Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Delivery Boys Novelty Print

When Casey posted some scans from the 40s a while back, this adorable novelty print caught my eye and went straight onto my "to repro" list. The print features busboys delivering flowers, packages and chocolates - so cute!

The original advert listed the available colours as pink, blue, aqua and grey, so I've made these three colourways in tribute. You can see a broader view of the print on spoonflower. These will be available, as ever, for purchase through my spoonflower shop as soon as I've received and verfied the print samples.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

{Style Inspiration} Pin Up Girl (1944)

My favourite vintage fashion film lately is "Pin Up Girl" starring Betty Grable. Just last week it inspired me to design a fabric, but I thought I'd share some more of my favourite outfits from the film for Sunday Style Inspiration.

The movie opens with Lorrie (Betty Grable) working in a canteen where all the waitresses wear super frilly aprons embroidered with cherries and trimmed with ric-rac, and cherry hairpieces.

She and her friend Kay catch the night train - cue adorable yellow all-in-one pyjama jumpsuit! I love the piping detail around the shaped neckline and sleeves.

Arriving in New York, the girls are dressed in super smart travel outfits - check out all that unusual detailing! I also love both girls' hats.

I'm a fan of the chocolate and powder blue colour scheme which was popular in the 40s, as worn by Martha Raye as Molly.

You think 80s shoulders were big? They really had nothing on mid-forties shoulders! Kays slate grey and red gingham outfit is another of my very favourites from the film. Lorrie's swish white swing coat covers a lacey cocktail dress.

A reminder of the amazing chartreuse outfit - more screenshots on my post about the apple fabric. Kay's chocolate brown dress with its scalloped button placket is also lovely, with its gathered shoulder yokes. The skirt has inverted pleats, but I couldn't get a good screengrab to show it.

Two marvellous green and black outfits. First, Molly in a stylish black moire taffeta jacket accented with green blouse, gloves and box purse - not to mention the huge hat with polka dot veil. Second, a dancer sports a green fishtail pleated green skirt with a black-and-white harlequin print jacket.

And now the third of my top three favourite outfits - the red suit. The whole matching set of jacket, blouse, clutch purse and hat all features zig-zag trim detailing in red and white candy stripe. Love!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Vintage is More Than Midcentury

Or, vintage is more than midcentury, pin-ups, cupcakes, bunting, Cath Kidston crockery, seamed stockings and victory rolls. Granted, I indulge in all of the above (and I'm not going to pretend I don't enjoy cherry prints!), but I'm sick of seeing them presented as the "definition" of vintage.

Every time a new "vintage" themed publication/event/fair launches itself, it perpetuates the stereotype of vintage as exclusively rooted in 40s-50s fashion and design, pin-up and burlesque, and buttercream-frosted cupcakes (I'm at a loss as to how cupcakes came to be considered "vintage" since such a thing was virtually unheard of during the 40s-50s, particularly during rationing).

But while these are all lovely things, vintage isn't just midcentury and rockabilly, and to limit the scope of vintage to such a narrow area does the concept a huge disservice - there's so much more to vintage than that.

Vintage is 1920s dropwaist frocks (note I don't say beaded flapper dresses!), 1930s wax flower bridal crowns and Art Deco detailing. Vintage is the quest for the perfect playsuit, and the joy of a cute handbag. It's adorable novelty prints, delicate rayons and comfortable cottons; conical coolie hats, tilt toppers and rainhoods. It's flowing curls and pixie cuts. Yes, it's making do and mending, wasp-waisted tailoring and fabulously full frou-frou petticoats, but it's also crimplene minis, flowing chiffon maxis and neovictorian prairie dresses. It's disco chic and it's argyle tank tops. And it's more likely to bake fruit loaf than cupcakes.

You may call me a hypocrite saying all this since I do tend to stick to a midcentury aesthetic myself, but just because I do doesn't stop me from appreciating and admiring the styles and design of other eras; it makes me sad that so much of what purports to be "vintage" fails to acknowledge (beyond the occasional surface-scratching glimpse of space-age helmets or the aforementioned beaded flapper dresses) the wealth of incredible style and design from outside those two magical decades. In fact midcentury has become so mainstream within the vintage scene that I'm looking more and more towards 60s and 70s (even - shock horror - 80s/90s!) looks lately just because the (vintage) world sometimes seems so saturated with tea dresses and circle skirts. I will always love the 40s and 50s, but well, when one strives for individuality...

What about you? Would you like to see themed magazines and events which call themselves "vintage" (not "midcentury") present a more rounded view than cupcakes and pin-up? Or perhaps you consider that the term "vintage" does mean the period from WWII to Mad Men, with newer being "retro" and older "antique"?

And while we're on the topic, why is the union flag associated with "vintage"? Since when is patriotism outdated?

Edited to add: Don't get me wrong, I don't think we shouldn't enjoy and embrace all that stereotypical stuff; neither do I think vintage magazines shouldn't focus on the midcentury era - there's no denying it's the most popular. My point was only that there's more to Vintage than just that, and it would be nice to see self-appointed vintage "authororities" recognise that.

