: Style Me Vintage - Clothes

The buzz all over the vintage blogosphere at the moment is all about Naomi Thompson's new book, "Style Me Vintage - Clothes". The book is a fabulous entry-level guide to vintage clothing, covering key looks decade by decade from the 1920s to 1980s.

Day and evening looks from each decade are detailed in checklists and modelled by Naomi's friends and family. Each section is also complemented with gorgeous fabric swatches - and you know how I feel about novelty prints!

There are also sections covering dating vintage, caring for vintage clothes, and shopping for vintage. This is the book you need if you're starting out in vintage and looking for advice to help develop your style. If only this book had been around when I was 20 I could avoided years in a style wilderness.

The book is beautifully presented and a great little reference - even if you're not a vintage beginner, it's great for a flick-through for inspiration.

And ooh, guess what? I have a copy to give away! Just leave a comment below to enter. If you'd like an additional entry, follow me on twitter and retweet the giveaway, then leave a second comment below. For good measure, I'll give you a third way to enter - 'Like' my Facebook page and share the giveaway there, and again leave another comment saying you've done so. The winner will be posted on Monday.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

On Vintage Fur

This is something I've addressed previously, but animal rights protestors harrassing customers outside Beyond Retro in London has brought up the discussion again, and since it's such an important topic I felt it deserved a dedicated post.

Advert for Fur Coats in the Daily Mail, June (!) 1928

Let me start by reiterating that I personally don't have a problem with vintage fur. Although PETA's campaigning has given most of modern society a revulsion of fur I'd rather the old stuff be worn and enjoyed than be tossed out and end up on the scrap heap and in landfill - to me that shows less respect for the animal that died than wearing it and appreciating it. Equally, adding unneccessarily to landfill is both bad for the environment and against all the principles of "make do and mend" and "reduce, re-use, recycle" that are the basis of ethical fashion. Furthermore, if you consider the environmental cost of manufacturing new faux fur to replace that vintage mink coat you just threw out, it becomes decidedly un-eco - doubly so when the new faux fur will wear out and need replacing long before the mink would. These are the key issues for me and for other wearers - including vegetarians and vegans - of vintage fur.

That said, it has been suggested that interest in vintage fur might be turning the tide of acceptability of modern fur: After PETA's high-profile, supermodel-fronted campaigning in the 90s, fur fell dramatically from mainstream fashion favour, but there's a risk that vintage fur might be leading people to become comfortable with the idea once more, fuelling the modern industry.

I'm not an advocate of new fur, mostly to do with the conditions in which animals are kept and killed: just as I insist on free-range chicken (and always have done), I think it's important to recognise welfare standards for animals killed for their pelts, and the difference between free range fur versus factory farming. One commenter on facebook (who I won't name in case she doesn't want to enter the debate publicly!) said, "I feel that [organisations like] PETA place so much emphasis on not using animals at all, that there is no debate left on the standards used in production for those who are non-vegan. Their aggressive tactics and narrow span closes off debate rather than opening it up." One answer might be to campaign for stricter regulations regarding animal welfare in the fur trade, rather than intimidating the innocent customers of second hand shops.

But to bring us back to the central issue of vintage fur, to what extent does the eco-friendliness of vintage fur outweigh concerns about modern fur production? Where do you draw the line? I'm easily able to justify vintage fur on the basis of eco considerations, but find myself squeamish about new fur. Do you come down on the side of the eco, reduce/re-use/recycle aspect, or is all fur (and leather) evil? Would you happily wear vintage fur but balk at modern? Do you consider the fur and leather trades on a par with the meat industry? I'm aware this is an incredibly touchy subject, and many people have very strong feelings on the issue, so I'd ask that you (pretty please) try to keep the comments from becoming too inflammatory.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Polka Dots and Bows

This was the first 1940s dress I bought myself, and it remains a favourite. It's comfortable and easy to wear, and I adore both the colour and print. In fact it just occurs to me that the print would make a great companion to my ballroom belles vintage repro print - it dates from the same era, too. Anyway, although you've seen it several times before I love finding new ways to wear it! Versatile clothes are the best.