Also, I should make it clear that I don't believe in wanting to dress differently for the sake of being different - just that I'm finding myself drawn to other eras to mix it up a bit and keep it fresh.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Key to My Heart Fabric

I've been laid up in bed all day feeling under the weather, so I took the opportunity to do a bit of work on some more fabric designs. This one is sort of intended as a companion print to my Ballroom Belles fabric. It is loosely based on a 1940s novelty print dress I saw online, but the available swatch was very small so this is largely my own creation (except for some of the keys - see if you can tell which are my design and which are from the original!).

The version above is the design as I envisaged it. One of the nifty tools on spoonflower is the colour changer - it's so cool to see the overall effect change as you play with the colours. I decided to go a little wild with the colourways - chartreuse was such a popular colour in the 40s, so I thought I'd pay tribute to that.

Chartreuse and salmon - not for the faint of heart!

As ever, these will join my other prints in my spoonflower shop as soon as I've verified the print colours. It would look awesome on their silk crepe-de-chine, don't you think?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Landgirl Chic

This is an outfit post I've been planning for a while - I've been sporting variations on this look quite often recently - and the sun finally came out long enough to actually snap some pics (one might almost think it was summer...).

Can I talk about my lipstick for a moment? It's another one from Superdrug's MUA range (same as the bright pink I wore recently) and it was a pound. £1. One hundred English pennies. And it's great! I mean, obviously it doesn't compare with my Chanel, but it's pretty darn awesome for a quid: It's nice and creamy, goes on smoothly, and has reasonable staying power. It's perhaps a touch more drying than my expensive brand, but nothing a little vaseline can't take care of. And did I mention, it's a quid.

I'm enjoying having different colour options with my lipsticks - I've stuck faithfully to my bright red Chanel for a really long time, and it was time to branch out. I bought these two (this and the hot pink) cheapo lipsticks because I wanted to experiment with new colours to see how I got on with them before splashing out on a pricey version, but I can see I'm going to have to start saving up.

I love that this slightly darker red colour goes with my maroon headscarf, and complements the orangey-coral necklace much better than a true red.

It's kind of hard to see in the pics, but this is actually a playsuit, not a dress. It caught my eye when I was charity shopping a couple of months ago. I initially thought I'd sell it, but when I tried it on it was comfortable and a nice fit, and despite being modern-ish (no later than early 90s judging by the huge shoulder pads - which I removed) I thought it had a certain Landgirl-esque charm.

I've also been wearing headscarves a lot recently - my new haircut is too short to tie in a ponytail, so I quite often sweep it up into a headscarf to keep it off my neck for the gym or doing housework (what? I do housework!).

Playsuit, charity shop; Headscarf, car boot sale; Lucite brooch, ebay; Bakelite bangles, various; Necklace, found in the attic; Shoes, purchased in Thailand; Handbag, can't remember (car boot sale maybe?).

Monday, June 18, 2012

Betty Grable Apples Fabric

I re-watched Betty Grable in "Pin Up Girl" this weekend and it reminded me to get cracking on a small project I've had in my to-do list for a long time - a fabric based on one of her costumes. I fell in love with this outfit immediately the first time I saw the film, and I've had in the back of my mind to re-create it ever since (mind you I'm not sure what chartreuse will do for my complexion! It looks fabulous on Betty, though). Step one was of course to design the fabric!

My version isn't completely faithful to the original - mostly because it's very hard to make out the details on screen, and also because the size of the available sample makes it impossible to recreate the full repeat. So I've reinterpreted it slightly (my apples have slim leaves instead of the feathery leaves the original fabric seems to have, as seen in the close-up below), but it's largely accurate - perfect for anyone else who's planning to run up their own version of Betty's outfit.

A glimpse of the matching clutch bag:

And a close-up so you can have a better look at the outfit:

This new print will be available through as soon as I've verified the printed swatch. I'll try to make the colours as accurate as I can to the original too (Spoonflower are currently updating their printing process and I've got to send off for a new colour chart so I can get the print colours right).

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Vintage Nation at Brighton Racecourse

I'm trying to get my fledgling business of handmade record handbags off the ground, so I'm making more of an effort with promotion and 'getting out there'. This past weekend I decided to take a stall at Vintage Nation, a one-day event organised by the Judy's affordable vintage fair people.

I wore my Jubilee dress and was invited by photographer Emma Duggan to take part in a portrait project.

Perdita joined me for the day (and enjoyed some shopping success at the many fabulous vintage stalls), and we also ran into fellow bloggers Vintage Secret, Southern Retro and Lady Jardin as well as a couple more readers of Tuppence Ha'penny (hello!).

The event was small scale but rather fun. I spent most of my time in the shopping hall, but there were also dance lessons (jive, I think), a Crabbies ginger beer tent (love that stuff), an artificial beach (er, sandpit), and a few funfair attractions (including hula hoops to try out - so naturally I had a go!).