Notice anything different about my hair? I had a few inches off at the weekend - a bunch of us got together at Shona's house with a travelling hairdresser for the day, before going to the launch party for Style Me Vintage (an absolutely delightful book - my review will be up later this week) in the evening. I love my hair when it's just been cut and styled professionally - she gave it a lovely bouncy, loose curl, which is why I decided to wear it loose with the headscarf rather than tying it up. (sorry about the squint - the sun was really bright as I was taking these!)

Dress, ebay; Cardigan, from a family friend's mother's estate; Swift brooch, car boot sale; Pearls, gift from mother; Polka dot scarf, purchased in India; Swiss dot tights, Lidl; Gloves, can't remember; Shoes, Marks & Spencer; Earrings (you can't really see, but they're little pink hats!), purchased in Thailand.

And also... Happy pancake day everyone! What's your favourite topping? Mine's classic traditional lemon and sugar, though very closely followed by maple syrup. PS: Mummy, please no more comments about weight gained - am on diet.

Monday, February 20, 2012

{Sewing for Beginners} Five Golden Rules

Continuing my Sewing for Beginners series, in my efforts to convince you all that sewing really isn't as hard as you might think, here are my five golden rules.

1. Follow the instructions step. by. step. Sometimes - especially on vintage patterns - the instructions can seem vague, or make assumptions about your level of knowledge and ability. Read and re-read them before you start. Sometimes you might wonder about the point of a particular step, but its neccessity will usually become clear later in the construction. Making a muslin is a great opportunity to practice techniques as well as improve the fit of a garment. Take your time. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither - unless you're a pretty competent seamstress - is a dress. I can take a week or two to finish a dress - longer, even. But that's fine. As hard as it is, try not to let impatience to see the project finished compromise your work.

2. Your iron is your best friend (after your sewing machine). Pressing seams and darts makes an immeasurable difference to the professional look of the finished garment - honestly. I'm super lazy and will generally take short cuts wherever possible, but I have my ironing board and iron sitting out whenever I'm sewing so I can give each seam a quick press before I sew the next one.

3. Believe you can do it. A pattern with tucks and gathers and drapes and topstitching might seem daunting, but take it one stage at a time, one instruction at a time, and it's not really so hard. Practice makes perfect with techniques you're not sure about like gathering and topstitching.

4. Don't fixate on perfection. One of the things that initially scared me when I wanted to start sewing was seeing all the hundreds of tutorials about getting a perfect fit. It seemed like such an undertaking, with so much to learn - how was I ever going to make a dress that fit me if there was all this to consider? Eventually I plucked up the courage and jumped straight in with my first project, making it up as the pattern (which was too big for me), then simply taking out about two inches from the side seams to make it fit. It's not perfect, but it still fits me a whole lot better than a high street garment. Since then I've learned about Full Bust Adjustments and pattern tweaking, and now fitting issues make much more sense to me (though I'm still only really starting out in the complex world of proper fit). What I'm saying is although the pursuit of perfection is very noble, it doesn't really help the beginner to get stuck in. Which brings us to...

5. Don't be afraid of mistakes. The seam ripper is your friend. So the seam allowance got caught up in your stitching and left a huge wrinkle? Or upon completion you find you've made the waist size too large? It really is no big deal to unpick the seam and re-sew it. Fixing sewing errors takes less than ten minutes in most cases - rarely longer than half an hour. Cutting mistakes are harder to fix, but can usually be avoided with planning.

Following on from this, since I seem to be accidentally launching a campaign to get people sewing, I was thinking about running a beginners sew along: Something simple like a 1950s dress, possibly Folkwear's 50s pattern. Since I'm trying to encourage beginners to jump in, there won't be a muslin stage, but I'll try and cover basic adjustments. If you're interested or have any suggestions, please let me know!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

{Style Inspiration} Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

I am obsessed with William Travilla's costumes for "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes". Actually I'm obsessed with the whole film, it's one of the best ever made - the humour has stood up over time, unlike many others of its era. I can't remember how old I was when I first saw it - it was one of the films we had on Betamax (which my stepfather always maintains was superior to its commpetitor VHS). Some of you may recall a project I've had in the pipeline for, oh, years - in which I intend to sew a series of garments inspired by the costumes from this movie. Well my first such garment is scheduled in for next month, so I thought I'd dedicate a Sunday Style Inspiration post to those fabulous costumes.