The view from the tea room, over Brighton seafront

Selling handmade record bags and fascinators on my stall

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Recipe: War-time Almond Biscuits

If you follow me on twitter you may have noticed that I am On A Diet. As a result I'm currently trying out a bit of healthy cooking, so - naturally - I look to the past for inspiration: I figure that what with shortages and rationing, war-time and postwar recipes should be both simple and (comparatively) healthy. Feeling peckish around tea-time I picked out this recipe from my copy of "Good Eating" as it's super quick & easy, and I had all the ingredients to hand.

8oz. flour
3oz. margarine (I used butter as I didn't have marg!)
3oz. sugar
1 egg (the recipe calls for reconstituted dried egg but I used a real one)
1 tsp almond essence

Basically mix everything together, adding a little milk if necessary (I didn't). The recipe suggests rolling out and cutting into rounds, but I just formed small balls and flattened with a fork. Then bake in a moderate oven (I set it to about 180C) until golden.

This makes about 24 small biscuits, at around 75 calories each. They're excellent with tea.

You can also replace the almond essence for a teaspoonful of ground ginger or cinnamon, or a handful of mixed dried fruit and a 1/2 teaspoonful mixed spice.

Monday, June 11, 2012

What's a Vintage Lifestyle?

A vintage-wearing friend was recently offered a feature in a well-known magazine - but only if she pretended to have a "1940s lifestyle". Besides the obvious consideration that practically no-one (certainly no-one I know) lives without the modern conveniences of 21st century life - little things like, you know, the INTERWEB, telly, mobile phones, credit cards, microwaves and so on and so forth - it always irritates me that peoples of the so-called vintage subculture are only deemed sufficiently interesting if they dedicate themselves to a single, specific decade.

And what does a "vintage lifestyle" even mean anyway? Decorating your home to fit with your 'chosen' era? Living on rations? Spending hours a day scrubbing floors? Baking fruit scones? Sewing your own clothes? Getting a weekly 'set' at the hairdresser? Growing your own veg? Or perhaps smoking 20 a day and listening out for the air raid siren?

Ways to make potatoes more interesting, 1947

I mean, I've always described my blog and myself as being about "vintage lifestyle", but by that I just mean wearing vintage clothing or a retro look on a daily basis. I make some of my clothes, yes, but not beacuse it's "vintage" to sew - I sew because it makes more styles accessible to me! I also decorate my home with a bunch of old stuff - not in an attempt to recreate the past (the TV in the corner kind of precludes that, anyway), but because those things appeal to me.

This attitude from the magazine in question annoyed me because it shows a complete misunderstanding of the vintage subculture. We all have our own reasons for wearing vintage, and many of us consider that vintage is a lifestyle choice (i.e. not reserved for weekends or events), but the attitude that you have to have a full, decade-specific lifestyle in order to be considered valid is just ridiculous.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

{Style Inspiration} Polka Dots

In the 1840s, the polka dance craze was sweeping Britain and America. The pattern is named after the dance - not because the two are in any way linked, but just because many products and fashions were given the name polka as a way of cashing in on the popularity of the dance. There were all manner of polka polka hats, polka jackets, and even polka curtain ties (!). Most of such polka fad names faded as the dance craze passed, leaving "polka dot" - inexplicably - as the sole survivor (besides, of course, the dance itself). Since then the pattern's popularity has risen and waned, but I think you'll agree it's here to stay.

Over the early 20th century polka dot prints appeared sporadically in fashion, never quite disappearing but barely clinging on. Then in 1928 Minnie Mouse bounced out of the Walt Disney animation studios, dressed in a polka dot skirt - perhaps we have her to thank for the polka dot's resurgence in popularity in the 1930s? During the 1940s and '50s, polka dots graced the gowns of celebrities from Marilyn Monroe to Elizabeth Taylor, and was a staple of designer collections. The polka dot dress became a staple for Lucille Ball's wardrobe in I Love Lucy, and polka dots of varying sizes featured in 60s Mod fashions.

Sears, 1936

Sears, 1938

Katharine Hepburn in "Woman of the Year", 1942

Marilyn Monroe in a polka dot bikini, 1951

Sears, 1958

Sears, 1958

Brigitte Bardot rocks polka dot capris, 1960s

Thursday, June 7, 2012

One Vintage Evening at One Aldwych

A few weeks back a select company of vintage girls were invited to One Aldwych to experience a Martini Movies night with them. The Martini Movies package comprises a welcome drink (Martini, naturally), a film (we watched My Week With Marilyn; they're currently showing The Artist) and popcorn in their dinky little private cinema, followed by a three-course meal at their Indigo restaurant. And all for £42.50 per person - not a bad price, I think you'll agree, for a night out in the West End!

Seriously yummy canapes rounded off with mini chocolate brownies

Barman preparing the signature "One Negroni"


Our private screening of My Week with Marilyn - including champagne and popcorn!


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