Both ladies' "Paris" suits were simply to die for, but Marilyn's especially was an absolute show-stealer, in some ways outshining even the much more extravagant and famous red sparkly "Little Rock" and hot pinks "Diamonds" dresses in pure elegance.

Although Jane Russell's Dorothy is often overshadowed in popular imagination by Marilyn's Lorelei (she was actually the bigger star at the time, and paid several times Marilyn's fee!), her outfits were just as stylish, given a sharp elegance to match her wise-cracking character.

The skirt below is another on my to-make list - just love that high-waist detail!

The first of Dorothy's swing coats, black and white check with shaped lapels and vibrant yellow lining, worn over a black halterneck jumpsuit.

The velvet trouser outfit with wide lilac cummerbund sash and green sweater - a study in colour and texture. And Dorothy's white swing jacket with blue polka dot lining is just a dream.

One of the less well-known costumes from the film, but one of my favourites, is this sapphire number from the scene which contains one of Marilyn's best lines (and one which I read she had a hand in scripting).

Don't you see? A man being rich is like a girl being pretty. You might not marry a girl just because she's pretty, but my goodness, doesn't it help?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

{Sponsor Spotlight} Heyday! Vintage Style Clothing

I'd like to welcome my newest sponsor, Heyday Vintage Style. Heyday has a range of affordable vintage reproduction clothing including their signature 1940s swing trousers and swirl-alike "Fleur" wrap dress.

Can you introduce yourself and your shop, please?

Hi, I'm Shona and I am a dressaholic!! I run Heyday Vintage Style clothing, where we make reproduction outfits from the 1930s to the 1950s. We cater for men as well as women and I'm constantly expanding our range.

What inspired you to start Heyday?

I have always sewn my own clothes - I had some weird get ups as a teenager! And I made all of my competition Rock and Roll outfits since I was 16. Eventually I realised that other people needed period style clothes to go dancing in too

Can you tell us your favourite piece in your shop right now?

The Mary dress (above left) - it contanstantly wins hands down as a go-to outfit for dancing, evenings out, afternoon tea parties or work. It can be dressed up or down and is very flattering. Also - you can just throw it in the wash and it barely needs an iron, so it is great for travel too.

What are you currently working on?

I have a sweetheart neckline 50s dress, a 30s Sailor dress and a wartime dress too. They are all very lovely

Ooh I can't wait to see those - they sound delicious! Where can we find you?

We have two Favebook accounts, Ina Heyday where you can tag yourself in a heyday item and go in the draw every month to win a voucher, and our formal Heyday page. On Twitter I am HeydayVS.

We also travel - we will be at Hep cats Holiday, Twinwood, War and Peace, and Hemsby this year.

Sponsor Tuppence Ha'penny Vintage

It's a great time to start advertising on Tuppence Ha'penny! This blog has received nearly 55,000 pageviews in the last 30 days, and has over 11,000 subscribers through feedburner. My rates are reasonable and I'm open to negotiating payment in terms of product.

If you'd like to promote your vintage shop / business / glamorous self through sponsorship advertising, please get in touch - send an email to charlotte {at}

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Colour of Nude

Peach dress by Daisy and Stella

A recent post on the etsy blog, The problem with nude got me to thinking about the colour occasionally termed "nude". Back in 2010 Michelle Obama wore a frock which some journalists unthinkingly described as "nude", later hastily switching to "champagne" when they were taken up on it ("skintone? Whose skintone?").

Bisque sweater set by DearGolden Vintage

"Nude" and all its pals apply to a tone that's loosely defined (it can be peachy, a cream shade, beige or pale taupe), but roughly equivalent to caucasian skin. As such the terms are are inherently racially exclusive, so perhaps they should be relegated to the scrapheap along with the once-acceptable "nigger brown"? The latter was formerly in common use - I've seen it crop up a good half dozen times and I don't even have an especially large collection of 1910s-20s fashion ephemera.

Buttercream dress by The Greedy Seagull

To be honest I've never much liked the sound of most of these colour names anyway - nude (too prim), skintone (too clinical) or flesh (too carnivorous). I rather prefer prettier-sounding terms like peach, champagne and taupe. In fact I think it seems like the perfect opportunity to reintroduce some of the evocative shade names I've found on vintage stockings - names like Spark O' Spice (my favourite!), Shellblush, Persian Glow, Myst Cuban, Allure, Copper Beech, Calypso and Amber Fox. They paint a spectrum of neutrals from Peach Petal and Alabaster through Sugar Beige, Bamboo, Desert Gold and Cafe Glace to Auburn, Brandy, Sienna and Wild Mink. I say we bring back colour names like Sundream, Sahara, Rosedew, Russette, and Honey Beige. Some might wonder how you would assign a specific colour to Whisper or Romance, but surely it's no more arbitrary than assigning a colour to "nude".

Thursday, February 16, 2012

{Sewing for Beginners} Taking The Easy Route

Every time I complete a sewing project I get commenters saying they would love to learn to sew. Sewing really isn't as hard as you might think - at least until you get to more advanced techniques and tailoring. So, as a far-from-expert myself, I thought I'd present a beginner's guide to sewing - in the hope that I can encourage some of you to get started.

Personally I'm a fan of jumping straight in and learning "on the job". My first dress was a 1930s unprinted pattern - it took me literally months to complete (I didn't have a sewing machine at the time and worked on it sporadically, at my sister's house), but the techniques I learned on that one project include shirring, gathering, topstitching, buttonholes, collar, hemming, pleating, darting, inserting a zip, and setting in sleeves. I love that it was a huge learning experience for me, but if I'd actually known anything about garment construction I might have gone for a simpler pattern - only I didn't know at the time how to tell which patterns were easier or more difficult than others. So, for those of you who would prefer something slightly less daunting for your first project, I bring you the Tuppence Ha'penny Guide to Taking the Easy Option.

Case Study: Vogue 5869

Why it's easy: Princess seam panelled construction is straightforward to sew. The sleeveless version eliminates the fiddly setting in of sleeves.

Although I've often seen skirts suggested as beginner sewing projects, I actually think dresses can be easier because I find waistbands a little fiddly. Sheath dresses are probably the easiest as they don't even require attaching bodice and skirt, but sewing a waistline seam is far from tricky. The looser, relaxed fit and minimalism of the 1960s lends itself particularly well to easy sewing, but a cap-sleeved 50s party frock or 30s sundress can be equally straightforward.

Case Study: Fashion Pattern 2858

Why it's easy: You can see from the construction diagram that the dress is assembled with just a few simple seams, no gathering, darting or complex setting in of sleeves. This would be an ideal beginner pattern, except for the scalloped edge on the sleeves.

For the easiest possible construction, you'll want to minimise the techniques required. Sleeves are fiddly components to sew, so if you're after something simple to start with, look for patterns with no sleeves, cap sleeves or kimono (cut in one with the bodice) sleeves. If you do want to have proper set-in sleeves, I find gathered puff sleeves the easiest to sew as you don't need to worry about the seam being perfectly smooth.

Case Study: Simplicity 4897

Why it's easy: The dress is cut in a simple shift shape with no waistline seam. Shaping on both dress & jacket is achieved by way of simple side darts, and both have kimono sleeves.

Collars aren't difficult exactly, but they can be a little fiddly. Much easier are simple open necklines (if it's a side-closure pattern, wider necklines which you can pull over your head are best as they don't require an additional little neckline zip). Equally, buttons and buttonholes aren't really that complicated (especially if your sewing machine has a buttonhole attachment), but they do add an extra layer of complexity, so if you want to simplify as much as possible you may want to avoid them.

Look for patterns which include facings (that's a semi-lining, usually required round the inside the neckline so you don't have raw edges or visible stitching on the outside) - they're easier to deal with than either full linings or using bias binding.

Case Study: Butterick 7050

Why it's easy: It's a jumper dress, so no sleeves to worry about. The simple wide neckline is easy to sew, and the pattern includes facings. The skirt is flared from the waist. This type of skirt is slightly easier to put together than gathered skirts as there's no "drawing up to fit", it's just simple, flat seams all the way.

The choice of fabric is another consideration. For easy of sewing I'd recommend a simple, firmly-woven cotton: it's inexpensive, so perfect for a trial project; doesn't slip or stretch, making it easy to pin, cut and sew; and doesn't fray badly. Slippery silks and rayons, though delightful for a drapey 1940s number, are a little harder to control when sewing, so best saved for a later project.

Case Study: Advance 2737

Why it's harder: While the gored skirt is simple to sew, the bodice features gathering combined with curved, topstitched panels which is a more intermediate, multi-stage technique. The sleeves are darted and set-in. This pattern is also suited to a drapey fabric, which can be harder to sew.

So hopefully I've given some of you prospective seamstresses a better idea of what makes an easy pattern easy, so you're in a position to make an informed decision when pattern shopping! And do let me know in the comments if there are any other topics you'd like to see me cover in my Sewing for Beginners series.

Was this helpful to you?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wear What You Love

It makes me sad when I get comments from people saying they "wish they could wear vintage" or "have nowhere to wear it", because that's exactly what stopped me from following my heart for so long. I suffered for a long time from low self esteem, and felt that I didn't deserve fabulous clothes (though of course I never articulated the thought at the time). I spent years in a style wilderness, and although I did have occasional rather dashing moments, I fantasised about wonderful clothes that I had "nowhere to wear".

When in my early 20s I briefly dabbled in pin-up modelling my interest intensified, but I still didn't take it further. Even as I started selling vintage clothing, though I loved playing dress-up for photo shoots I still didn't have the courage to wear it on a day-to-day basis.

Until the time I had something of an epiphany and realised that no "courage" was required. I could wear vintage, I could wear twirly dresses and frothy petticoats and satin pencil skirts and dress like a pin-up if I wanted, there was actually nothing stopping me. And, well, as you know I've never looked back since! That's why I so want to encourage anyone who feels drawn to vintage not to be held back by a lack of confidence - because it doesn't require confidence, all it takes is the decision to wear the clothes you love.

If you love it, wear it, and it will bring you happiness.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Carefree Valentine

I like Valentine's Day. It gets a lot of flack for being over-commercialised (what holiday isn't?) and creating forced romance, but I just think it's a nice idea. Just like Mother's Day, Thanksgiving (for those of you across the pond), VE Day and many more, it's a day dedicated to showing your appreciation. And for me, it's a reason to embark on an ambitious sewing project. And also an excuse for chocolate fondue.

So, if you follow me on twitter you'll probably have noticed my incessant updates on the progress of my Valentine's Day dress and be wondering what all the fuss was about. Well here we are, the big reveal... ta-da!

I gave hints to the inspiration, but I wanted to keep it a secret until I unveiled the finished dress. It was, in fact, the dress worn by Ginger Rogers in one scene of the 1938 film "Carefree". I first came across it on Wearing History (almost precisely two years ago, it appears!) and it immediately went onto my wishlist.

As such it's been a very long time in the planning, so when I was drawing up my schedule for this year's sewing I determined that this dress would finally be made, and allocated it to February (figured Valentine's Day was as good a deadline as any!).

I didn't want to make a precise replica; I gave mine a sweetheart neckline (more flattering than the jewel neck of the original) and 3/4 length sleeves (as I wanted it to be a bit warm), and replaced the pleated skirt with an A-line style. Because I had in my head how I wanted it to look, I used a whole selection of vintage patterns to translate my design into reality. The skirt is from McCall 4280 (ah! Yokes and shirring - my two sewing obsessions), while the bodice is cobbled together from Butterick 7432 (the pinafore/jumper dress pattern I used for my 2010 Christmas dress) with a substantial FBA, a re-drafted neckline and sleeves borrowed from yet another pattern.

It's made up in wool crepe (which I've had in my stash for like a year, destined for this project), and the heart applique is in wool felt. The satin-stitch embroidered arrows took two full days, and isn't quite complete - I want to add another arrow on the sleeve like the original, but I need to buy a smaller embroidery hoop to do it. The stitching doesn't bear close inspection, but from a distance I think it looks rather good. I even quite like the inside - the thread ends like a hundred tiny fireworks!

I hemmed it (this morning!) with bias binding, and blind-stitched by hand (I always hand sew my hems). I would have used black hem tape, but I didn't have any; what I did have was this fun gingham bias binding I bought recently. I rather like the cheeky touch of colour.

And now I'm off to get myself some lunch and one of the heart-shaped chocolates the chap gave me. Here's wishing you all a happy Valentine's Day - mwaahhh!


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